When Two Pink Lines Isn't Positive

For most women, finding out they are pregnant is a really exciting prospect.  Maybe they have been trying for a long time, or maybe it's just good timing.  Or maybe there are feelings of disbelief.  Just google "two pink lines" and see how many can't believe they are actually pregnant.

But for some people, those two pink lines are the start of a really difficult journey.  For me, I started feeling gross well before I even saw the two lines on a pregnancy test.

We were out having dinner with friends in America when I realised it. I smelt my dinner really strongly.  It was buttery and fishy and all of a sudden, I couldn't finish it.  I put it down to the butter (maybe it was too rich).  A few days later, right before we left, my dad made burgers on the grill.  I couldn't escape the smell indoors or outdoors and ended up going into the bedroom and closing the door and turning out the lights.  I knew then, even without the two pink lines, that I was definitely pregnant.

I travelled back to the UK and started monitoring my food really carefully.  With my first pregnancy, the two foods that I craved and ate just before we had a positive test are two things that I still can't eat or even smell without feeling nauseated.

I got a positive test about a week later, even though it was a formality.  I felt excited for about five seconds, but I couldn't escape the feelings of dread.  A few days after that, I was working my usual job, when I started gagging.  Thankfully, I could ask my friend for help.  I knew it was starting, so I told her the news.  Yep.  At just over four weeks pregnant, I had to tell someone. She was pleased for us and sympathetic (having had four kids), but like most people, I doubted she would understand how bad it would get.

The day after, the nausea started.  Horrible waves that made me averse to any smells, food, and even light.  I had hoped this would be the worst of it.  In my first pregnancy, I spent 13 weeks like this.  Vomiting a few times a day, but being unable to eat anything.  I lost about 8 kg (18 lbs) in the first twenty weeks of pregnancy the last time.  I was prepared for that.

I wasn't prepared for the sickness that I faced this time.  Vomiting 20-30 times a day.  Smell aversions so intense that I couldn't hug Ella or be in the same room as Josh (especially if he had eaten or cooked).  I would spend hours by the toilet, and the rest of the time in bed.

Reading made me feel ill.
Noise made me feel ill.
Light made me feel ill.
All smells except my bathrobe and bed made me feel ill.

I cried constantly.  I hate puking.  In fact, my social drinking has generally revolved around not drinking much because I don't want to be nauseated or sick.

From week 6, we had to tell Josh's parents because I desperately needed help caring for Ella.  Around then, I was so ill hadn't eaten in four days.  I hadn't kept down liquids, peed or even been able to hold an ice cube in my mouth for two days.  A website for women with similar problems suggested using diabetic ketosis sticks to measure how severe it was.  I managed to squeeze out enough pee to do the test, and on a scale from negative (pale pink) to severe (dark maroon), my strip was almost black.  I dragged myself out of bed to the doctor, who fobbed me off and asked if I had tried ginger and eating crackers.  I cried on the way home.  A day later, I felt so bad I couldn't handle it any longer.

I began to have these intense fantasies of liquid.  It sounds crazy, but I fantasised about drinking ice-cold, condensation-covered glasses of Coca-Cola.  The beads of water dripping down the side of a glass.  Pina coladas, frozen lemonade, ginger ale, I visualised anything that would make me feel better. I was like a woman in the desert screaming "water!"

I'm pro-choice but definitely had never though of having a termination.  Until now.  I couldn't throw up any more.  I felt like my body was being poisoned, and I was losing my mind as well.  I just wanted it to be over.

We went to the emergency room, where they gave me 2 liters of fluids and two IV anti-emetics.  I felt like a completely new woman for the next twelve hours.  Then, as it started again, I fell deeper into what felt like a depressive episode, although I've found it is completely normal for women like me.

What I have in pregnancy is not common (it occurs in only 1-2% of pregnancies), but it does have a name: hyperemesis gravidarum.  If you haven't had it yourself, you might have hard about the Duchess of Cambridge, who has had to be treated in hospital for it during both of her pregnancies.

Thank the Lord there wasn't anyone to make me get dressed and take photos outside the hospital.  You'd think that my doctor would take me seriously after that, but he was still hesitant to give me any drugs to help the sickness, despite there being very little risk to the baby.  Finally, he gave me a drug used for nausea from chemotherapy (Zofran/Ondansetron), and the sickness became almost manageable.  Almost.

That doesn't mean I got out of bed until Easter, but I was only vomiting about 6 or 7 times a day, which I could handle.  I still don't think I hugged Josh for over two months.  Do you know the level of guilt you feel when the smell of the love of your life makes you want to barf?

And mentally, I don't know if I'll ever get over it.  I had my first ever panic attack one night as I was sick so hard I choked and couldn't breathe.  I literally thought I was going to die on our cold, dirty bathroom floor.  Emotionally, I was a wreck and I still want to cry every time I'm sick.

I'm glad I didn't make a rash decision about terminating the pregnancy, but for some women, it's not rash at all.  There are women on the message board I am a part of who have no support and have other children, women who are so sick that their bodies are literally shutting down.  Women who have been in hospital with PICC lines installed to have constant medicine to keep them from vomiting, and it doesn't work.  One woman whose kidneys completely shut down, and even though she had a termination, she still had to have a kidney transplant to correct the damage that pregnancy had done to her body.  They have had to have terminations to save their lives.  All I could think was "Poor Kate Middleton.  When you are carrying the next monarch, you don't have the choice."

And did I, a Christian and person who hates abortion, feel guilty that I even thought of it?  It was overwhelming.  Being basically bed-bound and dehydrated with a lot of time to think didn't help.  I knew that there were medical reasons that people terminated pregnancies, and I'd heard the phrase "unless it threatens the life of the mother" but honestly, I didn't believe there were such cases.  I was wrong to judge because I had absolutely no idea.

Thankfully, we have a friend who thought I was ill with bipolar and randomly brought Josh and Ella a lovely meal.  When she dropped it off, I told her about what was going on.  She was so sympathetic, and maybe it was the fact that I hadn't seen any people in over a month, but she made me feel so much better.  Turns out that her 4th pregnancy was the same, and I wasn't the only Christian lady googling how to get an abortion.  It was then that I felt slightly better for the first time in ages.  I didn't feel alone.

Hyperemesis is so isolating. Even more than bipolar disorder or depression, if you can believe that.  I spent weeks not speaking to anyone but Josh or his parents and occasionally my mom on Skype.  The time that was supposed to be so joyous, where Josh and I kept our sweet secret before we told our friends and family, was filled with a suffering more intense that I have ever felt.  More than feeling sick, I felt robbed.  I still do.  I want more babies (Have you met me? I love babies.), but I know this is it.  I feel scared to death that I will lose this baby and Josh or someone will want me to be pregnant again.

No one told me this could happen, and I didn't know anyone could be so sick in pregnancy.  I thought people were a bit nauseated and occasionally threw up.  TV, movies, friends and family didn't prepare me for this.

But at least this time I know there is an end point.  I know that the "glow"of pregnancy for me comes after.  I know that childbirth isn't that frightening (or even that painful compared to this) because it's the end of this feeling - like I've been on a boat in the perfect storm for nine months.  I know that as soon as this baby's born and the placenta is no longer hanging around that it will immediately stop.  That I will wake up the next morning with no sickness and no nausea.  People have asked how I looked so beautiful after giving birth to Ella.  It's because I didn't feel bad for the first time in three seasons!

So now, even though the sickness abated for a bit and has come back, I know that with medication and help, I can keep going.  I keep this picture by my bed to remind me that it will all be worth it when I see that sweet little face.


  1. You are an amazing lady! Love you and covering you in prayer as you relish the Joy of the birth of a newborn!!


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