I Only Regret

How I met Nathan Hale

I’ll never forget the impossibly steep and washed out track that climbed to a tiny red school house overlooking the Connecticut River in East Haddam. The trees and brush fell away down the other side to reveal miles and miles of clear blue river. My brother and sister and I ran around the yard as children would have done 200 years earlier when settlers built it to educate their offspring.

I’ll never forget the wonder that engulfed me that a building smaller than my family’s living room could hold an entire school. I pictured sunbonneted heads and homespun overalls. I saw my own great, great, great grandparents and knew I was the offspring.

 

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Nathan Hale School House in East Haddam, Connecticut, now restored and open to the public.

How Nathan Hale became my teacher

I’ll never forget that 18-year-old school teacher facing his eager young students in the wilds of the land and the horror that fell three years later when he taught them the true meaning of freedom.

I’ll never forget the last words he spoke as they echoed across the hills of my home and down through the years from the gallows in British-held New York.

I will remember his bravery and courage.

I will remember a true gentleman’s valor.

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Nathan Hale, I honor you today.

I’ll never forget.

 

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One of the first to belong to Memorial Day.

Out of Many Waters

We spent last weekend in Duluth. Back in February when our state had it’s caucus my husband was elected as a delegate, and then as a delegate from that first pool of delegates to represent us at the State GOP convention. Our district went strongly to Rubio, and at the time, we still hoped to stop Trump from taking the nomination. Neither of us are Trump fans…but, I digress.

While my husband did his best to encourage truth and justice, the girls and I spent the weekend exploring Duluth. We found so many fun free places to explore. I promise to share more in a later post. But, though our time as three was fun, it could not compare to the joy of daddy joining us Saturday after the end of the convention.

To properly celebrate Daddy’s birthday we picked up picnic supplies, and took them to the sandy beach at Park Point. The girls romped in the sand and water, along with the dog. We made memories in the sand and gentle surf of Lake Superior on a calm cloudless day.

Lake Superior is so cold. We just dipped our toes in and then dashed back out!
Lake Superior is so cold. We just dipped our toes in and then dashed back out!

The next day, en route back to the Twin Cities we extended our drive home by driving out near the Apostle Islands, because I was just dying to see some of the “sea caves.” I put sea caves in quotations because how can there be “sea caves” when the caves are on a lake. Doesn’t quite make sense to me. But, anyway.

We strolled along the beach to the steps to the sea cave overlook trail. Tiger threw off her sandals, which I then collected in my back pockets. She raced along through the sand, picking up feathers, pointing out interesting rocks, and throwing them into the waves just to hear the splash. Then we came to a place in the beach where a shallow creek ran into the big water. It was cold and clear, and only about a half inch deep. But, for our three year old, it was still a big deal.

That little creek looked so big to our toddler. But Daddy was there to help!
That little creek looked so big to our toddler. But Daddy was there to help!

“Help me! Help me daddy!” And Daddy did. He helped her through that water. They splashed their way through, and then chattered their teeth together on the other side gloating over their feat of daring.

Daddy makes everything safe, and even fun! What a feat of daring!
Daddy makes everything safe, and even fun! What a feat of daring!

In 2 Samuel 22 David describes a time when he feels absolutely surrounded and overwhelmed by the ungodly men around him. It’s too much for him and he cries out to God. He tells how God, in His awesome majesty steps in and intervenes. He says God drew him out of many waters and set him in a broad place where his foot wont slip.

I know my Heavenly Father cares for me far more than my husband cares for our daughter. What comfort when times are hard.
I know my Heavenly Father cares for me far more than my husband cares for our daughter. What comfort when times are hard.

I couldn’t help but think of the passage as I watched my little girl and my husband. Curt didn’t leave Tiger helpless. He heard her cry for help, and he swooped in to take action, because he is a loving father. I have a loving Father who cares about me when I feel overwhelmed. I want to remember the joy my husband took in helping my daughter, because, I feel sure God takes similar delight in helping me when I just ask Him.

Seeing Trump secure the GOP nomination makes me sick to my stomach. The thought that a man who climbs to the top through name calling, stating as truth whatever he feels like at the time, and urging on of his followers to violence scares me. I feel that the ungodly are prospering, while those trying to honor God, pursue justice and truth are despised. In the middle of all this, I can call on my Father, and trust Him with my fears for the future.

My Sea Glass Inspired Color Scheme

At our first house we only made it to painting 2 rooms. Mainly, this was because other projects took over each time. The first year it was the basement flooding. The next year it was finishing the basement after the draintile had been installed. And, so it went.

This new home we are buying from a friend who is a contractor. He is flipping the house. So, while we were down in South Carolina, he helped us set up an appointment with his designer. We went over colors, and I am so very pleased with the results. I can’t wait to see them in person!

My sea glass inspired color scheme: Cool, calm colors
My sea glass inspired color scheme: Cool, calm colors

For inspiration I looked to sea glass. In the warm southern climate I wanted cool, calm colors that  felt peaceful, and did I mention cool?

We went for a grey neutral, using Sherwin William’s Evening Shadow in the Living Room, hallway, and down the stairs. There is a range of blues throughout the home. And, a warmly serene green in the family room.

Curt will finally have his stormy blue office that he has wanted since we first started looking at colors when we were living in our apartment. We went counter cultural with a blue room for the girls- Sherwin William’s Faded Flaxflower.

Our master bedroom is another variation of blue with a shade toward green hinting through the blue- Sherwin William’s Rain.

Finally, I knew I wanted purple in the guest room. But, my husband is not a purple fan. I convinced him with Behr’s Silverado Trail. Technically Silverado Trail is more grey than purple, but that works in my favor. It helps me stay in a more sophisticated palate, and keep away from the overly feminine purple my husband thought when I told him my plans.

So, with no further ado, here are the colors:

My sea glass inspired color scheme

Letting the Little Ones Help

First trip to Ikea!

Wow! Ikea ranks as a truly  wild place with some good little deals (which has to be a different post.) Christy took me on a complete but fairly rapid trip through the store in Minneapolis. My birthday and Mother’s Day hovered on the calendar at that point in time, which left no chance of coming out empty-handed.

I’ve wanted a free standing coat hanger to clean up the mess on my mini-landing to the basement.

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Yes, it was this bad.

Buying a project

Ikea had a model that felt solid and could clean up the mess. After carrying it 500+ miles home in the trunk of the car, I waited for a rainy-ish kind of day and my 2- and 4-year-old grandchildren to come over to build it together. I could have done it much more quickly, easily and efficiently on my own, but I love a good challenge! Hah! Not really. What I love is seeing my grandchildren grow self-sufficient. I want them to have confidence to try tough things and succeed. This was the perfect project for them.

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They couldn’t understand how a coat hanger could fit in a flat box. Opening it felt a bit like Christmas.

Scissors can do damage and require close supervision. Take a close look at Big Bro’s head. He found his mom’s craft scissors just a day or so before we built our project and gave himself a haircut. The only option left after that was a buzz. We had a good opportunity to talk about asking permission and using scissors safely.

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This is my first Ikea purchase. The instructions really impressed me. Big Bro and Little Sis could read them on their own since no words were included!

We followed the instructions carefully. I made the only mistake and used it to show the children how to respond to mistakes (not in anger) and how to correct one.

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We thoroughly studied those diagrams.

We pulled out the pieces, took off the plastic bags and studied the parts. The children loved the feel of the cool, smooth metal. I could tell they still had no idea how it all fit together.

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Big Bro discovered the feet and figured out they had to go on the bottom.

Perfect for Toddlers

This project required only a screw driver. Did I say how perfect this project fit for toddlers??!!!! They threw their hearts and souls into it.

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Good dexterity training as well as focus.
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It can stand on its own!
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We take turns even when working! Another good lesson, though work is play at this age.
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Teamwork! Next they’ll want to unionize.

Working together builds strength in our family. I look for ways to make this happen often. With total supervision, toddlers can do amazing things.

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They’ve seem me inspect their clean up jpbs, now they get a chance to be inspectors.
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Surprise! It has lower level hangers for their own jackets.

The sweet feeling of accomplishment!

This goes far beyond, “Look what I drew for you at school.” Every time they walk past it or hang up a coat, they say, “I helped build this for your birthday, didn’t I?” And I say, “Yes! I love it so much. You did a fantastic job! Thank you! ” I can see a little glow from their open faces and I bask in it as well.

Coping with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

One of the first things you realize as you talk with survivors of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, is that different methods of coping help different people. Some friends of mine have had great success taking Zofran. It doesn’t help me a single bit. It makes me feel worse. So, I offer up these coping tips as what helped me. Not all may help you, but perhaps a few will give relief if you are suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

What didn’t work

Ginger Ale and Crackers did nothing for me, and yes, I did try gluten free crackers.

A Few Things that Helped a Little

Sea Bands, Preggy Pops, and peppermint (smelled, not ingested) helped me feel a bit better. They didn’t stop me from vomiting, but they did help the nausea lessen a bit.

Liquids

I found that I had to keep pushing liquids. I felt much worse if I let myself get dehydrated. I couldn’t do super cold liquid or I’d throw up and have stomach cramps, and hot liquid was about the same. Both seemed to shock my stomach into vomiting episodes. Room Temperature water or room temperature vitamin water worked best for me. I found that drinking a vitamin water in the morning, and then refilling that bottle 5 more times with water helped me measure my liquid intake. The vitamin water helped me a bit with refreshing my electrolytes. Then the bottle itself was so good for knowing exactly how much I had had. I knew if I hadn’t had at least 3 bottle-worths of liquid by 1 pm that I was running behind and needed to push myself.

Nutrition

Yes, eating healthy is important. Yes, you need to be getting proper nutrition. But if the healthy food wont stay down it’s not helping you or baby. I found that if I didn’t think I’d be able to keep food down, if it seemed at all suspect, it was likely it wouldn’t stay down. Once my husband tried making dinner for us in a slow cooker, and placed the slow cooker outside. It didn’t work. As the meal cooked my nausea grew worse and worse. I finally made him get rid of the meal entirely. I found that the longer I smelled something, the less I was able to stand eating it. So, for nutrition, if you think you can eat it, try. Eat small bites. After 2 or 3 wait a minute or so, then try 2 or 3 more bites. Let your stomach rest in between. If all you can eat is smoothies, eat smoothies. If you think you could stomach a baked potato, eat a baked potato. Don’t stock up on large quantities of anything because you’re likely to stop being able to eat it.

Protein

I worked really hard to keep up my protein intake. This was tough my first pregnancy when any smell of meat made me so sick. I found I could make 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies and used those as my “protein pills”. 1 cup peanut butter, 1 egg, 1/8 c. honey/sugar baked for 7 minutes.

How to avoid vomiting, most of the time

One of the biggest helps I found was visualizing. Whenever I ate during my second pregnancy, I’d take it slow. Then, I’d close my eyes and make a picture of the ocean in my mind. I found that I could visualize the swells of nausea as ocean waves, and then picture myself floating right over the top. It usually worked for me. It wouldn’t stop me from vomiting if I’d already started, but I’m convinced it prevented several episodes.

Food Sensitivities

Be aware of your food sensitivities. I had only been on a gluten free diet for 3 months when I first became pregnant. The days I couldn’t keep anything at all down? I was always able to trace it back to traces of gluten sneaking into my diet. Maybe try tracking your food intake and see if you notice any patterns.

HG Awareness Week: The Aftermath

HG Aftermath

I thought that my Hyperemesis Gravedarum pregnancies would cut years off my life because of the medications and the stress on my body. But I eat fairly healthy, take vitamins, don’t smoke or drink, have no tattoos, have a wonderful marriage to the man I love, and live under the shadow of the Most High God. My times are in His hand. He may give me 100 years here, or I may take my ticket home tomorrow. Either is fine with me or the million other possibilities as well. I trust Him.

Women died of HG for six thousand years, but very rarely does that happen in America and many places in our world today. It’s a great time to be alive! And that is what Hyperemesis Gravedarum did for me more than anything. I am so alive.

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A happy marriage carried me through HG and keeps me healthy. I take the Bible seriously when it tells a wise woman to build her house.

The Bad News

HG does have some negative health issues.

I threw up thousands of times. The acid from my stomach ate the enamel off my teeth and I have a lot of pitting. I use dental floss every day to help mitigate the problem, but I’ve had more than my share of adult cavities. One dentist I visited could not understand the problem at all and lectured me on better oral hygiene. I never went back to him.

Psychologically I battle food problems every day. I have cut out snacks after supper which is a huge mental issue. I do not ever want to feel hungry again as long as I live. I am constantly eating.  I always weighed less the day I gave birth than the day I conceived. I put on weight after my pregnancies, even though I nursed my babies

Since last November when I put Juli’s weight loss hints into practice (see here and here and here and here), I have lost 15 pounds and kept it off. I hope to take off ten more. The only reason I can do it is that I am not in mental agony over  hunger. I’ve lost 15 pounds and never felt hungry. Diets where I actually had to be hungry don’t work. So those after supper snacks being off limits means I have to eat large, healthy, filling suppers and go to bed when I begin to think I might be hungry. If I am working on a project and stay up really late—I have to cheat. Usually with a home made hot chocolate.

I think the stress of my pregnancies helped burn out my thyroid. There is some thought that thyroid problems may be the root of HG. I take Nature Throid and get good help for my Hashimoto’s Thyroidosis diagnosis. It’s all probably related somehow. Throw in my hearing loss and the picture is even more complicated.

The worst news is that a small percentage of women suffer from complications that don’t go away: PTSD, depression, anxiety, long-term fatigue, and residual inability to retain or digest food. When I finally started eating after my last pregnancy, the doctor spent a long time listening to my intestines. She was wondering if they would start working again.

Sometimes the children born after an HG pregnancy suffer from psychological, physical or neurological disorders, but the link has not been positively established. My daughter took a direct hit on her teeth though and suffers double since she has HG pregnancies as well.

Which highlights another issue. HG seems to run from mother to daughter and in families. My husband’s family has issues with it, too, so it is amazing Christy felt better during her pregnancies than I did.

The Good News

God still brings good out of bad situations. I find many of them concerning HG.

Eating is such a wonderful feeling. I enjoy the smell of food, the feel of stirring, chopping and prep work as I cook, and the delightful crunch and flavor in my mouth! Making a meal for my family brings me joy.

I breastfed my children which helped me burn calories and let me eat tons without gaining tons. I worked hard to not work—to be a stay-at-home mom, and that kept me super-active so that I didn’t gain a lot of weight over the years.

The hugest result is my life attitude. My daughter tried out for a play in college, Our Town, by Thornton Wilder. She earned the starring role of Emily Webb, the main character. The play’s theme, “Every moment of life should be treasured,” hit a chord in my heart. It was almost terrible to watch my grown-up little girl play the lead who dies in childbirth. Emily returns for one day to relive her life, but finds the memories too painful. The conclusion is that no one can understand the value of life while they live it. That is often true. People miss out on life at every turn. But after my bouts with HG, I live life to the fullest. Like Emily Webb, I came back from the dead, or at least the precipice hanging over death. I’m making memories that aren’t painful. I embrace life!

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Whenever i have the chance, I go all out!

I cram in as much as I can and I love what I live. My life isn’t free from hardship or sorrows, but my focus isn’t on them. I believe my cup isn’t half full, it’s overflowing. God is good to me. I opened up my eyes this morning to see my two-year-old granddaughter smiling at me. My four-year-old grandson baked me a mud pie for dessert after lunch. My husband washed the dishes for me when I wasn’t looking.  God used HG to teach me to value life more.   It’s a good lesson.

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Best alarm clock ever!

The Giving: a poem for my daughters after Hyperemesis Gravidarum

The Giving

To my daughters who were born after pregnancy with Hyperemesis Gravidarum

My daughter was perfect, even after a hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancyI give you my appetite

Mouthful after vile mouthful of nutrients

To focus folic acid on your beautiful brain

I give you my throat

Soured by bile from a belly rebellious at your presence

To hydrate your amniotic sac

I give you my sense of smell

Retching at the stink of meat and meal

To secure your safety within

I give you my calves

Stabbing with cramps at midnight

To carry calcium to your bones

I give you my figure

Hungry for each newly added ounce

To fill your tiny frame

I give you my back

Aching with more than just the weight of you

To hold you close and warm

I give you my belly button

Herniating outward in serpentine stretch marks

To let your body blossom

I give you my thighs

Tight with sciatica and Braxton hicks

To exercise the entrance to your life

I give you my gums

Swollen and tender to the toothbrush

To strengthen your frail frame

I give you my teeth

Enduring unmedicated dental drilling

To shield you from Novocain that shouldn’t affect the umbilical cord

I give you my nose

Bloodied twice or thrice a day

To regulate the pressure for your placenta

I give you my eyes

Squinting at fuzzy figures and phantom flashes

To see your priceless fingers and toes

I give you my complexion

Pale as grade school adhesive newly spilled

To layer your muscles and bones with new grown skin

I give you my cognition

Dulled and lumbering through each day

To concentrate its resources on you

I give you my energy

Exhausted enough for bathroom break naps

To pour my lifeblood into you

I give you my self-sufficiency

Bared of privacy from prying eyes and probings

To hear your heart beat strong

And having given up myself for you

I hold you naked at my breast

To weep with joy.The Giving:  for my daughters after two Hyperemesis Gravidarum Pregnancies

Hyperemesis Gravidarum Survivor Story

Prior to Kate Middleton’s very public hospitalizations for Hyperemesis Gravidarum I knew very few people who had ever heard of the condition. But, it’s not some new phenomenon. It is believed that Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre, died of HG. They didn’t have the ability to give nutrition and fluids through IV’s in her lifetime. HG is rare. It only affects 3% or less of the population. For most HG sufferers there is some abatement of symptoms after 20 weeks of pregnancy. For me, I always knew about HG. I knew about HG because I was born from an HG pregnancy. My brother was born from an HG pregnancy. And my little sister was miscarried during another very difficult HG pregnancy when I was 12.

I believe that some of my struggles with things like cavities may be from the lack of nutrition I received in utero. My mom didn’t know to get really good vitamins during her pregnancy with me, as she did with my brother. He has never had many cavities. I have cavities every single time I go to the dentist, and will probably start having to get crowns soon because there have been so many fillings.

I feared pregnancy. We waited about 3 years after getting married to start our family, because I knew how pregnancy treated my mom. And, I was scared to death it would be the same for me. It was similar. But, not quite as bad as my mom.

My mom knows that she is pregnant the week she gets pregnant. I made it through 6 weeks with nothing more than a little faintness and racing heart. But, in week 6 it hit. I thought I had the stomach flu because my body reacted so intensely. It was the first week of training new workers at my job at the library, and I was supposed to be training 15-20 student workers. I had to call in sick. But… this “stomach flu” didn’t get better.

A haze settled over my brain. My eyesight grew blurry- blurry enough that I didn’t drive the rest of the pregnancy. I couldn’t read street names, or store names. I had sporadic nosebleeds, sometimes as many as 10 in one day. I did learn to manage my symptoms a bit. My first pregnancy I was the one working full time, while my husband’s job paid for his grad. school bill. I had to keep working so we could pay rent, and groceries. I became adept at getting from my office to the staff bathroom. I still have that bathroom floor memorized. I pushed to keep going, though I found that if I had more than 3 episodes of vomiting I was done for the day. I simply was too weak to even walk or open my eyes.

TMI- if you’re squeamish, don’t read this: I never knew how I was supposed to count throwing up. Does that sound strange? Was it each time I had that stomach spasm and vomit left my mouth? Or was it per episode? It was episodes for me. Once I started vomiting my body kept it going over and over and over until there was nothing left, and then it still kept trying to expel more.

HG pregnancy: At 20 weeks pregnant I weighed less than when I first became pregnant
HG pregnancy: At 20 weeks pregnant I weighed less than when I first became pregnant

They tried giving me Zofran. It’s an anti-nausea drug given to Chemo patients.  I have friends who swear by it, but it did nothing for me. I still couldn’t keep food down, and it made me so dizzy I felt even worse. They tried a second drug- Phenergan. On Phenergan I could keep more food down, though it made me  even more a walking zombie.

I kept losing weight. I had only recently discovered I was gluten intolerant, and finally been able to begin gaining a bit of weight after several years of losing and losing and losing no matter how much I tried to eat. Those precious pounds vaporized. I remember swinging my legs over the side of the bed to will myself up, and noticing my legs looked skeletal. At my lowest point I had lost 15 pounds, and was just 106 lbs.

This losing weight? I was doing everything I could to stop it. I snacked little bites constantly, because as much as my stomach hurt when I ate, and rebelled at even the slightest scent, it hurt worse on an empty stomach.

Around 26 weeks with my oldest the nausea finally began to lift some. I was nauseous the whole pregnancy (with the last vomiting session the week before Tiger arrived) but smells bothered me a little less, and some foods I couldn’t even look at before became tolerable.

I do not know what I would have done without the support of those around us. The two grad. assistants in my department picked up many of my training sessions. One dear co-worker came over and cleaned our apartment. Several friends brought meals. My in-laws let me rest in their guest room on the days I had thrown up too much to keep working. But, my biggest support was my husband. With very little complaint, and despite being in the middle of his final semester of Grad. School, he picked up doing the house cleaning, and the grocery shopping. He brought me my peanut butter protein cookies in the morning and waited until I had let that settle to help me into my clothes for work. He guarded me as I dozed during our lunch hour at work. He is my superhero.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: My husband is my superhero
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: My husband is my superhero

A week before her due date I still had not gained appropriate weight, and the doctor was concerned. He sent me to a specialist for another ultrasound. The specialist wanted to induce labor right away. He though Tiger had stopped gaining weight and the measurements they were getting showed an extremely small abdomen. I really wanted a natural birth, not a C-section. I declined to be admit that day, and asked my OB about waiting. He said we would wait for the due date, but on her due date we needed to induce. If there was any change in her amount of movement I was to get help right away.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: So ready to hold my baby- and leave the nausea behind
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: So ready to hold my baby- and leave the nausea behind

She didn’t come early. On her due date we headed to the hospital. I had dilated slightly, so rather than pumping me with Pitocin, and trying to ripen my cervix, they let us try using a foley bulb to slowly expand my cervix. After 30 hours in the hospital, and no drugs except for that wretched penicillin for the Group B strep I’d tested positive for, Tiger arrived.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: She was worth it
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: She was worth it

She weighted 6 lbs. 7 oz- nearly 3 lbs more than the doctors had estimated! She was such a fighter. That very first day she got tired of looking one direction (she was on her tummy at the time), so she lifted her head and turned to look at me instead! We had a little bit of trouble with jaundice, but that was it. She was healthy, she was happy (as long as she was touching someone), and she was absolutely gorgeous. All that pain and nausea was so worth it.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: My daughter weighed 6 lbs 7 oz.- 3 lbs more than they'd estimated!
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: My daughter weighed 6 lbs 7 oz.- 3 lbs more than they’d estimated!

Tiger, for all her beauty, was not an easy baby. We had a grueling first year of little sleep. A move across country 3 months after her birth extended some of the healing time from the delivery when I lifted too much too soon. But, around 14 months I finally was mostly better, and Tiger was doing some better sleeping. Enter pregnancy number 2.

I wanted baby number 2. I really did. But, when I saw that positive pregnancy test I cried and cried. I knew the stomach flu symptoms would be coming soon. I knew for another 9 months I’d lose myself. I’d be just a shell, with almost no capacity for intelligent thought, and how would I take care of a toddler too? Every time I saw any video clip of a pregnant lady running, eating, or just going about daily life, I cried. The ability to have normal life continue and not become a human bump on a log during pregnancy seems miraculous to me.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: How could I take care of my toddler with HG?
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: How could I take care of my toddler with HG?

By this time, I was staying home with my toddler. So, I made the decision not to push the same way I had the first time. Priority number one was to stay alive, gain weight, keep food down, and keep toddler alive. I was determined I would gain weight this time.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: I lived on the couch
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: I lived on the couch

Again, I had a lot of help. My parents came up something like 4 times for about a week at a time to make ahead meals for Curt and Tiger. My mom found and made food for me to eat- whatever I thought I might be able to keep down. And, if by the time she made it and got it to me I couldn’t eat it because I’d smelled it cooking, then she’d find something else for me to try. My octogenarian grandfather, and my grandmother drove the 2 day trip to Minnesota to pick up Tiger and I and take us back to their house for a week. And at Christmas, my mother-in-law came and helped for 2 weeks. One family from church brought groceries every other week, and another dear lady came to help clean our living room, dining room, and kitchen. Another friend who lived way over on the East Coast sent meals twice via her family in the area. We were so blessed.

But, I’ve heard from friends who’ve struggled with HG, and gone unbelieved. Some have husbands who think they’re just being lazy. Some have family who don’t believe they’re actually sick, or think if they just kept ginger ale and crackers near by they’d do better. Some have had their struggles with nausea attacked because “It’s perfectly good food” with the implication that because it’s good food anyone can eat it.

Ladies, I do not know what I’d have done without help. I had one week where the only food I could keep down was milkshakes. Do I like eating fast food? No. I don’t like the grease, I don’t like the way it destroys our budget. I’d far rather make things myself. But, if all I can hold down is a milkshake, better that I get those few calories than force down mashed potatoes and green beans only to lose it all. Lets help each other.

Some ladies have HG and struggle during pregnancy. Some ladies have trouble with delivery and end up with the long recovery from a C-section. Some ladies are simply unable to produce enough to nurse their babies. Some ladies are not able to have babies at all. There are so many difficulties faced by so many women. Lets help each other. And, let’s choose to believe the best.

With my second pregnancy I was able to do better gaining weight. I knew to start Phenergan. I knew some coping strategies from last time. I found that using visualizing techniques where I pictured myself on an ocean, with the nausea as waves, I could picture myself floating over the top of the waves, and avoid most of the vomiting. I also had gone to a birth center, which was amazing. When Wren’s ultrasound showed another very small abdomen, they chose to moniter the situation. When I reached my due date with no arrival of baby, they worked with me, monitoring stress levels, and contractions.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: I was able to gain weight second time 'round
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: I was able to gain weight second time ’round

Wren arrived early one Saturday morning just after the birds started singing outside the window. I had a week and a half of prodromal labor, before the real thing hit a little after midnight on a Friday. She had a full head of dark hair, and forget Michelin Man, she was Michelin Woman, complete with a roll right on her nose! While I delivered the placenta they carried her over to be weighed, and I heard gasps.

“What is it?! Is she ok?”

“She’s 9 lbs!”

Our Wren weighed in at 9 lbs 1 oz. I may not have gained much weight, but my body took care of our baby, while my family, and church family took care of me.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Our beautiful 9 lb baby had no problem getting nutrition, even though it was such a struggle for me to keep food down.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Our beautiful 9 lb baby had no problem getting nutrition, even though it was such a struggle for me to keep food down.

 

HG Awareness Week: Survivor

Too sick to think

Delivery cures a horrible illness that plagues me during pregnancy. Calling it morning sickness is laughable.  The medical community labels it Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I am a survivor. Before the little blue line shows up on my pregnancy test, I tell the doctor I’m pregnant. They usually don’t believe me.

It starts with a feeling of shakiness in my stomach. That pre-flu type hint that all is not well. In a few hours I’m virtually flat on my back and I stay that way for another four and a half months. My first doctor worked in a practice that believed morning sickness was mainly in a woman’s head. They did very little to help, knowing it would clear itself up with time…in my case a lot of time. Paul would come home from work at lunch and check on me, then return to work. If I needed anything, well, I never needed anything. I mostly slept. After three months, my baby died. I had lost 20 pounds. The doctor thought it was just that particular pregnancy and the next one would go better. Nope.

But this time they started me on IVs when I first became dehydrated. And then when I threw up IV fluid and stomach acid for a solid week in the hospital, they gave me a Picc line that reached from my inner elbow to my shoulder. The line sent a milkshake bag of liquid into my vein. I escaped from the pain by reading and sleeping. When I finally could keep some food down at five months, my muscles in my arms and legs had atrophied. The insurance company sent a home therapist who tried to get me to do arm lifts using a soup can. I couldn’t understand the reasoning behind this. Just lifting myself out of bed to crawl to the couch was enough to cause muscle cramps. I concentrated on getting back on my feet. By my seventh month I could walk and I spent a lot of time doing that and fearing the upcoming labor with my lack of muscle tone.

I couldn’t think about my baby. I had chosen a name for a girl in high school. That was settled. Friends threw me a shower. I opened gifts and wrote thank yous, but barely remember it. Someone loaned me a crib. I had four dresses that my mom gave me. I wore one each day. My sister wouldn’t go anywhere with me because she was afraid my water would break. Then before sunrise on July 20th, my water did break. I had raised puppies and recognized the sweet odor of amniotic fluid. When I went in to the hospital, the test they ran showed my water hadn’t broken. They sent me home. Why do doctors never believe me? It really doesn’t do much for my doctor/patient relationship. My ob/gyn scheduled me to come in the 21st and induced labor. My water had broken, but resealed itself. When Christiana Joy gave that first cry, I felt like crying too. My stomach no longer hurt. Labor lasted about 5 hours and wasn’t nearly as bad as the pregnancy.

Next case

Fast forward a year and several months. We had moved to Michigan for Paul to return to school and to be near my little brother who was battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was nursing Christy and was not back to a regular cycle. On Christmas Day, I held my little brother’s hand as he stopped breathing. The next few months were just a blur. I started gaining weight, but thought it was from eating too much.

Then one morning I woke up with that shaky feeling. My new doctor sent me for an ultrasound even though my pregnancy tests came back negative. I knew I was pregnant. I did not know I was carrying twins. One was at least a month older than the other and had no heart beat. The other was very small. I was  pregnant at least ten straight months, maybe even eleven. Some researchers believe that if a woman has HG but does not get sick, her body isn’t producing the hormones needed to sustain the baby. When I became pregnant with the surviving twin, the hCG kicked in.

Thankfully my doctor did believe that I had hyperemesis and she began using me as a human guinea pig. I tried treatment after treatment. Phenigrine had helped with the pain in the previous pregnancy, mostly because it induced even more sleep. I didn’t dry heave or feel pain in my sleep. The doctor gave me more. She put in a direct port to my main artery. She knew my brother had just died. She sent in a psychiatrist. He couldn’t help. I just had to stop thinking about my brother and grieve later. I had to stop thinking about my baby that had just died and grieve later. I had to stop thinking about my surviving baby. That became a problem later when we didn’t know for sure if he was a boy and spent the five minute trip to the hospital trying to come up with back up girl names just in case I was wrong about his gender.

Some of the nurses at the hospital believed I was ill. Some did not. My family had a policy to stay with me at all times when at all possible. It wasn’t always possible with my daughter needing to be watched. Having her in the room with me, though I loved her with all my being, sent me into vomiting episodes. The home health nurse that helped me survive, believed me. It’s so wonderful when someone realizes that you aren’t faking this horrible illness!

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I participated in life for the last two months of my pregnancy with my son.

After receiving total nutrition for the first four and a half months, by five months I could walk again. The night PJ appeared after an hour of labor and five pushes, my health insurance company sent Paul a Dagwood-type sandwich from Zingerman’s Deli. I asked him if he was going to eat it. He looked at me a long moment and said, “No.” I love that man. I ate it. All of it. I licked the crumbs. Then a nurse came over and told me I was on a liquid diet. I was so happy I had eaten it before she told me.

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The day before my son was born. I thank the Lord for easy deliveries. Way easy compared to the pregnancies.

Again

A decade passed. The year 2000 arrived. One morning I woke up with that shaky feeling. A friend took me to her chiropractor. He recommended several vitamin supplements and though I felt really awful, I took them and put off the HG for a couple weeks. But it finally hit. I was home schooling my 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. We did school work around the calendar year and took breaks whenever we wanted instead of summers off. School stopped. The children enjoyed the break. I lay as still as possible on the couch. The doctor gave me a temporary picc line since I was feeling a little better than the last pregnancy. One night I started dry heaving, nothing unusual, I almost always did whenever I tried to brush my teeth which I put off as long as possible to avoid the consequences even though I couldn’t stand the taste of my own saliva. Accidentally I pulled out the picc line. The home visiting nurse came out and instead of pulling it, followed the on call doctor’s orders, wiped it with alcohol and reinserted it. A few days later a red line showed up from the entry to halfway up my shoulder. My fever spiked.  I started vomiting with a vengeance. Paul drove our van into the backyard and up to the deck. I crawled to it and lay on the back seats he had flattened into a camp bed. At ER they wouldn’t bring a bed. I had to sit in a wheelchair, vomiting every inch of the way. The doctor came in and said, “We’ve got to figure out what is causing this.” I said, “I know what is causing this.” He looked amazed and asked what. “I have blood poisoning.” I could hear the incredulity in his voice as he said, “How do you know?” I laid out my arm which I had showed in triage and to the nurses and said, “My Picc line is bad. Look at the red line.” They admitted me immediately and started antibiotics but I had developed a blood clot, a dvt. When they decided I needed medication, I asked if it would harm the baby. Though I couldn’t think about the baby, I wanted another child very much. They assured me the meds were safe for the baby. Later, after the baby died, I read the package insert. Spontaneous abortion was one of the first side effects. In the danger of the moment, I hadn’t thought clearly. Had no one read the side effects? Was there really no other option? At first I made them give me the shots in my arm, but they insisted the shots had to go into my belly. I can hardly talk when I’m pregnant much less argue. Even telling about it brings tears to my eyes. But I do know that I will see all of my babies in Heaven. They are not unhappy to be there. Jesus truly loves the little children. What could be better than being with Him? I know they are all safe and well and after I talk with Jesus face to face myself, I’ll go meet them. They didn’t miss anything down here compared to what they’ve got up there. Heaven really is better than anything we can begin to try to imagine.

That’s not the end of the story. I wrote the end first here. God added three more to the three He is keeping in Heaven.

Would I do it again? Yes. I love my children.

 

HG Awareness Week: One Lesson

Hyperemesis Gravidarum and me

Do not move. That is the only rule when I’m pregnant. The real interpretation is:  DO. NOT. MOVE.

No standing.

No chewing food.

No walking

No drinking. (Well, we know pregnant women shouldn’t drink. I’m talking about all liquids.)

No sitting.

No repositioning any limb attached to my body.

No one else can move any part of my body.

No speaking.

Sleep like the dead for 16 or more hours a day.

When awake, distract my mind from anything connected to any thought of my body and the intense, constant, unabating pain in my stomach.

If I break the rule, my stomach will attempt to exit my body through my mouth over and over and over and over again, even for the slightest infringement. For hours.

This continues from 2 weeks until 5 months. Then one day, I can sit up. Then I can stand. Then I can walk. But the pain doesn’t leave until the moment that baby arrives.

Four pregnancies.

It adds up to a year and a half of my life living on IV fluid.

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My third/fourth pregnancy when I began to be able to sit up.

No one believed me

People thought it was all in my head. Even doctors and nurses. One day two nurses decided I just needed to sit up more. They put me in a chair, stripped the bed, and left. I am sure God had them drop the sheets on the floor instead of tossing them in the laundry gurney. After a few minutes, I slipped off the chair and onto the heap of dirty sheets and blankets. When Paul arrived 20 minutes later, I was just beginning to heave my guts out. When I finally fell asleep after hours of retching, he went to the desk and told them that those nurses were never again to be assigned to me. Another time when my potassium levels dipped too low, a doctor prescribed a teeny tiny potassium pill. I asked to have it through my IV. They said that was impossible. I threw up nonstop for 5 hours. Then there was the nurse who told me I had to walk down the hall to be weighed. I managed to say that the nurses brought the scale to me instead. She was having nothing to do with that. I dry heaved all day when I wasn’t throwing up stomach acid. She apologized about ten times.

Not morning sickness! All day sickness. Women who have a little nausea tend to think I’m over-dramatic. In the 1980s people still thought I was making it up. I wish! Only those who suffer with Hyperemesis Gravedarium—extreme illness caused by pregnancy—can begin to understand what I lived through. They experienced it.

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The day before I delivered Christy.

Please, believe me

If you haven’t experienced it—that is the whole issue with Jesus Christ, too. If you haven’t experienced Him you don’t know His peace. You don’t know His love. Or His mercy. Or His grace. You don’t know the difference life with Him makes. I’m not making up a relationship with God. He is real! He has changed me. I am not the person I would have been or that I was. If you pause here and think even for a moment, “Maybe there is something to this God-thing,” then I appeal to you, please just ask Him to reveal Himself to you. It’s a simple request.

I would not wish anyone to go through the type of pregnancies I have, but if only everyone could experience Christ!