Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hyperemesis Remembered

This past Sunday, I had the oddest bout of food poisoning/stomach flu that I have ever experienced. Not the most severe (the kind where you're huddled on the bathroom floor hoping to die), but definitely the oddest. And it happened like this...

As I got up to get ready for church, I was almost immediately hit with simultaneous stomach pain and overwhelming nausea. Being not unacquainted with morning nausea (it's a constant when I'm not doing the diet, pregnant or not), I ran for the kitchen and grabbed a piece of cheese to eat (my usual protocol). I immediately started feeling (mostly) better, and I started tentatively getting ready. But ten minutes later - it happened all over again. After that, I went back to bed, where the same thing kept happening. By the time the family got up, I had to tell DH, "Please get the kids some breakfast and do something with them - I'm really sick."

Then I collapsed back in bed and stayed there for the rest of the day (something that has not happened - outside of pregnancy - in a very, very long time). Every twenty to sixty minutes, I would awake to the sudden pain and nausea, eat a piece of cheese (which I started keeping next to me), feel slowly better, and then immediately fall back into an exhausted sleep until it happened again.

Very odd, no? Mild, as it were, but odd.

I noticed two interesting things (just as a side note):

First thing: I noticed that I would begin to wake up several seconds before the pain/nausea cycle started - just like a labor contraction! During my last labor, I noticed that I started sitting up and getting restless several seconds before I could notice a contraction starting - I couldn't feel it yet, but my body knew it was coming. Same thing with the stomach bug.

Second thing: I have noticed that any stomach bug has had more long-lasting effects ever since my first experience with HG, seven years ago. This round was just the same. Even though it was a one-day bug (for the most part), the residual nausea is still not completely gone, a full week later. My body is just more nausea-prone in its post-HG state - I don't know if that will last my whole life, but it is still there seven years post-HG with no sign of abating. My body just likes nausea. Weird!

When I finally rolled out of bed sometime mid-evening, and was able to wake up and survey the damages, I found exactly what any woman would find who has been out of commission for an entire day: A kitchen full of fast-food wrappers and dirty dishes, laundry piled up, messes everywhere, and a living room that looked like Sherman's army just rolled through town.

I am not in anyway criticizing my husband over this! He did a great job of keeping the kids completely occupied during the day, keeping them fed, keeping them alive - and this was the first time that he has ever had to watch three children for an extended length of time. I am extremely grateful.

This experience, however, gave me a chance to reflect anew on the stresses that HG puts on families during the course of the illness. It's not just about physical suffering and the aftereffects of hyperemesis (though that is, of course, major!!!). It's also about the spiritual and emotional stresses upon a family of having mama out of commission and unable to care for the older children and the home. Most husbands, to put it bluntly, will not be able to run a home with any amount of efficiency even approaching that of the mother's care, and both the home and the family suffer.

Here are just some of the emotional stresses that HG places on a family:

(1) The emotional stress upon a mother of having to watch her home disintegrate in order and cleanliness, with no ability to do anything about it (for me this is MAJOR).

(2) Lack of ability to discipline children properly (because acting as a disciplinarian takes massive amounts of energy and willpower).

(3) Lack of routine, structure, healthy food, cleanliness, you name it.

(4) Marital stress due to all of the above and due to the individual stresses upon the husband (now sole and unaccustomed caregiver and housekeeper) and wife (dealing with illness and the inability to run her family).

As with many chronic, long-term illnesses, HG places huge stresses on both the mother and her family. Going through just one day of a mild stomach bug gave me pause to reflect on this and to realize anew how much stress an HG family can be undergoing. It's not just the illness.

If you know an HG family - please realize this! Offer to set up a meal schedule. Show up uninvited and clean her bathrooms by force (because women almost never ask for help or willingly accept offers of help!). Help watch older children. It is all so very much needed and appreciated by HG families! I am forever grateful to the women and families who have helped us through our pregnancies with food and housecleaning help - we couldn't have done it without you all (thank you, ladies!).

Families helping other families in times of trouble are such an incredible blessing - this is a wonderful ministry and a great way to help others! And the same thing applies, of course, to helping any family going through serious illness or other life-stress.

Happy Sabbath, everyone! I'm off to deal with some cranky babies - love to you all!

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