I’m pregnant … it sucks!

I'm Pregnant ... it sucks!

Pregnancy is an exciting time. Or so I’m told. It is a time of expectation and anticipation. But pregnancy is also a time of immense change and with that can come a lot of stress and pressure.

CW: this post talks of child loss, PTSD, and pregnancy related illness in very honest terms.

I’m writing this post 14 weeks pregnant after probably 4 weeks of researching pregnancy announcements. I see themes. Bright happy couples showing the blob-like scan picture from their 12 week ultrasound. Gender or name reveal cakes held by the Cheshire Cat of smiles. Expectant mothers positively blooming in a bump revealing gown and, of course, wearing the biggest of all smiles. I feel none of these pictures would tell the truth about my pregnancy – I still don’t really know how to announce it other than ‘I’m pregnant … it sucks.’

The Unplanned Pregnancy

Don’t get me wrong. This baby is wanted. But coming to terms with an unplanned pregnancy is a whole other matter.

This pregnancy is completely unexpected and has happened at the worse time possible. Work has been a nightmare with restructuring looming on the horizon. We’d just put an offer in on a house that has only two redeeming factors – potential and cheapness. The house is a doer-upper and my gosh does it need some doing up! My husband was shortly off on a month long trip to Liberia – the fourth poorest country in the world – where he would be unlikely to have access to internet or communication methods. And we had recently settled a four-year law suit and therefore gained some closure on a previous pregnancy that had devastated our lives some years before.

What ensued was panic. Frantic calls to the doctors and midwife to try and get an appointment before Iain had to disappear to another continent. Floods of tears as I told my mum – again in panic – that I was pregnant and terrified. Guilt when the GP asked me why I hadn’t been taking folic acid – this was followed quickly by a lecture on birth control. A panic attack outside the midwife’s office the next day as I read leaflet after leaflet on everything from genetic screening tests to prenatal yoga. Sobbing uncontrollably into my sleeve when she asked me if this was my first pregnancy. My husband had to translate my gasps because she couldn’t make them out; ‘I don’t want to kill this one’.

More guilt when she asked when I’d had my last drink. I’d been out partying with friends just three nights before – there was a gin bar and tequila. Two weeks before that I’d been glugging Tuscan wine by the bucketful whilst on holiday. ‘It will be fine’ – she reassured me. Needless to say, not even a drop has passed my lips since that first morning I woke up, made a cup of coffee, threw up at the smell of it and realised I needed to pee on a stick.

I was sent home with a huge pack of information, a prescription for folic acid, an appointment for my 12-week scan, and an emergency referral to an obstetrician. The emergency appointment is standard for women with my neurological condition, Arnold Chiari Malformation, which can cause complications during childbirth. I felt a little more reassured – I even started planning how the nursery would look in our new house.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I had felt poorly for a few weeks before realising that I was pregnant. I put it down to a bad cycle with my usual chronic illness. I was nauseous with a persistent and unshifting headache, my balance was off (I even fell and hit my head walking the dog) and I was exhausted all the time.

However, that was nothing to what was to come. Within a week of knowing I was pregnant food became unpalatable. My best friend, who came to stay whilst my husband was in Liberia, had to eat in the kitchen (three floors below the lounge where I’d taken residence on the sofa) because I couldn’t stand the smell of anything she was eating. I began vomiting after every meal followed soon by vomiting after every drink. My headaches worsened and I ended up in A&E with severe dehydration.

I was diagnosed with a severe pregnancy complication known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG from here on) – a severe pregnancy sickness that can leave the sufferer dehydrated, malnourished, and in need of hospitalisation. Kate Middleton suffered from it. So did Amy Schumer. But a diagnosis didn’t mean I was out of the blue. Far from it.

The vomiting continued despite being on three different anti-sickness medications. Even the thought of food would induce a fresh bout of sickness. I spent the next 6 weeks in and out of hospital in a vicious cycle of being stabilised and rehydrated by IV meds only to go home and relapse. They say most pregnant women suffer from two bouts of nausea a day during their first trimester – mine was continuous with no let up.

My blood pressure dropped to the point that I couldn’t stand without blacking out. My body, weak and malnourished, wanting nothing but sleep. I lost myself. I couldn’t read a book because I couldn’t focus for long enough. I couldn’t watch TV because the movement of the screen triggered nausea. I couldn’t hold a conversation. I could sleep – but only fitfully.

Guilt

And then there was guilt. A relative said – ‘Well you have to eat, you’re pregnant’. But I didn’t feel pregnant and eating wasn’t a choice I had.

I felt empty and exhausted and tearful. Relatives, who were needed to care for me in my husband’s absence, exclaimed excitement and joy at the prospect of baby. I felt no excitement. I felt no joy. They asked if I wanted a girl or a boy. I didn’t want either. They wanted to see the early scan picture that I’d had at 7 weeks to check if I was carrying twins, a common cause of HG. I wasn’t carrying twins and I didn’t want to share the image. Having people see it would make it too real. Plus, I wanted my husband to be the first to see it when he got home from his work trip. They sent congratulations cards. I didn’t feel I had anything to be congratulated on. I just felt ill. Too ill to function.

Depression is common with sufferers of HG. It is a lonely time and you feel as though all autonomy over your body has been stripped away. You are no longer a person but a vessel for something that is, quite literally, sucking the life out of you. The midwife told me that HG babies are normally strong; she described it as a parasite taking any nutrition from me – leaving nothing for me to survive on. And that is how I felt – how I still feel on a bad day – like all the life and energy and joy is being sucked out of me.

And then comes the guilt. Once my husband was home I broke down in tears because I didn’t feel pregnant. I didn’t feel the joy that everyone else experienced on my behalf. And I felt like there was something severely wrong with me for not feeling those things. I felt, and still feel, guilty for not being the glowing, happy mum trembling with excitement at the prospect of a new baby.

Trauma

I’ve never really come to terms with the failure of my previous pregnancy. I picked myself up and buried myself in work. I refused to confront the grief and the guilt I felt over it. I wouldn’t talk about it apart from when intoxicated when all the tears would come flying out. I pretended it didn’t affect me whilst, at the same time, cancelling all thoughts of future children from my mind. I couldn’t go through that again – so why even entertain the idea?

Then I found out I’m pregnant again and get confronted with a wave of suppressed emotions. All the trauma from 4 years ago hit me like a brick wall. I had panic attacks – at the midwives, at the doctors, when first seeing my baby on an ultrasound screen, when doing pee test after pee test after pee test.

My husband mentioned it first. PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder. Extreme stress trigged by frightening or distressing events. In my case, it was triggered by my previous pregnancy.

It is something that I’m still learning to deal with and I feel like it has built a huge wall between me and my baby. A wall between me and my happiness as an expectant mother. I can’t get over this sense of impending gloom – like everything is going to go so very badly wrong. I don’t want to tell people I’m pregnant because how do I then tell them that I’m no longer pregnant when/if it all goes wrong?

It went wrong before. My body wasn’t able to cope with the pregnancy. I was extremely ill, hospitalised for weeks on end. Operated on. Drugged to the eyeballs. It resulted in no baby. And that is something I will never really get over and, sadly, it’s stopping me from feeling anything but anxiety over this new pregnancy.

Fear is normal?

So where am I going with this? I don’t really know. It’s mostly a cathartic rant – getting all my thoughts and feelings out on paper (or screen) and jumping over that one barrier of fear by telling the world; ‘I’m pregnant … but it sucks!’

I’m sure I’ll be criticised for this post. After all, I’m lucky right? I’m pregnant. In the words of one friend, I’m ‘growing a miracle’. So many women out there would do anything to be in my position. I have a loving and supportive husband who is literally waiting on me hand and foot. I have (mostly) supportive family who are around to look after me and support me. I have a job that means I’ve been paid for most of my illness – saved from the additional stress of poor finances. I’m lucky. Right?

I also think this little tale is partly to reassure other expectant mothers out there that it doesn’t need to be all smiles and excitement. Take away complications like HG and the trauma of previous pregnancies and pregnancy is still terrifying. It is wholly new and unknown (even to those who have had previous children) and can be hugely stressful on the parents for so many reasons. Other expectant mothers out there must feel this fright too, right?

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8 Comments

  1. Vanessa
    August 27, 2019 / 6:24 pm

    Charli….I’m so with you on all this. Sadly we don’t have children following a series of illness (undiagnosed TB, a totally malfunctioning thyroid, and more). Finally when I got pregnant I miscarried at 5 months. After that it was just more I could take. Like your pregnancy it came as a bolt from the blue. We wanted Sam (because it was either Sam or SamSara), but nothing was right. I was Ill, we lived in a Georgian doer upper we’d just bought. We were both self employed. It was a nightmare. I wanted the baby but the pregnancy was a nightmare, like you, there was no glow, just fear. And there was no happy ending- but now there is us, and a Dachshund called Max. Things aren’t as they should be yet, but they will be- because ultimately, it’s one day at a time. You need to do whatever gets you through each day. And you will. You will take your folic acid, gradually the fear will recede (I hope). Eventually the HG will cease. Just take each day as a tiny bite to get through. If you can , find a drink you can tolerate (and like). Mine was ginger ale in a sippy cup ! – literally a giant sippy cup with a lid, and a straw……right now it’s ok to feel rubbish and even to view baby as a sucubus (I did – I felt so ill). But it’s not forever. A friend of mine with PCOS has just had her first baby. It’s been a huge challenge, but she wouldn’t change it for the world. Hang in there. It will pass, because all things do. Let “it will pass” be your mantra. And only do what YOU want- only be with people YOU want to see. And one day it will be OK, come what may. Promise. Because even the worst crap ends sometime, for everyone. xxx

  2. Nikki
    August 27, 2019 / 6:51 pm

    Pregnancy is one of the toughest things you will ever have to go through. Planned or unplanned, it’s life changing and scary. Congratulations on your pregnancy – it’s easier said than done, but do try and enjoy it. It’s over so quickly and HG or no HG, you’ll miss being pregnant when baby is here! Good luck with everything!! X

  3. August 27, 2019 / 7:19 pm

    I relate so much everything you said about HG, I received a late diagnosis at almost 15 weeks, I thought it was normal to be so poorly. It’s a lonely time and I felt so dismissed by a lot of family and friends when I complained about the nausea. I too had our baby described to us as a parasite when I was in hospital and you really do feel like the life has been sucked out of you. I really hope you can start to feel healthy again soon and get some normality back in your life. Lauren x

  4. Mel
    August 27, 2019 / 7:31 pm

    I’m so sorry this sounds like a terrible time for you. I hope you get all the care you need to support you through this. Take it easy. X

  5. Zoe
    August 27, 2019 / 7:40 pm

    I’m currently pregnant and I can confirm that the fear of something going wrong is very, very common. When you add your previous trauma into the equation it’s no surprise you’re feeling the way you do. I won’t patronise you and say try and focus on the good because it is not that easy. I have had a complicated pregnancy so far and have struggled with negative thoughts, the only thing that has helped is taking everything one day at a time. The negative thoughts don’t go away and are always in the back of my mind so just know you’re not alone, I hope that brings you some form of comfort.

  6. August 28, 2019 / 8:38 am

    I love you so much, and having been privileged to know your story prior, I can only guess how scary all this is for you. Pregnancy is horrible, I hated it. And no one has the right to tell you how to feel. This is your body, your trauma, your experience. Deal with it in a way that helps you. I’m here for you whenever you need me. You are loved.

  7. August 29, 2019 / 10:24 am

    Tears are running down my cheeks reading this. You’ve written it so beautifully and -even if you don’t experience it now- you’ve written it with love. Your guilt comes from love; you don’t see it now but one day you will. And writing this down is beautiful, I wish now I had done it.
    I’ve experienced extreme sickness as well. No hospital as I refused to tell anyone. Dennis and I were the only ones and our doctor and midwife. Medication, rest and sleep was all I could do. And lying all to time to each and everyone for not meeting up!
    I too wanted to tell the world in joy, happy and positive. So we waiting till week 16 to tell the world when it was the second trimester and I could eat some.
    It was such a relief but reading your story now tells me I too have a slight trauma from those first weeks being so sick, feeling guilty for not being able to eat and drink properly. Even though my story isn’t as heavy as yours;
    I do recognize your feelings. I guess that’s why when I first met Charlotte all I could say is “she’s alive, she’s alive”.
    For you I wish the same; that your pregnancy will get more smooth in the next trimester and that you can start to enjoy it. And that your baby will come to this world safe and sounds.
    With love, Josine

  8. Abi
    August 30, 2019 / 5:59 am

    Well done for being brave enough to share your journey…warts and all! I am currently 17 weeks pregnant and to all intents and purposes having a ‘normal’ pregnancy. But normal doesn’t make it any easier. Despite my husband and I trying for this baby and really wanting it, I still felt physically and mentally ill, drained and exhausted for the first 14 weeks. Comments like aren’t you excited etc don’t help. They make you feel like there’s something wrong with you for not being excited. I kept saying to my husband that I felt like my personality had been taken away. I hated it when people would say ‘it will pass’ because I just couldn’t imagine not feeling horrific. But the truth is, it really does. It will probably take longer with your condition and if you can get through to your 20 week scan, you can do anything! Even now I feel like a fraud as I don’t ‘feel’ pregnant. I don’t have a bump yet, just some extra weight around the middle, and I haven’t felt baby move. I would really recommend going for additional (private) scans if you can afford it. The environment is nicer and calmer and getting to see baby more really makes it feel more real and helps you feel closer (well it did for us). I’m sure you have lots of support and friends but if you want a fellow first time (terrified) Mumfriend, please drop me an email! Don’t beat yourself up, yes you feel shit and your super strong baby is taking everything from you, but your body will catch up soon. Don’t make it harder than it already is by overthinking. You’ve got this! Xxxx