Pregnancy Comes in All Shapes and Sizes: Mental Health with Jess from That Mummy Blog
As the RCOG survey pointed out, we need to start considering the mental health of pregnant mothers when they encounter a physical complication too. Pregnancy can be one of the most stressful times of someone’s life. It can be worrying when everything is going well but what about when complications are encountered. How do we cope?
This is Jessica’s story from That Mummy Blog. She shares her experience of suffering with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (extreme sickness in pregnancy). She tells us about not only the physical side of the problem but the consequences it had on her mental health.
We were blissfully happy.
I went through the typical ‘Baby Blues’ on days 3 to 5 postpartum, which included a good cry in front of my in laws on day 3, as for some stupid reason I decided going to a family BBQ was a good idea. It wasn’t.
I felt like I eased into parenting. Breastfeeding went really well, we managed to prove all of our family wrong by actually using our cloth nappies, we were peacefully co-sleeping and I had made some lovely new friends from various Mum groups, including the breastfeeding support group I later trained to be a part of. I thought I had it down. And I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was very judgmental of those who didn’t parent in the same way that I did.
We were so cocky in fact, that when my periods returned at 8 months postpartum, we decided to let nature takes it’s course. Which was a good thing too as at 9 months postpartum, we were pregnant!
It all went downhill from there…we were gleefully happy, but within days my Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) came back twice as hard. Over the course of the next 32 weeks, I was admitted into hospital for rehydration and fluids a whopping 30 times. 30 times where I had to leave my little girl; my breastfed, co-sleeping, little girl, to sit in a hospital where I received IV fluids, anti sickness and pain relief medication until I was able to keep down a dry piece of toast then sent on my way… until the next week. It was heart wrenching. This baby inside of me, that was supposed to fill our lives with joy, was breaking me, mentally and physically.
We had always decided we would only have two children, mainly due to how my body can’t seem to handle pregnancy very well. This meant I put a lot of pressure on trying to enjoy my ‘last pregnancy’ as much as possible. I forced myself to take weekly photo updates, plastering a grin on my face for my family and friends to see on social media. I got a maternity photo shoot done, to try and find some beauty in a crappy situation. I already felt detached from the baby inside me, I resented it from taking me away from my baby girl. I wanted to bond with it just like I had the first time around, but the sickness made it so hard.
During one hospital visit, at around 20 weeks pregnant, a female consultant sat me down and calmly asked how everything was at home. As these are usual questions to ask when a woman is alone in hospital, I thought nothing of it. But then she asked again, I again answered that everything was perfectly fine, my husband was at home looking after our daughter to keep some routine in the upheaval that was this pregnancy. A few hours later, at around 3:30AM, she came back and asked again.
By this time, I was quite annoyed. I knew exactly what she was hinting at, so asked her outright why she was asking. She explained that it was ‘impossible’ to have HG so severely that I would be admitted weekly, which must mean I am trying to get away from an abusive relationship.
Eh, excuse me?! You can see me, not able to even keep water down, and yet you are accusing me of making my condition up because you think my husband is beating me? I was shocked. After finding my words and assuring her my husband couldn’t hurt a fly, and that our relationship was anything but abusive, the doctor then started a different route. She started talking about my daughter, and stated that I must miss her so much during these hospital visits. Of course, hormonal pregnant woman starts crying when she thinks about missing her darling daughter. The doctor smiles, tells me I’m obviously mentally ill, which is why I’m getting so sick, refused to give me any more medication and referred me to the peri natal mental health team.
I didn’t know what to do. I knew that although I was quite down, I knew I was down because of the sickness, not sick because I was down! I was a part of a few HG Facebook support groups, so posted about my situation that same morning. Luckily, I was put in touch with the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support (find out more about PSS here). They were able to explain to me my options, and gave me some great advice on how to change consultants and who they recommended from my hospital, as well as a volunteer peer supporter who had also been through HG. She was my rock. I was able to change to a brilliant male consultant who understood HG completely, we got a game plan and decided that should the HG continue throughout pregnancy (like it did with my first pregnancy) then I would be induced at 37 weeks due to bile acid build up and liver troubles in myself.
Now I knew there was an end, I just had power through. I had assured myself as soon as the baby arrived, everything would be fine. Our family would be complete, we’d live happily ever after…if only life worked like that, eh?
Having Hyperemsis Gravidarum in pregnancy is still affecting my life even now, 16 months after giving birth to my son. I am struggling to bond with my son, and have been diagnosed with postnatal mental health issues, which I document on my blog www.thatmummyblog.com. There are foods that I cannot eat now due to the constant sickness. The smell of orange makes me feel nauseous and don’t get me started on ginger!
I am in the process of training to be a pregnancy sickness peer supporter with Pregnancy Sickness Support UK. Without their support, I would not have had the knowledge to get the best care possible. They suggested which consultant to use going forward and gave me a 1:1 peer supporter to keep me lifted. I would definitely recommend the charity to anyone in need.
Donate Hyperemesis Gravidarum Survival Packs from Spewing Mummy – Click here!