If you've ever been pregnant, there's a pretty solid chance (well over 50%, in fact) that you have experienced morning sickness. Often the butt of a joke or an "industry clue" that a television or movie character is pregnant, morning sickness is to pregnancy what mosquitoes are to summer. There's a good chance they're going to show up and make things uncomfortable, and there's a decent chance that they can make a few months absolutely unbearable. The struggles of having morning sickness are common, but knowing that millennia of fellow pregnant women have suffered right alongside you, doesn't make those struggles any less ghastly.
Morning sickness is caused by increased hormone levels, and some research indicates that morning sickness is hereditary. Generally speaking, morning sickness really isn't harmful (in fact, the fact that one is suffering with this issue is a good sign that the pregnancy is moving along normally). So, at least you can rest somewhat easy, knowing that what does not kill us only makes us stronger. Hyperemesis gravidarum, on the other hand, which sounds like a spell you learn at Hogwarts but (sadly) isn't, is basically morning sickness on steroids. Unlike morning sickness, it can be dangerous, mainly because the constantly vomiting puts the expecting mother at risk for dehydration and nutritional deficiencies. Needless to say, if left unchecked, problems can arise for a developing fetus.
The good news is that very few women will actually be diagnosed with HG (probably under 2%). The bad news is you don't have to have a life-threatening illness to feel like your life is over (or at the very least, a massive pain in the ass, and heaven help you if you also have sciatica, which is a literal pain in your ass). Here are some of the super-awesome-fun-joys you might get to experience while clutched in the grasp of morning sickness:
If it just happened in the mornings, that would probably be pretty bearable. Super annoying, of course, but bearable. No. "Morning sickness" is basically a 24/7 sickness. At the very least, its horridness isn't limited to mornings. Like, it doesn't clock in at 7 a.m. and punch out by noon. It works overtime to make you as miserable as possible, and it's very good at its job.
Feeling constantly nauseous takes a mental toll on anyone. This was probably as bad for me, personally, as the never-ending queasiness. Being queasy just made me so damn surly and feeling surly made me feel angry because it all felt very unfair. It also felt unfair that I couldn't just give in to the constant bad mood, but was obligated, as a not-douche member of society, to try to be personable and productive. Ugh.
"Oh you have morning sickness! So did I, and you know what got me through it...?"
Ginger. Lemon. Sprite. Crackers. Sea bands. Unisom. Accupuncture. Zofran.
I've heard it all. Every time you hear a new "cure" from someone with experience, your hopes are raised. Too often, what works for one person doesn't work for another. I was one of the lucky people for whom nothing worked. When I could find a "remedy," it worked for approximately 24 hours before my morning sickness figured it out and worked its way around it. Well played, morning sickness. Well played.
I mean, you're constantly down there, so you get to know it pretty well. I gotta tell you: even the cleanest toilet smells like, well, you probably know what they smell like already. #Solidarity.
It's not just toilets that set off the olfactory alarms. Things that used to smell good (roast chicken, garlic, popcorn) all of a sudden trigger something in your brain that makes you want to barf. And the logical part of your brain is like "What are you talking about? This is a delicious smell" but your stomach, nose, and the pregnant part of your brain is like "We're all going to die! Evacuate stomach immediately or we risk poisoning!"
Because anything you eat? Yeah, that's only going to make you more and more nauseated. Honestly, when it comes to eating with morning sickness you rarely actually get to digest food. It's more like your stomach is renting it for a little while before returning it to your mouth and in really terrible shape.
Yeah, just because everything makes you vomit doesn't mean that pregnancy cravings aren't there. With my first pregnancy I wanted chips and orange juice so badly and, well, it did not go well.
Every now and then, while perusing social media, I'll see a really adorable pregnancy announcement. Like, a pregnant lady gives her parents a gift from "the new baby" or a couple releases balloons at a party with their due date written across them. Precious. Do you know what my pregnancy announcement to my co-workers looked like? Me retching in the communal bathroom, and when I emerged from the stall a bunch of them huddled around me in concern before one of the directors kindly asked, "Are you sick or pregnant?"
Yeah, not so precious.
Body functions are funny (just ask the creators of South Park). They're less funny when you're the one suffering through them. This doesn't stop other people from watching your suffering and seeing the humor in it, though. "Ha! Everything makes you throw up, huh?!" Yeah, clearly everything makes me throw up. What do you think it will take to get you to leave me alone? Throwing up on, um, you?
I seriously had tile lines on the fronts of my legs, at one point, because I was constantly take puke breaks at work. Tile lines, you guys.
Even worse than throwing up, in my experience, is not throwing up when you really want to and need to. Unfortunately for me, this is usually how my morning sickness manifested. You know that feeling you get right as you're about to throw up? Yeah. Imagine that for months on end but rarely getting the minor relief of actually vomiting.
Here's how that goes...
Brush your teeth. Gag. Run to the toilet. Vomit. Have horrible breath. Brush your teeth to stop tasting puke. Gag. Run to the toilet. Vomit. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
(Oh, and don't suggest mouthwash. Mouthwash made it even worse.)
When it comes out that you have morning sickness (probably because you threw up in front of someone, again), most people who have been in that boat will be super sweet, understanding, and supportive. Most will share their stories, and there is a camaraderie created. But some people will, in telling their stories, go out of their way to diminish your experience.
You: Ugh, yeah, morning sickness sucks. I threw up three times yesterday.
Them: Are you kidding? I would have loved to only throw up three times a day! That's nothing! I threw up three times an hour.
You: Wow. That's rough.
Them: You don't even know. I had to be hospitalized and everything.
Them: Yeah. Doctors said it was a miracle I was even alive. So, for real, be grateful you only throw up three times a day.
There's a way to talk about your experiences without being a jerk. Rethink your approach.
While morning sickness stops around the 12th week of pregnancy (aka by the end of the first trimester) for most people, there are some who are not so lucky. It lasted 14 weeks with my first and 24 weeks (more than half my pregnancy) with my daughter. Some women are #blessed enough to have to deal with it the whole time they're pregnant. The ceaseless feeling of queasy illness is not at all easy to deal with and, honestly, there's nothing I (or you, or anyone) can do to make that any easier. So, in lieu of uplifting or practical advice, please accept this gif of adorable kittens and my condolences.
Strength and courage, friend. Strength and courage.