My 2nd Trimester was supposed to be fabulous. It was poised to occur right in the middle of the winter holiday season, the most wonderful time of the year! I would cross over from 1st trimester misery around Halloween and not reach the awkward 3rd trimester until well after the new year.
The proverbial “they” agreed I was going to feel so much better once I hit this magical 2nd trimester. Supposedly I was even going to want to have sex. Big promises.
After all the hype, I anxiously awaited that 13 week milestone: “everything changes after that,” they said. “your pregnancy hormones settle down and so does the nausea”.
For me this was partially true, because my nausea and vomiting did get better, however the improvement was artificially constructed. As I noted in Part I of this story the big change for me at this point in my pregnancy was an actual diagnosis of Hyperemsis Gravidarum (HG).
Early on in my pregnancy, I was into things like limiting medication and minimizing intervention; letting your body just grow the baby. I am (still) a huge believer in giving your body space to do its thing. But then I got HG. As a soon-to-be working mom, I had to find a way to keep my job, and you know, stay alive. Enter modern medicine:
We started with Zofran- I already had this on hand but had been using it sporadically as the original doctor who prescribed it made it sound like a tool for the weak: “just having the bottle will make you feel better” she said. I can’t even begin to describe how much I resent this statement. It represents everything wrong with how women are supported while they are growing a person. It felt like she was saying “toughen up lady, Zofran is for losers”.
My new and extremely supportive midwife put me on the max dosage of oral Zofran covering a 24 period. (For severe cases of HG some women have a Zofran pump attached to their body, injecting the good stuff directly into your bloodstream. That was not me, and I’m so sorry if it is/was you.) I was taking it every 8 hours, even setting an alarm clock during the middle of the night so that I could be sure not to miss a dose. It took about 24-36 hours on Zofran for me to stop dry heaving. If I missed or delayed a dosage, I would be set back again and have to start over. One missed dosage would mean vomiting for at least a day before I could get it back under control.
My midwife called this phenomenon “chasing” the HG. Thus, it was critical that I never get behind, even if I felt better. But somehow my brain had a ridiculously hard time with this concept. I was in the widely revered 2nd trimester after all, and when I wasn’t barfing I would start to believe my pregnancy was finally changing and the madness was over. 12 weeks, 16 weeks, 20 weeks– they were all advertised as moments of turnaround.
So naturally I would dabble and test, stretching space between doses, occasionally being so bold as to skip one, thinking that maybe I really was improving. And then I would be wrong.
I would chase the vomit back with Zofran for a few rather unpleasant days. This “testing” drove my husband absolutely crazy, and objectively I can see why– it seems ridiculous to give up on a strategy that was at least partially working. But sometimes you want to believe all the fairy tales.
Zofran helped put the brakes on vomiting from HG, but nausea is the real pregnancy devil. Puke Purgatory, as I fondly remember it, made me feel like a crazy person. You WANT to barf. But you don’t. You just feel like you should, All. The. Time. It makes walking hard, and riding in vehicles nearly impossible. Think hangover + food poisoning that simply never, ever, end.
For the nausea I was first given Reglan. I’m not sure exactly the mechanism of this drug, but Reglan made me really miserable. I was already sinking into a dark place over how much my body disliked growing a human, and Reglan nearly put me over the edge of hopeless. After just a week and many, many tears, I called it off.
On to another drug, Phenergan. This actually helped, and I ended up using it for the remainder of my pregnancy. I took morning and night dosages, and it really worked wonders if I paired it with Doxyalmine Succinate (Unisom) and vitamin B6 at night. The latter combo is some magical concoction that exists in a single pill form in other countries, like Canada, but that you have to mix on your own here in the US. (Ask your doctor- it’s fabulous).
I dutifully carried my drugs around, quietly popping pills all day long at work like an addict. At this point, I had told my boss about my pregnancy because my midwife didn’t want me travelling. I was supposed to go on a trip to NYC at 13 weeks but cancelled. I will forever be grateful that my boss, a man, had so much compassion. He didn’t understand what I was feeling, but mentioned a family friend who went through the same thing. I feel torn between gratitude of my luck to be working for an understanding boss and family-friendly company, and being upset that this behavior is not the standard in this country. I read a lot of stories about women who had to quit, or had hideous employers. I’m grateful for my situation, and outraged for those who do not have similar support.
We are growing humans. Could society consider bumping up the value we place on this task?
My drugs kept my 2nd trimester in the zone of “miserable but functioning”. I was at work regularly, and even mustered up the will for some adventures. My parents came to visit us in San Francisco, and I think I only had to dash away once or twice to barf. My husband and I even went to the Grand Canyon over Thanksgiving, using this photo as our internet birth announcement.
As Christmas approached, I was looking forward to a 10-day vacation home with much enthusiasm. I had big plans that included an ipad, a blanket and my parents couch by the fireplace. But there was a nasty cold virus going around the office, and the week before our break, it hit me.
Apparently my pregnant body was so pathetic and busy baby-growing that fighting a cold was just too much. The HG drugs seemed to stop working. It was very sudden. I was at my office on a regular Friday. I felt yuckier than usual, and I remember not being able to eat much. Around lunch time, I had to run to the bathroom at work for a puke. I felt better after, but post-puke-relief, as I mentioned before, should never, ever, be trusted.
The rest of the afternoon contained several more trips to the office bathroom to vomit before I left. I got a cab with a coworker friend, and this is when I knew things were getting bad. The whole ride I had to clutch the door handle and stare at the road, counting every second of every light. I was mystified though, why was I puking so often? I had taken my HG cocktail dutifully.
The taxi dropped my friend off, and it was only 10 or so blocks to my place. After driving down a few more streets, I had to tell the driver to stop and let me out– I opened the door just in time to barf on the pavement instead of his seats. It was 5:00 p.m. on Friday. I tried to save some dignity by assuring him I wasn’t drunk. I could see my apartment tower a mere 7 blocks away and I intended to just walk home from that point. The driver was very kind, asking if I was alright- but I couldn’t waste time reassuring him– I needed a new spot to puke. I grabbed my things and walked a few steps to the nearest tree that I think a quintessential San Francisco purse dog had finished using for a pee. Barf.
People were out and about since it was commute time. Seeing a woman in a sweater dress, heels, carrying a nice handbag and a even shopping bag, I believe most bystanders must have thought I had just come from a cheap company party where I had one too many glasses of eggnog. I stopped 3 times on that block to vomit, and finally reached the corner where there was a bus stop bench. I sank down, once again turning to look at my destination, now just 6 blocks away.
Then the taxi pulled up. This guy was so kind. He got out and told me that he had two kids and his wife was always very sick during her pregnancies. He wanted to help get me home, and wasn’t nervous about me barfing in his car. It’s a shame my tears of stress and humiliation completely camouflaged the new tears of gratitude.
I got home and my husband was about an hour away. I immediately got in bed, and was due for my next hit of drugs. This is when it got bad. I took the drugs with some water. 5 minutes later, everything came up. I drank some more water and decided to try the drugs again in an hour. But each time I put water in my body, it was back up within about 5-10 minutes. I tried to take the drugs again, but barfed them up again.
I tried to fall asleep, but there was too much pain to relax. I wanted to badly to quench thirst but each time I tried, I paid for it with bile. My husband called the hospital around 10 p.m., following about 5 hours of continuous vomiting. They said if I couldn’t get it under control in another 4-5 hours, call again. At about 2:00 the next morning, I was still oscillating between disturbed sleep and vomit. The nurse finally said to come in to the labor and delivery room to check things out.
I barfed in a (sparkly and festive) ice bucket all the way to the hospital. Then I barfed in triage. I barfed while they tried to ask me about my symptoms. It was a validating moment: the OB on call said “when was the last time you vomited?” and the nurse chimed for me: “2 minutes ago, in the sink”.
Enter the IV bag, truly a gift from the Gods– delicious fluids, Phenergan and Zofran, skipping my stomach and going straight into the blood stream. Happiness hanging on a pole. It took about 2 hours to get things totally under control and it was bliss. Believe it or not, this was my first IV in life. I was horrified, I hate needles. But I felt like a new person after they pumped the actual liquid version of my HG cocktail into my body.
My husband scooped me up and took me home, and I spent the weekend in bed. This occurred at 23 weeks pregnant. I finally called bullshit on the magic of the 2nd trimester, and accepted my fate. My new mental goal for relief reluctantly started to shift out to a new milestone. 40 weeks.
Copyright 2015 © i am a working mom blog
Header image: By J. Troha (Photographer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons