These are my tiger stripes. I got them for being totally fierce and cooking up freaking human boy. We love them.
Once a baby has arrived, it’s easy to forget the journey we went through to make them, grown them and birth them! The baby makes you forget the birth, the birth makes you forget the pregnancy. But we should remember, because lots of us have been through hell and we should be proud!
In March 2016, a period was missed, but confident that I can’t possibly have been pregnant, I took a test just to be sure. And since it was Definitely going to come up negative, I just grabbed one on the way to work and took it whilst babysitting someone else’s kids. Now, naturally I was the height of calm when the two lines appeared in the little stick, Leon out at work, and me facing several more hours sitting on someone else’s sofa alone. Except not alone. Very much in someone else’s company. A tiny little version of the boy we now know to be Otis!
The first people to hear our wonderful news were the pharmacist, and our architect. Number one for the folic acid, number two to speed up the extension plans! A few days into getting our heads around the big news, and sharing it with close family, the madness began.
If you haven’t heard of hyperemesis gravidarum, I hope you never have to. I hope it never touches anyone you know, anyone you love, even anyone you hate. I hope you turn your nose up at curry and have to hop off the train feeling woozy, and feel that your morning sickness is the worst thing in the world, sadly for me that sounds like a treat!
It’s hard to explain to anyone that hasn’t faced it, quite how horrifying you feel. To sum it up, I essentially spent 22 weeks off work, lost a stone and a half when I should have been putting on weight, spent 2 weeks hooked up to a drip in hospital with severe dehydration, every day unable to eat or drink and vomiting 20 times. You hate your life and you can see no end, you hate your baby for making you feel like this, you hate everything! You can’t look any further forward than the next hour, will you manage an hour’s sleep without waking up to be sick? You can’t even begin to plan for your birth or for parenthood. You’d rather be dead than be awake, and I’m honestly not exaggerating. (It’s 100 times worse than labour, so anyone reading this who’s suffering- at least that’s a perk!). Absolutely everything makes you sick. The most entertaining of which was the face of the guy on masterchef appearing on my TV. No food, just his face. Vomit-gate. It’s easy to look back now and say it was all worth it, but hundreds of women don’t make it through, 10% of women with hyperemesis end up terminating their pregnancy because they just cannot cope, they just can’t survive. I count myself lucky!
The lack of understanding amongst health professionals, midwives included, but particularly GPs and nurses is astounding. It took 5 trips to the GP before being sent straight to the hospital with severe dehydration, collapsing on the bed after the 7th attempt to fit a cannula in my almost completely empty veins! After spending 2 weeks having antiemetics and fluids pumped directly into my bloodstream, a nurse asked me if I had tried drinking ginger tea. Needless to say she narrowly avoided a punch in the face, she’s lucky I had no energy. Eventually, we found a specific brand of a specific medicine that stopped the vomiting, not the nausea, but the vomiting at least. Then comes the guilt- I’m taking the maximum dose of a drug designed to treat sickness in chemotherapy patients, and it’s passing through to my baby.. But this was my life line that I clinged to for the next 5 months. It saved me and it saved our baby! Isn’t modern medicine amazing?
I did meet some very supportive people along the way too. I had my brilliant man and wonderful mama and dad cooking up absolutely anything and everything that I might manage to swallow, only for me to change my mind the minute they’d finished cooking; holding me and cuddling me when I was in bits and it was all getting too much; paying my bills for me because the sick pay period ran out and I was essentially an unemployed vomiting vegetable. We met a brilliant health care assistant at Kingston Hospital who was the best cheerleader I know! I’ve never been force fed by such a cheerful, wonderful woman.. but she was determined to get me back home and up on my feet!
And she sure helped! And the amazing nurses and midwives on the Jasmine early pregnancy unit, who probably saw more of me than they would have liked! Also the community on this website https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/help/women-suffering/hyperemesis-gravidarum/ they just got it!
But in the end we made it! Our baby boy arrived and it all becomes irrelevant, forgotten. Except it’s not irrelevant. We should never forget. It’s Otis’s story. It’s our story. It’s how we got to here. And it was really, really bloody hard! So these tiger stripes, they aren’t awful, they aren’t ugly, they aren’t the worst part of pregnancy. They are a beautiful reminder of how strong we are, the journey we’ve been on and the babies we have made. And that’s why we should love them! They’re our fierce tiger stripes. You’ve got this mama!