Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, attends the UK Premiere of the film ‘African Cats’ in London on April 25, 2012.
As the world now knows, the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her first child and is hospitalized due to severe morning sickness. Kate Middleton’s “rare” condition’s medical name is hyperemesis gravidarum, which is actually Latin for “I’m barfing my brains out.”
Throwing up has never been so glamorous.
On behalf of past and current hyperemesis gravidarum sufferers everywhere, we’d like to say thank you to the duchess for making public our secret suffering. Since morning sickness typically afflicts women during the beginning of their pregnancies at a time when they’re keeping their news quiet, many suffer in silence. Thanks to the British tabloids, morning sickness is having its day.
By now you must be wondering: What is it like to throw up for weeks on end?
A few days after I found out I was pregnant, I bolted into the grocery store on a mission to stock up on healthy, free range, pesticide free, fair trade, organic food for me and my growing little one. I spent $250 on organic kale, quinoa salad and heirloom tomatoes. Of course, the next morning my hypermesis kicked into high gear and I watched as the groceries rotted inside our fridge and I tried to subsist on a diet of Preggie Pops and air.
For me, having hypermesis meant I literally couldn’t get out of bed. I tried working from my laptop but the mere act of scrolling made my stomach churn. Natural remedies –crackers, ginger ale, lemons –did nothing. I mostly slept, and carried a trash can wherever I went. All my husband wanted was an omelet, but the thought of eggs made me want to kill him. He was under strict orders to keep the lights off in our apartment and to only eat in secret. I spent the winter on the couch in the fetal position.
I have often told people that I knew my condition was bad when a helicopter flew over my home and instead of listening to its rumble to make sure it passed safely overhead, I thought to myself, “Well, at least if it crashes into my apartment I won’t have any more morning sickness.” Death would have been an improvement.
My mom was violently ill with me. Her mother, who was then working as a secretary in Manhattan, had to quit her job over her severe morning sickness. Did the fact that millions of women have coped with non-stop vomiting inspire me? In a word: No.
Being the Internet addicted Catholic that I am, I desperately googled “Catholic prayers for morning sickness.” Certainly in a church as devoted to the Virgin Mary and the spiritual meaning of her pregnancy, I was sure there would be some resource online. I found nothing. And alas, the patron saint of pregnant women is a man. I found Catholic prayers for the sick and dying, and that seemed close enough. (A new book is a good start.)
Many doctors respond to the news that a woman is violently ill with a “Congratulations!” as the flood of hormones that causes morning sickness is often a sign of a healthy pregnancy. For a while, my doctor seemed to think that the amount of misery I was in was normal. But when I started losing weight and became unable to work, he finally prescribed me Zofran, an anti-nausea medication. Although I still was sick to my stomach and dealt with some unpleasant side effects, I was able to keep small amounts of food down and return to work. Thank God for Zofran.
Severe morning sickness was, by far, the hardest part of having a baby for me. Labor and delivery seemed quick and fun by comparison. And I like to think I worked off a few years in purgatory.
But would I trade my little miracle, now giddily bouncing beside me, to be freed from those months of suffering?
Not for the queen of England.
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