I knew my husband loved me the day he began wearing Secret deodorant. Yes, the “strong enough for a man, but made for a woman” powder fresh variety.
Why exactly was my hard workin’ farmer, who wrestles bulls and MMA fights for fun, wearing women’s deodorant? Because the aroma of masculinity and the smell of him fresh out of the shower made me gag.
Like dry heave uncontrollably.
And end up at the porcelain throne.
It’s called morning sickness. But the truth is this all-day nausea is far from “morning sickness.” It’s straight up the tenth circle of Dante’s Inferno. And if you are reading this thinking, “Oh, it’s not THAT bad.” then you clearly haven’t had the variety of morning sickness that many of us face. Some women even experience the most severe form: Hyperemesis gravidarum. This occurs in up to 3% of pregnancies. ACOG says, “This condition may be diagnosed when a woman has lost 5% of her pre pregnancy weight and has other problems related to dehydration.” And although it’s never harmful for the child, it can do great harm to the mother.
(DISCLAIMER): Before I continue I need to say that I know some of you are reading this who have experienced pregnancy loss and would give your right arm for the opportunity to experience morning sickness. I understand, and I am so sorry for the loss of your precious child. I’m also a mom who has experienced loss. And I’ll address that later. So please don’t stop reading. I want to be sensitive to you as well.
Now let’s continue. I’ve been to the morning sickness rodeo three times in my life. It held me hostage for 12 weeks each time and by the end I am confident I could have been diagnosed with clinical depression. The whole world seemed dark and bleak. That’s what happens when you feel like you are seasick on a rickety-boat for 24 hours a day while having the flu. You get depressed and if you are on meds all you can think of is your next “fix” that doesn’t really fix anything but just takes the edge off. Last year, after I ran to the toilet for the upteenth time, my son asked, “Mom do you feel like you have a rotten egg in your stomach?” My response, “Yes, son. I do.” And then I wanted to cry.
So here are my five tips for dealing with it:
1) Give into your cravings. I’m a healthy eater. My go-to snacks are carrots, cucumbers, and green peppers. But those items did little to squelch the beast. Instead I needed food. Real food. Like canned biscuits. French bread. And with my third pregnancy—Zaxby’s buffalo chicken. I have no idea why that last one helped me. But for a brief moment, while ingesting buffalo sauce or hot wings, I felt ok. We live thirty-minutes from the closest Zaxbys, but when the urge hit I loaded up my posse and we took off. The same went for Gatorade, Totinos’ pizza, and Golden Graham cereal. If you ever wonder why I gained 100 pounds with each pregnancy there is the evidence. The only food that made me remotely feel ok was bad food. Food I don’t even normally like.Try your best to eat healthy, but sometimes the only thing you might be able to keep down is a box of Wheat Thins. Just do it.
2) Picture the end result. While lying in bed I would scroll through my social media feeds looking for infants. Weird and stalkerish? Perhaps. But looking at pictures of newborns and seeing the “end result” and constantly praising God that he’d given me a baby in my womb helped me to stop thinking of the little invader in my stomach as a fire-breathing dragon sent to poison me. So keep the end in mind.
Plus, your child might end up smarter. One study found “the kiddos whose moms really struggled to keep things down, had a higher I.Q., a greater grasp of language, and were just better behaved over all.” I’m not even sure if this panned out to be true, but it is one nice possible pay-off, right?
3). Realize you can’t “remedy” it away. Ginger Ale, crackers, sea bands, small meals, pickle juice, peppermint essential oil, more crackers, ginger drops, ginger root, ginger tea. Sweet Jesus if I never see ginger again in my life I’ll be a happy woman. I tried every.single.remedy on the web. Nothing helped. Go ahead and try all the tricks, but don’t be disappointed if they do little to help. Sometimes the strangest things can help (see tip 1) and just rid your house of offenders that make you barf. Coffee suddenly became on my “hide it” list. I had to even move the coffee maker to the garage so I couldn’t see it. The vision of it made me gag. But since I couldn’t move my husband out of my house, he just had to start smelling a bit more feminine.
4). Get a perspective and find people with whom you can vent. 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage. 1 in 160 women will give birth to a stillborn child. Couples battle infertility. So please realize there is a large segment of the population that can’t stand to hear you rant about your problem. You shouldn’t lie and act like everything is fine (when it clearly is not) but you also shouldn’t publically go on a rampage (i.e. social media post). Find a few people with whom you can vent. A few of my poor friends were my go-to complaint boxes. I held nothing back. However, around people I didn’t really know I would say I was facing all-day nausea, but I didn’t become hysterical or talk about how I wished I was never even pregnant. Try to focus on the fact that you have a living child in your belly and this is a short-term inconvenience for a long-term joy.
5) Give yourself grace. To take the darned meds. To let your toddler binge watch Sesame Street. To tell your family to fend for themselves on meals by throwing out a box of cereal on the counter. To eat the whole pile of biscuits at Cracker Barrel. To crawl in your bed at 5pm and binge watch a mindless show. To do all you are required at work and not overachieve.
My first batch with morning sickness hit a month or so after I began working on my PhD and working at the same university. The hour-commute to and from Knoxville each day became a much-longer trip because I would have to stop at exits to throw-up and dispose of the paper bags I kept in my lap to barf in while driving. It was hard. I’m naturally a perfectionist, but all I could do at the time was merely survive. I did what I had to and nothing more. And I had to give myself grace to accept that fact. And know you’ll laugh about some of it later. Our legacy as a couple includes the romantic-fail of a night when my husband rolled over in bed and made a sassy (and inappropriately funny) pick-up line. Before the phrase got all the way out of his mouth I was throwing up. In bed. So yeah, I’ve actually vomited at my husband’s advances. Bless.
So mama, if you are in the throes of this battle please know it will end. And at the end you’ll get a glorious gift. But right now I know you are in the middle of purgatory. All I can say is that this too shall pass (hopefully by the second-trimester, right?). Take care, mama.