Ok so I know I may be exposing myself to ‘what rock has she been living under’ but seriously, I had no idea just how hard the start of pregnancy can be.
I blame the ‘silent trimester’ for my lack of mental preparation. The only acquaintance I’d had to morning sickness was pretty much in movies; you know the scene where she’s at work, throws up in a bin and then carries on looking fabulous?
So, I naively had expectations of an exciting time, eating clean food, exercising gently and powering on with business and life as normal.
And that’s why I’m sharing this. To create a little more awareness of just how distressing the first trimester can be.
It started at five weeks, the type of nausea where you have to grab the closest piece of furniture to hold you steady. The kind where picking up a menu makes your blood run cold. Where your happy place becomes the bathroom floor, lying on the cool tiles where you can lift your head to vomit in the bath and it doesn’t matter if you’re wrenching so hard you wet your pants. Oh, and this feeling, isn’t just for an hour or two, it starts the second you open your eyes until you fall asleep.
I’m a big believer in mind over matter so I tried getting on with life. I kept thinking ‘this should pass, so don’t cancel work trips, or tomorrow’s shoot, battle on, you’ll probably awake fine’. Wrong.
The first friend to find out I was pregnant did so from watching me vomit three weeks in a row on our Tuesday morning walk.
I’d find myself pulling over on the side of the highway, projectile spewing out the door through tears as traffic whizzed by. Wet wiping my face clean, and continuing on to work, to present with a smile on my face.
There was a day my husband begged me “can we please go out for lunch?” So I prepped myself – ‘You feel terrible, but come on Liz you can do this’ and we went to a cafe in Burleigh. I ordered a nice healthy vegetable wrap and a chai latte and talked myself through every mouthful. Then much to Ryan’s horror, spewed the chai latte back into the cup. I’ll never forget his face. I ran for the door before catching the next projectile vomit in my hands as café goers turned to look at me in disgust. I sat in the gutter by our car crying. You know the snot-leaking kind of tears?
Every day I went to sleep praying to wake up feeling normal. Every morning from the second I opened my eyes I was flooded by nausea.
I tried ginger tea, acupuncture, dry crackers, seasickness wristbands, anyone and everyone’s suggestions. At week 14, a close friend who had been putting up with my continuous downcast demeanour, asked “but you’re happy right? I mean, some women can’t even fall pregnant, so you’ve got to be grateful” and in that moment I felt such guilt.
No, actually, I thought. If I’m honest I’m really, really not happy. In fact I’ve never been this miserable. Yes, I want this baby more than anything and I’ll put up with this, but am I happy? No! I am so sick, it hurts every second of the day. The vomiting was so bad that my gums started bleeding when I brushed my teeth. I put my back and neck out from wrenching so hard. My doctor was suggesting I be hospitalized. Everything I loved to do; running, surfing, yoga, eating, drinking wine, coffee, socialising with friends stopped. I couldn’t even hold a phone conversation. I had become totally isolated and if I was honest, at around 10 weeks, pretty depressed. And worst of all, I was soldiering on, pretending I was fine, because I wasn’t yet at the stage I’d been told it was safe to tell people I was pregnant.
That night, in desperation, I got online and discovered forums of women discussing their horrendous morning sickness. Some hadn’t left their house, or bed in weeks. My gosh, I wasn’t alone! I found comfort in these discussions. So why did I have to go searching online to find this chatter? Is it because socially it is taboo to announce a pregnancy during a time when miscarriages are more common? Isn’t this a time when women might need the most support from the community?
Listen: The woman who will let you borrow her uterus. (post continues after podcast).
Mothers talk about how quickly they forget the pain of giving birth (which for me was nothing in comparison to the overwhelming tiredness and nausea of my first trimester), so as a final note to those mums-to-be reading this, or others currently suffering, my amazement came five weeks after having my little beautiful healthy boy Kit. When I thought to myself…. maybe I’ll have three kids rather than two. I actually laughed out loud as I thought back to saying to Ryan - “Babe I honestly can’t do this again, we’re only having one child” - then vomiting.