'With my first baby I had 17 weeks of hyperemesis. I'm scared to have a second one.'

I always knew I wanted to be a mum. Growing up with two older sisters there was a lot of love and maternal energy in our household. After living an adventurous 20s full of travel and dream job experiences, when COVID hit, my life moved into a slower pace and my husband and I decided it was the right time to try for our first child. We were lucky enough to fall pregnant in 2021 during the second Sydney lockdown - we were in shock but our hearts swelled with excitement for this new chapter in our lives.

When I was six weeks pregnant, I was playing my weekly social game of tennis when a huge wave of nausea hit me like a tonne of bricks. I raced to the public toilets and I was sick everywhere. I had read about morning sickness so I was a little confused as to why I had become so sick at 4pm but nonetheless I chalked it up to a strange pregnancy side effect.

Over the next week my morning sickness quickly turned into 'all day' sickness. From the minute I woke up in the morning I was vomiting and it carried on through the night - my only refuge was falling asleep only to wake up and do it all over again the next day. I got by on Hydralyte icy poles, water, and on good days I could muster up the appetite to nosh on something very beige (read: buttered toast, 2 minute noodles or a humble potato).

Watch: One mum describes what pregnancy illness hyperemesis gravidarum is like. Post continues after video.

Video via ABC News.

After visiting my GP I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum a condition that affects around 1 in 100 pregnancies and causes severe vomiting and nausea. I was placed on a management plan which included taking anti-nausea medication. For a while I grappled with whether or not to take these drugs - it was my first foray into the world of self-imposed mum guilt. On the days when I couldn't get out of bed and felt violently ill, I made the decision to take the medication in order to feel physically and mentally well enough to get through the day for my baby.

For 17 weeks I endured sickness that can only be described as some sort of living hell. Hyperemesis is still a relatively unspoken condition and so I felt incredibly isolated. While it is a very common condition, there weren't a lot of places that I could turn to and as a result my mental health suffered greatly. I would cry most days, praying for the sickness to go away, all the while feeling terrified that I was hurting my baby by not eating and taking medication. In my darkest moments, I feel ashamed to say that I wished I wasn't pregnant anymore. I had hit such a low point, and I had nowhere to turn.

Thankfully, at week 17 things started to turn around for me and slowly but surely the vomiting began to taper off. I feel like one of the lucky ones as many women have hyperemesis all the way through to full term - I bow down to these mothers. I was given a golden ticket and could finally start to enjoy my pregnancy. I locked away the memories early weeks of pregnancy and packed it away to deal with another day. 


I now have a beautiful 14-month-old daughter who has enriched our lives in every way. Lately, my husband and I have begun to have conversations about if we'd like to have another child. Every fibre of my being wants to fall pregnant again, to give my daughter a sibling and complete our little family. But there's a niggling feeling that sits in a dark space in my brain that fills me with fear. What if I get hyperemesis again?

Statistics show that there is a high recurrence rate of hyperemesis in women who have had the condition in previous pregnancies. If I were fortunate enough to fall pregnant again, the odds are not in my favour. And that bloody terrifies me to the point of considering whether I'm strong enough to do it all over again - this time with a toddler in tow. The mind has a very cunning way of blocking out the darkest memories that shape our trauma but like a faint light I can still remember glimmers of the pain I went through.

Over the weekend I had a nasty stomach bug (thank you, daycare) and had a small insight into what life with hyperemesis and a toddler might feel like. Let me tell you, dashing to the bathroom to vomit while your child tries to throw toys in the toilet bowl is definitely one of the less glamorous sides of motherhood I've experienced. Am I brave or strong enough to do this for 17 weeks or more? I barely survived it the first time around, how can I be a good mum to my daughter if I were to go through it again?


Image: Supplied.

One thing I would love to see change is an increase in support and education available to women who are suffering from hyperemesis. As we know the health system is under huge strain at the moment but the more awareness and avenues for women to seek the support they need, the more we will help mothers in their journey through pregnancy. I'm afraid if we don't address these shortcomings with hyperemesis care there will be grave knock-on effects like an increase in maternal mental health issues that will only put more strain on the system. If I knew there was more support available, I might feel more at ease making the decision to have another baby.


For now, I'm going to leave the door open. There are so many circumstances that could come into play when you start trying for a baby, so who knows what is in store for me. But for all the fear I feel about being diagnosed with hyperemesis again, I have to remind myself of everything I have survived thus far. This whole journey has taught me that we can do hard things and I will continue to lean on a community of women who have come before me and survived too. Some women have gone through multiple pregnancies with hyperemesis to full term - if they can do it, I can too. But I won't be a hero if I do it and I won't be a horrible person if I decide I just can't envision a scenario where I want to go through it again. I'm trying - as best as I can - to take the pressure off and lean into that "whatever will be, will be" mentality. 

Want to know more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum? Listen to Hello Bump below.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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