Totally Living the Dream: Pregnancy

Before I had kids, I assumed pregnancy was exactly how I saw it portrayed on sitcoms and in movies; Mom-to-be hiccups once at the beginning of the pregnancy as an homage to morning sickness and then the rest of the process is short, comfortable, and precious.

My view for most of my pregnancies.

For me, pregnancy has been anything but precious.

One year into our marriage, my husband and I were delighted to discover we were expecting our first baby. Six weeks into the pregnancy, however, I was hit with nausea that was far worse than I had ever seen on the big screen.

Things became progressively worse and I went to my doctor. He diagnosed me with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (extreme morning sickness). I was ordered to undergo IV therapy and spent the first half of my pregnancy puking, almost puking, or getting poked with needles for IV fluids.

Needless to say, pregnancy was not what I had expected.

Hyperemesis is a nasty thing. Nausea was my constant companion; simple things like fixing a snack or taking a shower became leviathan tasks. The most mundane smells set me off and I found myself unable to leave the house for weeks on end. At the worst of it, I remember I had to stop using deodorant and hair products of any kind (shampoo, mousse, etc.) because the smells they emitted, even faintly, sent me running for the bathroom.

Throughout my pregnancy I felt like there was something inherently wrong with the way I felt about the process; I hated it. So many of my baby-making friends couldn’t stop talking about how magical the experience was, how precious it was, how affirming and empowering it was. For me, it became nothing more than a means to an end.

While other moms were carefully writing out their birth plans and choosing the perfect playlist for the delivery room, I was just wishing the baby was out instead of in, and I felt terrible for it. Feeling him kick was awesome, but the euphoria of those expectant-mother milestones was always quickly overshadowed by the omnipresence of nausea and fatigue.

I’ve since had three babies. Each pregnancy has been worse than the last. I think only pure insanity pushed us into each one. There’s no other explanation for it.

Hyperemesis isn’t something that will ever be talked about on sitcom or portrayed in a movie. No one wants to watch a show about a woman who pukes 20 times a day, at least not out of a comedic context. It just wouldn’t make for good TV. We’ll continue watching women who look awesome in bikinis when they’re nine months pregnant. We’ll continue the myth that those nine months of baby-carrying are magical and painless for everyone.

Puke bags, salty snack and daytime TV: the list-items of Hyperemesis.

I tell my friends who are transfixed on this notion of a perfect pregnancy-a dignified and pretty pregnancy-there will be things that happen that will be out of their control. Expect the unexpected when expecting and don’t feel depressed if the process isn’t the best thing you’ve ever done. It might be messy, it will probably be uncomfortable and painful at times, but the end result is a good one.

For me, Hyperemesis has become a badge of honor on my sash of “Hard Things I’ve Survived”. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I definitely wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had and the lessons I learned through the process. The fond memories I have of pregnancy are now wrapped up in the love I have for each of my three boys. On bad days in Parentland, I remember how hard it was to get these little humans here and it helps put things in perspective.

Pregnancy isn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever done, but parenting is, and I’ll take the bad if it means getting to the best.