So William and Kate have announced her pregnancy – or rather they were forced to because poor Kate has been admitted to hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum (bloody awful morning sickness to the rest of us). It may surprise you, as I am usually rather cynical about what might be construed as media hyperbole, that I am actually fully sympathetic to Kate’s current situation and I am not dismissing it as a tad of morning sickness which because she is now a member of the royal family must entail a hospital stay. I too suffered from HG (Hyperemesis gravidarum) or BAMS (bloody awful morning sickness) in all three of my pregnancies and was also admitted to hospital. I can safely say that as a frequenter of hospitals on a regular basis for a multitude of bizarre medical conditions, HG/BAMS is not something I would wish on my worst enemy (with the odd exception). I spent so much of each pregnancy with my head down the loo that I seriously considered whether it would be possible to install a DVD player in the loo seat lid so that I could be entertained whilst I vomited!
I could have cheerfully throttled – if I could have summoned the energy to do so – all those people who would nod sympathetically and say “I know how you feel, I always felt a bit queasy in the mornings but found a ginger biscuit sorted it out.”. A ginger biscuit – are you serious? Not even 100 ginger biscuits ground down and fed through a drip would have made me feel even one iota better. No, until you’ve suffered from HG/BAMS, you have not understood the meaning of the word “sickness”. Imagine having food poisoning for 4 straight months – morning, noon and night coupled with trying to continue in a job or with your family routine without anyone knowing you’re pregnant, and you begin to get the feel for it. Hyperemesis gravidarum is often known as excessive morning sickness because of its tongue-twister latin name but unfortunately this doesn’t really cover it and most misleading of all is the word “morning” – if only it had been.
Morning sickness is often dismissed as just one of those small annoyances of pregnancy and for the vast majority it is just that. However, for those suffering from HG, the reality is very different. As it is not a common condition, you can feel very isolated and what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life can be turned into a living, seemingly never-ending nightmare. As for considering another baby after one pregnancy blighted by HG, well, it takes a brave person and I can remember only too well those first weeks of my second and third pregnancies, waiting for the wall of non-stop sickness to start, not to mention the constant worry that this perpetual vomiting was harming my baby in some way and facing the very difficult decision whether to take medication to help with the sickness and all the implications of that.
My first pregnancy coincided with some particularly irritating press coverage about how morning sickness is all in the mind. As you can imagine, this makes me snort with derision – does anyone honestly think that if I had such a fertile imagination, I would create a fantasy condition in which I threw up at approximately 1-2 hour intervals for the first four months of a pregnancy and then only slightly less often thereafter? I would hope that if I was blessed with such creativity, I might put it to some slightly better use or at least create a fantasy condition for myself that was marginally more pleasurable.
If nothing else, Kate being admitted to hospital with HG will raise awareness of what can be a truly horrendous condition to suffer from and one which has had very little media attention traditionally (considered all part of being a woman I suppose). So next time you see a pregnant woman looking a little green around the gills, spare a thought for her – it just might be that she has something that neither a ginger biscuit nor those ridiculous sea-sickness wristbands could possibly help.