I had been experiencing what I thought was two days of the flu. Lying in bed, nausea, vomiting, feeling tired and weak… that’s definitely what it was, right? Wrong. By day three I noticed the nausea was coming and going. I already had a seven year old son and I knew the signs and symptoms of pregnancy well. I knew how nausea could stop you in your tracks one minute and you could be fine 10 minutes later.
I took a pregnancy test that evening and sure enough, there were the double pink lines. I was in disbelief really. As a mum with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) who had been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for two years, I didn’t know if another pregnancy was on the cards for me. But there we were. My husband was very excited, as this would be his first child.
After doing the math, I determined I was four weeks pregnant. The extreme nausea and vomiting was the first sign of this pregnancy and sadly, it didn’t ease up. For three weeks I had nausea that would come and go with vomiting and when week seven came around… things became relentless. I started to vomit at the smell of anything- food, hygiene products, candles, you name it. I started to spend more time in bed, more time feeling alone and wondering when things were ever going to improve. I knew nausea tended to ease a bit following the first trimester, but how would I ever get through that long?
My “morning sickness” was really all day sickness from the very beginning. The vomiting got increasingly bad to the point where I couldn’t keep down any food, water or even ice chips. I grew increasingly worried, as did my husband. He had never seen anything this severe and for such a prolonged period of time. Neither had I. I experienced mild nausea and vomiting during my first pregnancy but this was much worse in every single way. I felt weak constantly due to the lack of nourishment and I had to put a halt on the business I was trying to start up. As an immigrant to Ireland who had only been here two years, I had a few people I could talk to but no one like my besties back in the United States. I felt like I couldn’t dump the heavy emotional burden of my severe morning sickness and vomiting onto other people. I stayed at home feeling increasingly isolated. When I did try to reach out to others and tell them how bad things were, most people were dismissive- “sure, everyone gets sick in early pregnancy,” “things will get better,” “were you not sick during your first pregnancy?” I was treated like I was being over dramatic!
I remember reaching a breaking point. I went to the maternity before I was even referred by my GP because I couldn’t take the pain and constant vomiting anymore. I found the staff also dismissive, telling me I should expect some nausea and that it was normal. I tried telling them “YES, I know some nausea is expected, but this is out of control now!” to no avail. They didn’t offer me IV fluids for dehydration, take a urine sample or anything! I basically received an eye-roll, some anti-nausea mediation and was sent on my way. I felt incredibly dejected because I knew back in the United States I would have received what I considered better treatment.
I went another three months experiencing the extreme nausea and vomiting without the medication doing much at all. On my worst days I would be vomiting 10-20 times a day even when there was literally nothing to come up. I started having acupuncture treatments, which I found very helpful. I remember my husband having to drive me to every appointment because I couldn’t make the 25 minute journey without getting sick. The only things that I think really helped put a stop to the all-day sickness was time and an herbal remedy that was recommended by a family friend.
Half of my pregnancy was spent flooded with worry and anxiety. Is my baby getting enough nutrition from me? What if this lasts the entire pregnancy? I felt awful because I had spent two years trying to conceive and then when I did, I regretted it because I was so damn miserable. My mental health tanked as I watched other women enjoying their pregnancies while I sat in a river of tears feeling disconnected from my pregnancy and wishing it were over. Those were my worst days.
I did make it to the end of my pregnancy. My daughter was born on the 13th of January during the only snow storm of that year. I was so incredibly grateful to meet her and have a positive birth experience with the support of a birth doula and my husband by my side. Although my pregnancy was far more difficult than I could have anticipated, it was worth it to snuggle my baby and become a mom again.
Michelle Mayefske is a pregnancy and postpartum specialist and the owner of Limerick Doula Services. She provides birth doula support to families in the southwest along with placenta encapsulation and postpartum belly binding services. She lives with her husband and four children in east County Limerick.