I was recently asked to review Caitlin Dean and Amanda Shortman’s book Hyperemsis Gravidarum- the definitive guide. I have to be honest. I don’t read many non fiction books and medical guides rarely make my reading list on a regular basis. But this was one book I really needed to read, and regular readers of my pregnancy diary will know why.
Official word on the book from Caitlin’s blog, Spewing Mummy:
Part one covers definitions of hyperemesis gravidarum, theories into it’s causes, information on treatments and management plans. Aimed more at the healthcare professionals it covers in depth the current research and care plans yet is accessible and essential for the sufferer too.
Part two is the essential survival guide for sufferers, their partners and family and friends. Covering coping strategies for the numerous symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, from excessive saliva and oral hygiene to the emotional impact and people who just “don’t get it”, this section won’t cure you but it will make the nightmare nine months that little bit easier.
Part three approaches life after hyperemesis gravidarum including recovering from the trauma, mental health issues and preparing for another. Alternatives to pregnancy, such as adoption and single child family structures are gently discussed and the book is rounded up with a positive pro-active approach to coping with hyperemesis as part of your life experience.
Part four provides a range of useful information, links, contacts, tables and charts to help you survive your journey with HG.
For around seven months last year, my body was not my own. I was there, somewhere, within the shell of a body that could not cope with it’s condition. I was inside, silently screaming, retching and weeping. Seven months spent taking medication to ‘control’ wave after wave after wave of nausea. To stem the flow of vomit that escaped like a fountain from my broken body. I spent the first four months wondering whether my pregnancy was even a good idea. Whether I could continue. I was not living a life I was dragging through lonely days with a growing fear gnawing at me all day and all night.
My life was on hold. Panic crept under my skin at the thought of leaving the house. Prickled at me when I had to cancel appointments and events. Stabbed at me when I realised that people didn’t actually understand what was happening to me. I was pregnant. And sick. But I was only pregnant, not sick! Life could continue. Life couldn’t be put on hold. Right?
When you are suffering from more than the normal pregnancy sickness life is not normal. You cannot just go out, into rooms with other people, without knowing for sure you aren’t going to vomit onto their feet as you say hello. When you are suffering like this, you are alone. You know that those around you don’t really understand and you can’t think how you will ever get them to glimpse into the world you’ve staggered into. I am pretty sure that at least one cherished friendship has been destroyed by all of this.
Then I read this book. It was written by a friend, and it actually feels as though it has been written by a friend.
When I first got my hands on the book, I went straight for the chapter entitled Coping strategies and devoured the advice from other sufferers- many of whom definitely suffered a lot more than I did. There is also a partner’s chapter, which is essential reading for those closest to sufferers. It’s hard to see your loved one so poorly for such a long time; I imagine it is also very wearing.
Ten weeks post birth, I am reading the chapters on Life after Hypermesis.
I stopped taking my medication when we returned from Sicily in August. I was 28 weeks pregnant. The last trails of nausea dwindled by around 32 weeks and did not return. And yet today the fear remains. I am terrified of becoming poorly, catching a bug or being close to my ‘unsafe’ foods. The thought of being out with people I don’t know well and in crowded places still makes me feel panicky and I am still prone to cancelling outings. But it’s ok. I am recovering from a pregnancy made difficult by severe sickness (amongst other things) and I am not alone.
Reading this book is a little like a comforting hug from a friend. Someone to touch shoulders with after a heavy day. Someone that leans in close and whispers I understand. Someone who does not judge. Someone who will hold back your hair, wipe your brow and remind you why this is all worth it.
There are stories from real women. There are real life coping strategies to guide you through one of the scariest and most miserable times of your life. Yes, I said it. Much of my pregnancy was miserable. Sorry. There are chapters you will want your doctor to read, your partner to read, your friends to read. There are tips for re-adjusting in a world not governed by vomit. There are resources for support and advice. There is hope.
If you are suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, please read this book. Please ask your partner to read it. Please take heart in the fact that you are a strong person, stronger than you realised you could be. And you WILL get through it. And soon, you will have that baby in your arms and you will make the first steps towards recovery. You can do it.
The illustration below, by Brenda Louese Wagner, was shared on a HG Facebook group and I think it perfectly sums it all up. We weep and we retch but it is all with love for that precious baby.
The book is available to buy for £9.99 from Amazon and major bookshops. ISBN 9780993062308. Please check out Caitlin’s blog, Spewing Mummy for more of her story. I received this book free of charge for review purposes only but all opinions are my own.