So I still have every intention of writing and sharing more about IVF, about ICSI and preparing for egg retrieval, about embryo transfer and patiently (and anxiously) waiting to take a pregnancy test, about preparing for a frozen embryo cycle, that failing, healing and preparing for another final embryo cycle. But before I do all that, I’m keen to write about morning sickness, simply because I am still in the throes of it, so it seems appropriate to share from my current experience.
Morning sickness sucks! Yes, I know, I know, I should be very grateful for the fact that I’m even experiencing morning sickness because that means I’m pregnant! Yes, I get that, and I’m quite sure that when I was having trouble conceiving, I got sick of hearing other pregnant ladies moan about their sickness and about their indigestion and tiredness and all the other stuff that pregnancy entails.
But the truth is, morning sickness is the most debilitating thing I have ever experienced. And to be honest unless you’ve gone through it, I don’t think you can ever quite understand how absolutely awful a feeling it is.
For a start, the term “morning sickness” is utterly ridiculously. Yes, whoever thought this one up was clearly someone who has never experienced it because I am feeling pretty sick most of the day, from say 11am (if I’m lucky) right through to bed time, with things peaking sometime around tea time.
And please, no advice for things I can do to alleviate it – I know you only mean well but I’ve tried all sorts of things and absolutely nothing has made a difference, and no, please no ginger, even the thought of this makes me feel sick, let alone a ginger biscuit, and as for flat coke, or flat anything for that matter, no, no, no!!
Saying all that, some stuff has helped a little bit but in a temporary way. Not the homeopathic remedies, nor the Bach floral remedies sadly, but teaching yoga, probably because I am totally distracted and in the moment (although I tend to crash a few hours later), swimming in the sea (this is probably due to the shock of the 12 degree Celcius water) and sleeping. Yes, sleeping is the key, in fact all I really want to do is sleep, sleep and more sleep!
This time the sickness arrived almost as quickly as the pregnancy, at only five weeks. I just started having this slight sense of nausea and aversion to certain smells and foods that quickly became all encompassing so that by week six I was really feeling it. All of a sudden going to the supermarket became a very unpleasant experience as certain foods absolutely repulsed me and made me feel instantly sick, while others totally draw me in, it’s the strangest thing!
I remember towards the end of week six forcing myself into the Coop – it literally becomes an absolute effort to go food shopping as you know you’ll feel like you may have to vomit at least once - to find something for dinner and finding myself putting a can of Heinz tomato soup, a packet of Uncle Ben’s golden vegetable rice, a pack of those filled spinach and ricotta tortellini and ready made tomato sauce into my basket, four items that I‘d never usually give the time of day, let alone put in my shopping bag.
I was quite intrigued by this, not least discovering how much cheaper it is to buy what I class as processed/junk food than the normal heathier food that I would usually buy – think brown rice, organic broccoli, coconut milk, organic chickpeas, fresh vegetables blah blah blah – but also the fact that in that moment all my body wanted was this strange food. However, by the time I got home, a mere five minutes later, I’d lost my urge for the soup and the rice and they are still sitting in my cupboard right now and the thought of them makes me feel a little bit sick!
I did succumb to the tortellini though, but after that fix, I haven’t craved them since. I’ve noticed this happening quite a bit during this pregnancy, these strange cravings (for me at least) that I satisfy and then don’t have again. I don’t usually eat dairy cheese for example, (it doesn’t like me, I love cows and I don’t really like the industry) but one day I absolutely had to eat cauliflower cheese, another time I absolutely had to have cheese filled vegetable lasagne and another time I absolutely had to have cheddar cheese on crackers. None of this have I eaten since.
There’s been other stuff too. Two days on the trot I absolutely had to have baked beans on toast, like it was this all consuming need, while another few days all I could stomach – quite literally - was chips and mayonnaise! For a few days I couldn’t stomach anything, which is most unusual, I couldn’t even force soup down my throat and the idea of toast made me feel desperately sick. A few days later absolutely all I wanted was goat’s cheese and tomatoes and French bread smothered with real butter, so much for my disdain for the dairy industry, but you see the cravings become all consuming!
It’s funny because during my first pregnancy I really struggled with this, the thought of eating things I would never ordinarily eat, that represented something I didn’t like or I knew would ordinarily make me feel a little out of sorts, sluggish then, and I resisted it and gave myself a bit of a hard time about it. Not to say I didn’t eventually give in to it, the craving for cheddar cheese and tomato sandwiches, packets of Doritos and sparkling sugar based lemon or orange drinks was all consuming and was the only thing I could stomach during many of the sickness days. I even found myself eating fruity Mentos sweets, and believe you me I’m not usually someone who touches refined sugar!
During that first pregnancy, when I was just eight weeks pregnant and in the real throes of the sickness, we spent two weeks staying in a rather lovely private house outside of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand with an in-house Thai chef. Well usually I love Thai food but I just could not stomach the smell of it, and each evening meal was a real trial. It didn’t help that my brother’s fiancé developed a love of textured soya protein, so we ended up having various kinds of it as the base (if not the only constituent part) of our vegetarian meals throughout our stay, and I just absolutely could not stand it. Even now the thought of it makes my stomach turn. Thankfully I was able to eat rice!
So this time around I decided I was not going to give myself a hard time and just eat whatever my body was telling me it needed, however random that appeared to be. And while some of it has been random, the main cravings have been much more acceptable than last time, mainly a huge amount of tropical fruits and cherries, which has been a bit costly but my saviour at many a meal, wholegrain brown baguette, cherry tomatoes and a whole heap of fruit juice. It could be worse right!
Food aside, morning sickness is just incredibly challenging what with the whole sensitivity to smell thing. For a few weeks I absolutely couldn’t stand the smell of the cottage, as soon as I walked in the front door it made me feel rather sick, and actually even now there’s something about the cottage that smells funny and believe you me, I have cleaned everywhere, even behind and under all the furniture, but still the smell has persisted!
I have also developed an aversion to my usual loved aromatherapy oil scented candle, and that has had to go in the wing, because even the slightest whiff of it was making me feel a teeny bit sick – ok, quite a little bit sick! And as for the fridge, well I developed an absolute aversion to this, so that it has been an absolute effort opening this, crazy isn’t it, imagine feeling sick every time you go to your fridge.
Needless to say cooking has been a trial of sorts, to the extent that actually I’ve had to stop doing it, it makes me feel sick and I cannot stomach the thought of vegetables, let alone cooking meat for the boys. Thankfully my Mum is amazing, not only does she love cooking (like LOVE cooking) but she is also very kind so she has been doing meals on wheels, which Ewan is delighted about because her cooking is much better than mine so he’s enjoying lots of yummy dishes, and probably hoping my sickness will continue for a long while!!
I have to admit, that I’ve also struggled with the smell of his meals on wheels dishes cooking, so I’ve had to remove myself from the room when he is eating! Sadly, I don’t have that luxury in the office and believe you me, that has often been the most challenging experience. The air conditioning was broken for a few weeks which didn’t help matters, but oh my gosh, I don’t think people have any idea how awful the smell of chilli chicken and garlic chicken baguettes can be at the best of times, let alone when one of your colleagues is suffering with morning sickness. Yuck.
Because the morning sickness arrived so early in the pregnancy – or so it seemed - I became a little obsessed with the concept of it peaking and thereafter easing. You see at seven weeks when it was cranking up a gear so that I suffered with diarrhea and everything seemed to go through me (still not sure if that was a virus or the sickness) I also experienced a miscarriage scare which found me signed off work and on bed rest for a week. In many respects this was a blessing because I felt so dreadful, what with the inability to stomach anything, the concern about the miscarriage and the acute tiredness (think body hitting wall tiredness) that it was all I could do to leave my bed.
If I’m honest I felt right proper sorry for myself and did some google searching to find that I was not alone. I came across a blog where the lady was honest enough to say that at week seven too and in the throes of acute sickness, she was actually questioning whether she wanted to be pregnant after all and you know what, I felt exactly the same. It sounds awful to say that and I certainly didn’t want to tempt fate, what with everything we had been through, and of course the recent miscarriage scare, but I felt so dreadful, so utterly sick to my skin that I just couldn’t see how I could carry on like that for a further nine weeks (working on the basis it would ease at sixteen weeks as it had done with Elijah).
And the thing is I’m pretty hardy and strong, but it was certainly getting the better of me. Thankfully, by the end of week seven, the diarrhea eased, and while I still felt nauseas 90% of the time, it became slightly more manageable, certainly because I had now surrendered to the intense tiredness and was not checking emails/doing any work in the evening and was going to be by 9pm, a real shift for me – and what a revelation, if only I had experienced the joy of early nights many years previously!
By week eight I was really beginning to question how long this sickness malarkey was going to hang around. I was due to run a weekend yoga retreat at a centre near Glastonbury at the end of week nine and I was beginning to wonder how I was going to do this - it wasn’t the teaching that concerned me as such, as I already mentioned this made me feel strangely better, well temporarily, but more so the holding it all together, especially with no one meant to be knowing.
And that’s the other crazy thing about this morning sickness malarkey. The one time in your pregnancy that you absolutely need sympathy and people to cut you some slack, when you’re feeling totally out of sorts and desperately trying to get through the day, and you can’t tell anyone! I mean I understand the reason for this, not wanting to tempt fate and all that, but its so unfair because you feel so rubbish and yet somehow you just have to get through it, put on a brave face and pretend all is well with the world. Pants!
So I did some google searching on peak sickness times and while some ladies said their sickness peaked at week seven to eight, the majority said week ten. No!!!!! This was not what I wanted to read and as the retreat approached I tried to convince myself that week seven to eight had absolutely been the worst for me and things were only getting to improve so I’d breeze through the rest of this dreaded first trimester.
If only. Week nine arrived and off we flew to the UK – flying and morning sickness absolutely do not compliment one another, I felt rubbish. We hired a car and I quickly discovered that driving distances at a speed above the local speed limit of 25mph/35mph with morning sickness absolutely do not compliment one another either, I felt rubbish on every journey and it was all I could do not to have to vomit then and there – I’m lucky by the way I know some ladies who have vomited driving to work.
If I’m honest all I wanted to do on that trip was sleep. And this is the other thing about the sickness, especially on your second pregnancy (I don’t even want to think about multiple pregnancies). First time around, one has all the time in the world to indulge in the pregnancy, to loll around in bed with morning sickness and to lie on the sofa when you can. Second time around you do not have such a luxury – well I certainly don’t in any case. You’ve still got another child to fuss over and if you have a non-sleeper like we have, then you still get woken during the night, at least once incidentally, let alone him being in bed for longer than 10 hours at a time (“this too shall pass”).
In any event the yoga retreat came around and amazingly, there was an answered prayer, (no Elijah did not sleep any better), but mind over matter meant that I just got on with it and did not give in, or even acknowledge, not even to myself, that underneath it all the nausea was still there. I just had it in my head that while I desperately wanted to enjoy the weekend (and I did), I absolutely just had to get through it too. And I did! And actually it was a joy to have someone cook and to eat healthy food without feeling too sick.
And rather foolishly I figured that perhaps that meant the sickness was now going to ease. But alas not. The day after the yoga retreat, back home in Guernsey, the acute tiredness and all consuming sickness returned with a vengeance and somehow I managed to crawl my way through that week, virtually collapsing into bed at any available opportunity, just feeling so desperately sick.
Still fourteen and a half weeks on now and and as I reflect back I see can see that things are changing. At eight weeks I honestly did not know how I could get through another week, let alone another six weeks, but you do somehow. You have no choice. Even if some days all you do is wake up and long for your bed again, you just somehow get through the day, however trying that may be and however much you are struggling. And while it is all for the greater good, it’s tough, it’s probably one of the the toughest things I’ve ever had to do.
Now I have good days and and not so good days, and the good days are slowly increasing – I don’t want to jinx it though! Some women are not so lucky and are sick throughout their entire pregnancy, it must be soul destroying. Others are like me and suffer for the first sixteen weeks and even then our suffering is different – I have a friend who has vomited every morning and then felt fine the rest of the day, another who vomits repeatedly at various stages of the day and another friend who wasn’t sick at all and wonders what all the fuss is about.
I honestly struggle with the idea that there can be any lesson to be learned or any hidden blessing behind all this pregnancy sickness. It certainly hasn’t been eased by my own yoga practice – and I can tell you once thing, attempting to meditate while experiencing morning sickness is just pointless, your mind is utterly distracted by this faint dizzy feeling and the unsettling nausea. Yoga Nidra on the other hand, can help, but more often than not I’ve just ended up falling asleep!
So you see I’m struggling with the advice on this one. I can’t even suggest drinking lots of water as that made me feel sick too. All I can say is perhaps take some comfort in the fact that you are not alone, and that it will end, even if that is around forty weeks when the baby arrives, but what I can say is that you do forget, which is just as well as we wouldn’t continue to pro-create, the human body and indeed mind is amazing in that respect!
So I don’t have too many tips really. But you could try the following:
· Sleeping at any available opportunity!
· Making no plans to socialise or see anyone other than essential appointments.
· Eat what your body craves, however crazy that may seem.
· Try and stay hydrated, whether that by drinking juice or sparkling water. Be prepared to go to the toilet numerous times throughout the night regardless!
· Encourage your partner to cook for him/herself and ask for help with the shopping.
· Ask for help/accept help from anyone who is willing to help whether that be food preparation or child minding so you can sleep.
· Know that it’s not forever, even if it doesn’t feel like that at the time!