The 52 Week Project – A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for one year.
47/52 — Hanging out in Grammy & Pop Pop’s (my parents’) backyard, pointing up to his cousin Brian who was doing tricks on the swing set.
It’s been an intense couple of weeks with this little boy. He’s clearly going through a period of rapid emotional and mental development which leads to a lot of “interesting” moments. He’s started stringing words together, two at a time. It shouldn’t be long before he is talking. So exciting!
Hyperemesis gravidarum is simply defined as extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that can lead to dehydration. However, any woman who has lived through the nightmare of it, knows that it is so much more than that.
Note: This post contains graphic depictions of illness. Nothing written in this post or website should ever replace the opinion of a qualified medical professional.
I am not a weak woman. I’ve been through a lot in my life — both physically and mentally. I lived through years of debilitating anxiety and depression. I gave birth to my son naturally without any medication and incurred a third degree tear in the process. However, nothing that I have lived through comes even remotely close to the physical and emotional pain brought on by hyperemesis gravidarum (also called HG).
Living through hyperemesis gravidarum is like living through a nightmare of the worst sort. I know two women who have lived through both chemotherapy for cancer and HG and they agree that HG is the worse fate. This may sound unbelievable to someone who has not lived through it, but to those who have, it makes perfect sense.
I had HG during both of my pregnancies (even though I was not diagnosed with it the first time around). Sadly, one of the biggest problems with HG is that it very often goes undiagnosed and women are left to suffer through it without help. Because HG cannot be detected by a test, it is an “invisible disease.” Many doctors will brush off a woman’s symptoms as “morning sickness” until it is too late.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is not morning sickness. One of the worst things that you can do to a woman suffering with HG is to compare what she is going through to morning sickness or to make light suggestions about how she should treat her nausea. Examples of such suggestions include: drink ginger ale, eat crackers, make sure to keep something in your stomach, sleep with food near your bed so your stomach never gets empty, suck on ginger or lemon candies, etc. While your suggestions are obviously well-intended, they are not helpful. The extent and degree of the nausea brought on by hyperemesis gravidarum cannot be treated by any simple trick, and further, nausea is not the only symptom of HG. Severe lethargy and hopelessness can also be symptoms of HG and that’s just the beginning. Suggesting that “ginger ale and crackers” are a fix can emotionally damage a woman who is suffering through HG. Trust me, she already feels like a failure and when you suggest the simple things that helped make your own pregnancy easier, it is a slap in the face to her.
The most helpful resource that I found while living through hyperemesis gravidarum was the HER Foundation (HER stands for Hyperemesis Education & Research). The HER foundation says that HG is generally described as unrelenting, excessive pregnancy-related nausea and/or vomiting that prevents adequate intake of food and fluids. If severe and/or inadequately treated, it is typically associated with:
loss of greater than 5% of pre-pregnancy body weight (usually over 10%)
dehydration and production of ketones
difficulty with daily activities
I discovered the foundation through an HG support forum that I joined when my symptoms were at their worst. In those days, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I was paralyzed by exhaustion and constant nausea. There were days when I literally could not get off of the couch. I was severely dehydrated and emotionally dead. I felt like a failure as a wife, a mother, and as a person because I could not do anything. I know that this sounds extreme, but I met several women in my support group who were considering terminating their pregnancies because of the effects that HG was having on their lives. Before I lived through this pregnancy, I could have never understood such a sentiment. I mean just the idea of terminating a wanted pregnancy. How could that make sense? But then, when you live through this nightmare that takes everything out of you and you are left physically, spiritually, and emotionally dead — sometimes I guess you just want a way out. When suffering through HG, many women have to make difficult choices. You cannot live through severe HG and do it all. Something has to give — career, family, sanity. I am so lucky that I have an amazing network of support surrounding me at all times and that such a grave thought never had to cross my mind — but my heart literally aches for the women that have to wrestle with it. I mention all of this only because I want people to understand how serious HG is. It’s tragic and there needs to be more support & resources for women who live through this mess.
As for me, at the worst point, I was vomiting every one-to-two hours around the clock. As sick as it sounds, I lived for those few minutes after vomiting when the nausea would subside. I knew that such severe dehydration was taking a toll on, not only me, but on my unborn baby. The thing was, however, there was a part of me that didn’t want to tell my doctor how bad things were because a.) I knew from my first pregnancy that my symptoms would be brushed off and b.) I didn’t want to take medication. I believe in keeping pregnancy as natural as possible. The thought of ingesting synthetic chemicals and the potential for side effects/birth defects (even if rare) scare the hell out of me. I won’t even take a simple pain reliever while I’m pregnant!
Still, things came to a breaking point. I was severely dehydrated. There were ketones in my urine. I had tried every natural remedy to no avail. I knew that I had to do something or I could lose my pregnancy and/or be admitted to the hospital for IV/hydration. I decided to begin anti-nausea medication. My doctor prescribed me Zofran and the relief was nearly immediate. It was not a cure. The nausea never went away completely and, unfortunately, there were other side effects. But the main problem — the vomiting — was addressed. I went from vomiting at least 4 – 5 times each day (some days much, much more) to vomiting once or twice a week. Certain things still triggered me — to this day I vomit at least a little bit every time I brush my teeth and certain smells get me every time. But the difference from where I was without medication to where I was with medication was light years.
All of this being said, I experienced two terrible side effects from the medication. First, it caused me to be extremely exhausted (way more so than your run-of-the-mill pregnancy exhaustion). Shortly after I took my pill each morning, I had to take a nap. Luckily, this coincided with Roman’s naps and it worked out. If I had to stay awake through that exhaustion, (like many women who suffer through HG and work outside of the home do) I really don’t know how I would have done it. The other side effect is that Zofran kept food from leaving my body. Yes, it kept me from vomiting — but it also kept me from having any sort of normal digestion whatsoever (i.e. constipation). I don’t even know where to go on with this one, let’s just say it was beyond unpleasant. At the suggestion of friends from my support group, I eventually began using Miralax which helped some, but nothing provided complete relief. It was a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils and relief from the relentless vomiting won out.
This week, I reached 21 weeks of pregnancy. According to some research, half of women who suffer with HG experience partial or complete relief by 21 weeks. The other half of women will suffer for all or most of their pregnancies. Most gratefully, at this point, I am much better. I stopped taking medication a couple of weeks ago and while I’m still nauseous and exhausted most of the time, I don’t vomit anymore (except when I’m brushing my damned teeth!).
I would love to write a neat, useful list of things that you can do to help you survive hyperemesis gravidarum; the sad truth is that there is no neat, useful list. The reality is that HG is a nightmare and the only way to get through is to keep pushing forward and never give up no matter how hard or hopeless it seems. The best advice that I can give is to remember that: There will be an end to the nightmare — this will not last forever. Other than that, you have to do whatever you have to do to survive.
Here are some of the things that worked for me:
Deep breathing. Especially at night when trying to fall asleep despite the extreme nausea.
Eating. Anything and everything that you can tolerate, no matter how unhealthy! Screw saltines, ugh! I was all about ice cream and ice pops all the time — no remorse.
Ice cold water. Honestly, it was so flipping hard to drink anything, but some days I could tolerate ice cold water in little sips.
Take help! I took all of the help that I could get. When my father offered to watch Roman for 45 minutes so that I could sleep, I did. When my mother and mother-in-law offered to bring us meals once a week, I took them. And so on and so forth… Put your pride to the side and just take the help.
Join a support group. My support group was probably the thing that saved me most of all. HG is just really hard for people who haven’t experienced it to understand. It makes my skin crawl every time I tell someone about it and they compare it to morning sickness or regular pregnancy nausea. Having a group of women who really got it was invaluable.
Medicine. Making the decision to take medicine during my pregnancy was one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever had to do. The guilt that I felt (still feel to some extent) in deciding to ingest something that could help me, but potentially hurt my baby was difficult in a way that I will never be able to explain. However, for me, it was the only choice and as difficult as it was to make, I do not regret it.
I wish that I could say that my story ends here and that this was the full extent of my pregnancy sickness and woes. Sadly, that’s not the case. When I was five-and-a-half weeks pregnant, I started to bleed. I went in for an emergency ultrasound and discovered that I had a subchorionic hemorrhage (subchorionic hematoma) which is a blood clot within the layers of the placenta. So, on top of the hyperemesis gravidarum, I had to deal with that… but that’s another story for another day.
Yes, yes, it’s true! Roman is going to be a big brother! If you follow me on Facebook you already know because I just couldn’t wait any longer to share the news. I’m sure that many of you had figured it out a long time ago, but now I am finally ready to talk.
Yes — all of the sickness and pain that has plagued me since the end of July was pregnancy-related. Like my first pregnancy, the first five months of this one were extremely difficult, but there were added complications this time. I’ll save those details for another day because right now I just want to celebrate!
We are so excited to be welcoming a brand new, sweet, little bundle of joy into our family this spring! ♥♥ I feel better than I have in a long time and I am confident that the tides are turning over here. Thank you all for the outpouring of love & support these past five months. It’s been a wild ride and I am so grateful to all of you for always being here.
There’s nothing like the change of seasons to remind us of impermanence. Life is in a constant state of change. No matter who we are, no matter what we are going through — there’s one thing about life that ties us all together: it keeps going.
It’s no secret that late summer and the entirety of autumn have been a struggle for me. I can’t honestly say that the clouds have parted and that brighter days are here again. But what I can say is that there is — for the first time in a long time — a light at the end of the tunnel. Some of the trials that I have been facing are letting up. And perhaps, most importantly, there are tremendous and beautiful things just ahead.
Now, it’s up to me to focus on the light, to practice gratitude harder than I ever have before, and to keep pushing through life’s ever-present changes.
I think I’ve done a pretty good job of hinting at it here, but in case I didn’t — I’ve got big & exciting news to share tomorrow. Stay tuned, loves. ♥
“Change” is the November writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Erica of To the Sea. A few words from Erica — Hello! My name is Erica and I blog at To the Sea. I have a two-year-old daughter and 5-month old son. I went to school for Geography and travel is my passion. I’m also an attorney, but I’m currently staying at home to raise my kids. I love surfing and punk rock. I write about parenting, fitness, and life around the world. I love being a mommy and am stoked to be a part of the Mommy Blogger Collective! You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The 52 Week Project – A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for one year.
46/52 — Many thanks for the love & support following my last post. Your comments, emails, texts, and calls meant a lot to me. No matter how things are going, it’s always nice to know that you’re not going alone. ♥
Last night we had our first snow of the season. We got a coating of sleet and ice followed by about two inches of fluffy snow. Luckily we made it out into the backyard yesterday for a play in the leaves before the ground turned to snow/mud/ice.
I’ve been wanting to update but a lot of things have gotten in the way. Mostly, I’ve felt so much pressure to say everything — that I’ve been too overwhelmed to say anything at all. It doesn’t help that I only find time to sit at my computer once a week, if I’m lucky.
Things are settling a bit, though. M. has returned home from the hospital. Having him home has been a relief (no more traveling an hour+ each way to the hospital every day) but it’s presented innumerable challenges, too. He is virtually helpless at this point. He cannot do anything for himself because he cannot stand up. I am presently taking care of his every need 24/7. He has a nurse that comes to the house once a day to change his bandages. Once or twice a week one of our mothers or a kindly friend will offer up a family meal. But other than that, it’s all me, all the time.
All of this comes on top of caring for Roman, the house, myself(?), and so on. It’s been hard, really, really hard. Still, we count our blessings. I am grateful that our family is together and safe. I am immeasurably grateful for the kindness and generosity that has been shown to us throughout this experience. I mean, seriously, I have so many “thank you” cards and emails to write that it will likely take me months — but that is a wonderful thing, a true blessing.
Gratitude is what carries me through these difficult times. Still, I am sad and angry. Between being sick for so long myself and then M.’s injury, it feels like we’ve been slammed this year. I’m battered and exhausted. I want a break and I know that such a thing is not in the cards for me — not for a long while anyway.
I am sad and angry that we’ve virtually “missed” autumn. On the day that M. returned home from the hospital, Roman got very sick. He woke up that night with a 103.5 degree fever. He had a virus and a sore throat. It lasted for several days — his fever spiked up to 104.2 degrees at one point. We missed Halloween as a result. I never even got to put his sweet, little Curious George costume on him. Because M. had just gotten home from the hospital, I was struggling to take care of him, and then Roman was sick — all at once. I went two full nights with only one hour of sleep total. We never made it to the pumpkin patch. We never got to make an autumn leaf project. We won’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families. There’s so much that we’ve lost and that we’ve yet to lose.
It’s easy for me to turn all of this on its head. To talk about how lucky we are and how grateful I am and how much worse things could be. I am a pro at doing that. I’ve spent the last nine years, re-building my life on the principle of positive thinking. But to be honest, I don’t really want to be positive right now. I put on a happy face for my husband, my son, my family, and our friends every day. I smile. I hold everything together and tell everyone that it’s all going to be okay. But sometimes, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m going to be okay.
When you are a wife and a mother (hell, when you are a woman period) — you give up everything. Lately it feels like I lose pieces of myself with every passing day. I feel like I am shedding skins, but they are not being replaced. The simple acts of waking up in the morning, breathing, standing up — these acts are heavy and difficult. There is no lightness. I am tired to my very bones.
I know that this, too, shall pass. But right now — I am here. There are seasons of life and this dark one has lasted too long.
I am reminded of one of my favourite Bukowski quotes, “Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.” Yes, yes, yes. I’m going to make it.
* * *
The leaves are falling down outside, the trees are nearly bare outside of my office window. It won’t be long now until the first snow of the year. The ground will be covered in a soft blanket of white and there will be a chance for new beginnings once again. There is time still — time for hot cocoa and fleece pajamas and warm fires and twinkling Christmas lights. There is time still.
* * * Note: The images in this post are snaps from last autumn since this one’s been a bust.
The 52 Week Project – A portrait of my son, once a week, every week, for one year.
43/52 — I had made a silent promise to myself not to post iPhone photos as a part of this project. But at this point, something is better than nothing, right? In this snap, Roman is working on a special project to deliver to his Papa who has been in the hospital for the past two weeks.
My husband builds bridges. On Tuesday, October 14th, there was an incident on his job site and a 5,000-pound steel beam fell on, and crushed, his foot. He has lost a significant amount of muscle and skin; several broken bones; some nerve damage and loss of feeling; and so on. So far he has had four surgeries, including three skin grafts (taken from his thigh) to close the pressure wounds that were too large to heal on their own.
As you can imagine, it’s been a difficult and trying time for our family. The physical and emotional pain of the accident have been a lot to take in, but the financial implications are quickly piling up. My best friend generously created a site to accept donations on our behalf. If you are interested, you can check it out and/or donate here: GoFundMe for the DelloBuono Family. Thank you so much for keeping us in your thoughts & prayers.
A lot has happened since last time. I’ll never remember all of it, so I’m just going to pick up with where we are now.
Growth & Appearance: You’re huge. Lifting you and carrying you have become downright painful. You are 28 pounds of solid rock. I’m not sure how tall you are, but you’re tall. Sometimes it seems like you grow another inch taller each night. You wear a 2T in most clothes, but some of them are getting tight. You wear a size 7 in shoes. You have a lot of teeth, at least 16 so far. All of your front teeth are in (top & bottom) and you have several molars now, too.
You had your first haircut which definitely took you from the little baby into the big boy category. Until now, your hair has been completely white-blond. Recently, I’ve noticed a few dirty-blond patches coming in, in the back. My hair went from light blonde to dirty-blonde, and eventually to brown. Will you follow suit?
You still have the brightest, bluest eyes — they must be here to stay. We went to lunch with your Pop-pop (my father) yesterday and as I was talking to him, I realized that your eyes are nearly carbon copies of his.
Sleeping: At night you typically sleep from 8:30 PM to 7 AM . Then you take a nap around 11 AM. The nap can last anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours. When you have a shorter nap you are way tired come late afternoon and it stinks because you just won’t take a second nap anymore. You sleep straight through the night most nights — HALLELUJAH! — except when you are teething or sick, in which case you can be up anywhere from once to a million times.
We’ve eliminated nursing except for nap/bedtime. It’s such a part of your routine that you just don’t want to go to sleep without it. We once went three days without nursing, but then you got sick and I felt so bad and it was the only thing that soothed you. So, here we are at seventeen months, still nursing twice a day. Each session is, however, super-short. I’m talking maybe a minute on each side? It’s most definitely a comfort thing for you at this point and sooner or later I am going to have to make the final call.
Talking: This is the area where we’re seeing the most rapid change at the moment. Your vocabulary is literally growing daily now. The words that you say clearly are:
The animal sounds that you can do clearly and on demand are:
Your body parts that you can identify on demand are:
There are a bunch of other words that you say that I can’t quite understand yet. As for comprehension, you basically know what everything in the house is. I can pretty much ask you to go get any household item and you quickly retrieve it. Your capacity for learning and understanding truly amazes me.
You also sing the alphabet song now! You start with “A” and then just put in a bunch of random sounds where the letters should be. It’s the sweetest thing. Oh, and you count, too. Whenever I count objects, you count them after to me in my sing-song counting way. Except once again, you use random sounds where the numbers are supposed to be. So. flipping. adorable.
Development: As far as physical development goes, you’re a whiz. You walk, and even run, as gracefully as I’ve seen any toddler. You climb stairs with ease. You are, however, very cautious. When climbing up or down, you get down on your bum to avoid falls. You recently tried to jump a couple of times, that was funny. You don’t have the momentum to get yourself off of the ground, but you’re close and it is really funny to watch you try.
You are very coordinated and can throw a ball (or any other object) like its nobody’s business. You try to use a spoon on occasion, but that usually ends in a mess, so we stick to mostly finger foods for now.
You can also be extremely clumsy. Even though you are really good at walking, climbing, and running — sometimes you throw caution to the wind, especially in the house where you’re in your comfort zone. You fall down a lot, trip over things, and constantly bump your poor little head. You usually have at least one bruise and one scrape on you at all times. It breaks my heart every damned time!
You love to help. You retrieve things, put things in the trash, and “help” me with sweeping. I can’t wait until you’re ready for chores.
Favorites: Pasta is your favorite food. You’d eat it for every meal. You also love your sippy cup and ask to have it refilled all day long. You love to drink from a straw. When we go out to eat you always fill up on your drink and it’s no use fighting it because you refuse your food and reach for your drink until you get it. Since you’re generally a good eater, and since you’re such a good boy in restaurants, I usually just oblige your straw/drink obsession.
Curious George is your favorite show. You love that little monkey so much. You also love cats. One day we were out walking and a friendly neighborhood cat came over to your stroller and allowed me to pet him. I think that was the first time that you’ve seen a cat in person. Since then you’ve been cat-crazy and you start meowing with excitement anytime we see a cat in books, on TV, in the store, etc. You’re little “meow” is the sweetest thing and sounds exactly like a real kitten.
Your favorite place is to be is outdoors. You love to explore every little detail of nature. You love to bring me gifts like flowers, stones, and fallen leaves.
Dislikes & Behavior: You are still an incredibly well-behaved boy. I can take you anywhere and I love that. You have, however, had your first few tantrums. Luckily they’ve been at home. The common denominators seem to be that you are overtired and that I take something dangerous away from you that you wanted to play with. That said, you’ve also had two complete meltdowns for no apparent reason. Those really threw me and your Papa for a loop. In hindsight, I think you were just way overtired.
You’ve become a lot more clingy with me. Throughout the day, I find you hanging on me, crawling on me, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to have the cuddles — I cherish those — but a lot of the time you just want my attention. You’ll climb on me and as soon as I scoop you up, you’re off again. It’s a bit maddening, really. You like to be the center of attention. You’ll play independently a few times a day, but you’re going through a needy stage. I’m working on practicing patience.
We’ve had some issues with bath-time lately. Since you’ve been old enough to get in the big bath, I’ve always given you your baths at night as a part of your bedtime routine. Then recently, you realized that you could dip your head underwater and the problems began. You would dip your head under and drink the bath water — bubbles and all. Not just once, you would keep doing it over and over. Because you are fairly tired by that time of day, it was hard to redirect your attention and get you to listen well. For a few nights, it was just a wasteful disaster ending in two-minute baths. On top of everything, your Papa and I are just too tired by the end of the day to deal with that. So, I decided to start bathing you every other day and in the morning rather than at night. So far, the new plan is working and we haven’t had any issues adjusting to the new bedtime routine.
You’re temper is developing and you have a real rebellious streak in you. Sometimes it is alarming to see how quickly you go from fine to furious. I’m quite certain that you’re anger is just frustration. You’re on the cusp of being able to communicate with us and I know that must be frustrating. I try very hard to translate your cues and figure out what you want to alleviate your frustrations, but we are a work in progress.
Overall, you are just the best. I couldn’t ask for a sweeter or smarter boy. When I dreamed of becoming a mother — you are everything that I dreamed of. Well, that’s all for this update, my little love. Thank you for bearing with me these past few months as I’ve been sick, cranky, and not the funnest Mama to be around. I love you to the moon & back, always.
Autumn is really upon us here in northern New Jersey. The air is cooler, the leaves are turning beautiful colours, and Halloween decorations are going up everywhere. Lately, Roman has been living in his Jack + Lily moccasins. They are perfect for the summer/autumn transition weather.
Jack + Lily makes a whole line of baby footwear. Roman has a pair of baby “Mocs.” They are soft, but also durable — he’s been wearing them since spring & they’re holding up great. We just love the sweet little owl on the toes, too.
I’m so excited to be doing a little giveaway with Lily + Jack today. To enter, just use the Rafflecopter form below.