Veni Vidi Vomitus

Beware ye Hyperemesis; expectant mother’s nemesis!

I’d like to tell you this was a line from the classics, but it’s not. It’s a clumsy rhyme which came to me during one of many trips to the GP or the hospital. I can’t recall which.

The Hyperemesis in question is a medical term, which roughly translates to ‘extreme morning sickness’. ‘Morning sickness’ itself is famously a misnomer – the accursed thing can strike at any hour – but the concept is at least a constant. Pregnant women can expect to get a little bit sick, then it’ll all pass. Fantastic.

Throughout the opening four months of my partner’s pregnancy, she has been dogged by this more extreme variation. The cartoon image which my mind’s eye had conjured prior to her pregnancy, that of a cheerful lady daintily regurgitating her breakfast every once in a while, has drowned under a tide of returning foodstuffs. In many respects, I had an idea of what pregnancy held in store for us… but at no point did I ever anticipate just how big a part nausea would play.

We’ve had numerous days when she could eat nothing but crackerbread; several weekends which saw her confined to bed with a sick bowl; and a handful of trips to the hospital in the very worst and most prolonged cases. Blood tests, urine samples and saline drips are all old hat for us now.

It’s pretty worrying stuff, at times. Although everyone is keen to tell me that, “…morning sickness won’t harm the baby,” I find it very difficult to relax when confronted with a pallid, weeping woman for whom nourishment is now a distant memory. Perhaps the baby is fine, oh wise commentators, but she isn’t – and I do actually give a toss about her welfare too.

This experience, like nothing else, has helped me to appreciate the NHS. While I have always been a staunch supporter, my feelings have been largely based on principle; now, they have a solid foundation of gratitude upon which to stand. The doctors, nurses and advice-line professionals who have helped us over the weeks so far have been brilliant. We are never told that our worries are trivial, never chided for wasting anyone’s time.

Instead, they diligently examine, test and prescribe in such a way as to reassure us and ease my partner’s discomfort in whatever way they can. The time we spend in waiting rooms is probably our only gripe – but I can always pass that time by inventing crappy rhymes, a skill in evidence at the top of the page.

So if you’re looking forward to the arrival of a small chap or chappette (Chappoiselle? Chappolita?), but are being driven to distraction by similar issues, take heart in knowing that you’re not alone. In fact, you might even encounter a generous silver lining, as I did. At 14 weeks, after a midnight trip to the Royal brought on by abdominal pains, we were asked to return for a scan the following morning. It was during this scan that I experienced a genuinely magical moment: seeing our baby move for the first time. The little blighter was giving what appeared to be a one-baby kung-fu demonstration – energetic to say the least.

This was, for me, the iconic high-point of pregnancy so far. I’d have had to wait another 6 weeks to see it, had it not been for illness propelling us into the scan room. While it might be a stretch to get my partner’s agreement that all the hardship was ‘suddenly worthwhile’, I can certainly say that, even in the midst of strife, I’m glad I got to experience this little sunbeam. If this is just a taste, it bodes well for what’s to come.

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