My fourth pregnancy was a surprise. (All four were surprises of different degrees. I think we only “tried” once.) Not an unwelcome one. My first pregnancy was followed by two miscarriages. We wanted a second child, but our daughter started first grade that fall. Going back to diapers, with both of us rounding the corner on 40, felt a little like regression. No matter. Our daughter is the light of our lives. We were all in to do it again.
I had had hyperemesis with all three pregnancies, so one of the first things we did was reach out for a prescription for one of the few anti-nausea drugs available for pregnant women. When the familiar symptoms—gnawing hunger, constant, unrelenting nausea, chocolate tasted like ash in my mouth—kicked in, I settled in. It was going to be a long nine months.
This time, however, the symptoms took it up a notch. I couldn’t get ahead of any of it. The anti-nausea medications, the ones I wasn’t sure did much for me before, absolutely made no dent at all in my symptoms. The gnawing hunger was grotesque, and now compounded by rapidly developing food aversions.
I knew I couldn’t drink plain water while pregnant; it made me gag. But my familiar stand-by of adding a little bit of lemon juice quickly became repulsive. Ginger ale went out the window within three days. Foods I could handle dropped off quickly: eggs, oatmeal, bread, chicken, dairy, rice, red meat. Everything was too sweet or too spicy. Anything I ate came right back up within a handful of hours. I was spitting everywhere because my mouth would fill with saliva that I couldn’t swallow.
The midwife advised that I should just avoid solids altogether. I started to live on miso soup. Three tablespoons every fifteen minutes to help my stomach handle the load. Do you know how hard it is to appease hunger on three tablespoons every fifteen minutes? I know.
I sobbed every day. My husband stopped sleeping in our bed because touching me would send me running for the bathroom. I had to tell my daughter not to hug me. I could make it to work, but the first couple of hours would be lost to coping with nausea exacerbated by the commute. I couldn’t stay the full day. My husband ran our household alone. I couldn’t walk the dog, make dinner, or clean the house. I couldn’t watch television with the family because what I needed most was to lie very still so as not to upset anything.
At an appointment in my 10th week, I cried to the midwife that I could not go on. I couldn’t make it a whole nine months this way. HG never let up with my daughter, but this time was so much worse than it ever had been before. We talked about feeding tubes and home IVs. All the while, my heart filled with terror that this would be my life until I delivered. My family’s life. I couldn’t do it. I made the decision to terminate.
My husband supported me. No matter what I opted to do, he would support my choice.
Termination is not what I wanted. I wanted, fiercely, this baby. This baby who survived beyond the previous two, who was growing inside me, warm and safe. I wanted this second child who was going to completely upend our life which had just found some equilibrium. I went back and forth for another two weeks, with my symptoms increasing in force and frequency, before scheduling the abortion.
The abortion experience was terrible. I cried the whole way through it. I cried at the ultrasound where they informed me that the baby was measuring big, and thus the procedure would be a second trimester procedure, rather than first. I cried when they asked me for my credit card to pay the fee. I cried when the doctor handed me the medication to soften my cervix. Every time I cried, they asked me if I really wanted to do this. I didn’t have the words to say no, no I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this. I wanted my baby. I wanted his soiled diapers and his drooly smiles. I wanted the sibling adoration and agitation that would come in time. I wanted his thin arms around my waist telling me that he loved me. I wanted this baby.
But I couldn’t go on. The night before the abortion, I threw up everything. I couldn’t even take in liquids. No matter how small a quantity I consumed, it came back up within 10 minutes. I was dehydrated. My throat was on fire with pain from vomiting. I wanted this baby, but I didn’t see how I could survive to get to the part with the drooly smiles.
So, all I could say to the doctor was, “I have hyperemesis.” He stopped asking if I wanted to do this.
On the table, as I drifted off to sleep, the doctor said, “You should feel some relief by tomorrow morning.” In tears, all I could say was, “I hope so” over and over again.