Archive for August, 2012

Home made macaroni and cheese, with some dried...

Home made macaroni and cheese, with some dried herbs and grounded pepper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum, you know exactly what I mean by that title. The gnawing hunger, the unrelenting nausea, the dream of food…

When I was pregnant, I tortured myself by watching episodes of Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, and Master Chef (I think I might have a bit of a crush on Gordon Ramsey). I would be desperate for something substantial, like a turkey sandwich, but I knew that not long after I would eat the food would come right back up again. It is because of hyperemesis gravidarum that I have lost any desire for macaroni and cheese, spinach, or pop tarts. Some things are just not pleasant to throw up.

Looking back, I don’t know how I survived. I felt so malnourished. Most of what I ate consisted of mush like cream of wheat, applesauce, or, if it was a good day, potato chips. I went through phases where things like sour candies, V-8 juice, or ice chips where the only things I could keep down. On one happy day, I was able to manage an ice cream cone without vomiting.

Both my body and mind were drained of energy. I obsessively thought one sentence over and over: something is seriously wrong. On days when I could keep down a chewable vitamin, I felt a little better. Most days the idea of vitamins made my stomach turn sour. I am amazed that my child survived, even thrived, on the little nutrients I provided him.

Having barely survived this frustrating aspect of hyperemesis gravidarum, I find it hard to offer advice. What worked for me may not work for you. It’s scary to “try” new foods in the hope that you’ll be able to keep them down. No one wants to experiment when the very real threat of vomit is part of the consequences one might suffer. And no one wants to hear the classic Saltines and ginger ale standard. The best I can do is this: remind you that this will end, encourage you to stick to what works (think bland, bland, bland), and tell you not to give up. On good days, try something with a little bit of nutrients. On bad days, keep up with the liquids the best you can.

And if you’re in the mood to do a little research, check out the University of Arizona’s Health Services site, which offers a “bland diet” page. The only problem with their list is that it includes macaroni and cheese. Ugh.
P.S. What foods can you keep down? Share your favorites with others by posting a comment below.

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Jocelyn Maminta and I after shooting a commercial for the Connecticut Office of the Healthcare Advocate.

The humidity was high, the rain pelted down, and my hair wasn’t perfect, but I had an opportunity to share my story with others and so I was happy.

Let’s step back a year and a few months to when I was expecting. On top of being diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, I faced an enormous task: fighting for coverage from my insurance company. Just about every day would bring another bill or explanation of benefits (or lack thereof) statement. At the time, I felt like I was physically dying. I couldn’t keep much food or liquid down, and I was beyond worried that my child wasn’t going to survive. Struggling with insurance issues on top of this illness was too much.

One of my doctors suggested I contact the Connecticut Office of the Healthcare Advocate. Within days, they were helping me deal with the pile of bills and claim denials. It was such a miracle to my husband and I, as we were both overwhelmed. Once they stepped in, I was able to focus on resting and taking care of my unborn child.

A month ago, I was asked if I would like to be in a commercial to help spread awareness about their office. I was excited to be able to share my story, and my wonderful little baby Billy, with the state of Connecticut.

Yesterday, a crew came to my house to interview me for the spot. I was a little nervous, but Emmy-nominated reporter Jocelyn Maminta from WTNH Channel 8 guided me through the process. No stranger to difficult pregnancies herself, I was saddened to hear the story of her daughter Caroline, who was born prematurely and died after two months in neonatal intensive care. Her parents created a foundation in her honor called Caroline’s Room, which aims to create a place in neonatal intensive care units where families can go to find peace, privacy, and comfort.

While the focus of the commercial is the wonderful work of the Connecticut Healthcare Advocate’s Office, I was also eager to speak about hyperemesis gravidarum. Until I was diagnosed with this condition, I had no idea that it even existed. Only 2% of pregnant women in the U.S. are diagnosed with hg, although more suffer through pregnancy undiagnosed. Many in the medical community misunderstand the condition, claiming that a woman is makes herself ill because subconsciously she does not really want her child.

There are few things more difficult than a chronic health condition. Surviving hyperemesis gravidarum was the most difficult and worthwhile thing I have ever done. If this commercial can help just one person—with insurance issues or hg—then I will be happy.

P.S. What would you do to let others know about hg? Give me some ideas by posting a comment below.