I have to say something awful. Because if I don’t, who will? I’m glad Kate Middleton got sick with hyperemesis gravidarum. Not the “I’m a royal conniving bee-yotch, and I hate the Duchess of Cambridge just because I can” kind of glad. I really feel quite badly for Prince William’s bride. I’ve had the kind of battle with morning sickness that sent her to the hospital, and it is anything but pleasant.
And it’s as one of the 1 percent of women who struggle with hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy that I can’t help but say that Kate Middleton’s struggle is exactly what we have always needed: a high profile woman’s illness to bring the issue to the forefront.
Really, we couldn’t have gotten a better face for the cause. Kate Middleton is not just a celebrity. She internationally known — and loved. Her rough pregnancy has made headlines in newspapers and on websites in countries spanning the globe.
It’s finally impossible to ignore that not every woman gets “a little morning sickness” when she’s pregnant.
Some of us, women like Kate Middleton, women like me, are sick to the point of fearing that we won’t make it through. We lie on our couches, a garbage can at our side, tears in our eyes, as we wonder: if I can’t keep food down, how am I going to give my child enough to survive? Am I a bad mother before I’ve even begun to mother?
I cried thinking that my history of bulimia was to blame, that I’d done something wrong, and this was the way I would pay for it: by struggling to keep my child inside of me. Later I would read that my disordered eating was not to blame; this simply happens, often to women carrying girls (check), often to women who suffer from motion sickness (check plus) …
For seven months while carrying my daughter, I was sick. I was hospitalized twice. I ended up on medicine given to chemotherapy patients to keep their nausea at bay.
Like Kate, my illness forced me to reveal my pregnancy far before I intended because I had to take an entire week off work. Even when I returned to my job as a reporter, I carried my medicine everywhere I went and had to make frequent puke breaks.
And the troubling part of it all was that no one understood.
I don’t mean that they were unsympathetic (although many were). It wasn’t sympathy that I wanted so much as a basic understanding that this wasn’t something I was putting on, this was not a means to get lighter duty at work or guilt anyone into giving me special treatment.
I spent my nights and weekends hiding in my house not because I pitied myself but because it was such work to keep my head up, to keep the food in my body that my daughter needed … that it was better not to move any more than I had to.
What I needed at the time was for people to recognize the disease I had. It was not “just morning sickness.” It was hyperemesis gravidarum.
And in the way that you wouldn’t tell someone with diabetes to just tell their pancreas to start making insulin, I couldn’t simply tell my stomach to cease it’s rocking and rolling, tell my esophagus to cease heaving food back up, tell my mouth to hold in regurgitated meals.
If this is grossing you out, I apologize. This was my life for seven long, excruciating months. This is the Duchess of Cambridge’s life at the moment. This is the life of thousands of woman every year who are trying their best to “buck up” and keep moving while their bodies refuse to get with the program.
I wouldn’t wish HG on my worst enemy. But I’m not going to pretend I’m not happy to see it get some honest-to-goodness press at the moment.
Maybe this will help the next woman who still can’t keep her lunch down at 6 months along from rolling eyes and unsympathetic chatter behind her back. Maybe …
Did you have HG during pregnancy? How was your support system?
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Image via Tom Sopher Photography/Flickr