“Morning Sickness” is a cruelly casual name to describe a generally miserable condition that is rarely limited to mornings. Pregnancy nausea is worst on an empty stomach (hence, morning). But nausea keeps some women’s stomachs empty all day long. Hyperemesis Gravidarium is pregnancy nausea at its most hardcore. Sufferers throw up multiple times a day, often losing weight and sometimes requiring hospitalization. According to the hyperemesis non-profit group Her Foundation, 10 percent of women with hyperemesis can’t take the misery and opt to terminate their pregnancies.
The foundation counts 60,000 women hospitalized with this condition every year. That’s not counting those who suffer at home, under the care of doctors, midwives, or nobody at all. So that means at least 6,000 pregnancy terminations a year. I was surprised at this number. Then I started thinking about it a little. Severe nausea is up there with the worst feelings life has to offer. On the cold tile of the bathroom floor, bile churning, head spinning, ears burning—there are offers, prayers and deals. There are death wishes (mostly one’s own). ANYTHING to make that horrible, horrible feeling stop. What if that feeling happened to you all day, every day, for weeks? Months? And what if you actually could make it stop? All you’d have to do is stop being pregnant.
That’s the question Hayley Krischer faced. After longing for a second child, she was so incapacitated by her severe nausea and vomiting, dehydrated and medicated, that she found herself close to pulling the plug on her second pregnancy.
“I couldn’t visualize a baby at the end of the road, only a narrow tunnel of ginger tea, paralyzing exhaustion and open toilet bowls to hang my head in. I foolishly thought my pregnancy would be celebrated with butterflies and lollipops (oh, the haze of parenting). Pregnancy (and who am I kidding, motherhood) is affixed to certain expectations — glowing skin, beautiful hair, long nails — and then we’re crushed when our visions come up short.”
Nausea can be as debilitating as pain, both physically and emotionally. Even with my relatively low level barfiness—worse the second pregnancy than the first—I remember praying I wouldn’t miscarry because I didn’t know if I could knowingly put myself into that constantly queasy state again. Krischer’s story has a happy ending. But she’s not afraid to show us the dark side. When your body fails, even the strongest desire can turn to dust.