Morning sickness sucks. I don't think anyone will disagree with me there. I had only the mildest of queasy, and I think so. However, I've seen many of the women in my life deal with horrible bouts of nausea and vomiting. Some to the point that they couldn't function normally for the first three months or longer during their pregnancies. And if you already have a child or children, this kind of ongoing illness can be completely debilitating. My girlfriend jokes now that she spent months parenting her older daughter from her permanently dehydrated and bile-spitting station over the toilet, but it sure wasn't funny at the time. It was awful. She felt completely powerless.
With all that said, imagine experiencing a morning sickness so severe that it moved you to terminate your pregnancy. That's what happened to one pregnant woman and mother of two.
Claire Barwell, mother of a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old, suffers from a rare but extreme form of morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), and she admits to terminating two viable and much-wanted pregnancies under the strain of this brutal illness that she experiences in pregnancy.
Before you judge, you must know more.
Claire experienced the symptoms of HG with her first two pregnancies, but her parents helped her endure even though she sometimes would be hospitalized up to three times a week.
When Claire became pregnant for a third time, her marriage was on the rocks, and she didn't have the same support. By six weeks, she was unable to eat anything, weak from vomiting and retching, and again admitted to the hospital. After she was readmitted at 11 weeks and at 12 weeks, she could not endure anymore. With the support of her estranged husband, she terminated the pregnancy. Afterward, she was "crippled with guilt" but also relieved when the sickness disappeared immediately.
She later remarried a man without his own children (I guess you can see where this is going), and he really wanted to have a child, despite his wife's pregnancy history. Claire thought things might be different with a different father. Alas, when she became pregnant again almost three years after the last pregnancy, the HG came on again in full force -- despite her efforts to ward it off by taking vitamin D and anti-nausea drugs before the sickness started.
Claire began vomiting up to 40 times a day, making her esophagus unbearably raw. She was often too weak to lift her head to throw up. Here's how she described her state:
I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. My eyes were so sore I couldn't even have the lights on. If I tried to get out of bed, I’d collapse on the floor. I was crippled with terrible migraines. It was so bad I genuinely thought I was dying. My head pounded, I couldn't think straight, my hormones were raging. I wanted to curl into a ball.
And she's a mother of two! Obviously, she wasn't able to parent her older children during this time. I cannot even imagine how she was functioning. At seven and a half weeks, Claire was admitted to the hospital with extreme dehydration.
I hadn't eaten for three days. A feeding tube was strapped to my nose to rehydrate me, but barely an hour would pass without my throwing up again. The nurses were at a loss as to what to do. I was bed-bound, sick and drowning in misery. I remember thinking: "How can I survive like this for another seven months?"
It sounds crazy, but I couldn't see a baby inside me, just a burning ball of pain and agony. I wasn't just physically ill, I was mentally destroyed, my brain so starved of fluid nothing made sense any more. I felt like I was dying and a survival instinct kicked in.
Claire decided to terminate again, which crushed her husband and filled her with guilt once she was able to think clearly again.
Now that I was no longer ill, I was able to think rationally. I remember thinking -- and still think it today -- what on earth had I done? But unless you’re in that situation, you can’t appreciate how soul-destroying it is to be that sick.
This is the most awful and heartbreaking story. My heart goes out to this woman and her husband and her entire family who have endured seeing her in such pain. I can only imagine the desperation and agony she must have been in to make this decision.
The part I don't understand is why she and her husband have decided to try again. That's right. After two terminations, I'd say she should draw the line -- adopt, hire a surrogate, give up, whatever -- especially because symptoms of HG can actually worsen with each subsequent pregnancy. This mom is obviously still in deep denial about the severity of her illness, even having gone through it.
Claire has enlisted her twin sister to try to help her through another pregnancy. I guess she's supposed to hide her phone, resist her sister's begging for relief, and keep her from fleeing to a hospital when things get extremely dire. Her poor sister is taking on the worst job. What is she thinking?
I understand deeply wanting to give your husband a child of his own, but why would you put yourself through that again -- and why would any loving husband let you? It's complete insanity. When you know your body is going to react this way to a pregnancy -- and she tested her body twice more so she knows -- and crush your mind and soul and later your heart, why would you do it? Why?
What's your reaction to this story? Do you think Claire is crazy to try for another pregnancy?
Image via koadmunkee/Flickr