My Journey with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Part I

My Experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum | A Pregnancy Story | Julie Love Gagen

Some story tellers are fortunate enough to have an amazing gift of retelling a story, a situation, something that is ongoing, while it is happening. The exceptional ones are able to precisely carve the relevant pieces of a story and prepare it into a well constructed final display which allows the reader to understand, empathize, and support the author on their journey.

That is not me.

I am the type of story teller that needs a little space, some time, and emotional distance from an experience in order to be able to retell it in essay form.

It’s not that I can’t tell you what is happening when it’s happening. Believe me. If you catch me in the moment of an experience, I will retell every last subtle drop of detail in that story. I will recall facial expressions in an interaction, the time of day, the awkward pauses that later come to mind for further thought.

And, in the days that follow, I will work through, hash out, and reprocess the events over and over and over again. I overthink it. And over-process it. Until I’ve reached the point where either a conclusion has been drawn (i.e. “this is resolved”) or I can no longer think about it anymore (i.e. “this is not that important”).

When it comes to important social interactions, this strategy allows me to remember the details of how and why and where and when something happened. Months and years later, I can recall it.

And sometimes that’s important.

And sometimes it’s not.

In the case of my experience with the pregnancy complication Hyperemesis Gravidarum, believe me, space and emotional separation from that suffering is well worth the wait. And it’s important. Maybe not the details of hyperemesis gravidarum for you, dear reader, but the messages and the experience is well worth a quick scan.

So settle in. Let’s get started.


Back in January, much to our surprise, my husband and I found out that we were expecting. Truly, I didn’t believe it at first. I tried explaining away the nausea, the grumpiness, the uncharacteristic emotion. But it wasn’t long before “everyone” (husband and mom) KNEW I was pregnant.

So I took a test.

And they were right.

And I took another one just to be sure.

And, yes, it was the same result.

And I’m pretty sure, at week 19, it’s still sinking in.

Onset of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Within days of the big surprise, it became hard for me to eat. My appetite quickly disappeared. And it wasn’t long before I was vomiting. Regularly. And quickly, what was a wonderful, happy surprise, became a sentence of time served on my couch, watching daytime television, crying for relief.

I was nauseous all the time, even in my sleep. Nothing helped. And a lot of things made it worse, like bad smells, and good smells, cold weather, hot weather, eating, not eating, stress, boredom, sounds, silence, light, darkness, being around people, being alone, obligations, not having obligations, people not caring, people caring too much. You get the idea. Everything.

I rapidly transformed from a badass entrepreneur with a budding health and wellness business, a yogi working on my transitions between inversions to handstands, a yoga teacher hitting stride in my instruction, a boss getting ready for my first online business launch, to a silent, slow-moving lump of a sick, miserable pregnant lady, overwhelmed at the prospect of moving my body all 15 steps from the couch, where I spent most of my time, to the bathroom, where I would likely try not to vomit by laying on the floor in the fetal position.

My Experience with Hyperemesis Gravidarum | A Pregnancy Story | Julie Love Gagen

Me on January 2nd (Week 3, though I didn’t know it then)


Every solution that I found, every temporary option for relief from the nausea, lasted a total of 1 to 3 uses, then it made everything worse. And I suffered dearly for it.

I took advice from everywhere I could find it. I polled friends, family members, and Dr. Google. But nothing made me feel better. Nothing gave me any sense of support, or hope, or relief.

I also had other symptoms, like shortness of breath, fits of pregnancy rage (it’s a real thing, people!), and hot and cold flashes. I had chronic heartburn, which only went away when I had acid reflux. And I was tired ALL THE TIME. I could have slept 20 hours a day. And there were days, like the weekends, where 12-hr nights led to morning rest, followed by 4-hr naps.

Me, January 19th (Week 6)

Me on January 19th (Week 6, fully in the midst of learning I was pregnant with all the crappy symptoms)

I was uncomfortable all the time. I was angry. And sad. And helpless. And more sad. And frustrated. And sad again.

It was hard on everyone, truly.

When You Don’t Believe Yourself

I had no idea what I was experiencing. I was scared. I heard a lot of well-intended, kind, caring mom friends say “ya, I was sick too” in reference to their first trimester of pregnancy. I wanted to hear it as a positive show of support. It was, after all, intended to be.

But as my condition worsened, the words “ya, I was sick too” became fuel for subconsciously – and consciously – self-doubting the validity of my experience. Surely, I knew that what I was experiencing was an exception. Certainly I knew that it was something that required extra care.

But the sudden onset, coupled with the fact that I was still coming to terms with the fact that I was, in fact, pregnant, presented such a mix of emotions that doubt was easy to let in. And I was so tired. And so filled with all the feelings. And SO INCREDIBLY TIRED.

That’s why I’m writing this series of posts. Next time I’ll share some my first steps towards addressing my condition and talk about the process of coming up with a diagnosis. If you want to skip this series and just get to the conclusion, it’s this: sometimes suffering happens, you will get through it, but if it’s REALLY hard, you need to advocate for yourself. Squeeky wheels get addressed. Silent ones don’t.

For more on Hyperemesis, you can read this very honest, albeit slightly agitated article posted through Scary Mommy. It’s like every Hyperemesis mom’s anger translater. And if you’re a mom who has given that advice to a friend, even me, don’t take on that anger. We’re all equally imperfect and we’re all doing the best we can. Find grace for others and find grace for yourself.

Hearts and hugs,