MY PREGNANCY WAS A LIVING HELL
March 29th 2016, Dalton's birthday. The day that changed our lives forever.
Dalton and I had just got back from his birthday weekend away with his family up in Mackay. That Saturday night away was meant to be his big birthday party but the celebrations were cut short after two glasses of champagne had me feeling not quite right. All throughout life people talk about having a "gut feeling." Was there such a thing? Do you ever really get a feeling in the gut or was this just a generalised expression? For me, I literally had a gut feeling. Those two glasses of birthday champagne had not gone down well and my mind was in overdrive. Had I eaten enough? Was I tired? Was I nervous being around his family for the first time? Am I dehydrated? Do I need to drink more water? Or was I pregnant? A quick look at the calendar, I saw that my period wasn't due for another couple of days, but I still had this god-awful feeling. I stopped drinking, told everyone I didn't feel well and tried to enjoy the night. The following day we flew back home to Brisbane just in time for me to quickly get ready for work. Life of a flight attendant, I was straight back to the airport and operating the late Brisbane to Perth sector. The whole flight over it was all that was on my mind. Was I pregnant? Could I even be pregnant? I retraced our latest bedroom sessions and remembered the night we "played with fire." I wasn't on the pill, he didn't wear condoms, pull out method didn't exist and so our contraception method consisted of a period tracker app that told us when I was ovulating. Saturday was the day the app had marked as Ovulation Day so in my weak attempt at a contraception method, I counted back from Saturday three days and had Dalton and myself convinced that “danger zone” was Wednesday to Saturday and being Tuesday we were “safe.” The next morning Dalton did the calculations and suggested we were too close to danger zone and that as a precaution I should have the morning after pill. Being as stubborn as I am, I disagreed with him and argued that as we had had sex Tuesday, which was more than 72 hours from Ovulation Day, we were in the clear and so no morning after pill was taken. As I retraced this night to myself on that flight over to Perth, I realised that our system was a load of rubbish. We had been naive to have sex with no contraception, relying on a very poor method and now left asking, had we set ourselves up for an unplanned pregnancy?
By the time I got to the hotel in Perth, I had myself convinced. I took one look in the mirror and said to myself you are pregnant. That gut feeling, it couldn't be shaken. The next night I was back in Brisbane, lying in the arms of the man I loved with so much fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the uncertainty and what it would all mean if it wasn't just a feeling. The following morning was Dalton's birthday and whilst I should have been jumping out of bed to wish him a happy birthday instead I was jumping out of bed to do a pregnancy test. With Dalton half asleep staring at me from the bed with one eye open, I did the test and it came back negative. I was shocked, my gut feeling had been wrong. I threw the test in the bin and came back to bed. While I lay there trying to get back to sleep, I was restless, unable to figure out why I couldn't shake the feeling off. Once we woke he knew something was still playing on my mind. I explained everything from the two glasses of champagne, to the flight over to the gut feeling I had. All he had to say was the test was a negative, so just let it go. But I couldn't, I was starting to obsess. I got the test out of the bin and there it was, a faint line. It was faint and hardly noticeable but it was there. Dalton didn't want a bar of it, he shook the idea off and said he couldn't see anything so I threw it back in the bin. His birthday brunch together was nothing short of dull. Both afraid to talk about it, both afraid to even bring it up, it was an elephant in the room for the entire meal. On the way home Dalton finally caved to my worries. He stopped into Chemist Warehouse while I waited in the car. Talk about an anxious guy completely out of his depths, he came back with multiple pregnancy tests, in every brand available. We raced home, and how romantic on the day of his 21st birthday, Dalton sat on the ground, dipping sticks into a plastic take away container filled with my pee. Seven pregnancy tests later and seven faint lines later he still wasn't convinced. It was the Clear Blue test though that gave us our final answer. The Clear Blue test didn't have lines, it simply said "Pregnant" or "Not Pregnant" with an estimate of how many weeks you are. Whilst he was dipping the last test into my urine, I had a look at my period tracker calendar and I was only one day late. I'm always late, always irregular and so for me this meant nothing. Together we lay on the floor watching the timer spin round and round waiting for a result and like a firework going off in the room the timer stopped with the word "Pregnant, 1-2 weeks". I was in hysterics. Even though I had those few days to let the idea settle, nothing had prepared me for the revelation that the gut feeling I had was real.
Turns out, that period tracker app I had on my phone was pretty darn accurate, playing with fire means you will get burnt and it was safe to say Daltons 21st birthday was ruined. I was a mess.
THE FIRST TRIMESTER
By no means do I want to take away from the fact that falling pregnant is an absolute blessing and one that we should be thankful for. I know people that have tried for years and have been unsuccessful. I myself had previously been in a relationship where we were trying but hadn't been able to conceive. For Dalton and I, I thought it was just the wrong timing but as we had told each other back then, was there ever a right timing?
Dalton and I had met on New Year's Eve, only three months prior. So on the morning of his 21st birthday, surrounded by eight positive pregnancy tests, we knew we were in for a shit storm. We were still in the honeymoon/getting-to-know-each-other period of our relationship. Whilst we knew we were in love and had talked about the future and having kids one day, doing it this early was definitely not our intention.
Finding out as early as we did meant we were in limbo of what to do. Do we accept it, make plans for the future and begin to look forward to the new journey we were about to embark on or do we just wait? I was in the frame of mind that I could easily miscarry and Dalton was taking my lead in every thought and emotion I had. We decided to put it to the side, wait it out and go to the doctors at the six week mark. We relied on the calendar telling us we were roughly three weeks pregnant and tried to carry on with our lives. Our ignorance is bliss approach lasted a whole two weeks until week five hit. It was like a tonne of bricks had been dropped on my head. I was tired, fatigued and vomiting like the hangover from hell. Continuing to fly was not an option at this point so that initial doctors appointment was fast tracked and by week six I was tucked away, hiding in head office on ground duties.
Once work was sorted, I tried to channel what energy I had left into my training. Before falling pregnant, I was an ambassador for F45 Training. Trying to maintain working out, on a nauseous empty stomach was impossible. I had to pull the plug on it, quit that role and stop all forms of exercise. On top of this, I was suddenly doing an office job with no real purpose. I’ve always loved being a flight attendant, loved flying and loved being away so for this to be all taken away from me I knew I was in for a tough ride. Being unable to train, eat well and continue flying, I started to isolate myself from all my friends. I didn’t want to hang out with my fitness friends because I could no longer train. I didn’t want to hang out with my foodie friends because I couldn’t keep anything down. I definitely didn’t want to see any of my work friends and hear about the job I loved but was unable to do anymore. Being so early on in the pregnancy meant not everyone knew and Dalton was working away on the other side of Australia so it was just me, myself, and the inside of a toilet bowl for weeks on end.
This tail end of the first trimester, week’s six to twelve was when I started to physically deplete. My mind was still intact and I was mentally holding it together at this point but normal life was dramatically changing and my body wasn’t keeping up with it. I was vomiting every morning, before every meal, after every meal, before bed and everywhere in between. The doctors told me it was just a case of first trimester morning sickness and gave me the usual tips. Lemon and ginger, dry crackers, eat first thing in the morning, don’t go more than two hours between meals, keep hydrated and get plenty of sleep. I tried different foods, acupuncture, essential oils the works but nothing cured the nausea and no old wives trick stopped the vomiting. At week nine I was officially diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum; severe nausea and vomiting such that weight loss and dehydration occur. By the end of the first trimester I had lost 5 kilos, I was iron deficient, weak and drained. I was put on to various nausea and vomiting medication and needed to fully rely on these just to get me through the day. Maxalon made me crazy. Hormones were through the roof. And I suffered from insomnia. Ondansatron/Zofran worked on some days but not on others. One night on a different medication the doctors had given me, I was so scattered I drove around at midnight looking for a 24 hour chemist hoping to get my hands on some Phenergan just so I could get some sleep. Turns out Brisbane doesn't have any 24 hour chemists and I had officially lost it. It was becoming unmanageable and staying at home in bed was the only option on days that I didn't feel stable enough to even leave the house.
The highlight of the first trimester amongst all the vomiting was our eight week dating scan. I had to go by myself as Dalton was away for work but seeing that little peanut on the screen for the very first time put some of the pregnancy pain into perspective. The doctors told me it would ease up in the second trimester so I kept on pushing through knowing it was all for a little somebody and the vomiting would all stop soon.
THE SECOND TRIMESTER
I had made it, the second trimester. The time when the doctors said I would start to feel better and could possibly return to flying. This was far from the case. The vomiting had got to the point where I was admitted into hospital for dehydration. Some days I couldn't even stomach water or hydralyte ice blocks so the only option was to go in and get on the drip. I was out of sick leave, getting unpaid leave and just trying to get through the days at home alone. Dalton was still working in Perth, my family lived in a different state and whilst his family were as hands on as they could be I was pretty much on my own.
Week 13, we had our first bleed. It came out of nowhere, I was standing in the kitchen early one morning and it just came gushing down my legs. This was my first ambulance ride for the pregnancy and it wasn't going to be my last. Lying on the stretcher that morning on the way to the hospital, with Dalton still in Perth, after weeks of vomiting and numerous days in hospital on the drip, a part of me felt relief. So many sleepless nights on the bathroom floor, I thought about abortions. With nothing making me feel better and medications making me loopy I just wanted a way out and termination definitely crossed my mind. My emotions were all over the place and I had so much resentment building up inside of me. I resented Dalton for being in Perth and I resented the baby for making me so sick to the point that I wasn't enjoying any aspect of my life. We got to the hospital and Dalton's mum was already there to meet me. The joys of the public system we waited six hours to get a scan done and in this time the doctors were asking me what I wanted to do with the miscarry. Everything looked like the baby was gone and I felt numb. The decision I had to make was, did I want to let it all come out at home or did I want to have surgery and have it all taken out. This was the point of the pregnancy where I started to lose it mentally. I had prayed so many nights for relief and here it was. The baby was gone and now I felt guilt. Guilt that I had prayed for such a horrible thing to happen and it was then that I realised I really wanted to have this baby but was it too little too late. Luckily, we had the scan and baby was fine, placenta was fine and there was no explanation for the bleeding. I was back home that night.
The second trimester continued. In total I had seven vaginal bleeds between the weeks of 13 and 36. Similar stories as the one above, all with no explanation and each one messing me up more and more. I was physically depleted to the point where I was still yet to gain weight, having weekly iron injections, B12 injections every second day, taking my Ondansatron 4-6 times a day and Dalton was still working away in Perth.
At week 17 after surviving two of the bleeds, we were ready to go ahead and announce the pregnancy. Dalton and I had well and truly come to terms with the fact that were going to be parents and so it was time to announce it on our social media accounts. By now, my train of thought had shifted. I was still vomiting everyday so I had let go of the notion that it was going to go away and instead all I thought about was having a little girl. Every time I vomited all I would think was please be a girl. The thought of going through pregnancy again was like having a nightmare so I started praying for a little mini me. It became unhealthy and so obsessive that the doctors advised we find out the gender of our baby or I would be at even more risk of postnatal depression. I had to channel my thoughts and energy into something and a gender reveal party seemed fitting. Unfortunately at my 20 week morphology scan the umbilical was in between the legs and we were unable to get a gender. Luckily I had a back up plan and had us booked in for a 3D gender determination scan. The 3D scan had us both sweaty palmed. I had so much weighing on having a little girl that Dalton knew I would struggle getting through the rest of the pregnancy if it wasn't. It was silly of us to do it but we had the gender written in an envelope and given straight to the cake maker. We were going to find out the gender of our baby with all our family and friends at our gender reveal party.
We had our party at 26 weeks pregnant. At this point of the pregnancy, I was like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. I was so emotionally and hormonally unbalance, I could have an argument with anyone about anything, My anxiety levels had peaked and everyone was on edge leading up to the party. There was such an unhealthy pressure for us to cut into a pink cake, Dalton's mum warned everyone to run for the hills if the cake was even the slightest bit blue. The morning of the party, I had my normal vomits and by the time it came to cut the cake, I was cowering in the toilets feeling so anxious of what was about to come. Thank our lucky stars, we cut the cake and it was pink! We were having our little baby girl! I know that a lot of people out there won't understand why it mattered so much. I was told I should be hoping for a healthy baby not one of any particular gender and in hindsight with how sick I was and how much medication I was consuming thats probably all I should of been hoping for. However, when you're vomiting everyday, twice a day, three times day or sometimes just admitting defeat and sleeping on the bathroom floor from as early as week 5 you start thinking about anything that will get you through. For me it was having a little girl.
THE THIRD TRIMESTER
After our gender reveal party things started to look up. By now I had been vomiting for over 20 weeks so it had become part of my normal routine. I didn't go anywhere without a sick bag and I knew which foods to attempt and which ones to stay away from. It had became easier because I knew it was all for a little baby girl. I was living off frozen food, pies, nuggets and hot dogs - bland, plain food that was easy on the way up and I had stopped entertaining the idea of trying to eat healthy. For about two weeks there at the beginning of the third trimester I thought we were on the home run. Things were still tough, I had raptured my esophagus, given myself hemorrhoids and my pelvic floor was in shambles. If I sneezed, coughed or laughed I would wet myself and one night I vomited so hard I pooped right there on the floor in front of Dalton. My dignity was gone but Dalton had become so used to the vomiting that a bit of poo was nothing worse than what he had already seen.
All was looking well until week 30 hit, my 5th bleed and biggest yet. I had woken up in the middle of the night in a pool of blood. I went through emergency and was admitted for a 5 day stay and unlike the previous bleeds I started having mild contractions. I went on early maternity leave and Dalton finished up his stint in Perth, coming back to work in Queensland for good. From the previous trimesters where I was left feeling physically and mentally depleted, I was now at the point of feeling failure. Every bleed and every scare I would get hooked up to heart rate monitors and ultrasounds at the hospital and every time baby was fine. She was growing perfectly, the placenta was intact and nothing was internally wrong except for my body just not coping with the pregnancy. I was playing the blame game and the only person I could blame was me. I blamed myself and called myself weak for not being able to do what so many women had previously done. The strong confident woman I once was, was gone.
From week 30, I was depressed and crying every single day. Dalton was back home and I was quick to turn on him. This was the period of the pregnancy where I hated him. I fought with him everyday about tedious things because I was so angry. Home life became unbearable because he was my punching bag and I resented him. I thought it was unfair that at the end of the nine months we both got the same result, we both got a daughter but I had to go through hell and back and he didn't. I was angry that he could work and I couldn't, that he could still eat normal foods, train, get around the place without feeling uncomfortable, didnt have to stay overnight in the hospital and that life wasn't really that different for him. From week 30 onwards, I had zero compromise or rationale in me. The infamous night when I threw all his shit down the stairs and asked him to leave. I couldn't get a grip of my emotions and had so much built up anger, I tested our relationship, pushing him to limits just to see if he'd hang round. The doctors had advised us that any sexual activity was off limits as there was too much risk with my unexplained bleeding, We were becoming so disconnected and our good times were outweighed by bad times. Whilst he was waiting, hoping for me to come back to normal Jen, I believed I was too far gone. The pregnancy had stripped me, taken away all the things I loved that I couldn't recognise who I was anymore. My last three bleeds each caused a five day stint in hospital and I was on the drip in between each of those emergency visits. I was practically living in hospital, counting down the days until it would all be over.
The seventh bleed at week 36 left Dalton and I both traumatised. We were both home and I couldn't stop the blood flow long enough to get a pad and pants on. While Dalton called the ambulance, I lay bleeding on a towel waiting for them to arrive. It was my first ambulance ride with sirens on, rushing to the hospital. The paramedic at the end of the stretcher, holding a birthing kit, prepared for the worst. I wasn't afraid, instead pumped with adrenaline. We had our hospital bags packed, ready to meet our little girl. Yet again, like groundhog day, baby was fine and I was admitted. I was getting mild contractions but nothing a heavy dose of Endone wouldn't fix. On this final hospital trip she was breached and the bleeding took longer to stop. The obstetricians finally made the call to book me in for an early scheduled caesarean. A date was set, enough was enough, we were having our little girl the following week at just over 38 weeks pregnant. I should of been happy with this news. But yet again, I felt failure. I wouldn't even be carrying her the full 40 weeks.
You can follow Jennepher and her beautiful girl Eve on Instagram: @jennepher_
And to read all about the birth, what happened next and how they are doing today head to www.jennepher.com
On a personal note: I would just like any one out there suffering through their pregnancy to know that they are not alone. Seek and ask for help. You will get through this and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I have been there too. I will never forget the way I felt when I was pregnant BUT the love I have for my daughter now outweighs those emotions and the sickness. xx