Morning Sickness: It's Not Easy Being Green

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Early on in my second pregnancy, I announced to my obstetrician that I had started to throw up every day and was feeling downright subhuman. I felt unable to work, incapable of caring for my little girl, and though all thoughts of food made me ill, all I wanted to do was eat. The dreaded "morning sickness" had taken hold. On hearing my bad news, my doctor smiled and chirped "Mazel Tov." Now, I love my obstetrician, but I confess I did want to kill him at that moment. As I sat there glumly steeling myself for three or four months of the worst kind of nausea and vomiting and abject misery, he was merrily congratulating me.

That juxtaposition of feelings captured the paradox of morning sickness for me: few people ever really dwell on the trauma of it, because it is the famous first sign of a glorious occasion to come - the birth of a child.

In fact, most if not all doctors consider morning sickness the sign of a healthy pregnancy, a tangible indication that tan embryo has firmly implanted itself in the uterine lining and is set to go. So the accompanying sickness is brushed aside. "It'll pass," they all say. "It's just a temporary and necessary evil of pregnancy," others chime in. "You'll forget all about it when the baby comes."

All those things are true. But there is another truth about morning sickness that is rarely discussed with as much enthusiasm. For those of us who suffer through it, it can be positively debilitating, depressing, and alienating. Baby or no baby.

As a television journalist, my job involves going out in the field to interview people, getting on planes, and meeting deadlines. All of the tasks that I had been doing for years became the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest barefoot. I threw up in the middle of interviews, suddenly ripping off my microphone and running out of the room. I had to tell camera crews they had five minutes to light and shoot my "on-camera" stand-up because I knew I was going to get sick. Sure enough, as soon as I was done, I would bolt to the nearest bathroom with not a moment to spare. I wanted to do it after being on-camera because throwing up made my eyes water, my makeup run, and my nose turn red. So glamorous! I dreaded being far away from my office, my wastebasket, and my couch, and of course I was filled with the added anxiety of not performing my job to the best of my ability. Stomachache on top of stomachache.

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For comfort, I turned to books, and to my profound disappointment, I found that the dizzying array of pregnancy guides at the bookstore gave the subject short shrift. I would find at most two pages, usually one paragraph, and always the same maddening refrain:

  • Eat crackers
  • Eat small meals
  • Eat carbohydrates before going to bed
  • Avoid greasy foods
  • Try powdered ginger

And my favorite bit of useless advice the books offer over and over again is this: "Be sure to take good care of your teeth, visit the dentist, brush and floss regularly, because if you're throwing up, all that stomach acid could harm your teeth." Now I'm all for white shiny teeth, but during my bout with morning sickness, the last thing on my mind was, "Gee, I better get to the dentist."

I felt like screaming when I read these books. Why wasn't anybody addressing the emotional and physical toll morning sickness takes? Why wasn't anybody writing about how hard it is to work or to care for a small child when you're on the verge of throwing up all day long? Why doesn't anyone share first-person accounts of what they've eaten or the crazy things they've tried just to make themselves feel better? Wasn't there anything more to say than... crackers.

Since there's not a great body of scientific literature or knowledge out there about morning sickness, other women and their experiences, I discovered, are the finest remedy available for the desperation and loneliness accompanying this travail. Talking to other women made me realize that yes, it is hard to get through the day, no one eats the perfect diet, no one gains the requisite twenty-five pounds, and it's all about survival.

I want you to know that even when you feel your worst, you are not alone: Someone else is subsisting on cheeseburgers, drinking warm Coke at 9 a.m., and barfing on the bus. And crying about it despite the undeniable joy of knowing a baby is on the way. Short of a cure for morning sickness, a cure not on the horizon, we might as well search for better ways to survive it. I believe that means turning to each other to share our trials, tribulations, and of course, all of our remarkable strengths.

Elizabeth Kaledin, author of The Morning Sickness Companion, is the medical correspondent for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather (watched by 7 million people every night). Prior to covering medical news, she was a general assignment reporter in CBS's Northeast bureau starting in 1996. She lives in New York City with her husband and children. Excerpted with permission from The Morning Sickness Companion.

This article is published by a written permission from www.pregnancy.org and is copyrighted to Pregnancy.org.

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Comments

Six-plus years later, I read this article and find comfort. Thank you. I am suffering from all-day, chronic morning sickness and am livid with the lack of information about how to deal with the accompanying depression that being sick all day for months on end can induce. I'm glad that site after site and article after article lists the common coping techniques: ginger, cracker, blood-sugar levels and protein, but when all of that advice fails miserably, then what? How do you remain sane? How does a normally happy, healthy, motivated, go-getter deal with the accompanying depression of a severely decrease in quality of life that pregnancy has brought? How do you deal with your mixed emotions? The anger at being sick all the time? The decreasing excitement over being pregnant and the increasing bouts of vomiting? How do you deal with family members who are so excited about the news, and consequently, disregard the hell you're forced to survive through each and every day? This is an article that needs to be written.
everybody eat green vegetables