Kristen uses pregnancy experience to help others
None of the “tried and true” remedies worked for Kristen Lawrence’s nausea. Bright lights, brilliant colours, any kind of stimulation would set it off.
Doctors diagnosed hyperemesis gravidarum, the debilitating pregnancy-related illness famous for sending Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, to hospital. But knowing what was wrong did not give Mrs Lawrence the relief she sought.
“I felt all alone,” she said. “The most aggravating thing anyone can tell you when going through HG is to try ginger and saltines, etc. If it was possible we would, but trying to hold down even water — let alone anything with taste or a scent — is impossible. It’s obvious that the person saying that doesn’t understand what you’re going through at all and [that the HG] is being downplayed.
“It seemed like no one believed how severe it actually was. Doctors know about HG, but I don’t think they understand the severity of it.”
Mrs Lawrence ultimately gave birth to a healthy son, Micah, in 2017.
Two years later, a Facebook post to Maj’s List reminded her of the isolation brought on by the severe dehydration, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, and inspired her to create a place where women could safely share their experience.
“Some comments made me remember how much I wanted support from those who understood, or just to vent how frustrating and debilitating it felt many times,” she said. “I created a ‘closed’ group for ladies who have had HG or who currently have it, to give and receive support. It is so important because it can be extremely isolating.”
People become members with the understanding that they are there to share their “support and experiences” rather than medical advice.
“Hopefully, this can become a space for the many women who don’t have anyone who can understand what they are going through,” Mrs Lawrence said.
“I went through quite the hell because of HG. I hadn’t heard of many people with it here and so I thought a support group would be really helpful for anyone with it — even if just to vent. I didn’t have the opportunity to vent to people who understood. It can’t change the situation, but it can help to lift that emotional toll.”
Mrs Lawrence started feeling ill on her birthday; as she’d been out celebrating at a restaurant, she initially suspected food poisoning.
“I told my mom I had to go to the hospital because of the extreme nausea,” she said. “I was throwing up every hour and I felt really bad, but I waited it out that night. At first I thought it was some random thing, but I kept feeling like that. I was sick all the time, day and night.”
Eventually she went to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital where she found she was “severely dehydrated” and learnt she had HG.
“They gave me medication that was supposed to get rid of the edge so the throwing up was not so constant but it started to fade after a while and so they put me on Gravol and stuff like that. It worked as much as it could but I still felt really nauseous. I was still throwing up.”
By the end of her second trimester, she had lost 20lbs.
“I would lay in bed when I wasn’t working and just pray. I had no idea what else to do. In hospital I was so severely dehydrated they couldn’t even get an IV in my arm because everything had collapsed. They put me on chemo medication for the anti-nausea — that’s how bad it gets.
“I couldn’t drink water. Even a sip would make me throw up. I just wanted to stay in a dark room. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom with the lights off and the curtains closed.
“Lights, colours make you want to throw up; any form of stimulation. Everything was difficult. Everything was a task. Even in a shower, having water on you makes you want to throw up. And in public, you just have to sit still and try and control it.”
A big worry was that her baby wasn’t getting sufficient nutrition because she wasn’t eating.
“It’s very brutal but he was healthy,” she said. “They suck everything out of you.”
Without the support of her husband, Nathan, she doesn’t know how she would have coped.
“We’d only been married a few months and he was amazing. Obviously he didn’t understand what I was feeling, but he saw everything. He supported me, he would stay up with me; every hospital visit he went.”
She feels fortunate that the symptoms “tapered off quite a bit” sometime around her seventh month.
“You go through so much torment, you literally feel like you’re going to die,” she said. “You can feel your body breaking down. It’s a very scary thing for women especially as the doctors said that there’s a 90 per cent chance to have the same thing happen, and most likely worse, with a second child.”
• Look for Bermuda HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) Support Group on Facebook: bit.ly/2Pj7Wzp