Friday, August 26, 2011

The Morning Sickness Saga (a Book Review)

*Note added after I finished writing: I realized that this is one whopper of a post. It's super long. Sorry about that, but I feel like it's all necessary to tell the whole story. Also, I decided to insert random pictures for awesomeness.*

Last week Jason and I went to the library because I wanted to check out some pregnancy books and exercise dvds. We just kind of browsed the pregnancy section, and I came across a book that I took home and immediately read cover to cover. It's called The Morning Sickness Companion.

My morning sickness started the week I found out I was pregnant. Oh, I have to stress before we go any farther: "morning" sickness does not just happen in the morning. For most women who have it, it is all-day sickness. There have been several serious attempts to change the name to "pregnancy sickness," but it hasn't stuck. So, just know that it lasts allllllll day.

After a couple days of just feeling queasy, my morning sickness started to get worse and worse. I started throwing up about an hour after I woke up every morning. Then I started throwing up again about an hour after that. Then I would sometimes throw up in the afternoon, or after driving in the car, or at dinner, or right before we went to bed. I averaged about 2-3 times per day. And in between those times, I was sick. And I was exhausted. I was eating less calories, losing a lot of those when they came back up, and then most of them went towards the baby. I actually lost weight. This went on, day after day after day after day, after week after week after week, for two months. I was miserable.

One morning I found myself on the bathroom floor for the millionth time, lying on the carpet, staring at the toilet in absolute misery, and I just broke down. I started sobbing. I couldn't take it anymore. I felt so sick, all the time, for what felt like as long as I could remember, and it didn't feel like it would ever get better. Jason was right there in the room, and was immediately by my side. I put my head in his lap and just sobbed, telling him I couldn't do it anymore. And then - absolute irony - the sobbing made me so nauseous that I started throwing up. I made it to the toilet, and was throwing up in there, and started laughing because of the irony, but I was still crying, and was throwing up at the same time. Crying and laughing and throwing up.

Jason asked if I wanted a priesthood blessing, and I did, and he gave me one. It was really comforting and helped me feel better.

It was very shortly after this time that I was finally prescribed my miracle drug, the generic of Zofran (Ondansetron). (I had previously been prescribed Phenergan, but that didn't work for me. It would put me to sleep for five hours each time - and I supposed to take it four times a day! After a couple days of only being awake for a small window in the afternoon, I stopped taking it. The quality of life was bad when I was nauseous, but at least I was alive. Being asleep literally the whole day was somehow worse.) After a couple of days, my nausea started to subside. I started to make it through whole days without throwing up. And then, after a week or so, I didn't even feel sick.

This was right around the 12/13th week of pregnancy, right when most women's morning sickness goes away. So, we weren't sure if my sickness was going away because of the medicine, or because it was actually subsiding. My doctor told us that almost all women's morning sickness goes away before week 19; if you still have it after then, you'll have it the whole nine months.

Well, when Jason and I came down to California we didn't come with a two-month supply of Zofran (my insurance wouldn't cover it in advance). And so, one day, I ran out. The second day without medicine, I felt nauseous the whole day. And the day after that...I threw up. My morning sickness had not gone away. It had simply been tamed by the Zofran. My family in Utah was able to pick up the new refill for me and send it through express mail, but I had to go about a week without the medicine, and it was awful. It was May and June all over again. When I felt that nausea come back...I can't even express how I felt. It was like, I haven't escaped it. I'll never escape it. I'll always, always be sick.

Luckily, when the new refill came, it only took about two days for it to re-conquer my sickness. With the lessening of the symptoms came a brightening of my mood and outlook. The next month (middle of July to middle of August) passed blissfully away with almost no symptoms.

Last week, I ran out again. I knew I was running low, so I had been stretching my supply by only taking one pill every two days, and that got me by. My grandparents were able to bring me my medicine back from Utah (they were up there for my sister's graduation), so I only went three or four days without the medicine.  But, just like before, the nausea and vomiting returned. So, it was confirmed: I am not one of the lucky women whose morning sickness goes away at week 19. I am part of the 10% (like my mom) who have morning sickness the whole nine months.

But you know what? I'm okay with that. Like I've said before, as long as I have my medicine, I feel okay. And so, I'll just always have my medicine. In future pregnancies, I'll get this medicine as soon as I can and avoid the whole two-months-of-awfulness problem.

Now, back to what brought us to this topic in the first place: The Morning Sickness Companion. The book is written by Elizabeth Kaledin, the former medical correspondent for CBS, who shares her experience with morning sickness. I completely, completely understood her frustration at the lack of information and support and the abundance of unhelpful advice concerning morning sickness in the typical pregnancy resources. She says, "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?"

So, she wrote this book, which covers the topic of morning sickness from all the angles - its causes, why it's still such a big unknown in the medical field, its normal symptoms and timeline, its depressive effects, the evolutionary benefit, treatments, and lots of quotes and stories from tons and tons of women who have gone through it. Everything is relevant and interesting. I really like this book. I think it would benefit all women who find themselves mired in morning sickness.

I love that she addresses the "paradox of morning sickness": "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...So the accompanying sickness is brushed aside. 'It'll pass,' they 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 of 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."

If I had to choose only one line from the whole book to share, that would be it - "For those of us who suffer through (morning sickness), it can be positively debilitating, depressing, and alienating." Because it is all of those things. And man, is it awful.

Regarding the emotional trauma of morning sickness, the book reports on a study that was done in Canada and the United States. They surveyed over three thousand pregnant women, and found that "Twenty percent of women with mild morning sickness reported feeling depressed most of the time. Thirty percent of women with moderate symptoms were frequently depressed, and for those with severe symptoms, 50% said they were always depressed." I believe it.

"Morning sickness involves almost a total loss of control. Women who are used to feeling healthy and strong all of the sudden perceive themselves as weak and vulnerable. Simple tasks require Herculean effort. The daily pleasure of eating becomes a chore...Complicating matters, conventional wisdom tells us we should not tell people we are pregnant until after the first trimester, when many cases of morning sickness have already run their course. That means that you have to suffer in silence when you are at your sickest: a lonely predicament."

The author advises to at least tell one or two people so that you can have a confidante, someone to talk to when you need them. I think next time, I will. We didn't tell almost anyone that I was pregnant until after the first trimester, because chances of miscarriage decrease greatly after that point. But, like the author said, that meant I had no one to talk to when I needed them most. Next time, I'm not doing that. I'm going to have more structure, more friends who know and who can help me.

I feel like this post is turning into the length of a book itself, so I'll wrap things up. I think the reason I wanted to tell my full story and tell how much this book helped me is so that people can understand morning sickness better, and that if you ever have it you can have a resource to go to. If you have morning sickness, or someone you know has it, or you just want to understand it better, this would be a good book to turn to.

And, like I've said a few times now, I'm doing better now. I have my medicine that makes me better, and will continue to make me feel fine for the rest of this pregnancy, and future pregnancies. I'm very thankful to be pregnant, and to have a little girl on the way. But, like the book says, this kind of stuff still needs to be addressed. It's big, and affects a lot of women in a big way.

Anyway, if you've made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope you have a good rest of your day. :)


  1. Thanks for sharing that Jocelyn. I love the honesty of the author. And I appreciate your honesty as well. Could you imagine if women were not pregnant and were sick like this 9 months!? Everyone would be way more understanding or sympathetic I think...but add that little baby to the equation and "poof" all of the sudden your supposed to suck it up. lol. =) Well I am the luck one here. At least I never threw up with Violet. I got super tired though!! BUt I think I pretty much got my trial after she was born with many things...from her never wanting to sleep, or my depression coming back on full strength, the l ist goes on...we all have our trials. BUT man girl, I just know you will be one good momma!!!!

  2. Wow, I'm so sorry you have had to deal with such horrible sickness while pregnant! Thank goodness there are medicines you can take nowadays to help!

  3. I found this post by googling "b6 and ginger shots", so yes, I also deal with extreme morning sickness. I'm now 6 weeks pregnant with my third, and I find myself here again. Thanks for the post. Definitely helps not to feel so alone.


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