Commonly known as HG, Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a morning sickness like no other. Truly, it doesn't even warrant being called morning sickness. The American Pregnancy Association identifies HG as being "a condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and electrolyte disturbance." Having HG is awful. Or, as my friend Kari said, "Pregnancy nearly killed me."
I'm going to break a cardinal rule and confess that on the spectrum of morning sickness I experienced rare and fleeting nausea. So, I'm sure you're asking, why is this gal writing about HG when she has zero personal experience with HG symptoms?
Well, it's because of Heather and Kari. These friends of mine are two of the strongest women I know, not only because they have survived HG, but for a hundred more reasons. Heather has three children and Kari four, so to say that they have experienced HG to its fullest is an understatement. Recently I asked Heather and Kari to reflect back on the months, really, years that they each spent battling HG to learn how we, the moms who have no idea about the pain of HG, can better support the women in our circle who do.
Here are some nuggets of wisdom from the women who know HG inside and out. If you know a mama with HG, take this information and reach out—offer your love and support and help carry them to the finish line.
WAYS TO OFFER HANDS-ON HELP
Help with practical things like watching kids, helping make meals and cleaning.
Gift an essential oil diffuser. According to Heather, "Dishes being done immediately and being kept in the dishwasher when dirty and diffusing [oils] were both huge for me since my HG is largely influenced by smells."
Ask the right questions. "Is there anything I can do to help with other aspects of life? Can I come clean your house? Can I help watch your kids for a couple hours?" Heather said, "It's so hard for most of us to ask for help, so offering specific things like bringing by easy snack foods that don't have strong smells like cheese sticks, chopped veggies, pretzels or non-triggering meals, offering to swing by and vacuum or do the dishes, anything like that would be a huge help, really."
Gift money for eating out and groceries.
Send a care package. Include things like ziplock bags (they're helpful for vomiting on-the-go according to Heather), bath soaks (unscented), lip balm, a book or magazine or a gift certificate for a housecleaner or a massage.
If there are older children offer childcare.
Offer distractions with no obligation. "We had some friends this pregnancy who kept inviting us to things and kept expressing that it was totally up to us to come or not. It was really nice to feel thought about," shares Heather.
No matter what, follow through. "People that say they're going to help and never even check back in are the least helpful of all. It makes you feel forgotten and you have all day long to think about it," reveals Kari.
WAYS TO OFFER EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
Send a message or call on a regular basis.
Be available to listen. Many HG moms agree that having a safe place to vent is beyond helpful. No advice, but just hearing someone validate what they're going through.
Don't let distance keep you away. Kari says, "The most supportive people in my last pregnancy lived across the world and hours away. The consistent checking in and financial help with childcare and medical bills was amazing."
Be a safe place to cry. HG sucks and moms need to know that you care about what they're going through.
Judgement is not helpful. "I was feeling a lot of conflicting feelings of my own, and having judgement from others complicated my own internal processing," shares Kari.
Don't pretend that you know. "There's a lot of treating you like you're overreacting/exaggerating/being a wimp because they can't believe it's really as extreme as you say it is," says Heather. For example, "Ginger specifically raises the acidity levels in HG patients and with that makes the vomiting worse. Medications like Zofran and Phenergan often either don't fully work or stop working after a few weeks." Basically, trust that HG moms are researching and trying everything possible to feel better.
Depression and HG go hand in hand because HG is a mind, body, spirit experience.
Loneliness is so hard. For anyone. But especially for HG moms. Be there for them physically and emotionally as much as you can.