Friday, December 7, 2012

The unwritable things

For the past three years, I have been meaning to write about my illness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum) while pregnant with Atticus.  I have had every intention of doing it.  I've spent the time in my head that writers often do before putting something on paper, but it's never gone any further than that.  I've waited for the phrasing that usually starts it all for me, or some other moment of entry - a scene, a bit of dialogue, a comment made in passing.

But none of those things have come.  Now, of course, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is in the public eye as reports of the Duchess of Cambridge being hospitalized for it has hit the news.  Of course, I feel heavy for the suffering she is going through.  That's my first feeling, but after that, my feelings are so complicated and messy, I cannot find words for them.

This is not a great place for a writer to rest.  It's certainly not a starting point.  I don't mean to suggest that writing from a place of questioning is problematic.  Quite the opposite in fact; for me, it's absolutely necessary.  But a place of questioning and a place of confusion are very, very far apart.

But I'm going to try to start anyway.  My experience as a writer tells me the results will be ugly and painful to edit, but since Hyperemisis Gravidarium is both ugly and painful, the most I'll be guilty of is  mimetic fallacy.

Let's start with how we call it.  Is it a disease?  An affliction?  A condition?  A disorder?  An allergy?  An illness?  I've heard HG called all these things.  I've also heard it described as a severe form of morning sickness, a description I find so underwhelming as to be insulting.

I'm not unsympathetic to women suffering from morning sickness and its varieties and severities are so infinite as to require sympathy, but it should not be in the same category.

The best way I have to explain HG is this: think of a moment when you are wrapped around the toilet either from a virulent flu or from a night of virulent drinking.  You've vomited and vomited and vomited and vomited.  You don't even have any bile left and you wish you did because there would at least be some release.  You're cold, you're sweating, your body is exhausted from the tensing and energy all that puking takes.  Your mouth is a graveyard.

In that moment, you really, sincerely, and truly would rather be dead than alive.  It's not just something you say.  You are quite certain you cannot live through one more second of the nausea and you pray for God to make you pass out.

That's HG, 24/7, for weeks and weeks and months on end with absolutely no grace in its severity.  There are no moments of release from the unrelenting nausea.  You do not sleep through it.  You do not pass out.  You just try to keep breathing, which is increasingly difficult as the act of expanding your rib cage aggravates the nausea.


Atticus just walked in.  He is sick with a bad cold and his patheticness makes him absolutely irresistible.  Mothers out there, you get this, right?  I don't want my kid to be sick, but man, is he ever huggable when he is.  So I'm off to be with him, putting the HG behind me as the ultimate grace of the experience, Atticus, needs me.

More on HG and how to call it soon.


DL said...

I'm so glad you're writing about this. I wish Kate Middleton could hang out with you for a day and commiserate. I bet that would do her a world of good. If that happens, please include me. Ha.

Joanie said...

Sounds just like Montezuma's revenge. I had it once in Mexico and felt like my back was in labour while I heaved away all night.

And the sick babe? That was the once chance I had to snuggle with my squirmer who couldn't sit still long enough unless she was ill - and I enjoyed those times too.