I’m holding my newborn daughter and looking at our family portrait, swollen belly, long flowing  dress and flower crown. The sun picking up the folds of my gown, my boys smiling.  Someone who didn’t know would see a serene and beautiful family, as if it was an unnecessary indulgence.

“I’m doing all of the things.” That was my motto during my battle with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) an extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and electrolyte imbalances. Morning sickness is mild nausea and vomiting that occurs in early pregnancy.

I had a sense this might be my final baby and I didn’t want HG to steal anything from me.

As the nausea and vomiting worsened, the daily bump pictures quickly faded into the background.  Laying in a dark quiet room was all I could do to survive.

We began with the normal morning sickness remedies. Ginger, motion sickness bracelets and acupuncture, quickly realizing I needed to move to the first line of defense: Unisom and B12 twice daily.

Only days later, we had moved to something stronger. Oral Zofran and Promethazine. When those were not touching my vomiting, we tried other methods of Promethazine, finally trying Intramuscular Injections (IM) of Promethazine. My husband sticking me with a needle twice daily, my hind side so sore I could no longer sleep on my back.

Food poisoning, a migraine. Both examples of what having HG was like. For two months a dark, quiet room was all I could handle.

Thanks to a concerned husband and attentive midwife,  I was quickly brought into the hospital for fluids, I was dehydrated.

Some people have a doula, I had a dou.

Returning home I felt better, maybe it was just normal morning sickness after all. Feeling well enough, I asked my friend and photographer Kelly Fisk to take announcement pictures. I hired someone to get my hair and makeup done, too weak to do it myself. Picking up my safe food, Taco Bell, we arrived at Flathead Lake, the late afternoon sun lighting up the mountains. It felt like an indulgence.

A few days later, I was so weak I couldn’t get out of bed. Again, thinking all was OK, my dou sent me back to the hospital for more fluids.

Not wanting to be left behind, I was offered IV fluids to bring on our first camping trip of the summer. I spent the majority of the weekend laying on a small camp bed, vomiting into plastic bags.

Drink water, throw up, drink diet coke, throw up. As the cycle continued, it was decided that weekly IV infusions at Big Sky I.V. Care was necessary. I had a private room, a lazy boy chair and the sweetest nurses. I was a hard stick due to my dehydration and tricky veins but it still felt like a vacation. The IV Promethazine took away my nausea, I could eat a small breakfast and the fluids filled me with life.

I was able to get back to work for a few days after these infusions, only for my sneaky friend vomiting to reemerge.

Finally I was talked into two times a week infusions, leaving in my superficial IV for the week so they didn’t have to stick me multiple times.

After 10 IVs, my veins were getting harder each day. One of the RNs recommended I receive a midline, an 8 cm catheter inserted into my upper arm that could remain in for up to four weeks.

“This is perfect because hopefully you will be through the woods in four weeks.”

I was up to three times a week infusions. Four weeks passed slowly and I was not getting any better.

“We have to pull this midline but I do think you should get another one placed, it should only be another four weeks.”

I was approaching the 20 week mark, which in most cases, the severity lessens.

It never got better.

I was finally allowed to do infusions at my home. Phenergan is tough on your veins so diluting it is important.  Injecting the IV bag with the medication that was keeping me alive, my husband would place it on a hanger next to my bed. Thankfully, I was able to prevent dehydration.

Five midlines later and five months, I got a terrible chemical burn from Chlorhexidine, a cleanser used to prevent infection. Medihoney was applied, my arm wrapped for the day.

“Not sure where we’re going to go next, we’ve used all of your upper arm veins. Don’t worry we will figure it out!”

At 30 weeks, it was decided we should give it a go without the IVs. Still on a cocktail of anti-nausea meds, I was finally free from the IV. Thankfully, I was able to get back to work full-time. But the nausea and vomiting persisted. Several times a day, in the car, in the office, in the grocery store parking lot.

Not wanting to leave anything on the table, I asked Kelly if we could take maternity pictures. I had always wanted to take family pictures in Glacier, off the Going to the Sun Road, but a winding long drive with two toddlers, seemed implausible.

We did it anyway.

What felt like a major splurge, I paid to get my hair and makeup done again and ordered a flower crown from a local florist. Kelly recommended a few $40 maternity gowns off Amazon, and I hesitantly ordered them all.

Feeling beautiful for the first time in months, we picked up cookies from my favorite spot and headed into the mountains. Our boys in matching bowties and Big Brother T-shirts ordered off Etsy, they giggled the entire way up.

The photoshoot was a dream. My boys were happy to smile, to hold hands, a major feat any mom of littles knows well.

Driving back down that mountain, the sun setting, my kids snoozing, a puke bag on my lap, I felt an immense sense of gratitude. My pregnancy and motherhood were celebrated regardless of how I felt.

Part Two: “When I Almost Died Giving Birth” coming in the next issue.

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