My husband and I tried for five months to conceive. This is barely anything compared to some couples who try for years without success but it still felt like a tortuous rollercoaster of emotions to us. During my first cycle, it took 14 pregnancy tests for me to accept that no, they really weren’t false negatives. By my fifth cycle I felt burnt out on hope and decided to take a break from the paraphernalia of active trying - of course, this was the cycle we conceived.
We were both ecstatic but just three weeks into the pregnancy morning sickness hit. I had been expecting it, as I knew my mother had suffered terribly during her pregnancy with me. Having read that nausea is a sign of a healthy pregnancy I even tried to embrace it! I deteriorated quickly however, and soon became bed bound. I could eat nothing but ginger biscuits, rice crackers, and maybe a small handful of oven chips. At my worst moments I couldn’t even drink water. I rang my GP in trepidation, having read about other women who had been fobbed off by old male doctors who couldn’t emphasise with the misery they were experiencing. I told him the previous evening I had felt so awful that the thought had occurred to me, ‘at least if I miscarry this will be over’. He was a star, and immediately offered to prescribe something to help. I was so relieved I started crying down the phone to him. The drug didn’t work. Neither did the next two prescriptions I tried.
My health continued to deteriorate, and with it my mental health. I am progesterone intolerant. I discovered this a few years ago when I reacted badly to several types of hormonal birth control. After seeing multiple doctors and even undergoing a laparoscopy to rule out endometriosis, a gynaecologist put two and two together and realised the common thread between my heavy periods and wild mood swings was the progesterone in my birth control. Unfortunately, she neglected to mention the possibility of a reoccurrence during pregnancy when progesterone rises.
I began to feel suicidal. I made no plans to kill myself, but I wanted to die. Everything seemed hopeless and I felt worse than I ever had before in my life. I broke down and called NHS Direct, begging them to help me. They sent me to A&E. It was the first time I’d gotten out of bed in a week. At A&E they were rushed off their feet, and we waited five hours to be told by a junior doctor it was probably best I just had a termination.
Back home I found the website of a UK charity, Pregnancy Sickness Support, dedicated to helping sufferers of hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness). It’s a wonderful resource, and a volunteer suggested two other courses of treatment open to us. Armed with this new knowledge we vowed to exhaust every possible option before resorting to a termination. My wonderful GP was on board and I soon had a new prescription for a drug commonly prescribed to help the nausea of chemo patients. It also didn’t work.
I had lost 9lbs in two weeks, and was severely dehydrated. My GP insisted on hospitalising me, where I was given IV fluids and medications. The IV fluids helped with the dehydration, and I began to feel less dizzy. The medications stopped me from throwing up but did not touch the constant nausea. I continually felt like I was on the verge of vomiting, was hot and shivery and couldn’t eat. A therapeutic termination was advised again and I made the appointment.
I went to a Marie Stopes clinic. It was a couple of doors down from a graveyard, a rather ghoulish location. The nurse was incredibly sympathetic and rushed through as much of the process as she could. I had large five pills to swallow, each requiring huge gulps of water. I struggled, and elected not to take one of the painkillers for fear it would bring the others back up. If I vomited within an hour of taking the abortion pills it could fail, an outcome I wasn’t willing to risk. The car ride home was horrific. 50 minutes of desperately trying not to vomit, as someone who gets carsick even when not ill. I compulsively gnawed on cucumber rind (the centre bit tasting too “strong” for my food aversions), and prayed I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom bin that had been my constant companion for the past few weeks.
I made it. By the time I got home the first abortion pill, a progesterone blocker, was already starting to take effect. I was beginning to feel slightly better. I got into bed with my husband, wearing a urinary incontinence pad, and we watched fail videos as a distraction while the cramps began. I stayed on top of the painkillers, alternating co-codamol and ibuprofen and the cramps slowly ramped up. He kept me company for a bit but I began to feel more and more ill and asked him to leave. At one point he popped in to the bathroom to see how I was doing, and what he saw rendered him truly speechless for the first time in his life. I’ll spare you the gory details but safe to say the abortion had fully begun.
When I was finally able to get off the toilet, I felt wonderful. It was bizarre. I had lost a very much wanted and planned for child, and I had been told I will likely never be able to have a healthy pregnancy. Instead of grieving however, I felt like celebrating. My suffering was finally over. I am sure the emotions will hit me hard at some point but right now I am just relieved to finally feel like me again. My husband may not have a child, but he has his wife back again.