top of page
  • Writer's pictureJessica Taylor Yates

Conversations at brunch: Did you hear? Jess is really sick | Part 12

Is that the thing Kate Middleton had?

Jess in Malaysia
Wanting wasn't enough.

A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows of the conversations you have at brunch.

This is Part 12 of a series. For a recap of Part 1, click here.


*Please note: this blog depicts discussion of suicide and loss. If this brings up issues for you, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.*


The talk about loss is still very hard for me. I was experiencing exceptional grief, trauma, loss and sadness, which is still ongoing, even now. The below is an excerpt of a letter I wrote from this period.

--


I still think about my little Noodle from November every day.


The day I found out we had made a baby was one of the happiest of my life.


I planned the name, the classes, the leave, the party. I went to Chadstone and bought looser dresses, as I was so excited to be pregnant over summer. I downloaded the app and started tracking Noodle’s progress immediately. I wanted to shout out from the rooftops how happy I was after the year from hell.


Afterwards, I keep thinking, Noodle's birthday was July 12, same as mine, which just made ongoing birthdays so flat and sad. I knew it was early days and to keep it quiet, but internally, I was just bursting with excitement.


I still wonder what she would look like, or what we would call him. I think about what my body is ‘supposed’ to look like now. I think about how unfair it is that all our friends are having babies, and how much I want to be in that baby club. I think about how excited we were when it was a yes, and how I just had no idea what was happening when it wasn’t, or why this was happening to me, to us, and being in the hospital, alone, not understanding what was happening, or why.


I couldn’t stand how sad it made my husband, and my mum. I was so mad at myself for telling people, for getting them excited, for my body “not working” like I wanted it to for me, for him, for our families. How unfair it was that this had to happen to us, after everything. I get teary just thinking about it and need to block it from my mind. If I have to talk about, I can't stop sobbing, even now, at the trauma of it all.


We tried our best to get past it. The bleeding and cramping was horrible. I had also just felt awful over the last year – my hair was thinning, and I had gained excessive amounts of weight over lockdown. Every day, I just wanted to call my dad to talk about it and everything in between, and I couldn't, and still can't. Grieving all of this is just so hard that it takes a lot to get out of bed sometimes.


In 2022, the trying again was also somewhat difficult. We both felt such pressure to ‘make it happen,’ and were so disappointed when it didn’t. There was pressure and anger, sadness, blame and disappointment.


Finally, when the test said yes for the second time, around April of 2022, I was elated. I was so, so happy that it could happen, and that we would still be in ‘the baby year’ with all our friends for what was going to be our little Christmas bundle! I wanted to shout it from the rooftops again that I was so filled with joy for us and our lives ahead - but I didn't.


We kept this one quiet. I felt like this one had to be it – no one miscarries twice, we were having a summer baby, the leave was perfect, mat leave was coming, we would have the renos done. 2022 was the year of positivity!


Is that the thing Kate Middleton had?


That first week of knowing (Week 5 or 6), by the end of it, I felt a slight build-up of nausea at the back of my throat, very mild, but it was, you know… cute. I turned my nose up at certain foods, just wanted some toast or tea. In a way, I liked that. It made it feel like it was ‘working,’ or that it was ‘real.’ This time, it was truly happening.


While I can’t remember exactly when it hit, all I know is that sometime in that next week, I was hit with an illness unlike anything that has ever happened to me. I’ve had severe depression, suffered grief, was bedridden with the flu, hospitalised for tonsillitis, had a parent die, been drugged against my will, and had pneumonia– and it all absolutely pales in comparison.


It is very hard to explain. The best I can think to describe it is that I felt like I turned 98 overnight, and all of a sudden, any movement I made felt like literal, physical torture on my whole body. I could barely get out of bed from the pain from my head to my feet, and thought I might pass out if I even stood up or put my head up.


The illness started and did not stop for a moment. The ongoing nausea I experienced was horrendous, debilitating, and made me honestly feel like I was dying. This was not 'regular' pregnancy nausea, which is still awful. Every single morning after that first day of being unwell, whether I ate or not, literally every few minutes I was retching, vomiting up bile, water or what I ate, carrying a bucket around because I was too scared to go a moment without. This did not relent, meaning I could never relax or feel well because the nausea was all consuming.


It wasn't just 'throwing up a lot,' even though that in itself is horrendous for even two minutes, let alone weeks or months on end. The body fatigue and exhaustion were terrifying.


Suddenly, I couldn't even get dressed, and didn't get out of an ugly old nightgown for weeks. Putting on clothes felt like asking me to run a marathon. The idea of being in the shower with water on me felt too much ‘pressure’ and too ‘heavy’ for my body to comprehend, like rocks falling on my body, so I went days and weeks without because the thought of it filled me with dread and anxiety. I barely would have had the strength to turn on the tap.


Walking to the toilet or kitchen felt like an Olympic sport. I couldn’t hug my partner or even pat my dog, which made me cry because my dog couldn't understand. Trying to just walk around the block left me severely winded and needing to recuperate and vomit even more.


All I ate was some forced crackers, jelly and some bites of toast for weeks on end so I wouldn't starve, even though I would throw it all straight up, leaving my body not quite right for months. Afterward, for some reason, there was months of no dairy and gluten, and bouts of unexplained nausea when I would be walking to work, at an event or at the shops.


The whole time, despite drinking copious amounts of hydrolyte, I became so dehydrated that my blood sugar dropped to dangerous levels, while together the fatigue, malnutrition and dehydration saw me lose 10 kilos in three weeks - while pregnant.


The lack of bowel movements was severely, severely terrifying, uncomfortable, painful, exhausting, and problematic. It only increased the nausea and shortness of breath, rendering me unable to sleep or breath properly, but so insanely fatigued that I would just lie there, sick, feeling tortured physically, doing nothing, counting minutes.


It felt like torture or that ‘locked-in’ syndrome. I tried everything - doctors, medications, western, eastern medicine, herbs, all of it. I would have done anything. It would help a tad, but not a lot. Picture gastro or your worst ever hangover- and it never, ever ends.


I could barely speak or even text. I was still in my first year of a job and flat out couldn’t even text to say I wasn’t in. I didn’t work for over a month and had to became a casual on zero pay.


At the same time, I was still experiencing pregnancy symptoms – so my breasts were incredibly engorged and in pain, I needed to pee every two seconds, and the nausea and headaches did not stop.


I could not eat, go to the toilet, get dressed, have a conversation, or keep my eyes open enough to watch TV, which derailed passing the time. I was incontinent at 33 in the middle of the day. I couldn’t put on a bra or walk my dog or make a meal or have a life.


I flat out did not work, see friends, get dressed, talk to my mum or leave the house unless it was for a medical appointment for a month, which took a terrible toll on my mental health.


I tried everything imaginable – I took Zofran, a drug for chemotherapy patients. I tried Pramin, ginger, b-vitamins, every vitamin, changed my diet. I was at the doctor or acupuncturist every second day begging, praying to get better.


Internally, I felt like a corpse that was slowly dying. I have since learned that in essence, HG is your body shutting down.


I had to cancel everything I had looked forward to after two years of grief, including trips to Tasmania, Adelaide, and Europe.


My mental health, even when on anti-depressants, was at a worrying, all time low, perhaps because I was throwing them up, or because of the ongoing mental and physical torture.


I would wake up early after barely sleeping because I was feeling so incredibly sick. Take a Zofran and cracker. Lie there. Vomit.

Wretch and vomit, again. Go to the bathroom and perform an enema on myself, lying on the cold bathroom floor undressed, crying uncontrollably and vomiting and hoping it would work, and it barely did anything, leaving me feeling sick and in pain.

Vomiting again. Lying in bed feeling so lethargic I thought I would pass out, which would have at least been a welcome rest, but couldn't.

Forcing some toast down. Crying. Throwing that up.

Doing a suppository in the bathroom again, crying, it doesn’t work.

Feeling hot and cold and dirty and exhausted.


It was still only about 8:30am.


I had no idea how I would pass the day, even with TV on I could barely watch because I was so sick and tired and nauseous. I would maybe have an acupuncture or doctor appointment that I would mentally count the minutes to, because it was something to do in between bouts of vomiting or dry retching with muscles aching and my migraine soaring. Take more medication. Take 100 different drinks and pills to try to have a bowel movement that didn’t work. Leave all incoming texts and calls unanswered.


Nothing. By now, it was maybe 10:00am.


It was dark. It was insanely lonely. It was so difficult to be told ‘I’ll get through it,’ ‘It may end,’ ‘You’ll be so thankful,’ ‘Take a ginger,’ when you feel like you are literally dying. In some cases, women do.


I would lie there severely, severely depressed. I had never been so mentally and physically sick at the same time in my life. As the weeks went on, I became seriously suicidal.


I started Googling how to kill myself in the most painless and quickest way. Gassing myself in the car. Hanging myself. Taking a packet of pills. Drowning. Jumping off a building. I’m sorry, it is hard to read, but this is true. I have never had to deal with such mental and physical trauma, and thinking about that desperation still makes me really emotional that I could even consider doing that to myself, the baby, my partner and everyone I know and love. I am not in that place now. But it was desperation and a horrible place to be in, mentally and physically.

I felt like a shadow, not even a person. I couldn’t understand why this had to happen to me, and to my husband, who had to be my carer- serving me, showering me, feeding me at my absolute worst as if I were an ill elderly person in hospice.


Every day, I woke up praying it was gone, then being sick and just crying and vomiting and counting the hours until bedtime because sleep was something to do, even though I could barely sleep.


I can honestly say that it is the worst thing my body and mind has ever gone through in my life and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (and I have enemies).


At the same time – I kept thinking about our little miracle. I had so many plans in my head for when it was going to be better. We were going to make a big movie poster for our pregnancy announcement. We were going to go on a January road trip, the four of us (Maple included obviously). We were getting matching shirts and our Christmas baby would be best friends with all the babies. They would go to school nearby and sit in our little car, and my husband would be the absolute best dad in the universe cuddling this tiny thing on his tall body.


They would be adorable and then exhausting and then cute at school and then an angry teen and then awesome as a 20-year-old and then we would be at their wedding and be grandparents and everything was going to be perfect and amazing. When we saw that little heartbeat at 8 weeks, even though I was out of it, I just knew it was going to be worth it because that was OUR Christmas baby.


At 10 weeks, there was no more heartbeat.


-------


Those two days after it happened were, I think safe to say, two of the worst days of my and my partner's lives.


It felt like time stood still in sadness and grief, our whole normally happy and cosy house feeling cold and sad. The grief was unlike any trauma I had ever had, including the shattering experiences over the last two years. It was all encompassing for us both.


It was the unfairness. Why us? Why, again? Why don’t we get to be in the baby club? Why does someone else get to be pregnant? Why isn’t it as easy and fun for us as it is for everyone else? What did we do to deserve this? Why don’t we get to do it the ‘normal’ way like everyone else?


You aren't just grieving the pregnancy itself. It’s the hope. Of what we had thought our lives would be, even before we met. Get married, buy a house, have our own little people. Of what those two babies were going to be, who they were, how they were going to fit into our family. Of having to tell everyone, and having to talk about it, f*cking over and over and OVER again. Of the immense sadness and longing for ourselves, what we wanted and couldn't have, and for each other.


At the time, one of the hardest parts, including the miscarriages and illness and hospitalisation, was watching and trying to navigate my partner's grief. I just wished I could take his sadness away and replace it with light. His happiness was everything to me, and watching him truly, truly sad for the first time was just the most earth-shattering thing, and I just wanted to take it away, to just have a body that worked.


I developed what I now know to be PTSD, even though I still feel a bit uneasy saying that when it's something that like, actual war veterans have. But every day, I would have flashes to all of it. Being in the bathroom and seeing it, in November and the last one. Of lying on the bathroom floor sobbing. Of being utterly bedridden beyond belief. Of not being able to lift a laundry basket. Of vomiting up bile. Of lying in bed, motionless. Of being in the hospital. Of being seriously suicidal.


I was severely, severely traumatised by the entire episode. Physically, I had never had anything worse, and the most horrible part of it all is that it wasn’t even worth it.


It took me a month and a half to have a proper bowel movement. This was after acupuncture, doctors, twice daily enemas and suppositories, hundreds of laxatives and shakes, and two colonics.


For months afterward, I couldn’t eat dairy, gluten, red meat or alcohol, and had aversions to many foods that made me throw up constantly. For months, I still had to take a detox laxative shake before every dinner, monitor my movements and report to doctors.


Months later, I still had low blood sugar and iron, and felt nauseous on a daily basis.


I had to go to the dentist to have enamel replaced on five of my teeth, which had eroded significantly after throwing up so much bile.


For months, I was still weak and couldn’t wear certain clothing or do certain activities as they were beyond my capacity. I am still now so exhausted and winded and tired all the time, and have still had to undergo tests, MRIs and countless appointments to figure out the issue.

My hair thinned out even more, my skin broke out after messing with hormones, I was still in physical pain on my coccyx bone for weeks, and I bled and cramped for weeks.


Mentally, l was severely traumatised. I still couldn’t believe what actually happened to me. In truthfulness, I honestly thought I was going to die. Not an exaggeration, but how I truly, truly felt.


I was so sick, so depressed, and I felt I couldn’t talk or eat or breathe. I hated not having my parents here. I hated not having my doctor here. I hated that my husband had to be my carer, and I hated being sick.


I felt like I was in a mental and physical prison or locked in, and it made me really sympathise with people who have euthanasia. I had no idea how I was going to get through, but kept counting on the fact that it was supposedly meant to ease up (but have learned it really doesn’t).


Months later, I was in a paradox of emotions


I was devastated about the loss. I wanted a baby. I wanted it to be easy. I wanted it now. I wanted to have a ‘normal’ pregnancy like other girls. I wanted THAT baby. I think about how far we would be, what we would be doing.


At the same time... this is difficult to convey... but I was also so thankful to be physically and somewhat mentally better. The paradox was difficult in my mind. I was so grateful for things I had never thought about. I was thankful to put on a bra. To get out of bed. To put on make-up. To walk and hug my dog. To have a proper conversation with my husband. To kiss. To eat. To work. To live. If the only good I could get out of the whole thing was feeling well and 34 again, I had to take it. I had to. Or I would just drown.


It was a hard time for both myself and my partner, with both of us grieving at the same time, but grieving differently.


What is hyperemesis gravitarum?


Hyperemsis gravitarum, or HG, is a life-threatening disease with no cure. It was suffered by Kate Middleton, Amy Schumer and Fifi Box to some degree. It is estimated to affect 1-3% of all women, but from speaking to pregnant friends, it's probably higher. HG operates on a spectrum, similar to Covid or depression - some people have symptoms and can still go to work, and others are lying on their death bed. A study in the Uk found that of 5,000 women interviewed, 25% had considered suicide. Many admitted to 'wanting' to miscarry or abort, although it is hard to get figures on this as it is still a thought pattern that is considered taboo.


For me personally, I had weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, severe nausea and vomiting, constipation, incontinence, extreme fatigue, severe depression, suicidal tendencies, tooth damage, headaches, vitamin deficiencies, internal haemorrhaging, and miscarriage.


There is an 85% chance that hyperemesis gravitarium will reoccur. There is a very high chance with HG of low birth weight, ADHD, autism, perinatal death, preeclampsia, stillbirth, preterm delivery, small head, postpartum depression, labour complications, neurodevelopmental and metabolic issues. There is a 34% chance of foetal loss. The complications for me, the baby and partner are severe, adverse, scary, long and horrendous.


While there have been recent development in finding out the 'cause' of morning sickness in 2024, currently, there is no cure. The only ‘remedies’ are what we already know – smaller meals, Zofran, ginger, and acupuncture, which as anyone with nausea knows, does shit all.


The very idea of putting my body through it again, even now, still fills me with so much fear, anxiety and trauma that my heart starts beating quickly, and I get teary and want to gag or vomit even so much as mentioning it. I am literally terrified of the physical and psychological effects of pregnancy. I was then given the news that for me to carry would be life-threatening.


If it had been the two pregnancy losses, which were traumatic enough, I could perhaps reconsider. But then I imagined miscarrying AGAIN. The loss and trauma and hope and grieving and sickness and trying AGAIN. The HG and caring and crying and sickness and hospitalisations AGAIN. And not even a guarantee of a baby at the end.


Some may scoff at this. It may not even happen, you think. It's just nausea, ffs. It's only nine months, and then it's worth it, harden up. Other people did it, get on with it!


But in truth - I don’t give a shit if other people did it. If they did, honestly, they weren’t as bad as me. They just weren’t. My acupuncturist and my doctor were appalled, with the doctor saying I was the worst she had seen in her 30-year career of obstetrics and that I could have died. And I thought she saw me on a good day.


I also didn't care if that was the opinion of just one doctor or 100. With all due respect, I don’t need someone to tell me how I felt. I know. I was there. I remember it. Vividly.


Even now, a year or so on, I have friends who have gastro or nausea from a day who call me and say they were sick for a day, and all they could do is think of me and say they honestly have no idea how I did it longer than that.


To me, risking it and trying it again is like asking someone to drink the Kool-Aid. If I came to you and said, hey. Drink this poison. It made you very sick last time you had it, and the wish that was meant to come true when you drank it did not come true. There’s an 85% chance it will make you just as sick when you drink it again, you could potentially die, and your baby could too. Oh, and there’s no cure.


Who would drink it?


I do believe we are meant to be parents, but it’s just going to be a different way. That is okay. We needed some time. We both had so much love to give and I was positive we would find it.


---


If this post brings up issues for you, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.


Further reading:


---


Like what you read? Subscribe so you don't miss out on the next instalment here.

Comments


bottom of page