First Trimester Story: Google is NOT Your Doctor!

Hey everyone!

So today’s post is a bonus post. I woke up today and realised, I have nothing to do this morning! Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I woke up and knew for sure that I had nothing planned for an entire morning, so it’s the best time for me to write up this post. πŸ˜„ This is my first trimester story, dealing with hyperemesis gravidarum, otherwise known as severe morning sickness.

When people first talk to me about pregnancy, their first question, if not the gender, was always “How bad was your morning sickness?” I guess some people could answer that they were okay, some could answer that it was not too bad. For me, it was the first time I ended up hospitalised because it was just so bad.

I think it started around early to mid-May, when Ramadhan was right around the corner. I had just found out I was pregnant, and the first trimester fatigue was settling in. I was commuting an hour to and from every day from my place to my friend’s boutique in Wangsa Maju, helping her with her business, but I was already feeling very uncomfortable with the work that I was doing. Sales weren’t picking up, and I did not need to have business acumen to know that business was not going well this year, which of course also affected our paychecks. And with a baby now on the way, I worried about my income. Around that same time, I had begun to apply for other jobs.

At the same time, morning sickness began for me. It wasn’t just a morning thing either. I was nauseous throughout the day, and with each day, it became progressively worse. I told my friend that I needed to take time off during Ramadhan, both due to my health and also because I was already job-hunting at the time. Looking back, it was pretty unethical for me, but it was the best decision I made because there were no other paychecks issued out after that. I could only imagine how much I would have spent on money and toll had I gone to work for another month. I already knew how bad the sales were, at a season when sales should have been at its best.

The first day of Ramadhan, I already knew something was wrong. I was throwing up every single day. All it took was for me to eat or drink something. And nausea was my biggest enemy. It had no appetite to eat anything, and I drank water and would lose that one too. I consulted Dr. Google, but the stories I read in pregnancy forums indicated that what I had was normal. That abnormal morning sickness was to never leave the bathroom and throwing up eight to nine times a day. So I thought, maybe it’s just me. I’ll try to pull through. But it was obvious after the first day that I couldn’t fast this Ramadhan. My husband said, nope. You’re not going to fast in this condition.

I tried, of course. But when I would eat for sahur, I would throw up before 9am and by 11am, I already couldn’t continue because I was dehydrated and my stomach was empty. I didn’t cook, because food smells sent me off. Sometimes I had cravings, and it’s only when I crave something that I could eat it. The only food I could really stomach was things I craved for, and my mom’s cooking. That was definitely my chicken soup for the soul.

Days passed. It was the saddest Ramadhan of my life. Having just come back from umrah, I was grateful that I was pregnant, but not being able to fast and being too weak to do terawih broke my heart. I love Ramadhan. I had always loved nighttime after breaking the fast when we would go to the mosque and perform eight, twenty rakaat of terawih prayers. I missed the mosque atmosphere that I experienced in Mekah and Madinah. But I was also so weak, and my husband wouldn’t let me go.

Towards the end of Ramadhan, the last ten nights, it seemed every night I would cry because it broke my heart to see this Ramadhan pass just like this. I was also mad at myself. Like come on. I’m Mai. The girl who pushed herself to go to class on the day I had the worst fever in my life (only to discover later that it was dengue). Millions of women managed to get through their first trimester. Why couldn’t I? This was my first Ramadhan with my husband. We were supposed to have sahur together, break the fast together, and pray our terawih prayers together. I was at a very low point in my life at this point.

The days passed by and one day, perhaps on the 26th day of Ramadhan, I felt better. I was 13 weeks pregnant, technically about to leave the first trimester horrors behind me. My daily and weekly pregnancy update informed me that the morning sickness would soon pass as I approach the second trimester. And when my husband came back from work, I told him I felt strong enough to fast the next day.

So I did. I fasted. In this year’s Ramadhan, I fasted for only two days: the first day, and this day towards the end that I felt better. It was Wednesday, 21st June. Eid was coming up in three days, on Sunday, 25th June. We were planning to drive to my husband’s kampung on Friday to celebrate Eid with his side of the family.

I managed to complete my fast that Wednesday. But I was exhausted, and slept very early. On Thursday, things went downhill. My body wouldn’t accept even the slightest bit of water. By noon I called my husband, telling him that it was too bad, that I wanted to see a doctor. 

I actually hadn’t seen the doctor for my first checkup yet in Ramadhan. Me being me, I hated the hassle of going to the clinic and meeting doctors, so I thought I would just breeze along and wait for things to get better. I remember my husband always asking me if I wanted to go for a checkup, but I had always brushed it off, thinking what I was experiencing was normal. Looking back, it was a ridiculous habit of mine, and could have even been dangerous.

We went to the clinic, and I was ordered to do a urine test. If you’ve ever done one of those before, there’s a section called ‘KET’ which I think stands for Ketone to measure its level in your urine. The normal level is 0. The highest is 4+. Mine was at 3+, which meant severe dehydration, and the doctor wrote me a referral letter to be hospitalised that very night. Before I left, she asked me, did I not go see a doctor beforehand? Why didn’t I go and check when my morning sickness was so bad?

And the truth is, because it was my first pregnancy, I actually had no idea my morning sickness was that bad. I think we face this all the time. I had asked family and friends to describe what their experience was like, and they’re convinced that “Don’t worry, what you have is normal. I had it too when I was pregnant. It’ll get better” when in truth, it wasn’t normal. And I should have known. I knew my body after all. Even with dengue I pushed myself to class, how could it be that morning sickness crippled me unless it was truly severe?

So I was hospitalised that night, officially diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum. And I said to my husband, “Don’t worry. I’m sure I’ll be out by tomorrow”, which would be Friday, the day we were planning to leave for Pahang to celebrate Eid.

The next day, the doctors said I still couldn’t go home. My ketone level was still high even though I was on a drip with 8 bags that day alone. I started to get very agitated. I mean, it’s Eid the day after tomorrow! Surely this couldn’t be any worse? The doctor told me to drink plenty of fluids if I really wanted to be discharged the next day.

I can’t remember the last time I drank so much water and juice. The doctors and housemen trainees also helped, upping the drips so I could have more fluids inside me. When Saturday came, I remember waiting anxiously for the specialist to come, and when he finally did, I asked, “Can I go home, pleasee? I want to celebrate Eid tomorrow.”

It was pretty pathetic. πŸ˜…

Thankfully, due to all the water I drank and thanks to anti-nausea pills, I hadn’t lost any water for the two days and two nights I was there. So they discharged me. ❀ It was 4pm, and by 6pm, my husband, I and my sister-in-law were already on our way cruising an empty highway to Pahang to celebrate Eid the next day.

Things got better after that. Thanks to the anti-nausea pills I was prescribed, I could eat and drink again, but I still had morning sickness until mid-July. My friend’s business, as I had forsaw, did not manage to pull through with the Eid season and closed down. I was subsequently offered a job with my current company, against all odds as they knew I was pregnant and I had already been turned down by several companies after they found out I was pregnant. That was a true blessing I received, to have secured a job while pregnant.

Next thing I know, I’m now 36 weeks pregnant, and less than a month away from my due date to meeting my baby. It has definitely been a journey, this past one year.

If there’s anything I had learned in the first trimester, it’s that by now, at this age of twenty plus, you already know your body well and its limits. If you think your morning sickness is too much for you, get it checked early. If anything, they’d at least give anti-nausea pills to help. You know your body. Others may say to you that nah, morning sickness is normal, they had it too. But never compare your tolerance level to theirs. Me, what I had was apparently abnormal for this pregnancy.

So yes, I hope you enjoyed the story and take some lessons from it! If you’re pregnant and also suffering from terrible morning sickness, I hope things will clear up for you soon. It did for me when I reached 16 weeks, and now, at 36 weeks, that first trimester seemed like a nightmare long gone.

Have a great weekend everyone! 

Mai.

Maibreakstheice is a blog where I like to tackle life questions through my personal experiences and, where applicable, through my knowledge as a graduate in family counselling. Keep your eye out for updates every Tuesday, or subscribe via email to receive updates straight to your mailbox!

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