Abortion saved my life

by Kaya

October 4, 2022

Back in February, after much thought and consideration, my partner and I decided we were ready to try for a baby and found an amazing Sperm Donor. Fast forward to March 9th 2022, to our disbelief we got exactly what we had prayed for, after our first try at Artificial Insemination -a positive pregnancy test!

We were both over the moon and quickly started imagining how our lives were going to change and how that would look moving forward. We couldn’t wait to share the good news with the “soon to be” Grandmas. Everything seemed way too good to be true, so for the next week or so I was highly anxious about the M word (miscarriage) and determined that I did everything right to make it to the 12 week ‘safe zone’. Sarah had booked me a surprise trip away to a Dirty Dancing concert to celebrate us making it to 12 weeks. I was counting down the days and couldn’t wait to belt out all the cheesy songs to our little ‘beanie’.

On 25th March I started feeling pretty crap; My sense of smell was growing stronger and nausea started to creep in but they were welcome and expected symptoms that made me feel pregnant for real! I was waiting on the pregnancy glow and was excited to know what weird stuff I was going to crave.

By 5 weeks gestation things really ramped up. The nausea was unreal. It was ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. Everything smelled awful, even the smell of my partner made me want to vomit. The extreme nausea lasted only a few days until one day It happened, I ran to the toilet and threw up everywhere. But that was just the start. I began throwing up all day every day, every little smell made my body take over and force me to vomit. Sometimes it wasn’t even smells that made me sick; it was movement, light, noises. My body just decided it wanted to vomit and when there was nothing left I would retch uncontrollably. I was so confused, I couldn’t believe this was the well-known “morning sickness” and I didn’t understand how women could willingly put themselves through this more than once. I concluded that either it was really bad and no-one spoke about it, or I was just really shit at being pregnant. But there was hope! By 12 weeks (end of 1st trimester) it should be gone….right?

Beyond 6 weeks, the timeline is a complete and utter blur. I remember going to A&E because I was so weak I could barely walk as I couldn’t I keep food or water down. I had no control over the vomiting, it was 30+ times a day! when I threw up it was nothing but stomach acid. But it didn’t stop there; Between the bouts of violently vomiting acid, was continuous dry retching, It was awful.

The first time we realized something wasn’t right we called 111 who sent us to a walk in centre. They said I was extremely dehydrated, prescribed me anti-sickness meds (Metoclopramide) and sent us on our way. 24 hours later I went to the Hospital as there was zero improvement. They tested my urine which gave a result of +4 ketones, gave me a bag of IV fluids & anti emetic, told me I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum and sent me home.

10 minutes after leaving the hospital I had a call from a Gynaecologist Consultant requesting I come for a scan at the Early Pregnancy Unit the following week as my sickness was so bad it was consistent with the symptoms of a twin pregnancy. My partner could see the terror on my face. TWINS?!

A few days passed and I was still vomiting non-stop every day, sometimes my body was retching so hard I would wee myself. I was no longer in control of my body and felt so helpless.

Scan day came at 7 weeks, but my appointment got cancelled last minute. Needing answers, we booked a private scan the same day. I needed to know how many babies there were. I was relieved to see just one, but we were both completely overjoyed to see and hear a strong, healthy heartbeat.

Unfortunately, there was no improvement with my physical health. Things just continued to get worse. I ended up in hospital another 4 times for IV fluids and anti-emetics. I was dehydrated and malnourished. I was literally starving to death. I had never felt pain like it, the pain of real hunger is indescribable.

The hospital trips would last hours. The wait times were ridiculous; sometimes waiting 6 hours between being cannulated and getting bags of fluid. I was getting weaker and weaker.

In total I lost 3+ stone in 7 weeks. I looked emaciated. I was desperate. I was having weekly home visits from my Community Psychiatric Nurse as I had become suicidal as well as bedbound. I wanted to die. I fantasised about miscarriage, I fantasised about the ways I could take my own life, but I didn’t have the energy. There were boxes and boxes of anti-sickness tablets, antidepressants and diazepam on my bed side table; but I knew if I was to try and overdose I’d just vomit it all back up anyway.

Suicide became less and less obtainable so self-harm came in. I spent my days lay in bed crying, pulling my eyebrows and hair out trying to self soothe. Nothing worked. I had an emergency scan at the Early Pregnancy Unit to make sure things were ok with baby. I was a mess. I was crying hysterically begging them to take the baby out of me. I told them I had made a mistake and that ‘this thing’ was trying to kill me. I said and thought some awful things in the midst of the illness. I was ready to be sectioned; my head was completely gone.

All the excitement of pregnancy was dead. It was a living nightmare. I wasn’t able to bond with my baby, my time was taken up by vomiting and trying to get through each day. It didn’t matter how much I asked for help, the hospital didn’t seem concerned by anything. Not even the fact that due to how severely dehydrated I was, they were unable to see baby on ultrasound. All I would hear is “Hyperemesis happens because the pregnancy is strong, It’s a good thing”. “The baby is healthy.” I felt like I was going insane. How could the baby be healthy with no food or water? And even if the baby was healthy, I most certainly was not.

It became apparent very quickly that the care I was receiving was inadequate and the attitude all round seemed to be “it’s morning sickness” “it’s just what pregnant women go through” “get on with it”.

Having exhausted all the anti-sickness medications, I was informed that there was one more medication I could try -Ondansetron.

I was told that Ondansetron is used to treat sickness in cancer patients having Chemotherapy and although effective in controlling sickness, there was a risk that my baby could be born with a Cleft Palate. At this point I didn’t care. We wanted our baby so much that we were prepared to take the risk. I just wanted to be able to eat so that I could give my baby what they needed.

The Ondansetron didn’t work for me. Having been told that it was the last thing on offer I felt that there was no way out. I knew that if something didn’t change I was going to die. I contacted my local midwifery team and explained to them that I didn’t think I would be able to continue with the pregnancy if a proper care plan wasn’t put in place to make things easier. The midwife said “we don’t offer any support until you reach at least 16 weeks. If you decide to have a termination make sure you let us know so we can offer your 12 week scan appointment to someone else”. I couldn’t believe it. 16 weeks? At this point I was only 9 weeks pregnant. I could not imagine suffering another 7 weeks before I would receive any support. I was drifting in and out of consciousness. The strain on my heart was increasing and heart palpitations were becoming a constant symptom of my pregnancy, at times I thought that my heart was actually going to burst.

Sadly, our baby is no longer with us. In order to save my own life, I had to choose to end our baby’s’. It was a three week wait from the initial consultation to the day of my termination. Three more weeks of physical and mental suffering. By the time appointment day came, I was frail, my clothes were hanging off me and I was struggling to stand. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out of the clinic at all.

You cannot begin to imagine the guilt I carry. My heart is heavy, my arms are empty. Our baby’s’ life ended at 12 weeks on May 4th 2022. We are heart broken & on a rollercoaster of grief.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a potentially life-threatening pregnancy disease that affects up to 2% of pregnancies. It is not treated with the seriousness that is needed and consequently both women and unborn babies are suffering. Sadly in many cases, women like me have no other option but to terminate much wanted pregnancies. Surprisingly, the service I received the most compassion and care from was BPAS -the abortion service. Abortion saved my life. My experience of the Nottingham City maternity services and their staff was awful. “Key workers” the nation were clapping for not so long ago for “saving lives” were definitely not key in trying to save mine.

Our baby has not died in vain and I will raise awareness on Hyperemesis Gravidarum and advocate for Hyperemesis sufferers in baby’s name. Our little beanie -Ace.

I want to share my story, not only to raise awareness on HG but to provide another perspective to those going through it. Since the termination I have struggled profoundly with my emotions. I was so angry and confused that only hours after the procedure I felt so much better. It was like being gaslit by my own body. I questioned whether I was really as ill as I thought. And then, a couple of days later, my milk came in. It was awful, my boobs were constantly leaking. And the more I cried the more it would flow. A constant reminder of our loss.

Those around me have failed to understand that although I made the decision to terminate, I didn’t really have a choice. I have felt and been made to feel guilty for grieving. I am left with a list of what ifs. I see women making it through their HG pregnancies and instead of feeling like a HG warrior/survivor I feel less than. Knowing that my body failed me and in turn I failed my baby. I want nothing more than to be pregnant again but with an 89% recurrence rate I am terrified.

I didn’t see many stories from the women who had to terminate due to HG and at the time that’s what I felt I needed. So here I am. on the other side, but still very much in the thick of it. I just want to let you know that you are not alone

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!