How is it that some people breeze through pregnancy while others have the most horrendous time? I have a fear of being sick so HG is one of my worst nightmares, and reading Laura Tweedale’s list brought me out in cold sweats. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is completely and utterly deliberating. It’s all you can do to survive each day. Plus, nobody can tell you when it’s going to end. It’s brutal.


  • Two little lines. A laugh from my two year old daughter. Heart swells. A brother or sister for her, at last. I lift the lid of the toilet. Here comes the first wave.

  • A week goes by, more vomiting, more nausea. It’s all normal, they say. I don’t feel normal. I faint and hit my head on the loo.

  • I try to seek help. I’m weak and I can not get my daughter to the potty on time. She has an accident and the smell makes my stomach roll. I use her potty to vomit in. Still normal, apparently. I have to ‘announce’ my pregnancy to all even though I don’t feel ready. I have to tell my boss. It’s just morning sickness, then? I grumble something in return. Just the thought of rocking on the train to the city has me heaving on the phone.

  • I close my eyes and see the ocean. Waves unfurl at my feet. I am rocked left, then right, then backwards and forwards. I am sailing on the open sea, a little boat for one. The rhythm repeats once, twice, again and again until the cadence is lost; until you realise that you can not halt it.

  • I wonder how to navigate this: I was barely sick when pregnant with my daughter. What’s wrong? Something is wrong. I beg for sleep and the control it offers over my body. I long for steadiness. (Where have I gone?)

  • Phone calls and doctors notes and arguments with my boss. “Come in for a meeting,” they say. “Unreliable. Pay. Something, something.” I use the sink from my daughter’s toy kitchen to be sick in, again. My daughter’s laughter is far away. I lay on the floor and weep. The fear of being without her is paralysing. What kind of mother does this make me? I crawl to her side when she sleeps, her warm body next to me radiating the only ecstasy that cuts through the stitch in my side. (For you, my love. Always for you. Always for us.)

  • I see a nurse. I see a midwife. I see a GP and a consultant. There is some argument I do not understand. I am told there is no boat, no ear infection, no sand, no sea: but still the earth rolls and I have no stomach for this anymore.

  • The nausea, it doesn’t cease. Welcome to hyperemesis gravidarum, I am told. No one knows when it will end. Today, tomorrow, or the day the baby is born.

  • There are drugs on offer. Try this, or this, or this. They’re safe. They’re not licensed for pregnancy. We know and we don’t know. The choice is yours but also the choice of every single person in your life who holds an opinion over you. Should I? No. Yes. No. Try something else first: from your own pocket, of course.

  • I try reflexology but the practitioner just wants to chat. My head is pounding and my jaw is clenched tight. Do not be sick, do not be sick, do not be sick, I whisper to myself.

  • I politely ask if she minds me listening to my hypnobirthing playlist. She wants to listen too. “I set my worries aside and allow my body to do its job,” a calm voice lilts. My body is failing, I bite inside my head. My body is killing itself. I exhale bile and fear. I am a prisoner inside this shell.

  • I try acupuncture, despite a fear of needles. The first session is fine. My Mum comes to visit and takes me to the place. She sits next to me, her comforting energy washing over me and settling my anxious mind. The power of motherhood touches me softly as she breathes, a blanket torn from me and my own role as mother by the hyperemesis, it seems.

  • The second session, I have to go alone. I have a migraine and hope it will help both the nausea and the blinding lights. I pass out and vomit over myself, and him, and his room, all at the same time, I am told. I am dragged to consciousness by the stench. The acupuncturist is kind but I am too distraught to ever go back again. The bill stings of insult to my failing body. It couldn’t even lie still and be poked: how utterly stupid, it is.

  • My long hair always feels dirty. Did it go in the loo this time? It is lank with sweat and fear. I tie it in a ponytail and ask someone to cut it off. Years of what I thought was part of my identity gone in two snips. My neck feels cold for the first time in my life. Hair grows. So does my bump.

  • I get a cane to help me balance.

  • I stand on scales that start with a 7. Don’t die, I cry. Don’t let my baby die, I cry.

  • I open a bottle of Lucozade and leave it to go flat: it goes down better if the bubbles are gone, I find. It stays down, too. “Your baby takes all they need, just stay hydrated,” I am told.

  • I cook frozen waffles in the toaster because they do not smell. If I don’t breathe in, I can swallow them down.

  • At 20 weeks pregnant, I hire a cleaner. It takes me four days to tidy before she comes. (Do we need all this stuff? I wonder.) She mops and the smell of the floors has me heaving. What is in it? I ask for the first time in my life.

  • Someone comes to walk the dog. A scented poo bag by the door has my knuckles turning white while I clench the frame and breath through my acid-damaged back teeth. The horizon swims. I wave goodbye, and thanks, then run to the cupboard that stores our cleaning supplies. I pull out everything with a fragrance. My friend collects them the very next day. We talk about the obscurity of words on labels. I have learnt that ‘perfume’ is not my friend.

  • Still, I don’t feel safe to drive. I am beholden to the pavement, or my bed. I lay waiting for time to pass. I can not read: the words float across the page like crashing surf. I can not watch TV: the movement makes the nausea rise once more. So I listen to podcasts. I stick to non fiction. I listen to others living their lives. It makes me question how I want to live mine.

  • 24 weeks: has it gone yet? “Are you better,” people say? I breathe through my clenched jaw, too heartbroken to correct them. Soon, I don’t have a choice. I (stupidly) fall down the stairs. Stupid, stupid fool, I chastise. My two year old daughter bearing witness to my idiocy of forgetting, for a moment, I could walk without holding the handrail. But the baby is fine – it’s just my backside and my mood that’s an ink-stained blue.

  • Isn’t that what Kate Middleton had?” I’m asked when I utter the term ‘HG’. “And she has three children! I’m told. It feels sinister: like I am being pitted against another woman, like I’m not good enough to only endure this once. My kidneys, my teeth and my abdominal muscles tell another story. There will be no more for me, I say, just to ensure the light of expectation dies in their eyes. Still, it feels like a bereavement to say it out loud: lives that could be, but won’t.

  • 28 weeks and I notice for the first time a moment where I don’t feel sick. I take my daughter to the park. The roundabout makes my head spin. I look away. As we walk home, I notice another moment of relief. Was this what normal felt like? Slowly, I begin to remember.

  • I can watch TV again. I binge watch YouTube channels. I hear a name on someone’s vlog that I fall deeply, heartbreakingly in love with – it sends shivers down my spine and I know that if this baby is a boy, that will be his name. A familiarity washes over me, the same emotion of when I first saw the name we would give our daughter. I am too scared to tell my husband for fear he won’t feel the same. I leave it on a note in the kitchen because saying it out loud feels like tempting fate. I am still nauseous. Still anxious. That wanes when my husband agrees it as his name, if he is a boy. (Everyone tells me my bump will be a girl. I sense otherwise.)

  • I begin to write again for the first time in months. In the pages I find myself peeping out again. A me of clarity and compassion and fate. This was my lot, but I will grow from it. The prison door is cracked open and I smell freedom and the crispness of fall.

  • 30 weeks and most days now, I only feel nauseous when I wake. I feel energized but my bump makes me go slow. This baby feels heavy in my lap. Every kick and hiccup grounds me and has me weeping a mixture of joy and devastation that this is (was) my pregnancy (life). I endure flashbacks of the trauma we experienced with my daughter and neonatal care. I find myself on my knees begging to escape that this time. Surely hyperemesis is enough! I keep my mind busy: more podcasts, more planning, more thinking. I declutter too.

  • My husband and I talk joyfully for the first time about the baby. I love them so already, but what life do we want to give them both? This crisis has taught me what matters. Above all else I want one thing: to be present. I want to be there for them both. I don’t want to miss out, again. I want to live a life based on our values and not what is supposed of me. I start to put into practice all I listened to when I was sick; slowly, tentatively, I embrace minimalist living. I learn about the climate crisis. I feel empowered by our choices. I am woken in the night.

  • 40 weeks and I am dragged from sleep by a most welcome feeling. These waves that rock my body are so powerful that gratitude for getting here washes over me with each one. Labour is nothing compared to the weeks of hyperemesis I endured. I deliver my son to Joni Mitchell quietly playing on the radio: all 10lbs 2.5oz of him. I guess they were right when they said your baby takes what they need.

  • Seeing my daughter touch his forehead, a held breath breaks, one I did not know was there until I hear her three year old voice speak: He’s what I wanted. The body I spent weeks despising had not failed me after all. It protected my son. It helped him thrive. It gave my daughter the brother she longed for. It made me the person I am today.

* Laura Tweedale is a freelance writer and author. She writes on the themes of minimalism, sustainable living and green parenting. www.lauratweedale.com IG handle: @lauratweedale



Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition at the extreme end of the pregnancy sickness spectrum. If you are pregnant and suffering from nausea and vomiting, please reach out to the UK charity Pregnancy Sickness Support. www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/

NHS: nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/complications/severe-vomiting/


** ‘But why is there blood in the toilet?’ ‘But why do people die and are they just sleeping?’ and “But why do adults drink beer and what does it do?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to order now  and also on audiobook.**



READ Gemma’s list on Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum as she details what it was like to live with crippling HG and found herself hospitalised as a result.


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