my five wives

Furious at the Judgment on Nonie’s Morning Sickness (My Five Wives)

This is NOT something you can ever understand until you have walked that mile. Morning sickness is not the same, and I don’t want to hear about how “bad” it was to vomit a couple times a day over a month or so.

I don’t want to hear about only “being able to eat crackers”. I would have given my right hand to keep down crackers most days.

These are things I am not supposed to admit in polite conversation – but HG is not a polite illness. It is callous and horrible and takes women and babies from our lives.

This is NOT morning sickness. This is not a pregnant woman being a drama queen or lazy.

This is not something a few crackers before getting out of bed can fix. Or ginger. Or what ever else is in the normal bag of tricks for morning sickness – I tried them all.

This is a truly debilitating illness in every possible way. I hope that next time the world hears of a mother suffering from HG their advice will not be “suck it up.” –Mama Bice, HG: More than morning sickness

I go trolling the Net and Facebook for comments on TLC’s polygamy shows, “My Five Wives” and “Sister Wives,” hoping to find fans discussing things that get me curious.

But instead I find so much judgment that I can’t believe it.  People keep seeing all these dreadful things that I just do not see when I watch these shows.

They make all sorts of horrid pronouncements about the character and behavior of the various people on the shows.

I just don’t see those things at all.  I see happy people going through the normal trials of marriage, but multiplied because of all the wives.  I see normal people with normal behaviors.

I don’t see weepy, sad, whiny, mean women at all.  I see normal reactions by women with various temperaments, to situations which are unusual for most Americans, probably edited for the screen to make situations more “dramatic.”

Remember, drama keeps viewers.  Normal, day-to-day stuff which does not cause anybody to weep, would be booooring, and viewers would run away in droves.

I believe the people who post those things are just “hate-viewing” the shows.  I believe they are queen-bee-style bullies, mean girls, because of how viciously they react whenever somebody calls them out for what they say.  Remember, the people in the show can read what they write.

I believe these commenters just plain don’t like polygamy and are seeing things that aren’t there, because of their biases.

But the latest judgment and ridicule has just gotten to me so much that I had to blog about it.  Especially since it revealed to me just how much ignorance is out there on severe morning sickness.

Nonie on My Five Wives is suffering from morning sickness.  We are told that it is debilitating and severe.  None of the wives or the husband appear to judge her on it.  They are the ones dealing with her, after all, not the viewers, yet none of them has complained about it.

My heart instantly went out to her as she dragged through the day.  I thought her behavior was understandable for someone who probably feels like she has stomach flu that lasts for months.

Yet so many people around the Net are calling her a “drama queen” and accusing her of being lazy, playing it up for sympathy, that sort of thing.

Well, excuse me, have you EVER had to deal with this?  Not just bad morning sickness, but hyperemesis gravidarum (HG)?

HG is NOT just “morning sickness.”  Women who get this are NOT “drama queens,” “lazy” or “playing for sympathy.”

The term has not been used on the show, but I have posted about it on their Facebook page.  Nonie’s behavior makes me strongly suspect that’s what she has, especially since the other wives don’t judge her for it.

Also, none of the commenters know, either, if it’s HG, since the name has not been used.

But “severe morning sickness” has been used, the term those of us who have had it (but without knowing the proper term), would call it.  Without knowing for sure, those commenters should certainly not judge her.

I do NOT see her “whining” about it “constantly,” as many have accused.  I see someone struggling just to keep her head up.  Her head is probably dizzy, and most people would also struggle.

I am impressed because she at least gets dressed and brushes her hair; obviously she is skipping makeup.

My fury at people’s bizarre cruelty, led me to Google the Net for more about HG.  Princess Kate has dealt with it; people even mocked her in the media, even though she was hospitalized for it.

Charlotte Brontë DIED from HG.

I missed this during Princess Kate’s first pregnancy, since I don’t watch The View, and was so far removed from my own experiences (in 2003) that I wasn’t paying attention.  But The View was inundated with angry messages after trivializing the princess’s condition.

Other sufferers of HG also complain that their plight is trivialized by others: family, strangers, even doctors and nurses at times.  Because HG is so rare, and most women experience morning sickness, people apparently think you just throw up and then feel fine.  That these women must be whiners, or not want their babies, or they’re lazy drama queens.  That anyone can just deal with morning sickness along with a job, other children, housework, etc.


Warning: This is graphic, because I see other blogs about this are just as graphic, if not more so.

HG is so severe that your “morning sickness” never goes away.  After you throw up, you still feel sick.  Nothing stays down; eventually, you start puking up bile because there is nothing in your stomach.

You begin to starve, and lose weight rapidly.  If you are not treated early, you can end up with an IV pumping in fluids, and taking expensive medication usually used for chemotherapy nausea.  Which upsets your insurance company, who begins paying for less and less of it.

How do I know this?  Why am I so upset?  Because I went through it myself.

When the first bout came on, I thought it was stomach flu.  I spent all my time on the couch, unable to hold my head up.  I could barely take care of myself when my husband was not home.

Multiple times vomiting per hour went on for days, even after nothing was left in my stomach.  The slightest movement of my head made me sick, so I was afraid to move.

How many days it lasted I don’t recall, just that I had to take unpaid leave from my job because I couldn’t handle anything: food, smells, even walking to the bathroom.  I could not take a shower without getting sick.

I could not do housework at all.  I’m not a lazy housekeeper: My diligence has been noted by many.  I can’t stand lying around all day, either.  This was forced on me by my condition.

This is like the worst stomach flu you have ever had, which had you crawling on the floor, camped out in the bathroom, or lying in your bed, never letting up even right after you have just vomited.  Only it does not go away in a few days.

Would you call someone a slacker, drama queen, or whiny for staying in bed all day for the stomach flu?

A package of Target clothes arrived while I was sick.  Even the sight of that made me sick.  I’d think of the beautiful clothes inside, and feel sick.  I was forced to return them, because even saving them for later was impossible.

As the days passed, I began thinking, “I’m so hungry!” in plaintive cries, because I had no nourishment.  I lost weight rapidly.  I even thought about abortion, even though I oppose it, because I feared my life depended on it.

My doctor took me seriously, and when all the other remedies did not work (I even threw up the Emetrol), he prescribed Zofran.  Almost immediately, I recovered enough that I got up and cleaned the house.  The next day, I went back to work.

Far longer than you’re supposed to get morning sickness, I still had to take the Zofran.  I would try to get off it because it was getting harder and harder to get the insurance company to pay for it, and without insurance it would be $500!!!  But then I’d start puking again, and have to go back on it.

The symptoms finally abated later in the pregnancy, in the fifth month, I believe.  I went off the Zofran and did not vomit again.

But I still often felt nauseated.  Even the newspaper and computer smelled so weird that I could not be near them for long.  I kept thinking I smelled a gas leak, even though professionals came in and confirmed there was none.

Fortunately, though, I was well enough to keep up with the housework and other things.  My mom was surprised at how much energy I had in my final months of pregnancy.  If not for early intervention, things may not have gone so well.

All the symptoms finally went away after the birth.  My son was large (10 lbs 6 oz), but healthy, so I have no complaints about using Zofran during pregnancy.

But there are many women for whom even Zofran and other medications are not enough.

This is no laughing matter.  This is not just weak women who can’t deal with morning sickness like everybody else does.

Nobody made fun of me or accused me of whining, so this is not personal.

My anger is for the sake of the many women who have been treated like “It’s all in your head, you princess, so get out of bed and make dinner for your hungry kids.”  (And, well, the effects of heightened smells can often make it impossible for a pregnant woman to cook.)

Some other websites and blogs on this:

Like Ressler, she now had other children to care for. But she was so sensitive to smell — and scent was so distorted to her — that she could not bear to be near her daughters.

“Their skin smelled like old, and their breath smelled like Korean food,” Kemp remembers. “Their diapers sent me over the edge.”

She abandoned a looming book deadline, hired two babysitters to cover the hours when her husband was at work and sequestered herself on the third floor with a 24-hour IV nutrition line.

Every night, she says, her family “ate sandwiches in the basement. They were not allowed to cook anything. If they cut an onion, I could smell it three flights up.”

…Kemp gave serious thought to terminating the pregnancy. “My doctor told me, ‘Some people abort at this stage. If you can’t take any more of this, you can abort.’”

After spending time on message boards filled with fellow sufferers — some of whom had terminated, others who did not — she decided to continue with the pregnancy. –Lisa Belkin, Kate Middleton’s Pregnancy Sheds Light on Rare Condition


Given the Gawker mandate to be glib and ruthless, whether or not they know what they’re talking about, I won’t pretend to be shocked by a dashed-off remark in Monday’s post on Kate Middleton’s pregnancy:

The Palace also reported that Kate was admitted to the hospital today with “hyperemesis gravidarum,” which is what they call regular old morning sickness when you are a princess.

Nor, for more or less the same reasons, was it surprising to watch the ladies of “The View” dismiss the duchess’s condition with a flurry of bubbly interruptions, ignoring a nurse’s earnest response to Barbara Walters’ half-hearted question about whether HG is serious:

“It can be,” the nurse said sheepishly. (In an open letter to the duchess, HG sufferer Betsy Shaw gives Kate “permission to slap” Walters.)

I have no idea whether Kate has HG or not. But the fact remains that it can be a brutal, crippling condition that goes largely ignored and untreated, partly due to its overlap with ordinary pregnancy sickness and partly to our attitude toward suffering and the suffering of pregnant women in particular.

…Some days are good. [My wife] can have a conversation, manage a strained laugh, maybe even take a walk. She’s still nauseated at every moment, but maybe she makes it through the day without vomiting. Which does happen.

Other days, and these tend to be strung together, she can barely sit up, and just the effort of having a conversation makes her shudder and rush to the bathroom, retching all the way.

Even the quality of the vomiting is different. Violent and persistent, it can often resemble drowning, particularly when it becomes so painful and scary that it’s interrupted by moans and cries.

Last month, I forgot to eat breakfast before taking some vitamins and found myself over the toilet. After a few terrible minutes of nausea the pills came up and I felt better almost immediately. A few minutes of nausea.

One of the cruelest parts of HG is that vomiting provides zero relief; you feel just as bad as the moment before. –Evan Derkacz, True Story: My Wife Has HG


Less than a week after Thanksgiving, I ate the last meal I have eaten up to this point. I was seven weeks pregnant. Three days later, I was hospitalized for 11 days.

During my hospital stay I was given IV fluids and several of the medications most frequently prescribed for HG — Zofran and Reglan — through my IV.

One day after several nurses attempted eight times to put in a new IV, the doctors decided to give me a PICC line, essentially a permanent IV in my upper arm, since it was obvious I would need long-term IV hydration and medication.

Although I was still unable to eat more than a few bites of food at a time, and only occasionally would they stay down, I was discharged.

Now at home I receive home health care where a nurse visits several times a week to check on me and change the dressing on my PICC line. I am also on a pump that gives me a continuous flow of Zofran through a subcutaneous needle inserted in my stomach.

Because I have a strong needle phobia, my husband has to stab me with the needle every other day, as well as administer the different bags of medicine and fluids because I am too weak to change them myself.

I have two daughters, ages 4 and 19 months. HG has taken me from them, although they do not understand why. Mommy lies in bed all day and cannot play with them.

I can barely muster up energy to read a book before bed with each of them, although I try to do at least that to stay close to them. –Alexa Davidson Suskin, What it really feels like to have HG (I especially recommend this article because she goes into graphic detail, far more than I did, about what exactly is suffered)


Just because you’re a duchess doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be miserable. Pregnancy is a blessing, yes, but no one can feel blessed when they can’t keep even a sip of water down.

Be patient with yourself. The gratitude will return and that baby will know you love him or her, despite all your misery.

It’s perfectly normal to feel like tearing the eyeballs out of every well-meaning, yet clueless, person who advises you to eat crackers, drink ginger ale, try Sea-Bands, crystalized ginger, lemonade, gentle exercise, etc.

It’s also normal to be haunted by thoughts about termination: Hearing your doctor tell you she can make you feel more comfortable but cannot actually take the HG away, the only thing that can make it go away is to not be pregnant, can be a heavy, heavy burden.

Take the drugs the doctor offers and try your best not to feel guilty about it. We all feel guilty about it. And know that many of us who have survived HG report back that, despite our worst fears, our babies are perfectly normal and fine. Just fine. — Betsy Shaw, Dear Kate: I feel your HG pain


Most affected women have numerous episodes of vomiting throughout the day with few if any symptom-free periods, especially during the first three to four months. This leads to significant and rapid weight loss, dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, and nutritional deficiencies often requiring hospitalization.

If prolonged or more severe and not treated promptly, these can lead to kidney or liver damage. Numerous complications, some of which can be life-threatening are possible without adequate medical intervention. –Her, Diagnosis


Also, this website has information and support forums for HG sufferers.

This episode of Dr. Phil describes HG.  I missed this when it aired, however, because I no longer watched the show in 2007.