Dear Kate: a letter from a fellow hyperemesis sufferer
Feeling a little green? The Duchess of Cambridge pictured at her last official engagement on November 30. Photo: Getty Images
I can call you Kate, can’t I? I know you are the future Queen, but I feel weird calling someone younger than me “Your Highness”. I'm a republican, and while I love the Monarchy (for England) – especially the jewels, ill gotten they may be - I wouldn't curtsey to you either.
Is Wills squeamish? I hope not, because he will probably need to learn how to give you a jab in the Royal backside.
I want to congratulate you on your pregnancy! Brilliant news, but at the same time, I offer my commiserations. While I am sure you are beyond thrilled to be in the family way, I bet you don't feel like celebrating at the moment. Chucking your guts at the slightest smell of food, being unable to tolerate even water, and crippling headaches aren't what the joy of pregnancy is meant to be about. I know how you feel, Kate, because I had hyperemesis gravidium (HG) too.
Royal pregnancies and babies
The Queen Mother (as the Duchess of York) with her baby daughters, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), and Princess Maragaret (centre) in 1931.
Most women expect a bit of “morning sickness” in the first trimester. Some nausea, a bit of dizziness, the odd vomit. For me, the vomit was non-stop and the dizziness segued into headaches, periods of partial blindness and facial palsy. Work days were excruciating, with episodes spent laying on the bathroom floor – my cheek against the tiles in a bid to cool the rivulets of sweat pouring down my face – or under my work desk which was conveniently out of sight of most of the office.
Of course I got to do it without the lens of the world trained on me, but that said, vomiting in public is embarrassing, whether you are the future Queen or a commoner like me.
I used to do the work commute via ferry, which is usually the most pleasant way to get to the Sydney CBD. But just a few weeks into my pregnancy, the ferry became an unviable option after I spent a trip losing what little breakfast (a glass of water) I had been able to choke down over the side. This was to the dismay of the other, mostly male and of the financial industry variety, passengers. Poor blokes didn't know where to look. Was I drunk? Hungover? “I'm pregnant,” gasped between vomits, never garnered much sympathy,. Driving almost always involved pulling over for a discrete vom either on the side of the road, or in one of the plastic bags I began to keep in my handbag for that exact moment. I also knew all the places on my route to work (because I hardly ever left the house otherwise) where I could have a comparatively private, public vomit.
Kate I am so sorry to tell you, that hospital visits didn't help me. The intravenous rehydration is good for bypassing the stomach and getting fluids in, but the drugs never did much. I could never keep down the tablets and the iv meds didn't help either. Is Wills squeamish? I hope not, because he will probably need to learn how to give you a jab in the Royal backside. My husband became a dab hand at drawing up and giving me the dart, but if Wills can't do it, I guess you have “people” to do it for you. Ladies in waiting or something.
I know you are a bit of a fashion plate, and I bet you were looking forward to parading about in all of the fabulous maternity fashion you will no doubt have at your disposal. Sucks when you can't even summon the energy to get out of your pyjamas, and that gorgeous silk kaftan didn't even see the light of day because you didn't make it to the loo, or sink, or nearest vomit receptacle (because you will start secreting them around the house – I mean palace – in convenient spots) on time. I hope the dreaded curse doesn't last the full 40 weeks, because I would love to see how you rock maternity wear. I remember Princess Di and her chocolate shop pussy bows and striped dresses, and I just know the trash mags will do a comparison photo spread of what I assume will be your chic maternity wardrobe. If you can get out of the aforementioned PJs, that is.
People will tell you that once you are holding that baby, or babies - in my case HG as an indicator of twins was true – you will forget all about it. I wish so much that this was true, but for me, the single thing holding me back from trying for another child (and considering I needed IVF to conceive my twins, another pregnancy is not a given) is the thought of being that sick again, and not being able to care for my twins. I just couldn't do it – not without full time help, which I assume you will have. And the pressure will be on for that second pregnancy, because, after all, you have to provide the heir, and the spare.
My advice, for what it's worth? Bugger the stiff upper royal lip, the paparazzi and the trash mags. You don't need to swan around in posh maternity gear looking the picture of glowing prospective motherhood. Embrace the all-day pyjama, repurpose your mixing bowls as vomit holders and always, carry a supply of plastic bags. Zip-locs are the best.
Love, Prue xox.
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