Stop expecting women to suffer

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I was chatting to a co-worker yesterday about morning sickness and hyperemesis. She’s had two kids and suffered with both of hers. She mentioned how she felt dismissed a lot of the time because the baby was healthy. This really struck a chord with me because I had very similar experiences. When I was at my worst with HG, I would often have conversations – with health care people and just people generally – that went something like this:

Me: I can’t eat, am losing weight, throwing up 24/7. I’m really suffering.
Them: Oh, but I’ve heard that severe morning sickness doesn’t affect the baby.

GREAT?! I mean obviously I’m really happy that HG hasn’t affected my baby. But, since becoming pregnant, I haven’t been reduced to just a vessel to house my baby. I’m still a fully functioning, adult human being and, when I was suffering, it was simply not enough to be told I should be grateful that my baby wasn’t.

To be clear: I would not have minded the comments if I had felt that the same level of care/concern was being given to me also. But I didn’t feel that way at all. I felt as though I should suck it up and stop being such a wimp. Why? Because of this idea that suffering from morning sickness is NATURAL.

I’m actually beginning to really dislike the word ‘natural’ when it comes to pregnancy. There are lots of things in this world that are natural but are also really shit. Cancer, viruses, tsunamis. That doesn’t mean we go “OH HEY THIS IS NATURAL, JUST DEAL WITH IT”. Yet this is what we do with extreme morning sickness. There are drugs that are totally safe to take for HG yet the stigma around pregnant women taking medication is still really pervasive (at my first attempt at getting medication, the comment “Have you not heard of thalidomide?” was dropped). The general consensus appears to be that women should just suffer through it because pregnancy is natural ergo everything related to pregnancy is natural, so JUST DEAL WITH IT, WHINING WOMEN. People get so (hypocritically) worked up about pregnant women doing anything that could potentially harm their unborn baby. But women have the right to not be harmed either. I have the right to be able to continue living my life without having to stop everything for two months of it so I can vomit constantly, be unable to eat or walk around and lose 10kg. “It usually only lasts till 12 weeks” is not a reasonable response. It shouldn’t be happening at all.

No one knows why morning sickness occurs. We should know why. More research is needed but it doesn’t happen because people are too shit scared of sounding like they don’t mind putting babies’ lives at risk. And, obviously, I’m not advocating that – but what I am advocating is remembering that, for every baby, there is a mother there too who needs support and has the right to not suffer. If you think I’m exaggerating then have a read of this report by Pregnancy Sickness Support and BPAS suggesting that around 15-20% of women with HG terminate their pregnancies. This is completely catastrophic. No woman should have to terminate a wanted pregnancy because they feel so unsupported and alone in their suffering that they cannot continue.

This mindset toward pregnant women affects everything, I’m just using HG as an example because it’s relevant to me right now. But what about giving birth? Or breastfeeding? Women are pressured to continue breastfeeding not matter what – even if they’re bleeding and in terrible pain and their babies are losing weight. Of course, breastfeeding is the best course of action (duh) but only if it’s working. If it’s not working then it should be completely acceptable to explore other options that DO work for mum and baby without mum being made to feel like she’s not putting baby first. And it’s up to each woman to decide what works and what doesn’t, and damn all the haters.

There needs to be a sea change in our approach to pregnancy as the pendulum has swung too far away from supporting women. There is something inherently, nastily sexist about this – as if women’s lives are more expendable and we should be expected to suffer more. If there was a condition that affected men as commonly as it did women (HG affects around 1-3% of pregnancies – that’s at least 10,000 women every year in the UK), there would be far, far more support in place. And no man would be made to feel guilty for simply not wanting to suffer. I’m not sure how to effect this change but it needs to happen yesterday.

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Ethan & Evelyn

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22 thoughts on “Stop expecting women to suffer

  1. min1980

    Yes, yes, yes. I am so in agreement here. I was fortunate enough not to suffer too badly with morning sickness, but you are SO RIGHT, if men were throwing up left, right and centre, or for that matter suffering with bleeding nipples, torn genitalia, terrible pain in childbirth, and all the other things that women are just supposed to put up with, there would be an outcry. AND, I’ll bet, there would be more money put into finding the cause and attempting to treat it.

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    1. littlebug

      Thanks, it’s so true and it makes me really sad – women struggle through, feeling like they are ‘failing’ when they absolutely are not. Men just wouldn’t put up with it in the first place!

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  2. Yes, I so agree with you. I suffered morning sickness for all 9 months with my first. It wasnt really bad but enough to make me bloody miserable, and i really didnt need to be lectured on how I should be more grateful, I was growing a healthy baby etc.
    #Justanotherlinky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. littlebug

      Yuck, I’m so sorry you suffered the entire way through – I think that’s a real test of mental strength as nine months isn’t exactly short! Yes, the amount of “you should be grateful” comments is so frustrating, I get that people try to ‘help’ but the best way to do that is just to EMPATHISE with the shitty situation you’re in! Thank you for commenting. 🙂

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  3. I had really bad HG with my second for 5 months. I could not eat or move from my couch! I’ve lost a bit of weight but then regain it back plus a bit more pretty soon after that. But the during that 5 months it was a nightmare – I could not get an appointment with the GP or anything. I decided to go straight to A&E when I caught Ethan was watching me vomiting after meals. He did not understand why. I decided enough was enough. Then I was drugged at the hospital and was put on drip over the weekend. After that, everything seem to be picking up. It is so sad about the report statistic. I was lucky that I’d gotten better and had such a supportive staffs from the hospital.

    I absolutely agree with you on breastfeeding. I bf non-stop with Evelyn until 6 months old – when my nipples are about to drop off so I had to give her formula. And now-a-day I still do combo. With Ethan, I did combo right from the start as he had jaundice from day 2, but I continue to bf him until 2yrs and 3 months. I only stopped because I wanted to conceive a baby at that point.

    If only men can get pregnant and bf! Thanks so much for linking up with me. #FabFridayPost p.s. please don’t forget the badge. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. littlebug

      I’m so sorry you suffered with HG – it’s just such a nightmare, isn’t it! I’m SO glad you had supportive staff when you were admitted, I think that plays such a huge, huge role in how people experience HG from a mental health perspective.

      Wow, that’s awesome about your bfing journey – it sounds like you did exactly what was right for you and your bubs. I’m hoping I’m not going to have any difficulties but obviously everyone hopes that and it’s important to be flexible if it doesn’t go as planned.

      Thank you for doing the linky! I can see the badge in the post – can you not see it? I copied it into the HTML of this post but let me know if I’m doing something wrong – I’m very new to linkys! Thanks 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In this end, we each should be able to choose our own path and not be judged on it. We must learn to listen to our instincts and then not worry about what others say. Many times others are well meaning, but their words can hurt.

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    1. littlebug

      So true, Karen – I think that’s what worries a lot of women, the idea of being judged when, actually, we should all be supportive of each other’s choices. Thanks a lot for your comment. 🙂

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  5. This is so, so interesting, such an important an powerful read. Unfortunately, as you talk about at the end, I think it continues throughout pregnancy…definitely with birth (I’ve got a post coming up about birth experience and how it’s often dismissed as long as the baby is healthy…of course we all want a healthy baby absolutely but the mother HAS to be looked after too as a priority and for a while afterwards…suffering shouldn’t be an expectation or a badge of honour. There are also some ideas I’m reading about birth being a feminist issue now…). I was immediately upon seeing heathcare profs given medication for my sickness which i really worried about taking but couldn’t function without them. They didn’t make me feel any better but stopped me throwing up. The stat you quote makes me feel so so sad. Thanks for sharing, a great read. Glad I’ve found your blog! #marvmondays

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    1. littlebug

      Thank you! I’m so interested to read about your post about birth and mother vs baby – I wrote here specifically about HG but I really feel that this sense of, as you say, women suffering being encouraged as some sort of badge of honour is really pervasive in all forms of pregnancy and parenting.The worst thing about it as that it taps right into our (women’s) achilles heel, which is our sense of GUILT. Society brings women up to feel guilty about everything but it absolutely does not do the same to men – so we women internalise everything and assume we have done something wrong. I was reading the recent #matexp chat on twitter and it was incredible how many women felt like they had somehow ‘failed’ at birth even though they and their child had both got through it successfully. I mean, how insane is that – that women can give birth to a child and then feel as though they didn’t do it ‘right’?!

      Thanks for reading, so glad I found your blog also – it’s so nice to know their are like-minded women out in the blogosphere. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is insane and makes me feel sad (again!). I volunteer in my local maternity ward and sometimes perfectly wonderful people can say or act in the wrong way towards a woman at this time and fuel those feelings of feeling like a failure. I walk in and see super-women, each and every one, however they’ve given birth. (That’s not to say I always say the right thing, i’m sure i don’t but i’m there for specific bf support so a bit more focused than hospital staff!) It’s a very vulnerable time. I don’t know that my post will be about mother vs baby exactly, I’m going to highlight a really amazing project i’ve been reading about. I’ve only drafted in my head so far!! Maybe more about the collective whole and the importance of nurturing and placing value on both parties (actually all parties, got to include the partner in this male or female…I don’t know that i see it as man vs woman either. Fathers don’t have to do the physical bit but if they are active team members in the pregnancy, labour, birth, postnatal period and beyond then they have do a HUGE amount emotionally). Ok i’m rambling on now. Maybe I should have left it at ‘great post!’ X

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        1. littlebug

          Sorry, put words in your mouth about your post haha – keen to hear all about this project, I’m intrigued! It sounds really interesting, it makes a lot more sense to treat everyone as part of a big team all with one goal – strength in numbers! Definitely not rambling, thank you for fomenting. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  6. mrsmumnz

    Wow! What a great post! I am totally guilty of thinking that if your baby is healthy you should count yourself lucky and that pregnancy is tough, you just have to do your best to get through it. But that’s because I’ve got friends who have lost babies and I worked in a special school.
    But you’re totally right. Pregnancy can be miserable and more needs to be done to help women get through it as comfortably as possible. I think I suffered every possible symptom in the text book and just toughed it out cold turkey out of the fear that any medicine might cause harm to my baby.
    We do need more research!!!!

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    1. littlebug

      Yes exactly, there will always be suffering in pregnancy and parenting that is terrible and unavoidable…it’s the avoidable suffering that we should be trying to do something about if we possibly can. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

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  7. Hi Kate, your post brings to life just how much HG has affected you and just how strongly you feel about it. I think its great that you are such an advocate for getting women more support, it definitely needs to happen. Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays again! Emily

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  8. Pingback: #FabFridayPost Linky #7 {13.11.15}

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