Monday, December 23rd, 2013
** Guest-edited by Kristen Kemp, yoga instructor
My last baby popped out 6 years ago, but I vividly remember the feeling that everything—my strength, energy, muscle tone and stamina—had been completely zapped. Where I was once able to run two miles up and down steep hills for exercise, all of a sudden, walking up and down the stairs to the laundry room was as strenuous as running a marathon. I reassured my latest yoga student—her adorable baby is 6 weeks old—to start slowly and steadily. All of our muscles remember what they used to do and luckily, our minds are even stronger than our bodies. We can think ourselves back into fitness.
I learned all of this at the amazing Yoga Journal Conference I attended in November. For yoga geeks, it was a dream come true. I spent two days in an intensive anatomy workshop with the brilliant celebrity teacher Jason Crandell. He taught me about muscles and bones—and how to make them strong. Another famous yogi, Kathryn Budig, taught arm balances (these are post-post natal moves you’ll love working up to). I did some crazy 8-point pose (see photo) where my arms were bent and my legs were parallel in the air about a foot off the ground. I thought, ‘I’ve come a long, long way since my kids were born.” I was so proud of myself. As Kathryn had said earlier, “getting stronger is amazing and empowering.”
For the holidays and New Year, I, of course, recommend yoga. In the wise words of the great teacher and sage Cyndi Lee, sometimes you have to put you first. “Take care of yourself so you can be a better mom, business partner, whatever. You can take better care of other people when you take care of yourself first. Only then will you have a little extra to give.”
If you’re interested, the next Yoga Journal Live conference is in San Fran on January 16 through 20. I’ll be at the YJ Live in New York City in April. Message me if you’ll be there, and we can meet up. I’ll definitely post new-mom moves I get from there, so stay tuned.
So go ahead and get started now. I’ve posted one of my favorite beginner videos by Jason. He’s a super-safe and inspiring teacher who offers this cool and relaxing 15-minute beginner yoga sequence. I’m taking this to my postnatal client on Friday.
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Friday, December 14th, 2012
Parents.com blogger Kristen Kemp’s husband, Johan Svenson, recounts the helplessness he felt watching his wife endure hyperemesis gravidarum—the same condition Kate Middleton is famously suffering—through two pregnancies.
Reading articles and blog posts about Kate Middleton’s medical situation—and the comments in response to those stories—brings back painful memories for me. But it also irritates me.
Seven years ago and several weeks into her first pregnancy, my wife Kristen was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). I didn’t know about HG then, but I quickly learned. It’s an illness taken seriously by exactly three people: the doctor, the patient, and her spouse. HG only affects 2 percent of pregnant women, so I don’t expect everyone to know about it, but comments I’ve read on the Internet—including my wife’s story on Parents.com—infuriate me. Commenters who suggest organic ginger tea as a solution are naïve; their comments should be prefaced with ‘I have never experienced hyperemesis; I have never known anyone who has; nor do I have any medical experience whatsoever.’ People who say things like “suck it up,” and “you should be happy you were able to get pregnant at all,” should try telling a schizophrenic that she’s lucky to hear voices in her head all day long. People have no comprehension of how serious this illness is.
I do. I remember being on my cell phone in a hurry to catch a flight. It was one of those moments I remember in crystal clear, high-definition detail. One of those moments that changes your life forever. Kristen, who’d just been to the doctor, called with news: “There are two of them.” “Two of what?” I asked. It was April 1, 2005, but this was no April Fool’s joke. Kristen was carrying twins.
While that was a shock, nothing would prepare us for what came next: the most trying period in her life, when she got hyperemesis gravidarum. The doctor told us the severity of the HG was likely due to carrying twins. Double the babies, double the hormones, double the nausea. Makes sense.
Nope. By Christmas 2006 we were pregnant again. The morning sickness arrived overnight, accompanied by the fear of having another set of twins. While we were relieved to find we were only having a singleton, we were equally surprised the HG seemed to be worse this time around. And it got a lot worse.
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Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
Kristen Kemp, author of the Parents.com blog Mom Must Read, knows the torture the Duchess is experiencing right now. She had hyperemesis gravidarum—through two pregnancies—too. She shares her experiences:
I wouldn’t wish hyperemesis gravidarum even on evil people. Not on my former coworker who told our boss that I sucked and should be fired (and then stole my sweater); not on the girl who burned my eyebrow skin off last week during a wax; and not on the young woman who stole my Visa and charged $2,357 at Target. I would never hope for a royal like Kate Middleton to have hyperemesis, no matter how much I covet her clothes and her seats at the Olympics. But since Kate does have this nightmare illness through no ill will of mine, I am glad. While I ache when I think of her public suffering, I also feel vindicated. What I went through is difficult to explain, and most people don’t believe my condition was real. It was not all in my head—Kate is proof.
Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) tried to kill me during both of my pregnancies. I took gobs of medication, checked in for several stays at the hospital and, as a last resort, considered abortion at the suggestion of my ob-gyn. I could not eat or drink a thing, so I fought dehydration. Worse though, I was nauseous every second of the day. Imagine having food poisoning for 13 weeks straight. Vomiting offers no relief. Your stomach is an empty pit, so all you feel is acidic and painful gagging.
I am sorry if you’re eating right now.
I try not to use the words hyperemesis and morning sickness in the same sentence (minus this exception). The two conditions share one only one trait—they come on in early pregnancy. Otherwise, they are distant cousins, 100 times removed. Barfing your head off nonstop causes a ridiculous amount of physical and emotional pain.
The first time I got pregnant, I found out I was having twins, which meant double the hormones and an increased risk of HG. My doctor and I hoped I wouldn’t have hyperemesis again if I got pregnant with a singleton. So I did. And the second time, it was worse. At about 6 or 7 weeks, my sense of smell turned prophetic. I could sense food rotting in my husband’s stomach. I had to run out of Ikea because I couldn’t handle the odors of the shoppers. By week 7, all smells were intolerable, and even a whiff of sugary vanilla milkshake would send me over the edge. Garlic, coffee, and my toddlers’ diapers might as well have been explosive devices.
My husband made me a hyperemesis nest on the third-floor attic of our house. He dragged a mattress upstairs because I couldn’t stand the smell of him while he slept. He set up a TV that I could barely watch because the images made me dizzy. He gave me a bottle of Lysol to battle the evil that lurked in the air. He and the kids had to stay on the first floor eating fragrance-free cold sandwiches or going to restaurants. We spent thousands of dollars on babysitters who watched the twins during his work hours. I was useless.
I dove into a deep depression. My body emphatically hated being pregnant. I couldn’t hold down food, so I worried that I wasn’t nourishing my fetus. I couldn’t be anywhere near another person from Week 7 through Week 18, so I was lonely. I was so dehydrated that I started seeing bright colors and flames (dehydration can cause hallucinations), and there were crystals in my pee from the uric acid buildup.
Those were the signs that I had to go back to the hospital for IV fluids and nutrition. My husband and my ob-gyn took me seriously, but no one else did. In the maternity unit, nurses left me in the corner barfing for hours while they saw other patients. One told me I just needed to take ginger, remember how lucky I was to be pregnant, and eat ice chips. I wanted to puke on her—and I probably did. Did she really believe I hadn’t thought of those things a million times before?
My doctor gave me a prescription for Zofran, a drug used to ease nausea for people on chemo. It didn’t help the nausea, but I could keep down small bits of food—mainly Fritos—and watch TV. He ordered me to get a PICC line—a tube surgically inserted into a vein in my upper arm—so I could be hooked up to an IV bag 24 hours a day. Thank goodness for our health insurance that paid for all of this and also my daily home nurse. If only they had covered the sitters.
I fell in love with my IV bag.
I stopped contemplating abortion and started telling myself I could get through the second pregnancy. I’d already given birth to my twins, so I knew the absolute joy of hugging new babies. As I convalesced on the third floor, I repeated the mantra: New babies are fun to hug; new babies are fun to hug. And I watched the movie Garden State 17 times. I waited it out. By 18 weeks, the hyperemesis vanished as quickly as it had come on. I had an easy delivery with my baby son. I figured I had earned that much.
Taking care of a newborn was cake compared to living with hyperemesis, so I rocked at infancy. But my husband didn’t want me to rock too much. He said he’d go nuts if he had to live through another pregnancy, so he had a vasectomy within the month. He is smarter than I am, and that’s why I married him.
The more Kate Middleton pukes—I just read she was unwell again after her four-day stay in the hospital—the more people will sympathize with insanely sick pregnant women. We aren’t crazy. We don’t secretly hate our fetuses—a real comment I recently read. We aren’t making up our misery. I wish other women would’ve said, “God, that’s awful. I can’t imagine. Would it help if I invited your husband and kids over for dinner?” I needed to borrow DVDs and gossip magazines. But mostly I got saltine cracker advice and dirty looks when I barfed on the street.
I had a freak illness, but I was not a freak. Just ask Kate Middleton.
Image of Kate Middleton via Featureflash / Shutterstock.com
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