Much more than morning sickness
This mom literally could not eat during her pregnancy. 

Although we were not really trying that hard, I was a teeny bit worried that two years after our traditional marriage, we were still not pregnant,” says Kinester Mutero. “In our tradition people were already talking and since my husband and I are first-born children our parents were eagerly waiting for a grandchild.

I absolutely love chocolate cake, so on my brother, Kingdom’s, 21st birthday, I knew something was up when just the sight of his chocolate birthday cake made me feel queasy. My brother drove me straight to the pharmacy where I had a pregnancy test and yes, it was positive Dee, my husband and I were so excited.

And then I started getting sick. I was only two months pregnant but the nausea would incapacitate me for the whole day. At first our family doctor assured me that it was normal, but I could no longer cope with work, and was eventually given indefinite leave.

The family doctor referred me to a gynae– I was severely dehydrated, I couldn’t stomach anything or even keep water down. My throat was scorching with severe pain because of my continuous retching and vomiting blood.

I was admitted into hospital and quickly hooked up to a drip to help the dehydration, put on a mechanical ventilator as I also had an asthma attack (I am asthmatic) and medicated with painful injections. I was also given an intravenous feeding tube – which was terrible. Several scans were done, blood tests, stress tests and an endoscopy to see if I had a bleeding ulcer, but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t process what was going on around me.

Eventually I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – a severe form of morning sickness. I had never heard of HG before and none of my family members knew about it. Some people thought that I was overreacting.

After seven weeks in hospital I was discharged with a bag full of medicines, but the sickness didn’t subside when I got home. Although the injections helped a little to suppress the nausea, they could only give me really low doses for the sake of the baby’s health.

Over the course of my pregnancy, I was admitted into hospital three times with excessive vomiting, severe dehydration, low blood pressure, weight loss, stress, frequent asthma attacks and hallucinations. I was told that HG would go away in the second or third trimester but it did not. In fact it got worse. My whole body was so immersed in drugs, I could feel myself going nuts.

Emotional chaos

I felt drowsy, depressed, and so depleted regardless of the incredible emotional support my husband and family, especially my father, gave me. Dee was my rock: he took leave from work to be with me, he fed me, clothed me and prayed with me.

My father and husband took turns force-feeding me – and at the time I hated them for that. Hatred and bitterness towards my baby encompassed me. My life had just changed from a fun-loving lady to a shadow of my former self. I would cry uncontrollably for hours.

Miracles do happen

When labour came, I had already been in intense pain for two days and was still vomiting, so I thought that the pains were just HG. I had no female company and I dreaded the thought of going to the hospital to be admitted again.

The scans showed that my baby was due on the first of October and it was only 24 September: a week earlier. I was also expecting labour to start by my waters breaking – little did I know that women are all different.

My husband rushed me to hospital and finally, after a prolonged labour, our daughter, Charmaine was delivered. I can only say that it was a miracle that our daughter was born at a healthy 3.1kgs. Dee was so ecstatically happy –he was the first one to hold Charmaine. I just felt numb, I had no feelings towards the baby. I think on some level I just felt relief that this journey was over.

Becoming a mother

Physically after the birth I began by having five small meals a day: my body was so used to tube feeding and eating lightly. I was soon back to eating properly, especially my favourite chocolate cake. Emotionally though, I couldn’t bond with my baby. I was constantly frustrated, and didn’t want to take care of her. I had so much sadness within me and felt so lost and guilty for not loving my own baby. My stepsister thought I must have postnatal depression, and when my gynaecologist confirmed it, treatment began. As the days faded into months, I realised what a fighter Charmaine was: she is my miracle baby, my angel.

Looking to the future

Sometimes I do wish for another sibling for Charmaine and my husband would love a big family. The doctors say that each pregnancy is different and that maybe the second one will be a safe ride, but as my father, who recently died, was my hope and gave me strength during Charmaine’s pregnancy, I don’t know if I would be able to pull through another pregnancy without him. Unfortunately, there is not much medical support for HG, but with a supportive family and partner it doesn’t become less painful but at least it becomes worthwhile. I treasure Charmaine so much, the feeling a mother has towards her child is so special: indescribable.

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