“Morning sickness” is the biggest misnomer in the history of pregnancy. (“The Best Trimester” comes a close second, but I’ll get into that in a later post.)
Nausea punched me in the face HARD during my fourth or fifth week of my first (and as of now, only) pregnancy. What I instantly realized was that “morning” part is misleading.
What Nausea Feels for Some Women (and Characters on TV)
Many women feel nauseous and throw up in the morning or afternoon then feel better the rest of the day. I’m not saying this pain doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged. It sucks if you throw up once and it sucks if you throw up 15 times. Either way, there is digested food or acidic, bilious matter forcing its way through your throat.
The scene of the abruptly vomiting pregnant woman who continue to work hard and face their fast-paced, confusing lives, characterized by Bridget Jones and many other on-screen moms, has been replayed so much in mainstream media that morning sickness has not only become accepted as the most well-known symptom of pregnancy, but it’s also trivialized—by about 1,000%—and portrayed as insignificant or even weirdly charming.
What Nausea Actually Feels Like for Many Women
For women like me, who experiences 24/7 nausea and, by the way, still feels sick and has resorted to medication into her SECOND/THIRD trimester, the physical discomfort and perpetual disgust at your environment are hard enough.
But what makes it markedly worse is that nobody seems to understand I’m unable to function.
The nausea is debilitating, and there are plenty of triggers that exacerbates, including but not limited to:
- Delicious meat being grilled
- A human, including people you love
- Your own bowel movements
- Looking at a computer screen
People expect you to stay home and recuperate if you have a fever (unless your boss is horrible), but nobody seems to get that my nausea is just as bad, if not worse.
Over the course of my pregnancy thus far, I’ve had to explain to friends, family and clients multiple times that I’m “dying.” In “excruciating pain.” That “I’ve never felt so limp and dead in my life.” I’m “basically immobile.”
I’ve told people to imagine “you’re experiencing your worst tequila-fueled hangover while thrashing around on a small boat that smells like dead fish in the middle of a violent thunderstorm. Now think about how that’d feel every waking second of the day, for more than five months—straight.”
Yes, I was that dramatic. I wasn’t at first, but I quickly learned I had to insert some theatrical flair for someone to truly understand I’m not skipping around after a cutesy little barf.
Initially, people continued asking me to do things with or for them, as if my words had evaporated as soon as I spoke them. Clients asked to meet up for casual meetings (WITH NO AGENDA—which is the worst even if you’re not pregnant). Friends asked me to drive across the city on the 10 freeway in LA during rush hour to meet up for dinner.
Then there were the suggestions, two of the most popular being:
“Have you tried ginger?” (This is the first thing almost everyone tries.
“Oh! So-and-so told me eating peppermint candy helped with the nausea! You should try it!” (Good for them! If my nausea could vanish from eating candy, I would be super happy.)
It took over a month of turning people down multiple times and explaining how debilitating nausea can be multiple times for people to finally stop asking me to do things.
And turning people down and explaining is exhausting in itself.
I’m Not Blaming You
This is my first pregnancy. I, too, have attempted to make these suggestions to pregnant women before, or asked them if they want to meet up to play. Looking back, I feel violently apologetic to any pregnant woman I’ve harassed for a piece of their companionship.
At the end of the day, people just want to treat you like you’re a regular human being, even if you’re growing another human being inside of you. Nobody wants to abandon you as soon as you explain you’re nauseous. I get it.
And everyone wants to move on with their daily lives. Because my pregnancy doesn’t revolve around them. I get this, too.
I’m just here to share a learning experience. “Morning sickness” is accurate for some, but not for others. Remember there is nausea on all notches of the spectrum. There are women who don’t feel terrible at all. Some feel terrible but hide it while they’re at work. Others feel terrible and are open about it. It’s not your fault if you don’t know any better, but when a pregnant woman tells you her “morning sickness” is “all-day sickness,” keep in mind she’s legit struggling. Then react as such.
It will make a huge difference. And you’ll be the one friend who “gets it”! That’s always nice, eh?