Like most of you, I celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday surrounded by family, friends and football. I happily spent the entire day barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen – quite literally – as I captained dinner for my husband, sister-in-law, her husband, and their 1 year old baby girl Megan. Having Megan in our house, in and of itself, was a lesson straight out of Bringing Home Baby, 101. With a little munchkin crawling everywhere, climbing on everything, and putting everything in her mouth, I learned that our house is definitely NOT babyproof yet. Then, when Megan started thowing up, completely unexpectedly, and with no apparent reason, we got to experience the not-so-cute side of parenting: projectile vomit down Mom’s shirt at the dinner table, a poor, uncomfortable baby who couldn’t eat or sleep, and the ins-and-outs of diaper research (was she peeing? what was in her poo?). It wasn’t until Friday evening, when the puking took a turn toward diarrhea that we all started getting worried. Despite having no fever, this poor baby couldn’t keep any liquids down – and at 5280 feet above sea level, this is even more cause for concern. My sister-in-law is always tough as nails, and rarely gets nervous about anything… but when I saw the look on her face turn from soothing comfort to worried sick, I knew we needed to get Megan to the ER to avoid dehydration. Better safe than sorry, I said…
After a 3 hour visit to the ER, an anti-nausea pill and ounces of pedialyte later, Megan was on the mend…. just as this virus began wrecking havoc on each of us adults, one by one. My brother-in-law went down first, waking up at 4 in the morning Saturday with his first urgent run to the bathroom. Next, it was me. At about 9am, I could feel it coming…. and I didn’t know which end it was coming from. My sister-in-law was the next victim about an hour later, and then finally my husband at 5 pm that day. Despite the fact that all of us had gotten the flu shot, we were no match for this bug. It was a nasty virus that came on fast and furious, emptying out our insides with a vengeance I have never experienced. Regardless, I thought I would just wait it out, try to keep pushing fluids, and the baby should be just fine. People get sick during pregnancy all the time, right?
At about 4pm, after I thought I had cleared everything from my system already, it got worse. I couldn’t even take a sip of water without running to the bathroom to vomit. My body was heaving so much that I started to feel unfamiliar cramping around my lower abdomen, and then I knew. I had to call my OB’s office, and talk to the on-call doc.
Thank God I did. She told me that this virus was going around, and she didn’t want me to wait it out. She prescribed me two anti-nausea meds: one to take orally, but if that came right back up, I would need to take a suppository. Yikes… But the alternative was scarier. If I couldn’t keep down any fluids, I’d have to go to the ER for IV meds and hydration, in order to prevent uterine contractions, or worse, pre-term labor. And after the lower abdomen pain and pressure I had been having with my bouts of heaving, I knew she was serious.
The doctor told me it would take some time for the meds to kick in, but to monitor whether or not I was still urinating… if not, then I was already dehydrated and needed to get to the ER. For the next six hours I struggled to keep the medications down, let alone any liquids. Tiny sips of water would send me running to the toilet, stomach cramping, and tears flowing. At one point, I sat on the toilet, crying, trying to pee, thinking there was no way these meds were working, and now with a husband who was also down for the count, who was going to drive me to the hospital? What was happening to the baby? After calling the doc again, she told me to take one more magic pill, and then call back if it didn’t work.
Sure enough, I took that pill, fell asleep, and woke up to a calmer stomach. Slowly, I started drinking water, then ginger ale, then gatorade. Now, 36 hours later, I’m still not 100% and have no appetite, but at least I can hydrate and keep it down. This wasn’t at all how I envisioned making up for the Thanksgiving day calories, but it’s taught me a few lessons that I hope will serve you, too.
1) Program your doctor’s office number into your cell phone. And if you have any doubts at ALL, call, no matter the time of day.
I hesitated when first deciding whether or not to call the doc. It was a holiday weekend after all, and I didn’t want to be “that patient” – the worry-wart who was panicked about a silly stomach bug. But it turns out, it was a virus that was worthy of concern, and it is their job, after all…. Better safe than sorry.
2) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Typical guidelines for a non-pregnant woman are to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. That’s roughly 48-64 ounces. Or, if you are like me, and you measure by Nalgenes consumed, that is two Nalgenes. For pregnant women, they often suggest even more – your little one is swimming around in a water-based sac, after all. If you add in factors like living at altitude, or working out at least an hour a day, your body needs more than that. My personal goal is to drink one Nalgene in the morning, drink one Nalgene in the afternoon, and work on a third after work. The stomach cramps I felt may have been just cramps, or they may have been contractions. I’m not entirely sure, but it was enough to scare me into drinking water every chance I can…. Better safe than sorry.
3) Wash your hands, stay away from hospitals, and try to boost your immunity through nutrition.
Pay attention to what you are eating, and trying to eat foods rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants and other nutrients. Berries, citrus, and leafy green vegetables are all great options. If you can’t stomach them, try them in a smoothie or juice. Wash your hands whenever you can; if you are concerned it will dry out your hands too much, start carrying lotion. The alternative is much worse…. Better safe than sorry.