Jane Velez-Mitchell

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The princess and the puke: A fellow sufferer's view

NEED TO KNOW
  • Author Linda Keenan knows just how Kate Middleton feels
  • Vomiting, smell sensitivity? 'I wasn't even six weeks pregnant,' she says
Don't worry, Kate. You're not alone suffering from severe morning sickness.

Morning sickness sidelines Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton is pregnant with her first child.

Editor's note: Linda Keenan, a former CNN senior producer, is the author of the satire book Suburgatory, which helped launch the ABC sitcom of the same name.

As an early adopter of pajama jeans and possessor of what's best described as a "Faces of Meth" hairdo, I never thought I'd have a thing in common with the impeccable Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. So it's fitting that our common ground is forged in less-dignified precincts, namely, the bathroom.

Kate has apparently joined the sisterhood of the nonstop vomiters, suffering as I did from hyperemesis gravidarum, severe morning sickness that can last for months, even the entire pregnancy. We now both know the intimate contours of a toilet seat, face-first, as expectant moms, the difference being my seat was cut-rate Home Depot and hers might be older than, you know, America or something. Not the throne anyone wants to know well. 
I was a writer for Anderson Cooper's new program in 2003 when I got pregnant. All seemed fine until what I call The Stink Week, when formerly unremarkable smells became unimaginably intense. 
 
Soon I was vomiting so much that I actually moved desks far away from Anderson to be right next to the bathroom, without saying why, because how could I? I wasn't even six weeks pregnant. But I was losing weight fast, and my husband Steve was already helping me home on the subway. Within days, I couldn't shower, much less work, and would find myself apartment-bound for months.  
 
This will sound very "TMZ newsroom," but when I heard the news, I'll admit my first thought was, when she goes to the bathroom (No. 1) what color is it? Is it like apple juice? Or closer to Coke? Mine was closer to Coke on the day I got shipped to the ER for rehydration. From then on, I took the drug Zofran, typically used to "treat" nausea in cancer patients. I say "treat" because the nausea never really stopped.
 
I read Monday that doctors expect Kate to "recover in a few days," and I let out a bitter cackle. Yeah, she'll be rehydrated, but if she has full-blown HG, she could be tossing her biscuits for months. 
 
My only go-to food was pineapple, and I ate so much of it my mouth regularly bled. My husband said: "You're going to deliver a pineapple." Turns out I delivered a near-clone of him, which actually goes to one very speculative guess about morning sickness - that a woman's body is trying to expel this new, foreign DNA. We named the foreign DNA Frank.  He's 8 now, and guess what? He hates pineapple. 
 
The nausea faded literally a half hour after Frank's birth, and yet the fears that I hurt him in utero linger. Early on, a dentist gave me a subtle once-over (was it the meth hairdo?!) and said, "Did you have a difficult pregnancy?" Frank's baby teeth had a "mottled" color that apparently suggested poor prenatal nutrition.   
 
I'm not sure this dentist had heard of HG. When you explain that it is severe morning sickness, many women nod knowingly, recalling their early round of the voms. But their voms more or less stopped. With HG, it often keeps roaring along.
 
So here's a few tips to know if a friend or loved one is suffering badly. Take it seriously if you actually hear the phrase hyperemesis gravidarum, or you hear she was in the ER, or she mentions any of the following: dark urine, Zofran, dehydration, ketones/ketosis, anti-emetics, weight loss, PICC lines, or supplemental nutrition. 
 
Any of these would suggest she is in a nonstop nausea nightmare. And for God's sake, stop suggesting we eat crackers - we are so far beyond crackers. If we're on a drug for cancer, do you really think crackers will help? And don't you think we Googled this about 100 pukes ago?! 
 
As you can tell, I still get wild-eyed about the topic, and my "sisterhood" mention earlier was sincere.  I got the HG knuckle-bump about it Monday from two dear friends and fellow sufferers, Geri and Michele. We'd knuckle-bump you too, Kate! And the next time someone in their posh accent says "Well, have you tried eating CRACKERS?" allow me to say for you what I know a Duchess of Cambridge cannot: Bugger off!

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