It’s okay to feel ripped off by COVID

When this all began in 2020, I was 28 years old. I had a 4 year old daughter who was a handful but a happy handful. I had a partner who had been living with us for nearly 12 months and we were pretty happy. We’d booked a holiday for my daughters 5th birthday which was in March and we were really excited about it! Not only was it going to be my daughters first holiday but it was also my own first real holiday and I’d managed to scrape up the money all on my own without having to ask my family for a hand. Things were going well.

We never made it to Queensland, though. Our nationwide lockdown began on the 30th of a March, the same day as my daughters birthday and a day after we were supposed to fly out. We would have been stuck in another state for months… looking back now, that may not have been such a bad thing. That was the first of 6 hard lockdowns that Victorians faced throughout the following 18 months, with the days adding up to more than 260 as of December 2021. Restrictions in place meant that people were only allowed up to 2 hours outdoors a day and only essential services and supermarkets were open. Schools only ran remotely, meaning children have lost the best part of two years learning in a classroom and playgrounds were closed for a large portion of the lockdown period.

That was coming up to two years ago. Two years that feels like a very painful blink of an eye for most Melbournians, who are not only residents of the most locked down city in the country but the most locked down city in the world.

COVID has felt like a universally bad dream that we couldn’t wake up from. Our lives, relationships, jobs, homes… nothing was left untouched. The deaths, although extensive, were a small detail on the list of damages left behind by COVID restrictions, lockdowns and isolation periods. Hard workers lost their jobs, which meant some lost their homes, kids fell behind in school and people with once good mental health began experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Adult children couldn’t say goodbye to loved ones in retirement homes, funerals were cut down to 10 mourners and weddings were put on hold for an uncertain amount of time. Nobody was safe from the impacts of COVID-19.

My experience centred around my home, my family and our mental health. I fell pregnant in May 2020 and gave birth the following February. And as if it wasn’t bad enough that I had lost my 6 year old daughters final year of kindergarten to COVID and lockdown but I watched my daughter slowly becoming a different person… her spark was starting to dim and she was struggling with her own mental health. I was helpless in watching it happen… It was Melbourne’s 6th lockdown that was the icing on the cake. My daughter most likely had undiagnosed ADHD before COVID but the uncertainty of the last two years really intensified her behaviour to the point where we are currently seeking medical intervention after the informal diagnosis of ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). I am left sitting here wondering whether this was our path all along or whether COVID put us here…

It’s okay to feel ripped off by COVID. I do! I was supposed to be enjoying my children and showing them the world before they grow up. I wasn’t supposed to be a grumpy, tired, stressed, anxious mess of a mother. That’s what I have become, though… I feel like as each day goes on I am losing another day of freedom with my daughter, another day of enjoying her childhood, another day of my life. I am doubled vaxxed as is my family and when they can, my children will be too. But that doesn’t replace the time we’ve lost being stuck between these walls. It won’t give my daughter those two years of crucial early childhood development. It won’t make the world feel normal again… because like with everything, once you move forward… you very rarely go back.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Cruel Truth

Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Termination & Pregnancy Loss.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with pregnancy, loss or depression, please seek immediate help from your GP or healthcare professional. There is help out there, you aren’t alone. 🤎

Hyperemesis Gravidarum. You have probably never heard of it, unless you have been affected by it first or second hand. Most women go through their lives never hearing the term because, well, it’s not very talked about. But it is real.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is described as excessive vomiting during pregnancy but that is a very vague description in comparison to what some women go through. Hyperemesis (or HG) is a debilitating condition that prevents the pregnant woman from ingesting food, ingesting water. It effects around 1% of women and when suffering from HG, pregnancy is considered as “high risk”. The severity can range from mild to extreme, with extreme cases being admitted to hospital and in some cases, early induction is needed for the well-being of both mum and baby. The key factors that define HG are weight loss in excess of 5kgs during the first trimester, constant and debilitating nausea, extreme food aversion, extreme dehydration due to excessive vomiting… basically, it makes morning sickness look like a hangover.

I have been pregnant 6 times: I miscarried at 7 weeks when I was 18 , I had a termination when I was 21, I gave birth to my eldest daughter almost 7 years ago, I had another termination a few years later, I then gave birth to my youngest daughter 9 months ago and I recently found out I am pregnant, again. It’s hard to imagine that, at the age of 30, I could have had 6 children right now – ranging in ages from 12 to unborn…… I couldn’t possibly picture myself with so many kids.

Although, every one of these pregnancies was very different in circumstance, they all had one commonality – I was severely ill from the earliest stage possible. It seemed that once I had confirmed my pregnancy with a home test, the sickness would begin and overwhelm me completely. Pregnancy was never beautiful or enjoyable for me. I would look at pregnant women on Instagram and I would sit in bed and cry seeing their beautiful maternity shoots or the lavish baby showers decked out with cakes and treats. I struggled to get out of bed, I struggled to play with my kids, I struggled to go to birthdays and celebrate life because I was constantly nauseous. Pregnancy was, for me, a traumatic and unpleasant means to a beautiful ending.

So in saying that, I waited 6 years between having my daughters and for very good reason – I needed my biggest one to be at least partly self sufficient just to be able to cope with being so sick again. There was so much guilt and so many tears over the 9 months I was barely able to interact with my daughter. She was very understanding but how understanding can a 5 year old really be, right?

Those two pregnancies where I carried to full term almost killed me. They didn’t just physically drain me, my mental health and emotional health was put to the test in ways I never imagined. My two girls are my rewards for putting my body through that kind of trauma. And although, I would have loved a big family, my body just won’t allow it. I’m afraid if I go back again, I won’t make it out the other side and that’s a big risk when you have babies who rely on you. That doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen, though. Just because I said I was done, that doesn’t mean I won’t ever fall pregnant again. Because I can… and I did.

I was on the pill, we used condoms, we tried to be safe but we still fell pregnant. And I became bed-ridden, once again. With now a 9 month old baby and a near 7 year old with excess energy – another baby was a dream best left in my mind. I struggle at the best of times and even though I always saw myself with a big family, it wouldn’t have been a responsible choice given my babies who were already earth-side just wouldn’t be getting the attention they need from their mummy for potentially the next 7 months. I’d already spent the best of the last 3 weeks with my head in the toilet… it was already affecting my ability to parent.

So, I had only one option. My 6th pregnancy became my 3rd surgical termination and preferably my last of both. My mind was sitting uncomfortably somewhere between tubal sterilisation and grieving my ability to create a baby with my body. It’s a cruel condition, HG. Essentially, for me, being pregnant was an allergy; the only answer being taking my chances with it, avoiding it entirely or terminating for the sake of my health and my children. Thoughts like “the ability to carry a child and give birth does not define me as a mother” and “there is a place in the world for women like me” now dancing in my mind. I was now experiencing a whole new genre of trauma: attempting to accept I will never carry another baby, I will never give birth to another baby and our family will never become a family of 5 is going to be harder than I thought…