I’m hoping you can help me handle the situation that keeps cropping up.
I’m currently almost six months pregnant. I have a pregnancy complication called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which is a severe form of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Unlike typical morning sickness, it often lasts all nine months, involves dramatic weight loss, dehydration requiring hospitalization for fluids, malnutrition, and can have more serious consequences (like severe dental and esophageal damage, and poor fetal growth and preterm labor). I’m lucky– my baby is growing well, though the health related complications this is causing mean this will be my last pregnancy. I just need your advice to get through the last few months.
I also had HG with my first child, and ran into this situation as well. I get sick multiple times a day, and since my husband works long hours, I have doctor’s appointments, and I have a three year old, sometimes I’m out in public when I get sick. I try to pick restrooms or locations away from others. I know others are often disturbed, grossed out, and upset by throwing up and so I try not to expose others to it.
However, when I need to be sick, there are times that the only place is in a crowded public bathroom, or there are times when I’m getting sick and someone walks in. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on, and usually people leave quickly or move away when I leave the stall.
I feel guilty, and usually try to say, “It’s not contagious, it’s pregnancy related. I get a severe form of morning sickness the entire time. I’m sorry!” I don’t want anyone to worry that I’ll make them sick.
But then I get all sorts of crazy comments like: “I wish I had morning sickness! Then I wouldn’t have gained so much weight during pregnancy” (it completely baffles me that anyone would WISH to throw up), “it’s all in your head” (apparently I choose to be this sick), “I hope you don’t take any medicine. That could kill your baby!” (not as quickly as the dehydration would if I didn’t take meds, but thanks for your concern), and “you should try ginger ale” (which is mostly just frustrating because I’d hope I’m smart enough to try ginger ale before hitting the point I’m visibly pregnant).
I usually just half smile and leave and don’t respond to the comments other than one-word answers. I never know what to say. I recognize that by sharing why I’m throwing up I am opening myself up to stranger comments… but I feel like I should say something when people are visibly shrinking away from me and freaked out after hearing me get sick, fearing that I’m contagious.
What’s the appropriate way to handle it when strangers see or hear you get sick in public? I really do my best to avoid the situation, but it does happen at times. I feel truly dreadful for the poor people who catch me. I know it’s gross, but I can’t help it.
Should I continue with my explanation that I’m not contagious? Should I just leave without saying a word? Should I apologize? If I do explain, is there a polite way to stop the ridiculous comments while I wash my face and hands and beat a quick retreat from the bathroom? 1125-13
Bathrooms are for the capture and containment of bodily effluvia, be it pee, poop, barf, snot, boogers, blood, etc. It is far more preferable that you barf in a public bathroom stall than an open area…which reminds me of the time my then 10 year old son did not make it into the McDonald’s bathroom and spewed with epic flourish all over the dining room floor. It was spectacular.
What you perceive as people “shrinking away” may only be the desire to give you space and privacy. A lot of people do not like to vomit in the presence of others, even their own spouses, and I can see how people would want to give you a wide berth for your sake. Some people get physically sick at the sound and smell of vomit which also explains why they may be hurrying out of the way.
And if you are at a loss for words, I suspect the other bathroom patrons are as well which results in the rather inane and pointless comments they make. I personally would not give them a conversational opening such as you have done. No one needs to know why you are tossing your cookies in the bathroom since what you are doing is a perfectly acceptable use of the facilities and your current health status is none of their business. If you happen to meet eyes with someone while washing hands, you could say, “Pregnancy”, and leave it at that.