Today is International Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) Awareness Day, an event which will always hold a very special place in my heart. I may not write much about Hyperemesis any more, but it is something I will never forget. Over the past 3 years I have seen awareness of the condition grow, leading to greater support and better care for families affected by it, in a way that I could never have imagined when suffering from Hyperemesis myself in 2011. And that’s all because individual voices have come together to enact greater change than any single voice could.
Now don’t get me wrong, individuals can make a huge amount of difference. I’ve seen it happen so many times within the HG world: the woman who dedicates vast amounts of time to supporting other women who are suffering through a hell that only she can understand; the doctor who goes above and beyond to ensure that a patient in their care receives the best possible treatment; the team of midwives who agree to meet and listen to a woman share what HG was like for her and how to best support other women like her; and the partners, family and friends of a sufferer who rally around her to make every day as easy as possible, and attend medical appointments to help advocate for her when she is unable to do so herself. These are all really important ways in which individuals make a massive difference to those around them. And we should never underestimate how much change one person can make! But it is through working together that lasting change on a large scale is achieved.
The changes I have seen over the past three years have come about because many, many individuals have come together for a common cause. Multiple charities have formed working relationships which enable them to achieve more together than they ever could alone. The international collaboration of the two big HG Charities, Pregnancy Sickness Support (PSS) here in the UK and The HER Foundation in the US, sparked the idea for an International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day. And a recent collaboration between PSS and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) enabled the production of a report on the number of women feeling like they have no choice but to terminate a much wanted pregnancy due to Hyperemesis. This report led to further media coverage, including mentions on the front page of national newspapers and an interview on Women’s Hour, something which may not have happened without working together.
Even within the individual charities themselves, there are great developments occurring, and this is all because of the sheer number of people supporting them. Take PSS, for example: the active forum is only thriving because of the many members supporting each other through the opportunity offered to them on there; the Support Network only works because of the amount of dedicated volunteers who offer their time and support to those in need (it also relies on many others spreading the word about its existence, as well as funding for staff to coordinate it and further developments); and the research undertaken often relies on the various voices of those who have suffered coming forward and sharing their stories.
This time last year my life was pretty much overtaken by the cause – I was working vast amount of hours every week as the Volunteer Coordinator for PSS and also working on final edits of Hyperemesis Gravidarum: The Definitive Guide. I lived in a world that was full of equal amounts of desperation from those currently suffering and passion for change from those who had survived HG. And despite personally dedicating huge amounts of time and energy to the cause (too much, in retrospect, for a healthy work/life balance), I never once lost sight of the fact that it was the multitude of individual voices that were making the vast changes I was lucky enough to see happening right before my eyes.
My life is very different now to what it was this time last year. 12 months ago I was burning out, fast. Despite the fact that there were many, many people working together to enact change there just weren’t enough of us to make change on the scale that we wanted to. It is a battle that so many causes face, and it is one that is only won through people coming together so that their individual voices are amplified by those singing the same tune. The greatest lesson that I took from my time with PSS was this – one person can change the world, but only through working with others.
So today I am asking you to think about what is important to you. What do you feel passionate about and what do you wish you could change in the world? Please don’t ever think that you cannot make a difference, because you can. Don’t compare yourself to others and feel that you aren’t strong enough or wise enough or talented enough – everyone has something that they can give that is unique to them and will, when given the opportunity, make the world of difference. Whether you can give 10 hours a week or just the odd hour here or there, whether you have specific skills, knowledge and experience or are simply passionate about the cause, and whether you feel confident approaching others or terrified of making that first call, please do consider taking that leap and contacting a group or organisation who need your support and will welcome whatever you can give.
Together we can achieve great things… and it all begins with you!