Health & Family

Emily Maynard Johnson on morning-sickness battles: ‘I was a zombie’

Emily Maynard Johnson discusses her year of dramatic change

It’s been a year of dramatic life changes for Charlotte’s Emily Maynard Johnson, who gained fame as the star of ABC reality-dating show “The Bachelorette” in 2012.
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It’s been a year of dramatic life changes for Charlotte’s Emily Maynard Johnson, who gained fame as the star of ABC reality-dating show “The Bachelorette” in 2012.

It’s been a year of dramatic life changes for Charlotte’s Emily Maynard Johnson, who gained fame as the star of ABC reality-dating show “The Bachelorette” in 2012.

She became a New York Times bestselling author with her memoir, “I Said Yes: My Story of Heartbreak, Redemption, and True Love,” released in March.

She became pregnant again, less than six months after giving birth to her first son, Jennings, with her husband of two years, Tyler Johnson. (She also has a daughter, Ricki, 11, from a relationship with the late NASCAR driver Ricky Hendrick.)

And for the first time in three pregnancies, she became morning-sickness-free, thanks to a little help from her big Twitter following.

The 30-year-old Maynard Johnson – who is facing yet more change, as the family prepares to move out of its 4,500-square-foot home on a relatively tiny lot in Myers Park to a 10-acre spread in SouthPark – recently shared her story of pregnancy struggles and triumphs with the Observer.

She was “so sick” when she was pregnant with Ricki, and again when she was pregnant last year with Jennings. “I was in and out of the hospital. I could barely get out of bed. There’s not a parking lot in Charlotte that I haven’t gotten sick in.” So, when she found out she was pregnant again this year with No. 3, she just resigned herself to the fact that she was going to be sick for nine months: “I’m pregnant, this is how it’s gonna be.”

There wasn’t much she could put in her stomach. “I had to stick with really bland stuff and hope it stayed down. I would take a sip of water and I would get sick. It’s scary – you have a baby and obviously you don’t want to do anything that is gonna hurt the baby. But I couldn’t keep anything down.”

In fact, she could hardly be around food at all. My poor husband, he would bring food in the house and I’d be like, ‘You have to take that out. You can’t be in here with that. I love you, but you need to eat in the garage.’ 

Shortly after learning she was pregnant this past winter, she was due to hit the road to promote her new book. “I was so scared that I signed this big contract, that I was gonna go out and promote the book, and that I wouldn’t be able to because I’d be sick in bed. ... My very first night in New York, Ricki and my mom came with me, and we went out to eat – it was my first time meeting the publishers in person. I walked into the restaurant and I was like, ‘I have to go.’ Ricki and I had to book it back to the hotel, and – yeah, it was a bad night.”

There wasn’t a morning-sickness cure she hadn’t tried at least once. “I tried vitamins, Saltines, ginger in every form, basically. Soda water. Acupuncture. I tried changing my diet, I tried exercising more. ... My doctor told me to set an alarm at night and keep some string cheese next to the bed and eat it, so my stomach would not be empty when I woke up in the morning. Nothing was working. I was just a zombie.”

But, as usual, nothing worked and, as usual, she started to go a little crazy. “There’s that saying, ‘The sicker you are, the healthier your baby’s gonna be.’ That’s what everybody would say: ‘Oh, you’re gonna have a healthy, healthy baby!’ I’m like, ‘What about me?’ So I just suffered with it for a long time, and after you try everything under the sun, you feel hopeless. It can really start to mess with your mind. If you feel sick nonstop for months, it starts to affect everything – not just physically.”

It got so bad this time that she considered taking some drastic measures. “I knew that I wasn’t gonna be able to take care of Jennings and Ricki at the same time as being as sick as I was. ... I thought, ‘I’m gonna have to get my mom to move in with me – or my mother-in-law. We were prepared for that.” (Thankfully, neither of those had to happen,” Maynard Johnson says, laughing. “I love them, but thankfully everybody’s still living at their own homes.”)

So, in mid-March, she turned to her more than 400,000 followers on Twitter for advice. In a matter of three days, she went from asking for suggested remedies to trying a combination of an over-the-counter sleep aid and Vitamin B6 to getting a prescription for a morning-sickness medication that received FDA approval in the U.S. in 2013.

“So many people suggested Diclegis. So I went to my doctor, he gave me a prescription and, honestly – it’s not the same for everybody, obviously but – it helped me almost immediately.”

Once the morning sickness was under control, she made a beeline for her favorite cheat food. “Hot wings. From DD Peckers (on Park Road). The hot wings with ranch.” How often has she been there since regaining the freedom to eat what she wants during pregnancy? “More than I care to admit in the newspaper.”

She sees her partnership with Duchesnay (maker of Diclegis) – and her support of National Bump Day on Wednesday, Aug. 3 – as a way to give back. “In the same way that Twitter helped me learn about it and know that you don’t have to suffer, I want to get the word out, too, that you don’t have to be miserable or even just a little bit sick. You can enjoy your pregnancy.”

Maynard Johnson is scheduled to have a C-section on Friday, Sept. 16. And this will be the first time she hasn’t found out her child’s gender in advance. “I knew I didn’t want to find out. Tyler and Ricki both did, and so I had to talk them into it. But in your adult life, there’s so few true surprises that I thought it’d be fun.”

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

Chat with Emily Maynard Johnson

The former reality-TV star, New York Times best-selling author and mother of two (soon to be three) will take over the Twitter account for pharmaceutical company Duchesnay from 4-5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3, to answer pregnancy-related questions. Her Twitter is @EmilyMaynard; Duchesnay’s is @DuchesnayUSA.