In the grand scheme of life, and with all the hormones that course through my veins, it won’t surprise me if, in retrospect, my 40-weeks of incubator duty won’t seem as awful as they did while I was living them. But my first 24 weeks of pregnancy were a hard, lonely and guilty stretch of life.
My kryptonite is nausea … and for almost 6 months, some higher power had a voodoo doll of me, put me into a tortured box and granted me a sentence of 24-hour nausea. At first it was nausea and lethargy and a general sense of malaise. Then after about 16 weeks, I seemed to gather more strength (or resilience) and it was just the nausea. It still amazes me how humans can adapt to pain and suffering and carry on.
I read somewhere that one theory for nausea (I refuse to call it “morning sickness”) in pregnant women was that ‘back in the day’ before food was pasteurized and healthy, we ate a lot of raw and bad-for-us foods that would often threaten the life of the baby. So our bodies evolved into machines that would rather make us expel the food than process dangerous foods. That’s why it’s supposed to end after 12 weeks – that’s when most of the baby’s organs have formed and it is less sensitive to the dangers of potentially harmful foods.
Apparently my body didn’t get the evolution memo. Either that, or it was, like everything else in my life – doing everything with an exclamation point. (For where else would my stories come from?)
I was growing a life within me and wanted desperately to feel happy, to feel the euphoria that everyone else seemed to shed from their skin as they announced their pregnancies. But I barely had the energy to form a smile on my face, let alone fake an emotion that was clearly buried deep within me, under layers of growing organs, bones, skin and hair.
I had to get up each morning and take care of my 7-year-old and, in reflection, I have no idea where I mustered the strength or the energy. I felt guilty of my exhaustion and sluggishness the whole time. I felt guilty that I wasn’t happier, that I wasn’t doing more, that I wasn’t a better friend, mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend.
I felt guiltiest complaining when I knew there were people who had it so much worse. Always the plight of the over thinker and the over-feeler. We are feeling bad about feeling bad. I should have been thankful to even get pregnant. I should have been more grateful that I didn’t have to go to a 9-5 job. I should have, I should have … but I didn’t.
Every evening I would crawl into bed and hope to fall asleep and gather a few hours of peaceful slumber before my nausea alarm. Some days I woke up in the middle of the night from being nausea – other days I made it through the night. I never looked forward to waking up – and that made me feel the guiltiest yet. I wasn’t suicidal, per say, but I certainly wasn’t living my life with pom-poms waving in the air. Not even a little bit.
I had my daily mantra of ‘this too shall pass’ and right about after the second trimester, it did. The nausea was replaced with heartburn and I couldn’t have been happier. At least medicine worked somewhat on the heartburn. First Tums, then Pepcid, and then Zantac! The all-natural papaya enzyme was just a foul-tasting placebo in my opinion, although all my healthy friends swore by it.
When people find out about the impending bundle of joy, they instinctually say “Congratulations!” I often wonder why? Congratulations on conceiving? Congratulations on being a successful incubator up until this point?
Now I’ve got about 7 weeks to go and I look back. Maybe at this point, I’ve earned a little congratulation. Almost like running a marathon, but only I’m at the 20-mile mark. Good job for making it this far and not collapsing. Here are some cute baby clothes as a dangling carrot to inspire you to make it the last 6.2 miles.
Aside from feeling bad about feeling bad, the hardest part was not being able to write. I wanted this time of my life to be focused on moving my writing career forward – and instead – it felt like it went directly into the toilet. It felt like I took one tiny step forward and a whole mile backwards. Now I felt like I had to start over, and felt more discouraged than ever.
A few weeks into the dreaded nausea my sister told me to write because it will take my mind off the nausea. “Just write anything,” she said. So I wrote about being nauseas. Day after day I would open up my computer journal and write about my body’s reaction to this pregnancy. After about 60 pages, I ruled myself pathetic. I spent so much time crafting words that would never see the light of day. Sentences and paragraphs that would only propelled my career into the same direction as my morning puke.
But these pages are there. They exist to remind me of the marathon I’ve run so far. There to remind me of the strength I never thought. There to reflect upon and be reassured that everything eventually does pass. Mostly I think the words will be serving as the greatest future birth control I could use.
Of course as I sit on the roof deck on this gorgeous spring day, feeling sunshine and warm wind tickle my arms, I smile and think that in a few weeks I will birth a child into this world – and it will completely revolutionize my life. Biology’s anesthesia hormones will flow through my body and will possibly alter anything I am thinking and feeling right now.
Ain’t the circle of life grand?