I’ve gotten a lot of comments from friends saying that they expected more coverage of my pregnancy journey on the blog. This phrase, “pregnancy journey,” always makes me laugh. To me, the word “journey” has a positive connotation, conjuring up images of a whimsical venture full of magic and wonderment, much like the beard ride Mio enjoys in one of my favorite childhood movies of all time, The Land of Faraway:
All I wanted was for a giant floating face to declare “Grab hold my beard!” and I’d be whisked away on an awe-filled, excitement-laden adventure.
So imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the pregnancy journey is no magical beard ride set to the delightful sing-song lyrics “Flying through the garden, garden of the roses!”
No. Fuck that. There are zero roses and not one oversized beard to grab on this helltrek.
For me, pregnancy has been more like the journey of the Oregon Trial– painfully slow, riddled with various disease, characterized by constant dehydration with a desperate search for the next water source, never quite sure when the diarrhea will strike, and with an overall looming sense of “Oh, so THIS is how I die.” All set to the soundtrack of Weird Al’s “I’m Fat.”
Much like an optimistic fur trapper of the 1830s, I set out on my journey as a bundle of excitement and nerves, only to find myself quickly acquiring various diseases that would put proverbial dead oxen in front of my wagon and test my will to go on.
Below I will detail the ailments I acquired on my journey because, well, you’ve wondered why I haven’t been posting more and THIS IS WHY.
No Yellow Fever or Dysentery, per se (although the chronic diarrhea that marked my entire first trimester had me googling “is Dysentery still a thing people get?” from the Cascabel Taqueria toilet. And before you say, “Well of course you had diarrhea, Emily, you were eating tacos!”, I was not. Cascabel Taqueria happens to be centrally located between most of my tutoring clients, and thus the not-exactly-public bathroom I ran to when danger struck between sessions. The first few times I actually pretended to be a patron and that I’d have a drink at the bar right after I “used the bathroom real quick- thanks!” By my 5th visit, the hostess took one look at me and said, “I’m sorry, the bathroom is for patrons only” to which I replied “I am pregnant, I am ashamed, and I’m sorry,” to which she replied, “Oh, come this way, hon,” and actually escorted me to the private stall. One time she even gave me a seltzer afterward. I don’t know much about heaven but I do know there is an extra special spot up there reserved for Consuela of Cascabel.)
So here’s a sampling of my ailments, in order experienced. Some of them I’ve mentioned in previous posts, others I have not. But there’s something truly delightful (re: horrifying) about seeing them all listed in one place:
Standard 1st Trimester Bullshit
None of these are particularly unique or interesting so I’m just throwing all of them into this hellparade-I-never-want-to-think-about-again category and moving on– nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, exhaustion, food aversion, increased sense of smell (this includes the heightened odor of things that already smelled bad, like the subway, and sudden gag reflex in response to formerly benign or even pleasant smells, like your husband’s head), caffeine withdrawal, excessive drooling (yup, a thing), frequent urination, dehydration, restless leg syndrome, your own heightened body odor (this one gets increasingly fun the more your partner chooses to be honest about it).
I have nothing interesting to say about any of these things other than when they are happening all at once, you straight up want to die, and if you don’t, well, fuck you, Mary Poppins.
Now, depression is nothing new for me, of course. I’ve been suffering bouts of depression since my teenage years, but let me tell you, perinatal depression is a very special breed of the illness, where you take the standard guilt, shame, self-loathing and hopelessness, and add to it a creature-fetus that you are not only responsible for, but societally expected to care for and be excited about. If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you know that caring for things becomes extremely difficult and the notion of being EXCITED about something is not only impossible, it’s literally not even a notion you can understand in theory. So the fact that you sort of wish you were dead but you have this thing you SHOULD be excited about just compounds those feelings of guilt, self-loathing, and hopelessness and sprinkles in a bit of “You are going to be a terrible mom, wtf were you thinking?” (that thought usually hits JUST as you’ve mustered the energy to get out of bed and brush your teeth, and sends you right back to the safety of your under-washed, tear-and-snot stained sheets.)
Luckily, for me, the depression lifted shortly after trimester 1. I expect it to be back in full force once the baby comes, but I plan to greet Postpartum Depression in the delivery room with a huge bottle of Prozac, a copy of Brooke Shields’ “Down Came the Rain” and my therapist on FaceTime, so at least that one I’ll be prepared for. The Perinatal came as quite a surprise. I knew it was common to feel physically shitty during pregnancy, but I was really caught of guard by the frighteningly dark nature of my thoughts. I kind of expected the “miracle” of conception to guard me from notions of despair and hopelessness. Cue Depression’s “Got ya again!” shoulder shimmy.
This one’s fun. So you know that whole shitstorm category of Trimester 1 symptoms listed above? Since they’re all pretty common, and most of them are exactly what one would feel if their thyroid just decided to up and die, hypothyroidism is commonly misdiagnosed or just missed altogether, but it’s a fairly common ailment acquired during pregnancy (which, bonus– then NEVER GOES AWAY! ). I pretty much had to diagnose myself, my main symptom being an EXTREME intolerance to cold. I’ve always been temperature sensitive (a polite way of saying I am either sweating like Rocky in round 12 or freezing like Rocky…in The Rockies? Whatever the point is I get cold.) I mentioned to my doctor that the cold felt literally painful, to which he replied “Well, it’s January,” to which I replied, , so he agreed to test my thyroid levels. And, as suspected, and because I apparently have to do all the medical work around here, I did, in fact have hypothyroidism, a condition that very commonly exists in women but remains “underlying” until a stressful event, such as sharing organs with a parasite, brings it to the surface. Once surfaced, however, it typically never goes away, which isn’t exactly ideal but the good news is that it’s a pretty simple fix– a daily dose of Synthroid, a medication with virtually no side effects– will pretty much entirely fix the problem. The downside is that it takes about 2 months to kick in, and when you’re feeling like the eye of a shitnado, that can feel like a really. fucking. long. time.
But anyway, yeah. Add “endocrinologist” to my growing list of docs I will have to see forever. At least he’s entertaining, and I imagine he will continue to be a featured character on this blog, as everything that comes out of his mouth is completely offensive and absurd, but in that adorable “It’s ok because you’re about 300 years old and might literally die as we sit here” kind of way.
Factor 11 Deficiency
This one is really not that big a deal, just kind of falls under the category of “ADD IT TO THE GODDAMN LIST.” When we first learned of the pregnancy, we immediately had genetic testing done (note: learn from our mistake and try to do this BEFORE you get pregnant– there’s no reason to have to worry about the small possibility of over 817 uncommon but possibly deadly ailments you could pass to your baby while your morning-sick head is in a toilet). Through this testing, we learned that I am a carrier of 3 rare diseases (!!!). One, called Usher Syndrome Type 2A, would result in a perfectly normal, healthy baby at birth, but then somewhere around early childhood the kid would lose her hearing and go completely blind (!). The other, Phenylalanine Hydroxylase Deficiency, can POSSIBLY be controlled and effects minimized with a very strict diet from birth, but will still most likely result in severe brain damage (!!). The last was Factor 11 Deficiency, a blood disease that can lead to severe, excessive bleeding or potentially fatal blood clotting (!!!). Now, the good news is that NONE of these diseases will be inherited by the baby as long as Eric is not a carrier of them as well (if he were, the baby would then have a 25% chance of actively having the disease). As it turns out (discovered three excruciatingly long weeks later), Eric is a carrier of nothing, which actually came as a surprise to us seeing as though he has Type 1 Diabetes, a raging case of Childlike Optimism, and Obsessive Corgi Disorder.
Side note: My favorite part of the genetic testing experience was my Mom hearing about all these terrible diseases and exclaiming, “WHERE did you get all this horrible stuff?!” Well, it’s genetic testing, so….YOU?!
Sometimes I just can not.
Anyway, this was all good news in the end, as our child will be safe from these rare monster diseases I carry, and being a carrier has virtually no effect on me– except, as it turns out, for the Factor 11 Deficiency. In SOME cases, even carriers can have symptoms, but, as a trip to the hematologist (more doctors!) confirmed, I have never had any history of excessive bleeding or clotting, so the chances of this affecting me during labor or later in life are slim to non-existent. There were a brief few days there where I thought I was not going to be allowed to have an epidural, but it turns out I can, so BRING ON THE BIG ASS NEEDLE AND ALLLLLLLLL THE DRUGS PLEASE! I have already devised a plan to arrive at the hospital with a huge platter of cookies for the anesthesiologist, because in case there’s any last-minute controversy over whether or not I’m allowed an epidural, I want that motherfucker on my side.
Ah, diabetes. Not just for spouses anymore! When I first met Eric, a Type 1 diabetic diagnosed at age 6, I had absolutely no idea what having diabetes meant, nor the slightest clue how to manage it. I sort of knew it had to do with sugar, but the extent of my knowledge on diabetic sugar management was, “So, like, you can have a SLICE of sheet cake, you just can’t eat the WHOLE sheet cake in one sitting like I do?” (He would later explain, to my horror and disappointment, that eating an entire sheet cake in one sitting is bad for ANYONE).
The one fun thing about pregnancy is being able to eat pretty much whatever the fuck you want, because you feel like shit and it’s your only comfort, and if someone tries to lecture you, you can just bark “I’m eating for two!” (not actually a thing), throw something against a wall, or just start crying. Any of those methods work for getting said person to back the fuck off and let you continue eating your bowl of GGMM cereal (that’s a pregnancy breakfast I invented. It’s Golden Grahams and M&Ms together in one bowl, with milk. It’s just like the very common practice of mixing two cereals, except one of the cereals is chocolate in a candy-coated sugar shell and not at all, by any stretch of the imagination, a cereal.)
So you get about 2 months of being able to delightfully indulge in all the crap you want (because the first 3 months you were too nauseated to subsist on anything but melba toast) and then at week 28 you take a glucose test. The doctor gives you a drink with 50 grams of sugar and tests your blood sugar levels 1 hour after consumption. If it’s under 140, you technically pass and can skip out of the office on your merry non-diabetic way. If it’s over 140, you have to take the more extensive 3-hour glucose test to determine if you have gestational diabetes.
I got a motherfucking 138.
“Wahoo– you passed! Good for you!” was my first thought, as I poured myself another bowl of GGMM. But then the doctor called and said that 138 is pretty borderline and raises slight concerns, so I better do the 3-hour test just in case. This was a huge wakeup call, enough for me to stop mid-shovel and put down my spoon.
So I could go get a bigger spoon.
As far as I was concerned, a 138 was a passing grade.
The 3 hour test is a blast. First you fast for 12 hours. Fun for ANYONE, but particularly fun for someone who has a human living in her. Then, at the ripe hour of 8:00am, you drink 8 ounces of what can only be described as lukewarm liquid shit (orange flavor!) that contains 100 grams of sugar. Your blood is drawn right before you drink (to determine your “fasting blood sugar”), and then once every hour for the next 3 hours. “But what do you do during those 3 hours?” you ask. Oh, you sit in the waiting room starving and hating everyone, including yourself. And if you’re lucky, like me, you watch a woman go into what looks like extremely painful labor 5 FEET AWAY FROM YOU, which just gives you more to look forward to.
So just like the first test, this one came back pretty borderline, but it was determined that yes, I do technically have gestational diabetes. If 2 of your 4 blood sugar readings are too high, you are diagnosed. For the record, 2 of my readings were perfectly fine, one was 4 points too high, and one was ONE MOTHERFUCKING POINT TOO HIGH.
So I’m a diabetic. (Eric gets annoyed when I say this, because I’m totally not, but it’s my ailment and I’ll phrase it as dramatically as I damn well please). I don’t need insulin or anything, I just have to control my diet– no added sugars and a reasonable limiting of carbs, or at the very least a sensible carb-to-protein balance. Basically no eating of blatantly terrible shit that will spike my sugar and take my body hours to regulate. I check my sugar 4 times a day (easy peasy, as thanks to Eric we have about 10 meters and 3 million testing strips in our household) and as long as it’s in range (which it completely has been), I’m totally fine, and so is baby. And odds are, this condition goes away right after birth, as it is caused by hormones in the placenta slowing down my insulin production (one friend asked, “Wait, diabetes? Is this something you can blame on Eric?” Unfortunately, no. His having Type 1 Diabetes and me having Gestational Diabetes are entirely unrelated, just coincidental, and if anything, his having diabetes has actually made all this easier for me, as I am already overly armed with the equipment and knowledge to care for myself. I’ll probably still blame him, though.)
So again, not the end of the world, just a fun little extra pregnancy perk that robs me of my one enjoyable lifeline: unabashed eating. I suppose in the end this is GOOD for me? Because I’m guessing that, pregnancy or not, a daily dose of GGMM cereal is still going straight to my ass. And from what I hear, your ass does not magically deflate when the baby comes out. (What’s that? Neither does your stomach? SHUT UP, I’M HANGING ON BY A THREAD HERE.)
Standard 3rd Trimester Bullshit:
Nora Ephron once said, “If pregnancy were a book, they would cut the last two chapters.”
Amen, my sassy soul sister. Much like Trimester 1, there is nothing particularly interesting about Trimester 3, just a lot of back pain, shortness of breath, indigestion, waddling, groaning, general slowing down and constantly questioning how your mother did this FOUR FUCKING TIMES, and wondering if you should call her more (you don’t, though).
Trimester 2 was actually at times enjoyable– I did have a rush of energy and was able to get to the gym every day for a substantial workout. Now I waddle up there and pray that the one back-supported cycling machine is not being used by the 90-year-old lady in 12C, because I have literally no other options for exercise other than cruising that bad boy for 20 minutes at level 0.
So no, my pregnancy has not been a magical beard ride. It’s been a long, slow, disease-ridden trek on the Oregon Trail. But the good news is that those who survived the Oregon Trail eventually made it to the paradise of Willamette Valley (thanks, Google), where they lived an idyllic life and all their hopes and expectations came to fruition.
Oh, what’s that? Life was still really fucking hard once they got there, with no guarantee of safety, comfort, prosperity or happiness? In fact, the adjustment to life in an entirely new place, under entirely new circumstances and with no creature comforts of their old life, was almost too much for some of them to bear?