We had a scare recently. At a wedding in California this weekend, for seemingly no reason at all, I went into preterm labor. This was complicated by multiple factors, the most pressing of which were at the time I was only 26 weeks along, and separated from our toddler and our home by a few state lines. (more…)
I’ve never really liked people who make things seem effortless. Not much is effortless for me, and I often feel as though I expend more energy than the average bear trying to accomplish something made to look very simple by somebody else. Like College Algebra 101, for example. True story, I failed that class 4 times. It took a hideous amount of energy, multiple tutors, and a good stroke of luck for me to finally pass it on my 5th try. Even now, I would have more success levitating, than ever figuring out what the crap “X” equals in a basic math problem. If it’s so important, maybe give it a value? Take the mystery out of the whole thing? It’s just an idea.
Similarly, women who appeared to breeze through pregnancy effortlessly really burnt my muffins. Oh, you still fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes? That’s really fantastic, but I’d rather spend a week’s wages on unflattering teal stretch pants that, fingers crossed, make people think maybe I’m a court jester. Oh, your pregnancy hormones actually make you look like a glowing, golden angel, sent down from heaven? I can see how that is alluring, but the skin around my nose is pealing off in sheets, and I think I heard leprosy is in this year. Oh, you are actually craving kale and broccoli veggie wraps, on organic whole wheat tortillas? You know, I’d eat that, but… actually no, no I would never eat that compost heap of crap you are calling food, because pizza.
These feelings of mild to moderate annoyance towards the pregnancy goddesses around me were particularly heightened in my third trimester. While I was very fortunate to have an easy pregnancy in the sense that both my baby and I were healthy, come the third trimester, one of us (that would be me), wasn’t exactly happy. After returning from our idyllic Ireland vacation, I slowly transformed into a mopey, pouty, eye-rolly, sneery version of myself. But in my scrunched up, hate-filled, eyes, it wasn’t entirely my fault. The deeper I got into my third trimester, the more people thought it appropriate to say things like: “Emily! You got so fat!” (It should be noted this is an actual, honest-to-God quote, delivered in all seriousness, by a dear client who if I didn’t love like my own grandma, I would have slapped.) They also felt it a good time to share stories of their own 192 hour labor, where they didn’t take pain medication and successfully delivered a 35 pound baby vaginally in a jungle hut, and then fully recovered at home in 2 days by listening to Enya and taking placenta pills. High-five, sister!
As mentioned above, the other factor pushing me towards man-slaughter was being, to put it simply, hotter than the asshole of a volcano, at all times. The only time I wasn’t sweating profusely, was when I was in a cold shower. I found it cruel and confusing that Giselle never looked sweaty when she was strolling around Boston in her non-maternity wear, vintage Rolling Stones shirt, her baby bump poking out just saying “Hey, Girl!” The Duchess, who I nearly shared a delivery date with, always looked like you could use her as a human air freshener. Even the every day women in my birthing class would show up with their hair in a cute pony-tail, their little bellies zipped into cute little hoodies. Hoodies, I say! I looked like Dennis in Jurassic Park as he is frantically trying to cut the power before stealing the dinosaur embryos, sweat beading off his oily forehead and rolling down his double-chin. Now I know, things could have been infinitely worse, and I mean that whole-heartedly. But I can only say that now, as in the moment, I felt like I was dying.
For those of you not familiar with Jurassic Park, meet Dennis, my third trimester doppelganger. This will not be the last time I compare my life to Jurassic Park, the greatest movie of all-time.
Being this hot lead me to make poor decisions. Like, for example, breaking down and stuffing my giant, fleshy lady lumps into my extra small honeymoon bikini, and joining my drunk, 100 pound undergrad neighbors in the dodgy kiddie pool they had put in our shared backyard. It wasn’t the age difference, or the weight difference that made me uncomfortable, but rather the plethora of mosquito larvae wriggling about the tepid water, and the fear of exposing my unborn child to any number of STDs potentially seeping from my pool-mate’s nether regions. Days later I discovered they’d been “treating” the pool with pure bleach, a fun fact that lead me to wonder if I’d soon be giving birth to the female version of “Powder”.
For those of you not familiar with “Powder,” meet Jeremy, an albino who derived mental super-powers after his pregnant mother was struck by lightning, which admittedly is different from taking a bleach bath, but concerning none the less. This will be the only time I quote this movie, because it was awful.
There was, however, an unexpected fountain of joy I feel must be mentioned, something that caught me by surprise and still makes me smile. While moms would often use my bulbous belly as an invite for some quip about how hard life was after having kids (which I now have a painful understanding of), dads would use it as a time to talk about the birth of their children. Almost daily, I would get the pleasure of listening to men open up and melt while they reminisced about the day their baby was born. They would beam with pride as they described the enviable strength of their wives, their faces lighting up as they recalled the first time they laid eyes on their wee one. They were so sincerely grateful and joyful, something that isn’t well portrayed in today’s media and society. It was truly touching, and hands down one of my favorite pregnancy memories. I hope that as my kid gets older and starts making me want to rip my hair out in public, I remember NOT to try to scare the exceptionally pregnant woman into thinking this was a giant mistake. Unless of course it’s hot outside, in which case all bets are off. I’m going to be an asshole.
Did someone try to scare you with a story of their own 192 hour delivery of a 35 baby in a jungle hut? I want to hear it!
If the first trimester felt like an extended trip to the amusement park from Hell, reaching the second trimester felt like a lovely stroll through a picturesque meadow. One filled with rainbow-colored hummingbirds, and a buffet of free cinnamon rolls and lasagna. The nausea finally relented, and when I woke up in the morning I actually felt awake. This was a welcomed change, and I whole-heartedly embraced feeling like myself again. I relished in my expanding waist line, and actually believed people when they said “You look so good!”- a pregnancy lie I caught on to deep in the third trimester when I did not, in any way, shape or form, look “so good!” It was in the second trimester we found out we were having a girl, and felt her unleash a series of violent kicks – the first of many to come. It was also when we decided to throw caution to the wind, and travel internationally.
You can imagine our surprise when we were told we were having a girl, and then this picture was handed to us .
Right around the same time we discovered we were pregnant, my husband’s parents purchased tickets for a family vacation to Ireland. To say his family is “well-travelled” would be doing them a serious injustice. They seemingly spend more time abroad than stateside, so a trip to Ireland for them was on par with going to the corner store for a jug of milk. We are, to put it simply, total travel opposites. I would classify myself more of a lounger than a doer, while they are a family of doers, from a long line of doers who at some point in time, many generations ago, invented doing. My ideal vacation would include a chair, a baker’s dozen of piña coladas, and the ocean. They, on the other hand, are more the type to cut down a tree, hand-carve a canoe, paddle said canoe to a distant, uninhabited island, and forage for mushrooms, all while singing Peter, Paul and Mary songs. Nearly 9 years later, I find this quirky trait equal parts terrifying and endearing; an intriguing combination that keeps me following them into thickets of woods, propelled by curiosity and mild panic. But with all of that said, I still had confidence I’d be able to keep up, and excitedly awaited our departure date (I should clarify that by “keep up” I mean sit in the car and eat yogurt covered rice cakes while they hiked through bogs, without anybody being able to say anything. Spoiler alert! I was right.)
Five days before we were supposed to leave, the Boston Marathon Bombing happened. We were living in Providence, Rhode Island at the time, and were supposed to fly out of Logan days later. The tragedy hit too close to home, and in my overly emotional state, I was a ball of nervous and sad energy. Fast forward to the day of travel, and I was a jittery fool. Standing in our kitchen waiting for our ride to the train, I noticed we had a little less than half a gallon of milk. Never to be one to waste something as precious as milk, I playfully said to my husband: “Milk challenge?” I poured myself a pint, and he started swigging from the jug. A few rushed gulps later, the nerves and ridiculousness of the situation hit me, causing me to laugh uncontrollably. I choked, gagged, threw-up, and then full-on peed my pants on the kitchen floor, just as our ride was pulling into the driveway. This incredible, messy feat not only reduced me to tears (of laughter), but it also brought my overall maternity pants count down to two, and reset my “We’ve had no accidents in the pants for ___ days” counter to zero.
For however rocky the trip began, the vacation itself was incredible. Ireland is a beautiful country filled with a rich history, that even in my most hangry state, I could still appreciate. The people were warm and welcoming, the food was wonderful, and the Guinness, well it looked incredible. My in-laws were very understanding of my needs, and didn’t make me feel bad when I wanted to sit and eat Quiche at the gift shop, rather than explore the Cliffs of Moher. They also turned a blind-eye to my hormone related temper tantrums, and supported my need to pee every 20 minutes by stopping anywhere and everywhere so I could cop a squat. It was truly a wonderful trip. I left Ireland with a camera full of pictures, and a new double-chin that would stick around and serve as a reminder of the obscene amount of Irish butter I consumed, for nearly 2 years.
Greeting us upon arriving back in the states was the TSA and the Third Trimester, both equally anxious to rob me of my travel high. Ready or not, our little fireball was going to be here before we knew it. But first I had to survive a New England summer in a three-story walk-up with no air conditioning.
They were sitting so far from me because they were afraid I was going to eat them.
Remember when you were a little kid, and on one very special summer day, your parents would take you to the amusement park? You would get there early, and survey the scene like a conquistador on the shores of a far away land. The possibilities were endless. Sun-baked, and sugar-filled hours would fly by as you spun, twisted, dipped, and flipped your way through the park. And then suddenly, somewhere between the Gravitron and the Tilt-A-Whirl, it would hit you: Sheer exhaustion, coupled with cotton-candy induced nausea, and a fountain of tears as your parents spurred you toward the car for the long drive home. This was my first trimester in a nutshell, but rather than lasting one day, this was how I spent three glorious months.
On what would be the equivalent to the first ride of the day at the amusement park, it became clear I was something of a Joey Chestnut of morning sickness, except for every hotdog he would consume, I would produce an equal amount of morning barf. Most often, my walk to work would trigger my tummy troubles, where I would then deposit my breakfast in what I came to think of as a very hungry porcelain baby bird. “Here ya go, Buddy! I’ll be back in an hour or so!” The worst part wasn’t having to stick my head in a public toilet, but instead having to pull my head out of the public toilet, wipe my red, blotchy face off, and go interact with the public without tipping my hand that I just reverse ate an Eggo waffle with peanut butter. For the rest of the morning I’d be spending equal amounts of energy trying not to gag, and working to keep a 3 foot distance from anybody who may be able to detect the Eggo I’d just leggo’d.
This is Joey Chestnut, by the way. A competitive eater of many things, including hotdogs. Photo from http://www.worldofpctures.com/joey-chestnut/
The body-crushing, brain-melting, fall-asleep-while-standing tired didn’t wait long to settle in either. I punctuated conversations with horrible, drawn out, tonsil-exposing yawns. Yawns that inexplicably, were always accompanied by a single tear, as if opening my mouth wide enough to swallow a grapefruit was putting too much pressure on my eyes. In a confusing twist, sleep didn’t seem to help this hybrid monster of tired. I would wake up in the morning like the Swamp Man stumbling out of the murk, bug-eyed with a gaping mouth, garbling words incoherently. It was all I could do to get through the day before coming home to collapse on the couch, begging my husband for a bowl of cereal and 4 glasses of water. If there really is such thing as a sleep bank, building a baby threw me into the red faster than a freshman coed with daddy’s credit card.
And then there were the tears. Soon after getting pregnant, crying seemed to become part of my daily routine. While it would be gracious to assume the exhaustion and nausea were to blame, in reality I think they were second-tier contributors to a much larger problem: Being pregnant turned me into a 30-year-old toddler. Patience and understanding were replaced with frustration and confusion. Simple transgressions, like say, leaving 1/16th of an inch of milk in the carton and knowingly putting it back in the fridge, would send me into a tearful rage. Because why? This river of emotion didn’t take much to well over when I encountered touching stories, or kind words either. Songs took on a new meaning, and the card isle at CVS became a no-no zone. Even reading the words “To My Beloved Great-Aunt…” in some swirly, silver font could do it.
But with each passing week, we got closer and closer to the second trimester, and to be fair, it wasn’t all bad. We got to hear the babies heartbeat for the first time, which fell somewhere on the spectrum between unicorns singing, and successfully teleporting. We got to see the baby on an ultrasound, and while we couldn’t confirm it wasn’t actually a turtle, it did give us a sense of how real this all was. I also started to get an itty bitty baby belly, which prompted me to take my first ever (and possibly my only ever) selfie. And even more importantly, reaching the second trimester milestone meant: 1). Our risk of having a miscarriage dropped significantly, and 2). Pretty soon, we could post it on Facebook…
It’s an itty bitty baby bump selfie!
I imagine finding out I was pregnant was similar to how Dorothy felt when she first woke up in Oz. Overnight, I had been magically transported from the familiar territory of “Just Me, Myself and I,” to a new, unknown land called “Us,” where something was living inside my abdomen. This realization froze me to the toilet, pee-stick in hand. The moment had no Hallmark warm and fuzzy. There were no tears, or squeals of joy. Silently something shifted, and it was immediately understood I was now the keeper of a tiny ball o’ cells, for which I was responsible. In the seconds following the discovery of two pink lines, my brain actually completed about 3,587 different thoughts about what this meant, all culminating in “And somehow the baby has to come out...”
But before I could really get ahead of myself, I needed to tell my lovely husband. While I was taking the only test that would actually change my life, he was busy putting the finishing touches on a lecture he was giving to 300 undergrads in a few short hours. This was a first for him, and to say he was nervous would be an understatement. Knowing this, I thought about not telling him until after he finished, but fun fact about me, I am incapable of keeping secrets. Undecided if I would spare him the extra stress or spill the beans, I washed my hands and headed upstairs. I (we?) walked into the kitchen with what I thought was a neutral look on my face, but in actuality was probably a wide-eyed look of panic and excitement, similar to what a raccoon looks like in a live-trap: “Yay! Achieved peanut butter! But now stuck?!...” He looked up at me, dropped his shoulders in disbelief, and said four words I’ll never forget: “Shut the fuck up.” While it wasn’t exactly the reaction I was looking for, it was also totally acceptable, even though I had actually not said anything. It was shocking news, and people say funny things under duress. He stood up, gave me a hug, and I suggested we pretend this didn’t happen. He then went to work, and I went to get a hair cut. It was as if nothing had changed, but everything had changed all at the same time.
That night we processed it a little more, and were both over the moon thinking about all the possibilities. What would it look like? When could we take it for casual walks around the neighborhood? Could it hear my thoughts? It was more exciting than I could have possibly imagined, and I forced my excitement on people who I felt should be equally as exuberant. Like my sister, who was going through the final stages of an unexpected illness with their beloved family dog. I called her, and she was crying telling me about the grim prognosis they had just received. In what may have been my most dismal show of humanity yet, I hit her with a one-two punch that went a little like: “That totally sucks. You should put him to sleep. But guess what?! I’m pregnant!” If saying rude, horrible, untimely things to people you love was an Olympic sport, I had just completed a 4 minute mile. She tearfully said “Congrats,” but probably thought “You will ruin that child if you can’t learn to control your impulses, you insensitive little Twit.”
Breaking the news to other family members was also somewhat of a mixed bag. Some were decidedly more enthusiastic from the get-go, while others said things like, “Is this really the way you are telling me you are pregnant?” But eventually, everybody caught baby fever and shared in our joy. And by “joy” I mean frequent, unexplainable, bouts of crying and ragehate directed at things like the toaster oven, and the latch on the screen door. Other than my new-found abhorrence of inanimate objects around the house, in the days following the positive test, nothing really felt that different. “See!” I thought to myself, “This is a cake walk! Oooh cake… I should get some cake. I deserve a cake. Wait, why don’t we have any cake? Oh my God, why hasn’t somebody baked me a freaking cake? Hello?! I’m BUILDING A BABY OVER HERE!! I’m going to freak out if I don’t get a cake in 3…2…OOOH! We have CHEESE! I will eat all the cheese.”
I would be lying if I said I always wanted a baby. I was pretty on the fence about it, and felt I could honestly be happy long-term with, or without one. What I wanted was a dog. Badly. I had names picked out, and dreams of my dog and I becoming a talented and sought after search and rescue team. One where we always found the victim before it was too late, and people chanted our names like in the end of that movie “Rudy.” But alas, I already had three unruly cats and a husband who was decidedly less enthusiastic about converting our small apartment into an animal shelter, so a dog was out of the question. What he wanted, eventually, was a baby. Because why commit to 12-15 years of care to something that will worship you, when you can commit your whole life to raising something that will eventually, without question, tell you they hate you? I begged him, I pleaded with him, I pouted, but he wouldn’t budge on the dog. “One day we will have a baby” was his line of thinking. “One day I will have a marvelous dog” was mine.
So there we were. Years passed, and we plugged along happily married with our three cats and our respective future mammal plans on the shelf. We slept! We drank beer! We ate out! It was wonderful. Then one day, my best friend moved far away, and I had what WebMD would call a “quarter-life crisis.” This culminated in me drinking a full bottle of wine, and half a bottle of champagne with a neighbor friend who had a new baby. While crying about how much I missed my buddy, my neighbor said “You should have a baby!” to which I responded “It’s not the right time.” And then the skies parted, time slowed down and she said: “It’s never the right time.” For some reason this struck me as especially profound, and her words echoed around the room. I could see them, dramatically floating above her head like in a comic strip. All of the sudden, I needed a baby, like right-now-this-very-second-I-can’t-possibly-wait-any-longer-I-must-have-a-baby! What she said just seemed so true, except in my head it got a little jumbled and quickly became “Now is the best and only time to have a baby.” I glided gracefully home (or stumbled, I don’t remember that part as clearly as I do the rest), and pranced (bounced) downstairs to where my husband lay sleeping and declared: “We should have a BABY!” He sat up, wide-eyed and suspicious the house had been broken into, and watched me crawl into bed and pass out.
The next day brought a rip-roaring hangover, and a new feeling: I need a baby. I NEEDED the baby. Baby, baby, babybabybabybabybaabbby. It was all I could think about. This was strange, as prior to this day, I had never had these kinds of feelings before- and feelings they were. I felt the need for this baby in my bones, and in my stomach and in my heart. It was as if my neighbor had pulled some sort of black magic voodoo trick, and jump-started my biological clock while I was innocently drinking heavily on her couch. It was all I could think about (baby), and all I wanted to talk about (baaabbbyyy) with my husband who (BABY!) handled it like a champ. We talked, he said “It’s not the best time” (he was a year away from finishing his PhD), so I said in my most confident and knowing voice, “It’s never the right time.” But because I am not a voodoo witch, the skies didn’t part, time did not slow down, and the words did not dance above my head in dramatic fashion. Not having the same effect on him, I sweetened the deal with: “Honey, it takes the average couple 6 months to conceive!” which gave him the illusion of time. “Even if we get pregnant right away, which is like, super unlikely, 9 months is basically a year,” I said. As if during those 9 months you have nothing to do to prepare for the birth of the child, and life continues on as normal with zero interruptions.
After our big chat, two very surprising things happened: 1). My very rational, patient husband agreed to my irrational, and impatient plan to reproduce post-haste, and 2). We got pregnant, post-haste. With the appearance of two pink lines, all of a sudden the gravity of the situation hit me. Sitting on the toilet, pee-covered stick in hand I thought “I’m going to be a Mommy.” Then, in the back of my head a tiny voice chuckled: “Gottcha, Sucker” said my Ovaries to my Brain. “Ruh-roh,” my Brain replied. “Ruh-roh.”