I know intellectually that there is a baby in there somewhere, a very tiny one, but my brain mostly interprets the pregnancy as illness. An ongoing, relentless illness that crushes me into bed and sits on my stomach and won’t let me up except to vomit. And vomiting isn’t a relief. You think it will be, for the few minutes afterward, when your body remembers that it used to be, when you were normal-sick with a stomach bug. But this isn’t a bug, it’s an infestation. No, it’s a baby. It’s a baby.
I had to cancel everything.
The people I had to tell said, “Well, it’s good preparation for motherhood. You don’t have control!”
But I was going to use these months, I thought feebly. I have so much to do. I’m supposed to finish a book. I’m supposed to get a book deal before I have this sudden baby, so that I can feel satisfied about having done something big with my career before everything is different. The impending baby sometimes looms large, like a loss or a magical, unknowable portal that I am headed straight for. Like knowing if you keep going that way you’ll drive off the bridge, but your hands are glued to the wheel. What was I thinking? I think, on the toilet for an hour because I can’t poop, crying and humiliated even though I’m alone. But then I’m so exhausted and weak that I can’t remember my own ambition. What was it that I thought I wanted to do with my life? Why did I care?
(since I spend so much time with it these days, I kinda wish mine was nicer. source)
“Did you have morning sickness?” I ask desperately, when I talk to relatives.
“Not really! I felt good!”
And then I have nothing to say to them. I am afraid of how I will sound. Self-centered. Wimpy.
Someone said to me, “I was sick, but I didn’t focus on it. Maybe you’re focusing on it too much.”
I read that doctors used to bind suffering pregnant women to a bed and let them vomit on themselves, to teach them to stop being so melodramatic. Some women on the internet have stories where they overheard nurses saying, “She just wants attention. It’s all in her head.”
“It’s all for a good cause!” people say, and the women on the message boards are so self-sacrificing all the time, and they are always like “God has a plan!!” Which is what I keep telling myself over and over– the first part, about the good cause. But it’s confusing, because I don’t really understand what that cause is like, in person. You know, I’ve never even spent time with a baby, and I am not one of those people who is always noticing them and going limp over their cuteness. Bear is more like that. He’s always pointing out toddlers and he tells me little stories about the ones in the elevator, or his co-workers kids. He has been so excitedly dedicated to the idea of fatherhood, ever since the first few weeks. He is so wholehearted in it. It’s like he’s running down the road of my pregnancy, grinning, arms flung out. And I’m hobbling behind him, clutching my stomach and muttering something about the metallic taste in my mouth that is slowly driving me mad.
I failed the first glucose test and have been too sick to take the second one. They gave it to me early because of all the diabetes in my family, and the news, when it came, was hesitant and bad. “You might have gestational diabetes.” And then, talking to doctors, I found out that I might need to take insulin, because, apparently, failing the test so early is a bad sign and means the condition might be more severe. And then I learned that women who have gestational diabetes have a 50% chance of developing diabetes later on, too. My mother-in-law got it when she was pregnant, she is still a type 1 diabetic, from then. Before I’d even gotten an official diagnosis, a medical professional I met with was telling me about how I might have a seizure during labor, or potentially even go into a coma.
(look! they make them for girls! source)
I cried on the edge of the bed. I can’t have diabetes. There is too much diabetes in my life already. I am young! I can’t be high risk. I was scared for the kind of birth I might have to have. I was scared about a C-section. I was scared of everything.
“It’s not going to be a big deal!” my grandma said. Her friend had it, back in the day. Everything was fine. Other people knew people who’d had it. Everything was fine. It didn’t feel fine. “The only thing that matters is that your baby is healthy!” people told me, over and over.
“Yes,” I said. “That’s the only thing that matters. Of course!”
I understand more about the way womanhood works in the world, from this. It’s not just a cliché, women really are always supposed to be thinking of someone else. I try to think about my baby in the shower. I put my hands over my belly. I imagine that it’s a boy for some reason. I try to picture him. What will he be like? Will he have my big nose or Bear’s sweet, little one? Will he…I am not creative, I don’t even know what to ask about him. I read that you should think about your baby for five minutes every day. I can’t remember why, but it’s healthy. My mind wanders. BABY, I remind myself. I want to meet him. I am so curious. Sometimes I hold him in my mind for a second like something fragile and shimmering and delicious and far away. But I don’t know what else I feel, except for sick.
I feel guilty. There’s that. I should suck this sickness up and push ahead with life. I have stopped eating sugar, and most carbs, just in case it’s true and I have diabetes. Instead of gaining weight, I’ve lost some. I only know because Bear bought a scale, for the pregnancy. My first scale. It has the Weight Watchers logo on it.
“We’ll eat so much damn cake on your birthday!” says my friend, and then pauses, awkward.
No more cake. The irony! Even if I pass the next test, I think I still have to do a diet. And have close monitoring. No cake.
Why am I so bad at being pregnant? Why am I not normal about it? I find myself wishing I were one of those women who just threw up in the morning and moved on. I would take that.
(pregnancy books. there are lots of them. Operating Instructions, which is in this stack, is an awesome, awesome book. But it’s a memoir, not a guide book. source)
The pregnancy books sound glib. They always say, “Some women experience morning sickness symptoms,” and then they go on about how you should make sure to keep exercising. Maybe they have a note about how if you’re one of the small percentage of women who feels sick all the time, not to worry too much because in a couple months it will probably be better. It’s the “couple of months” and the “probably” that get me. At the same time, I find myself wondering about people who are sick all the time, but it won’t go away because it isn’t as simple as a pregnancy. I wonder how the hell they do it. I am amazed by them. It’s so automatic, that expectation that I should feel well, the bitterness when I don’t. That sense that the world is rushing past me– my friends are making other plans, and after just a few months, people begin to forget to check in. Of course they do! They’re busy! I’m not annoyed at them, I just feel stuck. And as I am stuck, I get the distinct sense that the other moms-to-be are triumphantly decorating the nursery.
On Facebook, people are moaning, “Oh goddddd, I’ve had the flu for FOUR DAYS….I want to die!!!”
But then last night I had a dream that I started bleeding, the consistency of the blood was graphic, and then I was sobbing so hard it filled my whole body, and I was trying to call for help, but I had no voice and couldn’t work my phone, and I was thinking, “No no no, I can’t lose this baby. I can’t I can’t.” And I was thinking that I wanted the baby to live so profoundly that it was a ferocious, animal desire. But also, I didn’t want to go through this again. I didn’t think I could. But also, I wanted that baby.
I want my baby. I think I will be a good mother. And also, I have been sick for months, and I am worn-out, drained hollow, inappropriate, bad at being pregnant. Probably like a lot of other women.
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What have you learned, people who have been sick for an extended period of time? (Doesn’t have to be morning sickness)
Unroast: Today I love the way my hair looks when it curls because I never pay attention to it.