“I Can’t Eat That”

And so began the the introduction of the horrible phrase I uttered at least once a day – sometimes by doctor’s orders and other times, gag reflex avoidance.  I’ve always been a fearless and enthusiastic eater, a try-anything-once type of gal (and get helpings twice), so it was a rude awakening to transform into a food-hating monster.

About three weeks into the pregnancy on a gloomy Saturday, the husband and I ventured out for our favorite rainy-day fare – Vietnamese noodle soup.  They seated the two of us at a corner table and plopped two laminated paper menus down, we quickly ordered our usual.  He getting an extra large pho (rice noodle soup in beef broth, with assorted cuts of thinly sliced meat)  and me with the lesser-known Mi Do Bien (egg noodles in a pork broth with various types of seafood).  The wait time was pleasant, I twiddled with my chopsticks while he mixed his meatball dipping concoction – a yin-yang of sriracha and hoisin sauce in a small white dish.  I could feel the hunger starting to gnaw at my stomach but was calmed knowing the food would come soon.  After the customary ten minutes, our orders – steaming hot and filled to the brim, were brought out along with a plate of fresh herbs, limes and peppers.  I dressed my soup with excitement and created a perfectly portioned soup-spoon full of noodle and broth, folded in crab meat and started eating hungrily.  Nothing seemed amiss.

My first few bites successfully made it down before I realized something wasn’t right.  The wafting smell of the broth was beginning to make me dizzy, beads of sweat forming on my face.  I was able to ignore that pretty easily but could not escape what came next – complete dry mouth as my stomach lurched and the few bites I’d had threatened to make a reappearance.  “BLEGH”.  I pushed my bowl to the other side of the table in defeat as my husband looked on with curiosity.  I sucked down a few sips of my soda before he noticed the look of panic and sadness on my now green face. “Trade?” he asked knowingly.  For some odd reason I was able to stomach his soup, but was too preoccupied with my new food reaction to eat much.  Vietnamese food, my most cherished of cuisines,  the food of the motherland, my soup for the soul, now diminished to being too “fishy” to eat.  What was happening to me?

For the next few weeks my aversion expanded to an increasing number of cuisines.  From home cooking to five star restaurants (foie gras? ewww!), my stomach did not discriminate when it came to nausea.  Combine this with the list of foods I had to stop eating for health reasons (sushi, raw oysters, soft cheeses, deli meat?!) and I basically had the tastes of a finicky five-year-old.  Saltine crackers, granola bars, plain salads and croissants became my new best friends.  The new answer to “what do you feel like eating tonight?” was “oh, anything dry and devoid of flavor will do!”

The 3-Month Long Headache

Exit: excitement, enter: hush mode.  The part that everyone usually fails to mention about early pregnancy is that it’s exactly that – too early to celebrate.  I received fair warning from my doctor and had witnessed the heartbreak of others, sharing their news with friends and family only to find out a month later that they had lost the pregnancy.  I’ve always been an over-thinker and a worrier, so wanted to play it safe by keeping quiet until we were out of the first trimester and into the “safe” zone.

Therein lied the problem – we had a string of upcoming events to attend, all of which revolved around drinking and being around a lot of people.  Our first challenge was a wedding with an open bar.  We already had our strategy mapped out – I would order either a glass of wine or a cocktail, and simply carry it around as a prop.  I could gesture with it in hand to nip any “where’s your drink?” questions in the bud, or spill it clumsily on someone’s shoe or down my dress to create a diversion when asked to take a shot.  Problem solved!  A plan that would work perfectly – if the reception was ten minutes long.  Over the course of a 3-4 hour party, the sweating cocktail glass with completely watered down whiskey & coke might have well been a sign posted to my forehead that said “I’m fake drinking!”.  With the failure of this excuse came the next best thing – the headache.  A headache is internal, invisible and impossible to prove or disprove.  Add a dash of bitchiness and even if someone thought I was lying, it wasn’t worth it to have to deal with my attitude.  As a by-product I definitely had to embrace my new wet blanket persona, and found it hard at times to catch a glimpse of my husband’s friends (and sometimes my own) giving him the “geeze your wife sucks!” looks, but I told myself it was only temporary.

This worked fine and well until about 9 weeks in, when I had to attend an early-screening of a movie premiere for work where, of course, I was met with another open bar.  Settling in next to my almost 7 months pregnant co-worker with my extra large glass of water in tow, I should have known that I could try to fool everyone, just not anyone pregnant.  She stared knowingly at my alcohol-free beverage and then at me.  “You’re not drinking?  It’s open bar!”  I replied with my usual spiel, “no, I have a headache and I’m super tired”.  She locked eyes with me, smiled and cocked her head as I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat.  “Headache?  BULLSHIT.”  It was over after that.  I was outed, and didn’t even try to lie when she asked me point blank if I was expecting.  Luckily she had only wanted to confirm her own suspicions and promised my secret was safe.  We had a good laugh about it and I somehow managed to make it through the rest of the month without anyone else noticing.

Day 1

Here goes, recounted details of D-day (or pee-day) or Day 1 as I like to call it.  Day 1, meaning the first day I found out and potentially Day 1, of Part III, of Chapter two of my life.  Or something like that.  Anyways point being, world turned upside down.

I’ve watched countless movies about pregnancy, being a mother, and all things babies – but have always looked on with the same detached amusement I have watching an explosion-filled action movie – curious, entertained, and never imagining myself in that situation in a million years.  But in far less time than a million years, a series of life events happened – graduating college, work, marriage, more work –  and I all of a sudden found myself giggling nervously while peeing on a stick, and actually hoping for a positive result instead of fearing it.

Sitting at the end of our bed and waiting the dreaded five minutes for the test results, a lot of things flashed through my head, the first being the image of what a negative test result should look like, now bored into my brain from the countless times I had cradled it in my hands screaming YES! to the heavens with sighs of relief.  But what was I supposed to be picturing now that I wanted the opposite?  One solid purple vertical line was the norm.  Solid, unwavering, fuchsia on a sea of white means no baby.  So color me confused when I picked up the test and my results showed a faded pinkish vertical line and, if I stared really closely, a faint horizontal line.  These were highly unusual results so logically I could have concluded that yes, I was pregnant.  But with news of this nature I had to be sure.  The husband and I stared at the test for a good twenty minutes – me stating the facts of past experiences and showing and re-reading box instructions several times before we finally decided to make a midnight run to the pharmacy down the street.

Make-up free and in my pajamas, I scoured the rows of available tests at the store like a hawk.  We had a goal this time – pregnant or not, NO INCONCLUSIVE RESULTS.  I picked up several tests that I quickly put back, one of which showed a smiley face for positive or a plain blank circle for negative.  What if I got a smiley face with a half a smile and one eye?  A smirking winking face would definitely be the end of me.  We ended up going with a digital test, which promised a trusty YES or NO response – fool proof.  We almost purchased a $50 test that looked like a chemistry set (complete with gloves?), but came to our senses and got the mid-range $25 one – I had to be convinced not to buy ten of them.

Fast forward thirty minutes later and VOILA!  A big fat digital YES.  In the resounding silence that followed my reading the results, my concrete emotional wall began to crack and break into tiny little pieces.  After the age of ten, it becomes really rare to feel anything outside the range of emotion, surprise and experience that you have become used to, and no matter how joyous or sad you are, you still just pulse up and down that predetermined feelings track.  Not too high, not too low, in a comfortable Prozac range.  This, however, had me off the charts and flying through space – something that I had never felt before and barely understood, and am still somewhat trying to understand now.  Then of course came the trickle of tears, definitely from happiness but mostly from shock.