Sometimes we get really good at things in life that we have no interest in being good at.
Today began as some of the less fun pregnancy days have begun — I woke up at 3am, my stomach hurting, my mouth dry, thirsty, but scared to drink water — afraid that if I drank water, I’d begin vomiting. I woke my husband up and I said, “Food, food, would you get me food?”
One of the only combats against morning sickness is having a bit of food in your stomach at all times. If I wake up too much in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, I have to eat, otherwise I’ll start vomiting.
Now, at 22 weeks pregnant, I’m also hungry in a way that I haven’t experience for a long time. My memor tells me I felt this way as a 3-sport athlete in high school and again in college sports. I’m hungry. I eat like crazy, but I get physically full in my stomach really quickly (that baby doesn’t leave much room inside for food). So even though I feel completely full, I still feel ravenously hungry. I have to wait to eat (torture!) because if I over-eat, I get heartburn or I start vomiting from over eating.
My stomach seems very particular.
I continue to eat every 30 minutes until my hunger pangs finally go away. The process begins about every two hours. My job is to eat.
I texted my sister to tell her about it, and I mentioned that having a baby was “like having a parasite that eats everything I’m trying to eat and feeds off me.” She responded quickly, “remove like from that sentence and you are correct.”
Today, I ate at 3 AM: curried chicken salad, and not just a bite. I fell back asleep around 4 and slept until 6:18 AM. I woke up still feeling nauseous, and began the day. It’s now 6:43 AM. I’m drinking two cups of tea with names Stomach Ease and Mama-to-Be. I’m hoping the feeling subsides.
I started feeling better around the fourth month of pregnancy, but not entirely. The first three months have been filled with vomiting and sickness most mornings and evenings. Luckily, it’s more sickness and queasiness than actual vomiting. Also, for some reason it slows during the middle of the day — either my subconscious mind doesn’t want to vomit while I’m at work, or something about leaving the house helps jolt me out of the pattern of sickness.
Thankfully, I haven’t vomited in too many public places.*
Also fortunately, I am not losing weight (only what feels like my dignity to throw myself on the floor and expel whatever I’m trying to keep in my stomach). They say that morning sickness is a sign of a good, healthy pregnancy and less of a risk for miscarriage or other problems.
A strange side-effect of vomiting for pregnancy is that I’m getting really good at having a gag reflex. Mind you, this is not a skill I want to have. At all.
When I brush my teeth, sometimes my body thinks, “Oh, this again! Here! Let me help!” and I’m like, “NO BODY, I’M BRUSHING MY TEETH.” When I cough too hard, my abdominals flex, and they’re like, “wait, we know this! we can help!” My body is entirely too helpful in trying to do the thing it thinks I might need to do. My automatic reflexes are developing habits I don’t want to own.
Foods like yogurt or anything with creamy textures strangely make me begin to gag. Taking vitamins on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster.
I can’t explain how humbling and floor-relegating having to puke all the time is. You just feel weak, stupid, and tired.
Vomiting is one of my least favorite activities, and usually if I have to do it, I run to the nearest receptacle, grab my stomach, lurch to the sink or trash or toilet, vomit until no more food comes out, continue to purge even though there’s no food, and then cry weakly to my husband to get me some food because, contrary to everything my body is doing, one of the only things that will stop the expulsion is to eat.I rinse out my mouth, spit out water, clean it up, focus on slowing down my breathing, wait until it gets back to normal, and take a slice of an apple, a piece of a hardboiled egg, or a small cracker and try to eat it. Breathing slowly and evenly helps.
Having to vomit makes me feel like I’m weak and somewhat worthless. It reminds me of the way that dogs look at you when they’re pooping in public, like, “don’t look at me, I’m busy doing this thing I don’t want you to watch.” I feel a small sense of fatigue and embarrassment just writing about it.
Please, please, please, I beg my stomach, please settle. Peace.
Most mornings begin around this pattern, waking up, needing food, avoiding vomiting, then having to pause for a while and let my body reintegrate into a life with movement. Afterwards, as a good friend described to me about her own pregnancy, “you just have to sit and wait for a while.” The resting begins. You rest, you recover, you let your body acclimate to the new reality, you settle your brain down, you let your body relax, you drink water, and you attempt to begin the day again. On a bad day, this cycle happens twice, and it takes until about 8 or 8:30 to be ready to start the day. On the even worse days, it takes until maybe 9 or 10 AM to settle, and I’ll (occasionally) decide that working from home is probably best for that day.
I have not missed much work, as in “work” where I get on the subway and go to my job and work from the office. I am lucky to get to work from home a few days a week already, since our office culture allows remote flexibility depending on what projects we’re working on. This has been a godsend.
There was one particular day where I had a packed schedule of meetings, with the first one kicking off at 9 AM. The process of vomiting was kicking in, in bad form. Around 8 AM I realized that my body needed more time to sit, and in honoring that, I’d be late for work. I emailed Mattan: “I’m going to need to be late today. I need to stay in Brooklyn a bit longer before I can head in.”
I never told him why or what was happening, and it’s strange, then, to turn around and put my work clothes on and head in to work and then begin, as always, as usual, as Sarah, at 10am, at a job. No reference to the vomiting. No reference to the morning. In the past, I’d roll out of bed and start writing or head to work. Today, I just spent 4 hours preparing myself to be able to leave for work. In a past life, I would exercise, I would write, I would cook, I would do so many things. In this current life, I have the flu, non-stop, every morning.
*I have a secret map of all of the places I’ve stopped to buy orange juice (a surprisingly effective way to stop morning sickness for me), and all the places I’ve secretly or not-so-secretly vomited in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I see this city in a whole new way.—