The day after I found out I was pregnant I went down to my local shops and bought a whole trolley-load of organic fruit and veg. For the last few months I’d been kinda sorta following this Chinese fertility diet that precluded things like tomatoes, cheese, carrots, fruit, and brown rice. Overjoyed at the news I was now eating for two, I excitedly spent a small fortune on tomatoes and tropical fruit and filled my fridge with healthy nutritious food. I was going to drown this baby in health.
The next day the morning sickness began (except that the term “morning” is bullshit, coz it’s all bloody day long). At first it just felt like I’d eaten too much—I felt bloated, and the bloating made me slightly nauseous. Four days later all I could manage for breakfast was prawn crackers. Simultaneous with this was the realisation that I was going to have a baby. I sat in bed contemplating my future and feeling intensely depressed. I could see it all mapped out before me, like Scrooge’s three mournful ghosts. Snapshot one—me, nauseous and pregnant, and sitting at home on my own on a Friday night. Snapshot two—me pacing my tiny flat with a screaming baby, tired and lonely. Snapshot three—8am on a Sunday morning, bored out of my brain, watching my kid run around an oval after a soccer ball. Fuck!, I silently screamed. Why am I doing this?!
It was that age-old problem of the chase being more exciting than the reward. I’d wanted this so much and for so long, and now I had it I was bored. Bored, or possibly shit-scared. Everything just felt so predetermined all of a sudden. I sat there clutching my prawn crackers and panicking, until it occurred to me that I didn’t actually have to do this. Not if I really didn’t want to. The other thing that changed that day was my maternal desire. It completely disappeared. Normally I’m the kind of person who cranes her neck longingly to catch a glimpse of babies in prams, but when I found myself in a vegan restaurant that afternoon, trying to not throw up my tofu wrap all over the tablecloth, I realised I wasn’t just revolted by food. I was revolted by babies. A little cherub was being bounced around the table next to me, and so I shifted my seat so I wouldn’t have to look at it. I tucked away the word ‘abortion’ in my bra and carried it around with me all that day, like an emergency flask of whiskey. Every time I started to panic I pulled it out as a reminder that I did have a choice. I’d made a million choices to lead me to this point, but I also had choices I could make to lead me away again, if that’s what I really wanted. It sounds fucked up but it really helped, knowing there was an escape route if needed.
At the same time as the nausea, my nose started playing tricks on me. My lemonade smelt like vinegar, jonquils smelt like farts, and I spent a good five minutes trying to find where the cat had shat before realising it was the jar of roasted pumpkin seeds in my hand. Overnight the city became a minefield of stink. The concept of stepping outside for some fresh air no longer made any sense to me. Walking to work was like skiing the slalom, avoiding all the people standing outside their offices smoking. Nothing got past my bionic nose. Sewers stank. Perfume stank. Even magazines stank. I walked the streets wondering how the fuck people lived like this. In addition, all of a sudden the idea of touching any of the food in my fridge disgusted me. All I could think about was the germs breeding in the dampness. I gave away all of the groceries, including eighty-nine dollars worth of cheese. My diet quickly shrunk to water crackers and lemonade ice-blocks. I couldn’t even manage plain old water.
After a week of this diet I caught a bus to Canberra to see an old friend and her new baby. I spent the whole trip trying not to vomit, but as we pulled into the bus station I suddenly started to feel better.
Is there a Hungry Jack’s on the way home? I asked my friend’s partner as he began driving me back to their house.
No, just a Macca’s.
That will do, I said.
(Let me put this story into context for a minute. I have been boycotting Macdonald’s since I was fourteen, I have been a pescetarian for twelve years, and I could count the times I’ve eaten red meat in my life on one hand.) I ordered a cheeseburger with double pickles and wolfed the whole thing down in a matter of seconds. It was the best thing I’d eaten in weeks.
Unfortunately since then, nausea-free moments have been few and far between, but I’m trying to accept it with joy. The weird thing about morning sickness is that it’s a really good sign that the baby is healthy. The rate of miscarriage or birth defects is significantly, significantly lower if you feel like shit. So yippee for me. The only thing that really helps is to eat plain carbs constantly, on the hour every hour. Every day is a challenge to see what I can handle putting in my mouth that day. At the moment it’s muesli bars and saladas. I don’t enjoy them, but I can stomach them. I’m tired of eating for necessity instead of for pleasure. I gag my way around supermarkets, and I gag when someone talks about food. But the strangest thing about it all is the psychological aspect. Once I’ve eaten something once, the idea of eating it ever again revolts me. I can’t eat anything twice. I am revolted by the idea of cooking, I am revolted by the idea of eating leftovers, and I am revolted by the idea of going anywhere near my fridge. I’ve got into a bad but necessary habit of ordering delivery and then immediately after finishing, taking the leftovers upstairs to my elderly neighbour, because once I’m done with it I never want to see it ever again. Seeing as most places have a minimum order of $30, this eating habit is starting to get expensive. I also can’t trust my sense of smell. Toast is one of the few things I can consistently handle, but I’m reduced to honey and vegemite because anything else smells off. This all makes sense from a safety-perspective—it’s pretty hard to get listeria from water crackers or icy-poles, so I guess this is my pregnant-instinct stepping in, protecting the fragile little embryo. But seriously, cut me a break. I can’t nod too much in a conversation without feeling sick. I can’t turn my head to check for traffic when I’m crossing the road, because it makes the world start to spin. I feel like I’ve got the hangover from hell all day every day, minus the regret. And just like a hangover, this is completely self-inflicted, so I’ve got no one to blame but myself. I am also still disgusted by babies. Five weeks on from the first panic and I still don’t want to look at them, think about them, or play with them. The idea that I am growing one inside me is both a source of amazement and horror, and some days I just feel invaded and violated, as though a stranger has walked up to me and poked their finger in my bellybutton without asking. For someone who has had “maternal” as part of their core identity for as long as I can remember, this is not at all what I expected. Pregnancy is not what I expected. I’m too tired to do anything after 6pm. My three main joys in life used to be food, booze, and sex, and right now the idea of any one of those things turns me green at the gills. I have no pleasures, and I have no life. I guess this is nature’s clever way of preparing me for parenthood.