I’m aware that many of you have probably assumed that my two month silence has meant bad news. But fear not, dear readers. The baby is fine. It is me who you should have been worrying about. My midwife and I had hoped the morning sickness would get better by 12 weeks. It didn’t.
“14 weeks, then”, she said.
Sure enough, at 14 weeks and one day there was a change—I stopped gagging and started vomiting. It was nice to finally have something to show for my efforts. My final vomit was the day before I hit 19 weeks. I puked twice, the first time spectacularly catching the whole lot in my hands, midway to the sink. Since then the nausea and the headaches and the flu-like fog have gradually lifted, and I am now easing into eating normally again. My bionic nose is losing its magical powers, and this week I even managed to wear deodorant. The sweetness of small victories.
I had to quit my job in the end, though my employers went above and beyond to find a solution. The problem is, when you can’t even get out of bed
to do a wee, working from home isn’t exactly an option. Nor are flexible hours, or extended unpaid leave agreements, especially when you don’t know when (or if) it’s ever going to end, but when you DO know that you’ll be leaving in December, anyway, to have the bloody baby.
I cannot impress upon you just how dreadful the last four and a half months have been. I don’t want to whinge (actually, fuckit—I do!), but I think that until you or someone close to you has suffered severe morning sickness, it’s hard to believe just how bad it can be. And for the record, I did not have it as bad as some. I was able to drink (sip) water, and I was able to eat something each day, though it was an arduous and unpleasant task. The really bad cases end up in hospital on a drip, and on rare occasions some people have even had to abort. So comparatively, I was not that bad. But I still had to carry a lemon around in my handbag so that when I walked past cafes or people smoking I could scratch and sniff the skin to stop myself from puking. There was still that fortnight where I had to ask my elderly neighbour to do my shopping for me, because I literally couldn’t get myself out of bed to drag myself around Woollies with my face in a plastic bag. There was still that time I spent my birthday crying into a bucket. And there were still times when even I, who has wanted this baby so fiercely and for so long, contemplated, no matter how idly, the big A as my only way out.
And before you scoot down to the comments section to give me your magic cure-all advice, let me tell you this. Ginger didn’t do jackshit. Nor did seasickness wrist bands, eating small regular meals, exercise, acupuncture, a hot water bottle, plenty of rest, weak black tea, a bath, soda water (this last one was actually prescribed by my GP), or any other useless suggestions my numerous well-wishers offered in their unsolicited advice. I even had one person (man) suggest I try yoga. Some days it took all the meagre energy I still had left not to scream, “dude, I have a PhD, google, and fourteen hours a day with nothing to do. Do you really think I haven’t considered these options already?!” They DON’T FUCKING WORK.
I did try to succumb to drugs in the end, but even that was a miserable failure. Ever since the good old thalidomide days the medical profession has been extremely reluctant to give pregnant people any kind of medication. The drugs they give those of us suffering from morning sickness are the same drugs they give to people dealing with the after-effects of chemo. With Ondansetron there’s a risk (slight, but a risk all the same) that these drugs can cause heart defects in the foetus. No thank you. My other two options were Maxolon and, strangely enough, Restavit, an antihistamine sold over the counter in Australia and marketed as a non-addictive sleeping tablet. I tried the Restavit first. About four hours later it kicked in and I frantically rang the local pizza place, hoping to get in before they closed for the night. I ordered a large pizza and two desserts, obsessively watched the delivery status updates on my laptop, and nearly mauled the delivery boy in my excitement when he arrived, but once I got the goods inside I was nervous about what to do next. It had been a very long time between bites. Eventually I nervously nibbled an edge, and the next thing I knew I was waking up in bed next to an almost empty pizza box. I scoffed the last piece along with one of the desserts and fell back to sleep. When I finally came to, some time the next afternoon, my memory of the whole event was incredibly blurry. Somehow I’d eaten everything I’d ordered, nodding off in between slices, the cat had vomited on my floor and I hadn’t noticed, and the house looked as though it had recently been the site of a raging bachelor party. The drugs had worked, but they weren’t exactly a sustainable option. Next I tentatively tried the Maxolon, which has a reputation for its intense anxiety-inducing side effects, but nothing happened. I still felt sick, but at least I didn’t feel anxious. So my options were to sleep my way through the pregnancy or to suck it up and deal with it. I didn’t like the idea of my child being doped up every day and stuffed full of pizza, at least not before its teenage years, so I went with the latter.
I had very little joy in those four and a half months. I hadn’t started showing yet and I hadn’t felt my first kick, and it was hard some days to believe that it wasn’t just an extremely bad case of gastro I was experiencing. The baby wasn’t making me happy at all. I would wake up in the morning, immediately eat some watercrackers, and then start mentally scrolling through a list of potential edibles, trying to figure out what I could bear to eat that day. The cruel joke about morning sickness is that if you can manage to moderate your blood sugar levels by eating regularly, the nausea isn’t quite as bad. But often I wouldn’t be able to stomach anything at all. Other days it was plain white bread (with NO added fibre or hidden goodness), or tinned mandarins, or full cream milk and coco pops, or deb instant mashed potato. Considering I’ve been largely gluten-free for almost six years, stopped drinking cow milk eons ago (because it makes me feel sick), and have nearly lost a friendship due to my scathing opinion of instant mashed potato, this list was a source of great amusement to everyone near and dear. I also, as mentioned in my last blog, developed what can be best described as a temporary eating disorder, which meant that I was unable to eat anything that had come out of my fridge or my cupboards. I made an exception for the milk, so long as it was in the smallest carton possible and was finished within three days, and so long as I didn’t breathe in while opening or closing the fridge. The rest of my food all had to be stored on my kitchen counter, while the cupboards were left to their own dark devices. I suspect a lot of this had to do with my bionic nose. Everything smelled off to me, so my brain probably figured I was safer not eating anything that needed to be kept cold. I was also unable to read the ingredients on anything at all without gagging, and had to blinker my eyes when walking past cafe sandwich boards advertising the special of the day.
Once settling on something I could bear to consume, the rest of the day usually consisted of plotting the great journey of walking from my bed to the kitchen, getting the something edible, and then managing to get it inside me on my way back to bed. Two days a week I’d then have a shower (not too hot, because the steam made me gag) and get dressed. However when I bent over to put my shoes on the room would often start to spin and I’d end up curling back into bed and calling in sick to work. For the rest of the day I’d repeat the feat of eating once or twice more, lie in bed staring at the wall for a few hours, and try and fit a few DVDs into my busy schedule somewhere along the way. The problem with DVDs is that once a week you have to return them, an event I would dread in anticipation for the entire duration of the seven day hire.
Being a single parent-to-be has made the whole experience a thousand times harder. I couldn’t just walk away from my job, because there was no one but me to support me. I had to clean up the cat’s shit myself, I had to shop for myself, and I had to crawl to the bus stop myself once a week to return my DVDs. But perhaps the hardest thing of all has been the lack of company. I live alone, which ordinarily I love, but it has meant that almost a week at a time could go by where I wouldn’t see anyone but the shitty-bummed cat. And in Sydney people are so busy that unless you’re out at the pub, or at the markets, or at the Red Rattler, or whatever else it is normal queer human beings do on the weekend, then you either fall off people’s radar or have to wait two or three weeks for them to fit you into their busy busy schedules. Which is a long time to wait when you are bedridden and running out of cat food.
I’ve learnt a lot from my period of confinement. I’ve learnt that facebook is the most boring and addictive invention ever invented. I’ve learnt that supermarket security don’t look kindly on people wearing ugg boots, pink tracksuits with long socks pulled over the top and genuine bed hair sitting down in their aisles to eat a muesli bar. And I’ve learnt that if the Sydney queer community is not morning-sick friendly, then it sure as hell isn’t going to be parent-friendly either.