Saturday, February 28, 2009

Still Waiting

I finished a draft of chapter 8 this week—something I’d hoped to accomplish a month ago, but the nausea got in the way. I’m pretty close to having a draft of my whole dissertation stitched together. It’s going to require a lot of cleaning up, but soon I will have something to send to my committee. Chances are they will hate it, and I will practically have to start over, but for the time being it feels like progress.

In the meantime, I am still waiting to get off the boat. This is week 15. I am well into the second trimester and have not experienced any relief. Back at Christmas when I started throwing up, I told myself that all I had to do was hold on until Valentine’s Day, and by then I would feel better. It’s two weeks past Valentine’s Day now, and I am still waiting. I guess the Zofran takes the edge off enough that I am not actually puking anymore, but I am still so nauseated that at times I feel like I am losing my mind. It requires enormous efforts to even get myself to a one-hour meeting at school or to go to the grocery store for whatever it is that I think I might be able to eat. It’s getting kind of hard to keep my spirits up.

I went back to yoga this week even though I felt terrible. The stretching and exercises are really nice, but the best part is at the end, when we do this relaxation technique. The instructor helped us all get ourselves propped up on pillows, and then she gave us each an herbal sachet to put over our eyes. It was very calming. There was no unzipping of the uterus this time, but the instructor did have us put our hands on our stomachs “to warm our babies.” I was like, “Are you kidding lady? It is 50 degrees in this room and my hands are like blocks of ice. If I put my hands on my stomach, Fig will shudder I tell you, shudder." But I guess Fig made it just fine.

After class Rob met me downtown and we ate dinner at Crane Alley. It is still amazing to me how I can eat through such mind-numbing nausea, particularly if someone else prepares the food. I had a portabella mushroom sandwich and French fries. It was the best thing I had ever tasted. I probably haven’t eaten French fries in over 15 years, but at the moment I have absolutely no control over my body. I completely foresee a 50 pound weight gain by the end of this pregnancy.

After the portabella mushroom sandwich and French fries incident, that was all I wanted to eat the next day. I finally went to the store and got some portabella mushroom caps, feta cheese*, and Kaiser rolls to try to recreate at least the sandwich part of the meal. The result was completely underwhelming and in fact, made me feel so sick that I had to curl into a ball and cry for a little while. I should have just had some Ritz crackers.

Today I went to a neighborhood coffee with the women of Vermont Avenue. Every month the ladies on my street get together for “fellowship,” which is something I really like about living here. Back in January, I forcibly drug myself to the meeting in between bouts of vomiting, and I remember distinctly promising myself that by February’s coffee, I would feel fine. Not so. I still felt as bad as I did in January, I just weigh about 10 pounds more and am no longer puking. Today I finally told them all about the upcoming Blessed Event, and the entire roomful of women squealed and clapped. I should point out that I am by far the youngest in attendance at these events: some of the women have children my age, but many of them have grandchildren my age or even older. Mrs. F, who is one of my favorite people ever, told me that she would never have said anything, but when I walked in she thought I looked pregnant and just had this feeling. I do look pregnant actually, but I think it has less to do with Fig (who is tiny) and more to do with the copious amounts Ritz crackers, avocados, and French fries I have eaten lately. Mrs. F also offered to babysit whenever I needed her, which is an offer I was definitely hoping she would make. I suspect we will be taking her up on it before long.

Well it’s been almost a whole hour since I’ve eaten anything, so I guess it is time to put something into my gargantuan stomach to try to keep this nausea at a semi-manageable level. Thanks for reading!

According to the internet, Fig was supposed to be the size of a lemon last week and an apple this week. I have both fruits and the apple was actually smaller, so we're just going to say lemon for now. Also please note that I am not actually as skinny as I look in the picture. It must be the lighting or angle, because I am fast approaching the most I have ever weighed in my entire life. A side view would show that I'm about twice the size that I was before.

* A note to the Baby Police: The feta cheese was pasteurized and posed no risks of listeria to myself or my unborn baby. You can turn off your sirens, put your handcuffs away, and go terrorize some other pregnant woman with ridiculous things to worry about.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

99% hippie

This week has been filled with me plugging away at Chapter 8 of my dissertation, a visit to my midwife, and my first ever prenatal yoga class.

Chapter 8 is kind of like the “money chapter” of my dissertation. It’s the “discussion” section, where I go through all of the crappy results I’ve presented in previous chapters and explain what they mean and how these earth-shattering revelations change the face of the world as we know it. What it comes down to is that growing up is hard for baby howler monkeys. They need mommas who eat well, but they also need to be able to fend for themselves when their mommas just can’t provide for them. Only by splitting the costs of growth with their mothers do baby howler monkeys have a chance of making it in a world where it is sometimes very hot and dry and there isn’t always a lot to eat. Baby howler monkeys have got to be tough from the get-go.

On Wednesday I had another appointment with my midwife. I got to hear Fig’s heartbeat again, which was nice. I also found that I had gained 3 pounds in the last 3 weeks, which puts me back at my starting weight from before the onset of puking and not eating. They were making a big deal about how great that was, but I wasn’t really that impressed. I’m still wearing my skinny jeans; I guess that time is about to end though.

I’m now 14 weeks into this, which officially puts me in to the second trimester. For most women, that’s when the nausea ends, if it’s going to. Unfortunately, my nausea continues, and I am getting really concerned that it will last the entire time. The Zofran had been helping a little bit, and so my midwife said to keep on taking it. When I got home from the appointment, I realized that I do not have a refill on the prescription and my next appointment will not be until sometime long after my current bottle runs out. I tried cutting my dosage down to 1 pill per day in order to stretch it out, but the results have not been good. I’ve actually been feeling much worse than before, and even my go-to comfort foods (such as the avocado and rice concoction I ate 3 times per day last week) make me feel like I’m going to wretch. I guess I’m going to have to call the doctor tomorrow and see if they’ll write me another prescription to get me by until my next appointment.

On Thursday night, I went to my first prenatal yoga class ever. Given my recent reduction in Zofran, I felt pretty terrible during the class. And I had such a pounding migraine that I could not turn my head, see properly, or even communicate with the other pregnant women. I really did like the class though, but I have to admit, I felt like I might not have been enough of a hippie for it. And that is really saying something. There were a lot of visualization exercises, and let’s just say I had a little trouble “unzipping” my uterus, taking my baby out, and rocking it for several minutes. Maybe it is because Fig is currently only the size of a peach, or maybe it’s because I was just so nauseated I couldn’t focus. But seriously. Several months ago, friend John G of Gutzville proclaimed that Rob and I are 85% hippie. After merely attending the prenatal yoga class, I’d say this has to raise my hippie status to at least 99%.

I am currently in the midst of a ridiculously intense need for Ritz crackers. Yesterday we had a family party for my mother-in-law’s birthday, and I found that, not only could I eat Ritz crackers, but also that they were highly palatable. Unfortunately, we do not have any Ritz crackers at home, and Rob has the car somewhere like an hour away doing a trail run that will probably take him several more hours. So unless I want to take my extremely nauseated, pregnant self to Schnuck’s by bike or foot in this 19 degree weather, I’m going to have to come up with another food that doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to die.

Hoping my morning dose of Zofran kicks in soon. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When the cure is worse than what ails you

So the Zofran I’m on doesn’t really stop the nausea, but it does seem to stop the puking, which is something at least. It would be nice to actually feel good or even normal as opposed to sometimes just semi-functional, though. Plus, I have experienced some unsavory side effects of Zofran, but detailing them here would make this post contain Too Much Information, so I’ll just leave it at that.

On Sunday I took my friend N (who happens to be Japanese) to the Asian grocery store on campus. She helped me find all the things I would need to make my own sushi, and she even gave me a bamboo mat that you use to assemble it. She told me some of the things that Japanese women use for morning sickness. Japanese pickled plums are supposed to be good for it, so I bought some of those at the store, and she gave me some wheat tea, which she said was good for nausea in general.

Clockwise from top: Seaweed, wheat tea, wasabi, pickled plums, and pickled ginger.

After I got home, I realized that the pickled ginger contains phenylalanine--the artificial sweetener in diet soda that is some kind of carcinogen or neurotoxin. I never touch the stuff when I'm not pregnant, and now I'm too afraid to eat it because I don't want Fig exposed. So much for the pickled ginger.

As for the wheat tea—it smelled kind of like charcoal and didn’t taste quite as bad, but it wasn’t great either. I added a teaspoon of Gutzmer honey to make it more palatable. Not sure if it did anything for the nausea though.

The pickled plum was… wow… really nasty. Much like how you might expect a shriveled plum soaked in salt and vinegar would taste. Actually, much worse. I decided that if this was the cure for morning sickness, well, it might not be worse than morning sickness per se, but at this point, it was kind of splitting hairs.

I was really proud of my first attempt at making sushi though. It was surprisingly easy. I started out by making some sticky white rice and adding 2 tablespoons of sushi vinegar to it. Then you put a sheet of seaweed on a little bamboo mat and put a thin layer of the rice on top. In the middle of this, I put some (lightly) steamed asparagus, raw cucumber, and raw avocado. Then you roll it up, remove the bamboo mat, and cut it into little rounds. It’s that simple! I actually thought my homemade sushi was every bit as good, if not better, than the kind from the restaurant.

In addition to the abating, but ever present, nausea, I’m also dealing with a rotten head-cold at the moment. I feel like kind of a wimp, but it is seriously unpleasant. I can’t breathe out of my nose at all, and as a consequence, I haven’t slept in 3 nights. Aside from the fact that I can’t smell things as strongly, it’s a real drag. I think my mad craving for sushi is partially motivated by Wasabi—which is so potent, it clears out my sinuses and gives me a good 5-10 minutes of breathing time after every meal.

Also, I am pretty sure that Fig loves avocado. Avocado has tasted so good to me lately. Today I was feeling so sick that I couldn’t even go to the trouble of making sushi, so I just mashed up some avocado, mixed it with the rice, and put on some wasabi. Perfection. Probably by tomorrow all that will make me dry heave, so we’ll have to come up with something completely new to eat. It's always an adventure.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Best Valentine's Ever

First of all, thank you so much to everybody who called, commented, emailed, etc regarding my last post about Fig. I really, truly appreciate it.

Fig is now the size of a peach.

Yesterday ended up being the Best Valentine’s Day Ever, which is surprising considering that Rob and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, and in 11+ years, never have. Here are a few of the reasons it was so great:

1) The whole thing started off on Friday with a surprise delivery of 2 gigantic, home-made, heart-shaped cookies, accompanied with a note that read, “Happy V-Day.” Sources neither confirm or deny it, but I am 99% positive that our mystery benefactor was none other than Gutzville. Thanks guys!

2) On V-day morning, I had a request to iChat from none other than Leda. Yes, Leda! Leda in Nicaragua! She never ceases to amaze me. She probably spent nearly 30 years of her life having never touched a computer, but now that she’s got access, there is no stopping her. It was amazing to be talking to Leda in real time! And also difficult, given the rustiness of my Spanish. But we made it through. I had sent her an email earlier telling her the news about Fig, and she was very surprised! She is so happy for us and can’t wait for us to bring the baby to Ometepe. She asked me to send her pictures of my belly, and I told her to wait—it still just looks like I’m getting fat, but hopefully one of these days you’ll be able to tell that there’s an actual baby in there.

3) For Fig’s Valentine (and maybe for Rob’s Valentine), we went and test drove a Prius. I know, I feel like such a yuppie. Urbana is thick with Priuses. It’s beyond cliché. We stand out as the sole, proud owners of a Honda Insight that gets at least 15 mpg better than the Prius. But unfortunately our car Iris only has 2 seats, and there would be no room for Fig. So we’re going to have to get a new car. Rob’s handling all the research on this one (I’ve got my hands full with research on cloth diapers), and he’s determined that the Prius is our next best bet. To me, the Prius seemed too fancy for riff-raff like us to sit in, much less drive, but he loved it. Aside from the arrival of a new camera, computer, or bicycle, I have never seen Rob so talkative and happy. So if anybody is interested in a gently-used, well-loved, 2002, silver Honda Insight, let us know. We’ve got to sell Iris to make room for a Fig-friendly car. You may just have to pry me out of Iris’s seat on the day of the transaction, though.

4) Valentine’s Day concluded with me getting to have a special dinner that didn’t even make me feel sick. Sushi! Now, before the Baby Police* handcuff me and take me away, warning me of the dangers of raw fish and mercury, let me point out that I’m Melissa… I’m a vegetarian, and I would never dream of eating fish (either raw or cooked) regardless of whether or not I was pregnant.

Last week, I went out with the girls to Yellowfin restaurant and had sushi for the very first time. With my sushi-expert girlfriends to walk me through the menu, I discovered that there were plenty of vegetarian things that I could eat—even with my pregnancy-addled taste aversions. I ended up getting some “AAC Rolls” (with avocado, asparagus, and cucumber). Dipped in wasabi with soy sauce, and chased by a strip of pickled ginger, this was quite possibly the best thing I had ever tasted in my entire life. For the first time since Christmas, I felt good! It was amazing!

The only downside to the sushi adventure is that literally, all I have wanted since that night, is sushi. I woke up the next morning and wanted sushi for breakfast. I still wanted it for lunch and for dinner the next day and the day after. Unfortunately, Rob flat-out refused to go have sushi with me—which is probably a good thing, since it’s not cheap.

By last night, my desire to eat those AAC rolls had become unprecedented. Plus, a friend had mentioned that some pregnant women find pickled ginger helps to relieve morning sickness. Could it be that it was the pickled ginger that had helped me feel so great after sushi night? I simply had to find out. Luckily, Yellowfin does takeout. So I placed an order for AAC rolls, and just about ½ hour later, I was eating them. Sublime. I even got Rob to try one of the rolls, and he actually liked it, so there is hope for more sushi to come.

The pickled ginger may have helped for a little while, but I actually felt pretty cruddy for the rest of the night. I’ve come down with a rotten cold, but I’m trying to look on the bright side. At least I can’t smell things as strongly while my nose is plugged up.

Anyway, sorry for another excessively long post. Now that I’m back to regular blogging, I’ll get these posts short and snappy in no time.

Thanks for reading!

*The Baby Police are an amorphous blob of people who warn pregnant women and new mothers that anything and everything they do will harm their babies. Ninety-nine percent of these things are things that our mothers did when we were young, and look at us, we turned out fine. Eating sushi was actually probably not one of those things that our mothers did, though.

Friday, February 13, 2009


For anyone who has ever had as much as a 5-minute conversation with me, what I am about to say will come as a complete shock. So make sure you are sitting down, and do not take a sip of anything that you could spew onto the computer screen. Here goes. I’m pregnant.

I know, I know. None of us ever thought this was going to happen. I’m almost 3 months into it, and I’m still getting used to the idea. In fact, today—Friday the 13th—marks the first day of week 13. And with lucky numbers like those, what better day to let the world know?

It’s been a rough ride so far. In the first 5 or 6 weeks I threw up 80 times (yes, I kept track of it), and even when I wasn’t throwing up, I felt like I was going to at any minute. I couldn’t eat any fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, eggs, meat, dairy, or soy. That didn’t leave a whole lot left to choose from. I lost maybe 5 or 7 pounds, but considering that I started out as a svelte vegan marathon runner, I didn’t have a whole lot to fall back on. I tried every home remedy ever invented, and I threw them all up. I became insanely jealous of women who told me they threw up in the grocery store or in the car on the way to work, because I couldn’t do any of those things. Pretty much all I could do was lie in bed and puke into a bucket. Sometimes I found a modicum of relief by putting an ice pack on my head to numb the throbbing migraine that had lodged itself behind my left eye and refused to let go. But still, there was the unrelenting nausea.

It felt like I was on the boat—the little boat—during the windy season in Nicaragua. It felt like the time that Rob and I went back to the mainland on a day when the lake was particularly rough and I threw up on the ferry. The only difference was that the ferry ride lasts—at most—an hour and a half. This was like being stuck on the little boat with no land in sight, every minute of every day. I couldn’t work because looking at the computer screen made me sick. I couldn’t even sleep because the nausea (and my fear of chocking to death on my own puke) kept me awake.

I told people that I had the flu or that I’d gotten salmonella (the whole peanut scare really worked to my advantage), but none of that was true. My midwife called this “hyperemesis gravidarum”—fancy Latin words that basically just mean “excessive” nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This is what my sister had when she was pregnant with Logan. My perception of her experience was that she endured something that I really would not have thought possible for a human being to survive. Supposedly, only about 1 or 2% of women have it this bad, but in my research (and believe me, I’ve done a lot of research), I found that your chances rise to about 19% if your sister has had it. I am definitely not as sick as my sister was, but still, I fall into a minority group that I really do not want to be part of. The one good thing to come out of this part of the experience is that I am determined to write a review paper on “morning sickness” and totally tear down these dumb-asses who maintain that it’s some evolutionary adaptation that prevents the mother from ingesting toxins that could be harmful to a fetus. The hell. What I experienced was most decidedly not adaptive. If there are any Anthro people are reading, I’m looking for collaborators.

I started out wanting to do this whole thing totally old school and all natural, but I got so run down that I was willing to do anything for a little relief. I’ve tried 3 different medications—none of which has really helped. I’m currently on the generic version of “Zofran”—a drug they give to help chemo patients with nausea. It costs $675 for a 2-week supply, but thankfully, my insurance (actually, Rob’s insurance) covered all but a $15 copay. It sort of takes the edge off sometimes, and for the most part it has stopped me from throwing up. But the nausea and migraine are always there. Always, always.

I’ve tried really hard to be excited about this. Rob and I first stood staring at that Big Fat Positive on December 12th, and by Christmas, I was throwing up at my parent’s house. We told our immediate families, but I was hesitant to tell anyone else. I said it was because I was afraid of something happening and then having to tell everyone that we wouldn’t be having a baby after all. But really, I think it was because I couldn’t stand to hear anyone say “Congratulations” or “That’s wonderful.” It felt like I was dying of an incurable parasite. It felt like I had ruined my career and would never end up finishing my dissertation. It felt like I had qualified for the Boston Marathon but now would be unable to run it. It felt pretty damn awful.

The drugs sometimes give me a few brief lucid moments when I think I might survive this—when I entertain the thought that Rob and I will soon be holding a little baby, and I will somehow manage to finish my dissertation, and I will end up running the Boston Marathon in 2010. My mom has been following a website that gives her updates on the baby’s development, and one week she informed me that the baby was the size of a fig. Fig, I thought. Fig is a good name. I have so many happy memories of watching the monkeys in the big fig trees on Ometepe. I already know exactly what this baby is going to be named when it is born, but for now, Fig is what we will call it. Fig suits it well.

So Fig is due to arrive on August 21st, which I think is a wonderful time of year to be born. Now that I am 13 weeks pregnant, little Fig has grown to the size of a peach. For many weeks he/she has been moving about (though I won’t feel it for some time), and what I think is the cutest thing is that Fig can open and close his/her hands. A little while ago I had biked to campus (a huge ordeal, considering that biking makes me nauseous), and while I was on my way home, I was pretty sure that Fig was in there, waving her arms and opening and closing her little hands. Just picturing that made me laugh hysterically.

At my last doctor’s appointment, I got to listen to Fig’s heartbeat, and my midwife was delighted that it was so good and strong. I was delighted too, of course, but I really wasn’t surprised at all. From the moment Fig arrived, I knew that he/she was good and strong.

There are a million, billion more things to say, but I’ve gone on too long already. I’ll keep posting in the coming weeks, as the story of Fig unfolds.

Thanks for reading.

Fig on January 7 at 7.5 weeks. It feels a little weird to have a picture of my uterus on the internet.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blog on hiatus

As you probably have noticed, the blog is on hiatus. Life has unfortunately become infinitely complicated in ways that I’m not willing to broadcast on the internet. I will eventually get things under control and resume posting more regularly. Just bear with me; I need a little bit more time. My tentative goal is to have myself back together around mid-February. Let’s shoot for Friday the 13th ☺ because it’s not like I’m superstitious or anything. So try not to forget about me, and be sure to check back around Valentine’s Day!

Thanks for reading.