Caring for me during my pregnancy was so encompassing that Toots told me later he had something like mild PTSD after the baby was finally born. And I think it's possible the dirty knives referenced in this post didn't get washed until after the baby, either.
Our plumber, Jim, had begun a bathroom remodel that was supposed to take about two weeks on the first day of my last menstrual period. Because of defects in the tub that was first delivered to us, it eventually took nearly 14 weeks to complete. Jim ended up rigging us a shower in the middle of the basement, near the floor drain, and his business was nearly bankrupted by the fiasco that was our new bathroom. Poor guy.
November 2, 2000
I am sorry to have to tell you that last Friday's feeling of happy well-being is but a distant memory. I have had a very difficult week, augmented by the intensification of some symptoms and the appearance of a couple of entirely new ones, including excessive saliva (you will forgive me mentioning), which doesn't sound too bad when you read about it in a book, but which, it turns out, is unpleasant and troublesome when experienced. Raider believes that I am slowly turning to liquid; he says my stomach is squishy (I think so too). According to his reading on pregnancy, by the time the baby is delivered, I am going to be completely of a gelatinous, amoeba-like consistency.
What good news do I have? Despite having to call Raider to come pick me up at school this afternoon, I had this weird idea that I might be able to eat some sesame chicken. Sesame chicken being fetched for me, I succeeded in eating about a half-dozen small pieces with rice. It was very delicious. If all goes well, I intend to have some more for lunch tomorrow. I am amazed repeatedly by my ability to eat even when actively nauseated; it's a unique feature, in my experience, of pregnancy nausea. I have never been able to do more than suck popsicles when I've had an upset stomach before.
We told our plumber about the baby today. Turns out he has training as a naturopath and delivered two of his five children at home with no assistance from anyone but their mother. We have been joking about enlisting him as our midwife. He says it's natural that my joy in pregnancy should be suppressed by being sick, but assures me that I will begin to feel the "spiritual aspects" of pregnancy in the second trimester. "It's a whole little soul in there," he says. He also says we pick our parents, based on the karmic lessons we need to learn. The best either of us (the plumber or me) could say about the lessons of our upbringing, was that it taught us what not to do to our children; I have been thinking since our talk about what karmic lesson Junior might be seeking in choosing me and Raider. Scary.
Do you remember the TV show "Murphy Brown" and her house painter Eldon who came to paint the walls and stayed for, like, 10 years? I feel that way about our plumber, like he's been living with us for two months. I get to the point of wanting to say to him, "Jim, why don't you run the trash to the curb while you're up," or "Hey, Jim, put a load of dishes in, will you?" or "Hey, Jim, how about a ginger ale in here?" He did show up one day with a 12-pack of Vernors because he had noticed that we were almost out, and he understands how much I need it.
The representative of the bathtub company came today to inspect the tub; it can be fixed, he says, but he also says that the flaw in the pipe was so evident that it should not have passed inspection at the factory. He seemed quite indignant and promised to be very active in getting the repair done as soon as possible. We'll see.
Speaking of dishes and stuff: I have not lifted a finger around the house in a month (except during scheduled housework times on Saturday morning; last week I sat down more than I worked, but did succeed in tidying some things and dusting some other things while Raider and Toots cleaned the whole rest of the house). Raider and Toots have been terrific, doing all the shopping, doing dishes, scooping cat litter. Toots has taken over my job of feeding the cats, and also backs me up on dog care, checking to see whether I have fed them and doing it if I haven't been able to. I am enormously grateful, and yet am experiencing the frustration of having things done not by me and therefore not as I would do them. For instance, neither Raider nor Toots will generally do the hand dishes until they are quite scandalous; actually, not even then. As a consequence, every wood-handled knife in the house is dirty, and an archeologist could determine all the meals we've cooked (a very small subset of meals we've eaten) in the last few weeks by excavating the pile of pans to the right of the sink. Also, there is a tupperware container growing a culture in the fridge; no one else has dealt with it, and I have felt that it would be ill-advised of me to try it. I really want the fridge cleaned out and the hand dishes done, but I feel I can hardly press the point when they are already both doing so much. And I feel I can hardly use what little energy I have in a day in knife-washing when I have, for instance, a paper which was due yesterday and which is no farther forward than a list of possible source materials I have been too sick to go the library for.
I have to say, though, that it is a good feeling to have people in my life who will so patiently and cheerfully add my responsibilities to theirs, as well as the work of bringing me beverages and preparing me food (Raider packs me a Snack Kit whenever I have to go anywhere), over a period of weeks, with nary a complaint worse than, from Raider occasionally, "Can I finish this first or should I go get it right now?" (Although, truth to tell, he did get a little snarly last night between 12:30 and 1 a.m. when, first, I wanted the foam wedge to sleep on because I had heartburn, and then I wanted the window open and the fan on because I was hot, and then, after [our cat] Baby threw up, I wanted him to get out of bed immediately to clean it up because I needed to go pee and was afraid of stepping in it. But after that I slept straight through til morning, so what does he really have to complain about?)
The two of them have even agreed to go to the library and photocopy articles for me, since I keep saying that I feel I could work on my papers if only I had the materials here at home; if I can't manage the library tomorrow, I will take them up on it. In any case, I will probably take at least Raider with me to help with retrieving things from the stacks. And they are driving me everywhere, even when it means, on some days, six different trips in one day to drop me off and pick me up various places. I am in imminent danger of throwing up whenever I am in a moving car, and am much more comfortable in the passenger seat with a plastic bag in my hand than behind the wheel.
I have repeatedly been congratulating myself on having visited Montana when I did (and also on having visited my friend Julie the next weekend; by then, I was already constantly nauseated, but only mildly, and I don't think I had started throwing up yet). I feel like I did my traveling at the last possible time; I couldn't bring myself to get on a plane now, or to undertake a car ride of longer than 12 minutes.
One last thing: in all the pregnancy books, they say that labor and delivery are like orgasm in being an involuntary bodily response. But yesterday, I had a long and violent bout of vomiting (in the late morning; it is always worst in the late morning) during which I thought, for instance, that my eyeballs might explode*, and I realized how much of the body is engaged in throwing up; I had never really noticed the extent to which, for instance, opening your mouth to throw up is involuntary, and I swear I believe now that my vagina can get big enough for a baby because I'm pretty sure one could have come easily out my mouth yesterday. I felt exactly like those scenes in "An American Werewolf in London" in which David Naughton turns into the wolf. I couldn't believe when I looked in the mirror afterward that there wasn't some permanent sign. Anyway, in the middle of the worst of it, I thought, "I bet this is what labor is like." It wasn't like orgasm at all; it was too violent and all-encompassing and, interestingly (I've had a lot of time to think philosophically about retching), it's sort of neither pleasant nor unpleasant while it's going on; it just takes over. In between, in those little rests you get, hanging over the toilet wondering whether it's over yet or not, it's very upsetting, but during the actual vomiting, it just sort of is. I will let you know on or about June 11, 2001, whether my insight holds up. [Note: my labor with the Lego Savant was relatively mellow and not at all overwhelming, though it was difficult at points. Some of the vomiting I did while pregnant was much, much worse.]
*A couple of years ago, Toots had a bout of vomiting that left him with two black eyes; it was amazing. I keep half expecting that to happen to me, and when it doesn't, I think, "Good God, what Toots must have suffered!"
I have to say one more thing about throwing up: Last week, I experienced the most unpleasant vomiting-related thing that has ever happened to me. I haven't told anyone what it was, because it's just too gross and no one but me should have to be haunted by the vision of it, but I can't help telling you just that it happened. If you remember that I was once, in fact, sick in the hallway outside the door of my classroom while teaching a class, you can imagine that this must have been unpleasant indeed, although I was alone when it happened. Ugh. I won't say more, except, "Pity me! Pity me!"
Although I am physically very unwell, my spirits are improving. I think one can only be miserable so long, and as the weeks pass it begins to feel that I can endure the weeks ahead (how many? Perhaps as few as three, though I'm not counting on it), and, although I am keeping up with the reading in my classes, and making some slow progress on papers, I am ever more indifferent to school and am not letting my descent from the fabulous student I was all last year to a very indifferent performer distress me too much. On Friday, I thought singing in the shower was the mark of how well I felt, but today I have felt very sick all day but I still sang in the shower, just a little (the shower is one of my favorite places; the warm water on my stomach seems to really help. If only the basement drain weren't sluggish, so that showers have to be quick to avoid flooding the room, I would probably stand in there for an hour). And I have been very rewarded by small adventures in food; as well as the sesame chicken today, on Tuesday Raider, in response to an idea of mine that I might be able to eat some home fries if they were fried with only a very little oil, made me a wonderful bowlful of diced potatoes. A welcome variant from my usual assortment of yogurt, fruit, applesauce, Carnation Instant Breakfast, homemade ginger spritzers, peppermint tea, and, of course, saltines. [Later in my pregnancy, I began to live almost entirely on Peppermint Stick ice cream. I couldn't brush my teeth without vomiting, and so it freshened my mouth a little and was cool and creamy both going down and, if necessary, coming back up.]