I was training for my military PT test but gaining weight and sweating buckets. My pants stopped fitting. Suddenly: pregnancy.
I went from drinking a bottle of Middle Sister with Ichiban sushi every night to being with child.
The effects came at me with a vengeance. I was becoming sub-human. I was starving, I was full. I was generally angry that this mutant thing taking shape inside of me was absorbing everything—my food, my emotions, my energy, any ability I had to not be burning hot.
I remember running to Subway and scarfing down a turkey and cheese flatbread in my car. I couldn’t make it into the waiting room of my appointment. When I did get inside, however, I felt like I hadn’t eaten in hours.
And then the morning sickness commenced. My husband and I were sitting on the couch one morning eating pancakes that tasted totally normal the night before. I looked at him, disgusted, asking how he could eat that shit. That’s when I knew my body was getting ready to mess with me.
The worst part about it is that I didn’t throw up once—not once. Aside from getting skinned or scalped or not being able to find a toilet when you have diarrhea, I don’t think there’s any worse torture than morning sickness that doesn’t allow you a release. I just wanted the euphoric freedom of regurgitation. Everything tasted and smelled gross to me. Why couldn’t I just throw up?
Knowing it wasn’t going to come back up, I force-fed myself protein shakes and protein bars. I was never a big meat eater and my OB was a huge stickler about what I was eating. She was adamant about reducing calories and consuming a lot of protein and I was committed to following her diet plan. I didn’t follow her diet plan but I did eat healthily. And then I learned I had no other choice.
I brought one of those microwave noodles to work one morning. Via my hastily pumping blood, I discovered that there’s quite a bit of salt in there—twelve hundred milligrams to be exact. I wanted to fight someone, my adrenaline was so springy. The sodium wrapped itself around my heart and squeezed as hard as it could. Migos’ “Fight Night” accurately describes my mood. After that, I couldn’t even have an apple without getting the shakes. Juice? Forget about it. I was scared to even drink water.
I guess I was somewhat fit—my job hardly noticed I was pregnant until ten weeks to my due date—but I’m sure I made a lot of people uncomfortable with my grimaces at their buffalo chicken pungently filling the room, or my snarls at their sushi.
At my thirty-week mark, the kid was ready to come out—I said so. I found my mucus plug stuck to the back of my hand in the shower, a piece of my tooth came out, my lips were chalking right off my face.
We were doing all of the remedies—the spicy foods, the jumping jacks, the squats, the aggressive sex. I begged for every single one of our midwives to strip my membranes. They said they “didn’t think it was safe.” Our midwife Katie suggested we walk around the mall.
I got funnel cake, my husband got a slice. Since it was a Monday, we also got some ice cream from the Shopette and watched the Bachelor. By eleven o’clock, my stomach began to feel bloated. I looked over at my husband and told him I wasn’t feeling so good, but I secretly chalked it up to the ice cream.
Five o’clock in the morning, I gradually woke up, but I felt like my eyes were shot open or were open longer than I had been awake. I used the bathroom for the fifteenth time that the night. I got back into bed, played on my phone for a little, and finally dozed off. Seven minutes later, I shot awake again. I dozed off easily, buried in the plushness of my comforter. Six minutes later, I was awake again. This time, I couldn’t go back to sleep.
I opened my Baby Center app immediately and began timing. Yup, five minutes apart and just about fifty to sixty seconds in duration. I couldn’t believe it! Contractions were supposed to be painful. Our mothers described them as “rhythmic” and “so intense you couldn’t even talk.”
I got out of bed, swept the living room floor, called my mother, who predicted I had three or four more days to go based on the tough exterior I usually wear for her, the “Be Strong” Army cavalier. My husband and I sat down and had eggs. Suddenly, it hit me. I told him in a panic that we had to leave now. Stiffness circled my lower back and not the kind that would get me out of bed to do prayer poses in the middle of the night. I wriggled upstairs, regretting how hairy I had let my vagina become. I stopped shaving so I could shave off some of the anticipation
Stiffness circled my lower back and not the kind that would get me out of bed to do prayer poses in the middle of the night. I wriggled upstairs, regretting how hairy I had let my vagina become. I stopped shaving so I could shave off some of the anticipation that nesting was giving me, folding throw blankets and wiping down counters. And then I cursed myself again. With his eight-pound, twenty-two-inch body pulsating out of my… well… somewhat tight vagina, I had one heavy thigh up on our sink counter trying to turn the 1970’s disco show around.
When we got into the car, the pain settled. A mile outside of the hospital, I couldn’t breathe. We called our midwife at eight o’clock and I answered her questions through huffs. By the time we got inside, I was crying and shrieking. The nurse asked me to rate my pain, ten being my foot being run over by a lawnmower. I told her ten because it felt like my cervix was being run over by a lawnmower. It felt like a metal pole was placed horizontally across by stomach and my cervix
The nurse asked me to rate my pain, ten being my foot being run over by a lawnmower. I told her ten because it felt like my cervix was being run over by a lawnmower. It felt like a metal pole was placed horizontally across by stomach and my cervix was being dragged through and out of my body. I had no idea what was going on—all I knew was that someone had clearly performed witchcraft on me.
In the delivery room I was given something in my IV that made me almost nod off instantly. An assembled stack of consent forms was being pushed into my face. I steadied the pen and very carefully wrote my beautifully curled signature on the lines. The nurse looked at me and said, “Seriously?”
When the anesthesiologist came in, I asked my husband to rub my back. I hate needles. Whenever I get an IV, I’m always paranoid about someone getting tangled in the tubes and cords plugged into the vein on the back of my palm. Anxiety had reached its peak when my body belted out the most blood-curdling scream my reserved personality would allow. I wailed through the placement of the epidural and then went back to sleep.
At one point, I physically couldn’t move my lips to tell someone I had to use the bathroom. I peed right there in the hospital bed. My husband watched them flip and flop me over, liquid trickling to the floor.
At three o’clock, I did three rounds of three consecutive pushes. I nodded off in between each other them. Our midwife tapped me each time, saying, “Sarah, it’s time to push again.” I felt shoulders leave my body and out came our boy. Nurses clucked breastfeeding instructions around me. I didn’t hear a word. AJ held my breast in the recovery room doing it for me. My mother’s flight from Florida was just landing. She kept telling everyone “I’m grandma!” to which they’d respond that we looked like sisters—I wasn’t sure which one she was enjoying more.
Nurses clucked breastfeeding instructions around me. I didn’t hear a word. My husband held my breast in the recovery room, doing it for me. My mother’s flight from Florida was just landing. She kept telling everyone “I’m a grandma!” to which they’d respond that we looked like sisters in the picture—I wasn’t sure which she was enjoying more.
A week after we brought him home, I spent two days straightening my hair. Two days. Washing, blow-drying, and flat ironing fragmented by soft, shrill crying. Welcome to the new life.
Sarah Jean Estime an Aircraft Mechanic in the Air Force. When she’s not working her day job, she’s composing works related to literary fiction. She has been published by the “African American Review,” “O-Dark-Thirty,” “Burner Magazine,” and “Pif Magazine.” She currently writes for Blogcritics and Litro Magazine.
Photo: Flickr CC: Tatiana Vdb