I knew something was up one January afternoon in 2016 when I was convinced I would shrivel up into a little ball if I didn’t drive to the nearest Dunkin Donuts RIGHT NOW to see if they had half a dozen Boston cremes. They didn’t, but I bought half a dozen anyway, and even chose one with sprinkles and I hate sprinkles. I ate all my donuts in one sitting.
I also thought a lot about meat in January. Especially steak and burgers. When I went grocery shopping and passed a McDonald’s or Wendy’s drive thru, I’d seriously consider making an illegal u-turn to spend whatever cash I had on hand. What was happening?!
One week after Jesse’s birthday, we realized if all went well, Stella would have a brother or sister (or both?) in the fall. My meat and doughnut cravings felt totally validated! We were thrilled, excited, overwhelmed, and hesitant because Stella has proven to be more of a handful than we anticipated. But mostly excited. Graduation ONCE AND FOR ALL was on the horizon, which meant post grad school job prospects, and settling in a lovely west coast suburb and maybe buying a house with enough bedrooms to store all of Stella’s stuffed animals. It was a good time to be expecting a baby!
Besides, I had the dream pregnancy with Stella. I ate kale! I ran 10 miles a week! I did yoga and meditation and kegels! Stella’s labor started (as far as I know) with my water breaking and she was born just shy of four hours later. And I was fully dilated upon arrival at the hospital.
Yes, I could be pregnant again because it was so easy the first time!
But then lots of other things happened:
- Morning sickness. Fourteen weeks of it. All I could eat without throwing up was toast and fruit. And burgers and fries from the drive thru. And anything I didn’t have to cook myself.
- Work. During the months when I was most sick, I was rushing to meet a publisher’s deadline for full interior sketches on a new book. I was very irritable and sluggish from January to March. Exercise was NOT on my to-do list.
- Syphilis. My OB called in February and said I tested positive for syphilis. How does someone just “get” syphilis?! I had no symptoms, no questionable sexual encounters, nothing remotely indicative of infection. But I still had to be treated with three weeks of penicillin shots in the back. The shots are horrid. Not just the needles, but the recovery. It’s most painful the day after, and for several days afterward it hurts to bend over, to sleep, and to move in general. Chasing Stella around and carrying her up and down flights of stairs to get in and out of our house for three weeks was super fun. Eventually, the OB did several rounds of confirmatory tests and determined that the results were false positives. I didn’t have syphilis. Yay.
- Summer. Graduation came and went and we were still waiting for jobs. It was time to move in with parents. June happened. Then July, then August…
- More Syphilis. I unknowingly picked a terrible doctor ASAP after moving to Rancho Cucamonga. I showed up for appointments and waited 1-2 hours in the exam rooms only to find out that the doctor wasn’t even in the clinic and nobody knew where she was; I only found out because I left my exam room to ask the secretary. Said doctor also ordered me to take the 3 hr glucose tolerance test instead of the 1 hour test like any normal doctor on the planet. Said doctor’s staff forgot to tell me I had to schedule my own ultrasounds on Wednesdays because that’s when the traveling radiologist visits. And finally, at the end of July, said doctor said she couldn’t see me anymore because my new patient blood work indicated that I had syphilis (the same exact results I received from the OB in CT). And therefore, I had to go to the Loma Linda clinic (35 minutes away) because I had a high risk pregnancy. I forgot that you could look up reviews of doctors on Yelp. I might not have chosen a doctor who, according to one viewer, “got her degree from a Cracker Jack box in India!” But you have limited options with state insurance.
- More Syphilis. My first visit at the Loma Linda clinic took SIX HOURS. The visit ended with the doctor ordering more confirmatory blood tests for syphilis. I had to drive to the lab a few miles away and it turned out the nurse gave me the address for the San Bernardino Public Works Department instead, but oh well. The confirmatory tests came back negative. So far, my syphilis test record was 2 positives and 2 negatives. So, again, as far as I was concerned, I did not have syphilis.
- GBS. I tested positive this time and was told I would need penicillin via IV during active labor. I knew then, that labor would be so different. In a bad way. But I felt like there was nothing I could do, except hope that I would be lucky again and have a quick labor and delivery. Because subsequent births are supposed to get faster, right?
- More Syphilis. At my 38 week appointment, an appointment that should have taken five minutes took 2+ hours because doctors determined that I still might have syphilis. This time, they brought in flow charts to show me how complicated syphilis is. Apparently, there are several confirmatory tests (with varying degrees of reliability) and this whole time, I had only been given one kind of test, and not the test to end all tests. I went home wondering if I had been wrong this whole time. Maybe I DID have syphilis!!!!!!!! But the results were negative. If a doctor ever tries to talk to me about “syphilis” again, I will punch her in the face.
- Castor oil. At 39 weeks I was dilated 3 cm and 60% effaced. We still didn’t have a place to live (although we knew Jesse would be working for Kaiser in Oakland starting on October 3rd), and I wanted to be done waddling and living out of a suitcase. For all we knew, the baby wouldn’t arrive until October! So I drank castor oil on September 17, something might happen, but not expecting much. I drank 2 Tbsp at noon and at 3pm painful contractions woke me up from a delicious nap. We arrived at the hospital at 5:30pm, because the baby would be here any second! So I thought. I was only dilated 4 cm at 6pm when I was examined at the hospital! WHAT???!! There was talk of sending me home. But an hour later I measured 5.5 cm. Finally, we were getting somewhere! Just kidding. Ten hours later, after unplugging the IV wires 5,000 times to expel IV fluids, and vomiting half my body weight into the toilet, and only making about 1 cm of progress, I was kind of tired. Around 5:30 am on September 18, the epidural kicked in, I think. I don’t remember the time sequence very well, but shortly after I started feeling light and feathery enough to fall asleep, the doctor checked in for another exam and said, “Ahhh! You’re at station 3! Your baby’s here! Push!” And then there was Sophie.
This summer of horrible doctor visits and lots of fake syphilis (1st World Problems, I tell you) ended with this sweet, squishy fuzzy head who learned how to sleep through the night at 4 weeks.
6:16 am, 7 lbs, 13 oz, 21 inches