When you’re pregnant, all the women who have gone before rally to tell you how their babies ripped apart their vaginas.
One co-worker birthed an eight-pound baby whose head size was in the 99% percentile. Another’s daughter came out with her elbow crooked above her head, like a superhero shooting razors out of her tricep.
All this coincides with my OB telling me I’m gaining weight too fast.
I weighed 128 when I got pregnant. The only reason I wasn’t 130 was I’d stopped drinking wine a couple weeks before (all my jokes about getting all my calories from wine turned out to be true!). Last week, in Week 14, I weighed 137. But with a starting weight of 128, I’m only “supposed to” weigh, at most, 132. Otherwise, I am told, bigger baby = harder labor = more chance of a ripped vagina = less chance I won’t scream out for an epidural = more interventions = higher chance of trauma = dead baby = dead me.
Although I use this blog as a place to put all my anxiety, I’m not completely unreasonable. MOSTLY I’M QUITE REASONABLE AND IN PERSON I KEEP MY SEETHING TO MYSELF. I know the world won’t end if I gain weight faster than I “should.” But having someone tell me to my face I’m gaining too much weight is bad for a former bulimic. My brain is wired for two things: remembering every fucking detail about my boyfriends’ ex-girlfriends, and counting calories. For years I listed every calorie I ate on scraps of paper, down to the salt and pepper. I poured milk into measuring spoons before putting it in my tea. I ate too much, I barfed too much, all starting when I was 15 and finally coming to an end when I was 35 (I am nothing if not committed!). And, during the brain-shattering two years I managed to also be anorexic, I obsessively checked online BMI calculators to keep myself at the cusp of underweight.
I’ve been through a lot of therapy, and I don’t have eating disorders anymore. But apparently charts that have to do with weight gain — such as the one my OB shared with me — make me feel like two hands are digging into my brain, separating the lobes and digging way, way back to find an old, ugly feeling that for the last five years has been buried.
Millennials would call it a trigger (DO NOT THINK WE ARE COOL, MILLENNIALS. I STILL HAVE SOME ISSUES WITH YOU).
I have already gone into a swirly-eyed vortex on the Baby Center pregnancy weight gain calculator trying to figure out how much weight I need to try to lose (LOSING WEIGHT WHILE PREGNANT ARE YOU SERIOUS) OR trying to figure out if I can just maintain this weight until Week 18, when weighing 137 is “OK.” (When my OB said I’d been gaining weight too fast, she didn’t say what I was supposed to do about it. And I was too busy trying to sort out how I felt about this that I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask.) So I’ve also upped my intake of Metamucil (danger, danger! An old bulimia trick!) and have started planning the thin cotton outfit (no jeans! No shoes! No jewelry!) I’ll wear to my next prenatal appointment, when the nurse will insist I stand on the cow scale.
And on the subject of pregnancy unexpectedly triggering my eating disorders, here’s something else amazing that happened recently.
Two weeks ago, I flew to Chicago to meet my mother and her dear friend to begin our journey to Washington, D.C., to march for women’s equality because. Our first leg together was driving six hours to a small town in Ohio to pick up her friend’s sister and her friend’s sister’s wife. After that we would drive another half hour to board an overnight bus to D.C.
But first we got to hang out in the ladies’ sprawling home for a bit, relaxing and drinking wine. But no wine for me. Still not drinking wine. So I went into the kitchen, found a glass, and poured myself some water from the tap. After an hour or so, I carried the glass — still half full — upstairs to a bedroom and set it on the dresser. That was when I noticed the water was yellow. My mom walked into the room and saw the glass.
“Did you drink that water?” she said.
“Yes,” I said. “What’s in the water? Why is it yellow?”
Mom hesitated. “It’s better if you don’t know.”
Not knowing is not my strong suit. I want all the details. Your ex-girlfriend sent you a text message? SHOW ME THE MESSAGE NO SHOW ME OK OBVIOUSLY SHE STILL HAS FEELINGS FOR YOU SO I WILL POST A SERIES OF PHOTOS OF US TOGETHER ON FACEBOOK AND CLEAR THIS RIGHT UP GO AWAY, EX, GO AWAY GO AWAY. I love surprises that involve birthday cards and $100 bottles of wine but not whammies. NO WHAMMIES. They make my anxiety spike so hard my chest feels like it’s cracking apart. If a man ever starts a conversation with “I need to tell you something” or “We should talk,” it better be fucking serious because otherwise I’m having this heart attack for nothing.
So I walked downstairs and into the kitchen and asked everyone there, “What’s in the water?”
My hostess gathered herself.
“Arsenic,” she said.
I put my glass down. Then I walked upstairs and shut myself in the bathroom.
I’m one of those people who keeps airplanes in the air by concentrating really, really hard. And my life has been all about contingency plans, a raft of Plan B’s in case this job falls through, this relationship doesn’t work out, these roommates unceremoniously kick me out (again). I am ready for fucking war at all times, and I have spent my entire pregnancy keeping my fetus alive by worrying about everything I can possibly think of that can go wrong.
ARSENIC POISONING WAS NOT ON THE LIST.
As soon as I was in the bathroom, I burst into tears — like, leaning-over-my-knees-crying-onto-the-floor tears. ARE YOU SHITTING ME ARSENIC. HOW CAN I EMOTIONALLY PREPARE FOR SOMETHING THAT WOULD NEVER OCCUR TO ME. Then I took off my glasses with the grim knowledge that I was about to make myself throw up for the first time in five years on the off chance it would bring the arsenic back up. I DIDN’T EVEN THROW UP DURING MY FIRST TRIMESTER WHEN I HAD NAUSEA.
And this was the moment my mom decided to practice nurturing — it’s too late! I’m 40! — and force all five-foot-two of herself into the bathroom.
“Give me a minute!” I cried.
“Let me in, Jenny,” she said. “I’m your mother.”
“Where were you when I was drinking arsenic?”
In a way, as often happens with one’s mother, it was as if 25 years had not passed. Here we were, 40 and 74, rather than 15 and 49, screaming at each other on opposite sides of a door, one of us (me, as usual) in tears.
I barfed. I called the nurse hotline at Kaiser, and the nurse called Poison Control. And all this was happening at the same time our group needed to pile into the car so we wouldn’t miss our bus to D.C. With my iPhone wedged between my neck and my shoulder, I sat in the crowded back seat against the cold window, watching the blackness of rural Ohio fly by, as a doctor talked me down, saying he’d never heard of arsenic in a residential water supply but — especially since I had no symptoms — the minuscule (THAT IS HOW YOU SPELL THAT MILLENNIALS) amount I’d ingested probably would not affect my fetus.
I thanked the doctor and hung up. The car was quiet. Finally, my hostess spoke up.
“What’s the verdict?” she said.
“Your plot has been foiled,” I said gravely. “Contrary to your evil plans, it looks like we’ll live.”
To make this perfect cup of tea, first you must understand: This is my favorite thing in the world. More than the perfect glass of wine, the perfect egg, the perfect slice of buttered toast, maybe even sex, because tea has been there for me when sex has not. And now, after nearly three months of feeling hijacked less by pregnancy and more by the recommendation that I not drink caffeine, I, once again, drink this every single morning.
- 1 PG Tips tea bag
- 1 TB honey
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/8 cup milk. I use 2 percent. Whole (or even cream, if you were considering it) overwhelms the tea; anything less than 2 percent is water and should be banished from your life.
- 1 mug that increases your pleasure in drinking tea. I recommend a rounded mug so you can cup it as you drink it and a mug that is not one of those ridiculous latte mugs, because more surface area = tea that cools too quickly.
You need to:
- Drop tea bag into mug; spoon honey into mug.
- Boil water in huge, beautiful art deco teapot you got at the estate sale of a former designer and that every visitor to your home remarks upon, mostly unkindly because they are heathens.
- Pour boiling water over tea bag and honey. Leave spoon in, as it slightly cools the tea.
- Steep until it’s pretty black, about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove tea bag.
- Pour in milk. Stir.
- Settle somewhere comfortable and begin to sip while tea is still hot.
- Feel instantly connected to entire spectrum of your life, those private moments of comfort from your childhood, young adulthood, twenties, thirties, and now forties. Do not attempt to do much else while you are drinking your tea. Be grateful for all that you have, such as a relatively healthy weight, and for all that you don’t, including arsenic poisoning.