Cravings

I’ve worked with a lot of pregnant women before. Prior to going into family medicine, I desperately wanted be an OB/GYN, so during the last three years, I’ve spent countless hours counseling women about their pregnancies. I’ve read the text books. I know the typical symptoms that accompany the first few months of pregnancy, and I’ve written prescriptions for Zofran and even admitted women to the hospital to be treated for hyperemesis gravidarum where the women puke so much that they almost pass out.

However, seeing these patients in the office and having one of these patients living in one’s home are two completely different entities.

Initially, Bethany’s pregnancy symptoms weren’t extreme. For a moment, I thought that the good Lord was smiling down on us, and Bethany was going to go through her entire pregnancy without any nausea and without any times of hugging the toilet thinking she was going to accidentally puke the baby out of her.

Yeah, we’re totally not one of those lucky couples.

It all started a couple weeks after the stick turned pink. For the first couple days, she was just really tired. Her chronic somnolence is something that I’m pretty used to, so it didn’t seem that odd for her to be getting up later, going to bed earlier, and taking as many naps as possible.

But then the cravings and nausea began. Now, I want to preface this saying that Bethany’s symptoms are actually quite mild compared to most women’s, but again, having the entire experience go on in my home instead of in my office is very odd.

I think someday when little Tommy(e) asks about the 9 months we spent with him while he incubated in his mommy’s belly, I will have to begin by telling him that for the first week of his life, his entire nutrition source was Wheat Thins. Bethany didn’t want breakfast, lunch, or dinner. She wanted Wheat Thins. After a week, however, she developed an abhorrence to Wheat Thins and informed me that she never wanted to see a box of Wheat Thins again.

The first couple weeks were pretty rough on both of us. Once she had eaten her body weight in Wheat Thins, she didn’t know what she was craving. I felt an overwhelming duty to keep my wife and new baby fed, so I made sure she had anything she wanted. She was never hungry for whole meals, so there were nights when all we had for dinner were chocolate milk shakes and French fries.   For a few days she also developed a craving for organic freezer meals. Somehow, she felt satiated after these “meals” because she was constantly snacking all day long, but for the first two weeks of the pregnancy, I was in a constant state of ravenous hunger. My lunch that I ate at the hospital was pretty much my only full meal of the day. I was sure that I was going to die of malnutrition before we hit the second trimester, and then my baby would be left fatherless, and Bethany would have nobody to go to the store and buy her freezer meals for her.

In an act of desperation, I finally text our friend Tristan. She and her husband Chris are super fertile people who got pregnant on their first try 2 months before Bethany and me.

“She’s hungry all the time, but nothing sounds good. HELP!!!” I frantically texted.

Tristan is wonderful and gracious and replied with a whole list of foods that got her through her first couple months. I read them off to Bethany and her face lit up like I imagine people’s faces lit up in Bible times after they’d seen Jesus.

“I want pasta!!!” she declared.

Thus began my daily trips to the grocery store.

We developed a system where I would only plan meals for 2-3 days as opposed to our typical grocery system where we tried to have meals planned for each week. Due to Bethany’s constantly changing appetite and her newfound aversion to left overs, I now make daily trips to the store.

So far, this plan has been working out well. We did hit a little bit of a concerning time last week when Bethany’s primary cravings were for pizza rolls, potato chips, and macaroni and cheese. I did my husbandly duty and immediately went to the grocery store, but as I pushed my cart through Kroger, I wondered what was actually growing in Bethany’s uterus. Prior to the pregnancy, our trips to the grocery store began in produce. We would then gracefully push our cart to the organic section, and as we moved around the periphery of the store, we tried to only buy products that we couldn’t get at our local farmer’s market. For the 7 or 8 months prior to pregnancy, the only meat or eggs we’d eaten at home were acquired from local farms, and we had even started drinking organic almond milk to try and decrease excess hormone intake.

But, alas, on this trip to the grocery store, I looked down in my cart and realized that if a colossal grocery store disaster were to occur, and a whole shelf of canned artichokes and beans collapsed on me, those who came to investigate the scene would be convinced that the victim of the violent attack was not a young doctor who was married with a baby on the way. Instead they would think it was a 19 year old college frat boy stocking up his dorm room. I had toilet paper, macaroni and cheese, off brand potato chips, and pizza rolls. Lots of pizza rolls. The only missing pieces to the puzzle were beer and condoms.

Thankfully, Bethany’s craving for pizza rolls has passed, and she’s moved onto longings for pasta and meat. I made the mistake of buying 3 pounds of chicken because it was a good deal, and it was the second time in three days that I was at the store buying chicken. However, it was after dinner that night that Bethany announced that she never wanted to eat chicken again, and all she wanted was beef.

I now have 2 ½ pounds of chicken sitting in the freezer.

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Waiting for Tears

Now that we’ve finally announced the pregnancy, I can start to post some of the thoughts I’ve been writing.

I vividly remember sitting in my friend and mentor Ezra’s office at the tender age of 19 declaring to him that my biological clock had starting ticking, and I was ready to be a dad. At this point in my life, I was very single, very naïve, and very poor, but all of these facts seemed pretty menial when thinking about my longing to be a father. (In hindsight, none of these barriers have kept any of my current patients from getting pregnant, so I shouldn’t have thought they were that big of a deal.)

In the 8 years since this conversation with Ezra, I have imagined in extreme detail how I would react the moment I found out that Bethany and I were pregnant. Considering that I cried through my whole wedding, I figured that there would be lots of tears involved. I imagined yelling and screaming and jumping up and down and being filled with so many emotions that I could burst. I also imagined that once hearing the news, I would live in a giddy state of joy for the next several weeks not allowing anything in my life to inhibit my sense of happiness.

During our first 4 years of marriage, Bethany and I had a few pregnancy scares (I’ll call them “scares” because she was terrified. For me they were pregnancy “hopes” as I sat outside the bathroom door quietly praying for two pink lines). Had any of these times been real pregnancies, the scenarios I’d envisioned in my head probably would have come true. There would have been lots of tears and emotions overflowing from Bethany and me, but we would have both had very different reasons for our tears.

But, this time was different. We’d been trying for several months to get pregnant. Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t complaining or arguing when the doctor told us to have sex at least every other day. I completely endorsed this plan; however, Bethany’s cycles were pretty wonky after coming off of her birth control, and those months of trying brought with them a lot of tears and confusion and questions. There were visits to the OB/GYN, trials of different medications, and days when we wondered if we should start pursuing adoption.

During the whole process we also wondered how we could tell if Bethany were pregnant. The classic symptoms that most of my patients and our friends always report are an insatiable appetite and constant drowsiness, but if these symptoms are any indicator, then Bethany has been in a constant state of pregnancy since I met her 10 years ago.

The day the stick turned pink, I had a strong feeling that Bethany was pregnant. For starters, Bethany had been judiciously tracking her temperature for the past 3 or 4 months to try and determine when she was ovulating. For many women in the world, ovulation tracking is tedious and inaccurate, but my lady is a boss. She’s a scientist, so when it comes to collecting data in a regimented manner, she goes at it like it’s her job…because…well…it’s her job. Her temperature had increased exactly as it should have, and thanks to my slipping home during a long lunch break, we had performed our marital duties in the optimal time slot.

****cue the song Afternoon Delight****

I knew something was amiss when I woke up at 5:30 AM as I usually do, and Bethany was already awake. When I came walking out of our bedroom, she greeted me with a boisterous, “Good Morning.” I ran back into my room to grab my glasses to make sure this was actually my wife who was talking to me. I was in a state of complete confusion because Bethany is NEVER awake before 7AM, and until 8AM, she speaks in muffled grunts rather than actual words. And if it wasn’t Bethany sitting on the couch talking to me, then this situation was about to get a whole lot more awkward for everyone involved because I was stark ass naked.

I finally got showered and put on clothes and made it to work. Throughout my day, I kept trying to suppress the thought that maybe there was a little embryo implanted in Bethany’s uterus. It was actually pretty easy not to sit and ponder the potential joys of my personal life because I was working my month of in-patient hospital service, which typically involves very busy and very long days.

When I got home, Bethany surprised me by pulling out a pair of baby Toms shoes and the positive pregnancy test. I laughed, hugged her, and waited for the tears to start pouring down.

I waited.

I held onto her tight and kept waiting.

Nothing.

She wasn’t crying either, but this isn’t very surprising. She’s been moved to tears while watching The Land Before Time and The Bucket List, but other than that, she’s usually too level headed for tears.

We sat and talked for a little while that night and then I went to bed because I’d worked for 14 hours that day and had another 12 hour day ahead of me. There was no screaming or running around, and the next day at work the joy of being a father didn’t preclude me from getting angry at patients for doing stupid things. For some reason, it just wasn’t sinking in that my entire life will be changing forever.

4 weeks later, I’m still waiting for the tears to come, but I can’t keep the goofy grin off of my face every time I think about my little baby growing in Bethany’s uterus. I think Ezra will be proud.