I have never felt worse than I did during my pregnancies.
Just six weeks into finding out I was carrying twins, soon after the first check-up where the obstetrician located two heartbeats, I started to become nauseous all day long, every single day.
And vomit. A lot.
My husband and I had tried for two years to conceive on our own before seeking medical intervention. So at first I was just so happy to be pregnant that I almost didn’t care that I was throwing up all the time.
I made rookie mistakes. I drank orange juice, which is too acidic and turned my stomach. I ate macaroni and cheese. (I quickly learned to judge foods based on what they might look like coming back up.) I stayed in bed whenever possible, stewing about my misery, instead of getting out and trying to distract myself.
Driven almost wild by my wretchedness, I tested every old-fashioned and new-fangled remedy I could find. I ate saltines and ginger. I wore pressure-point seasickness bracelets on both wrists around the clock. I ordered Preggie Pops that were supposed to ease my nausea. They didn’t.
So I started carrying plastic sacks with me wherever I went. I got skilled at vomiting into bags while I was driving. Soon, I was double-bagging, after bile leaked from a hole onto my pants. Out shopping with my mother-in-law, I had to dash to a nearby trash can to throw up. I apologized afterward, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand.
Eventually, I turned to Zofran, a Category B drug marketed to prevent nausea and vomiting during cancer treatments, only tested on pregnant animals and carrying a warning that it should be used only if clearly needed. I fretted about Zofran’s effects on my developing babies, but I was so ill that I couldn’t stop taking it. Despite popping the pills multiple times a day, my misery persisted. I wondered how much worse it would be were I to wean myself off of the drug.
More than once, dry heaving and unable to sleep, I called my obstetrician in the middle of the night. He told me to drive to the hospital for intravenous fluids. When a nurse asked how long it had been since I’d kept anything down, and I said about 15 hours, she said they usually waited 24 before hooking up an I.V. I learned to lie and beg. Usually, the nurses relented. Then I would feel temporarily revived, until the cycle began all over again the next day.
I constantly worried that I was gaining insufficient weight, despite my doctor’s assurances that the fetuses were taking any nutrients I managed to ingest—that they were growing just fine. I didn’t really need maternity clothes until my stomach suddenly blew out from my body like a hot air balloon in my third trimester. Already thin, I ultimately gained only 19 pounds, despite the fact that I was carrying twins.
But even though I counted every single day, hour and minute, eventually I had two beautiful babies. My husband and I were quickly smitten and consumed with tandem diaper changes and feedings. I forgot all about my morning sickness, that is until I was running one day just shy of three years later, and had to stop to throw up along the side of the trail.
I bought a pregnancy test just to be sure. Then I called my husband to share the happy news.
“Did we even have sex?” he asked after a pregnant pause.
Soon I was vomiting all over the place, all over again. This time, I didn’t perseverate about the Zofran. I had two toddlers to chase around. My in-laws came as often as they could to help. The rest of the time, I used the TV as a babysitter, moaning along to the “Wonder Pets” theme song. To this day, that show triggers my nausea—as does seeing pregnant women out and about.
But the rest of the time, I have amnesia about how distressed I felt when I was carrying our kids. As with most kind of discomfort, once my morning sickness receded, all thoughts of it evaporated.
Now, instead of counting the minutes until my babies are due, I am tallying the days until they leave for college—trying to appreciate the moments that are fleeing so fast.