FALSE GLOW

A touch de­jected and de­prived, Olivia Stren learns that preg­nancy isn’t the ro­man­tic jour­ney she’d planned on.

Elle (Canada) - - Relationship -

afew years ago, I had lunch with a friend who was six months preg­nant with her third child. “I loooove be­ing preg­nant,” she said as she tore hap­pily into a crois­sant, her ges­ta­tional mane gleam­ing. “It makes me feel pow­er­ful!”

I never thought that preg­nancy would make me feel for­mi­da­ble. (Power and I have never been es­pe­cially sim­patico.) But I did like to nurse the fan­tasy, which I will now call a delu­sion, that be­ing with child would some­how feel great. I imag­ined my­self, high on a cock­tail of serene hor­mones, eat­ing

brown­ies with fes­tive, guilt­less aban­don while wear­ing charm­ing trapeze dresses. And then I got preg­nant. At the Ad­vanced Ma­ter­nal Age of 38, I know that I should be grate­ful for this part of the nar­ra­tive—the mir­a­cle of life, etc. And I am. But af­ter a late-night trip to the emer­gency room about six weeks into my preg­nancy, I was in­formed that I had what’s called a sub-chori­onic hematoma— com­mon enough but also suf­fi­ciently se­ri­ous that my OB/GYN put me on bed rest for the sum­mer.

Hav­ing a physi­cian or­der me to lie down seemed, ini­tially, like a dream come true. She added, as if sharp­en­ing the pun­ish­ment: “Oh, and no ex­er­cise!” Could a pre­scrip­tion get any sweeter? It could, in fact. “Well, you can’t go jog­ging, but you can go shop­ping!” she told me. My hus­band, in the room at the time, pro­ceeded to rub his face vig­or­ously, gripped with fis­cal anx­i­ety. “You heard it from a pro­fes­sional!” I said to him glee­fully.

I had so of­ten longed to adopt the life­style of my cats, and I’m a quick study: I spent my days nap­ping, loung­ing, win­dow-gaz­ing, snack­ing and oc­ca­sion­ally vom­it­ing. This ex­pe­ri­ence would have been a de­light, ex­cept I was of­fi­cially on “mis­car­riage watch,” which made the leisure less re­lax­ing.

The rest did prove cu­ra­tive, though; the hem­or­rhage abated and then dis­ap­peared...at which point I de­vel­oped se­vere heart pal­pi­ta­tions, which made tasks like breath­ing dif­fi­cult. My OB/GYN sent me back to the ER, where I sat next to a big-bod­ied woman preg­nant with her sixth, breath­ing in a heavy gravel. “I think I’m in early labour,” she said to me and then shouted, in a smoker’s voice, at her bump, “Stop pound­ing on the trap door!”

A car­di­ol­o­gist with the Ger­man ac­cent and I-am-God mien of The Young and the Rest­less’ Vic­tor New­man in­formed me that I had de­vel­oped heart ar­rhyth­mias and a mur­mur. “Be­cause of in­creased blood vol­ume, your heart is be­ing asked to go 60 horse­power when it only wants to go 40,” he ex­plained. “It’s strug­gling to keep up.”

Even my heart, as it turns out, is lazy. Vic­tor New­man MD or­dered me to sport a heart mon­i­tor on my ab­domen for sev­eral days—a kind of fanny pack for the fee­ble.

While I was wired up like R2-D2, grad­u­ally as­sum­ing the droid’s spher­i­cal sil­hou­ette, a mo­lar spon­ta­neously dropped out of my mouth. I felt like a cross be­tween a robot and a bum. “Gain a child, lose a tooth” goes an old proverb. My grand­mother, ev­i­dently, had lost one with each baby. (Mer­ci­fully, for the state of her smile, she only had two daugh­ters.) But that was in Morocco dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, when cal­cium-rich foods were scarce. I’d lost my mo­lar while eat­ing an over­priced salad from Whole Foods. I re­ported my den­tal de­ba­cle to my OB/GYN. “I’m not up on my old wives’ tales,” she said, scrib­bling some­thing on my chart that likely read “Pa­tient is crazed.” Then she an­nounced, “So, you failed your glu­cose test.”

Af­ter it was es­tab­lished that I had ges­ta­tional di­a­betes, I at­tended a class to learn about the evils of bagels. Preg­nancy, with its anx­i­eties and dis­com­forts, at least was a li­cence to eat baked goods. But, it turned out, a bowl of lentil soup and a piece of whole-grain toast sent my blood-sugar lev­els into the strato­sphere. “Your pan­creas is re­ally strug­gling. And lentils do count as carbs,” my newly ac­quired di­eti­tian, Jade, in­formed me over the phone. “How big was the soup bowl?” she asked, as if I had been eat­ing from a beer vat. “It wasn’t very big! And it was a legume potage, not a ba­nana split,” I coun­tered meekly. “Light ex­er­cise helps,” she added. “Does weep­ing count?” I asked. Now I’m just over seven months preg­nant, sit­ting in a café—its coun­ters glut­ted with plat­ters of sugar-dusted scones, hillocks of brown­ies and oven-gilded crois­sants—feel­ing like a squir­rel let loose in a peanut crop. It’s time to fol­low Jade’s or­ders and take my un­der­achiev­ing heart and chal­lenged pan­creas for a walk home. In­stead of a brisk trot or even a stroll, I hob­ble home like the English Pa­tient. Af­ter all, I just found out I have sci­at­ica.

My mother told me that preg­nancy is eas­ier when you’re younger. Cue Cher and make a memo to self: Turn back time. I’ll be sure to be younger the next time.

Un­til then, I’m in the fi­nal stretch—and each new day is preg­nant with di­ag­nos­tic and patho­log­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties. ■

This ex­pe­ri­ence would have been a de­light, ex­cept I was of­fi­cially on “mis­car­riage

watch.”

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