Pregnancy is one of those things that, like riding a horse or being in a car accident, you can read all about but never fully grasp until it actually happens to you. While each pregnant woman is affected differently, for me, it has been an experience that has affected every aspect of my life, mentally, physically, and emotionally. While I’m still trying to sort out what the hell is going on in my head and with my emotions (apparently now I have scheduled crying times: between 12am and 3am every day if I’m awake), I just want to focus on the physical, and specifically, the issues a pregnant woman can face regarding food.
Once I peed on the stick and got a positive, it was like some godawful free-for-all in my body. It started with a sudden and violent distaste for food. Not just eating it, but looking at it, shopping for it, or preparing it. As the spouse who is at home, I’ve always happily prepared meals, and I’ve loved cooking for years. It felt like a personal betrayal that I couldn’t bring myself to make a simple meal. I’ve always been a stubborn person (less generous people might use words like willful or pigheaded), and it was a shock that I couldn’t overcome this aversion to cooking.
Even worse than not being able to cook? The food aversion. I tend to lump this in with nausea, because both meant I didn’t eat. Suddenly, food didn’t sound good, any of it. Before 3pm, everything in my kitchen sounded like too much effort, or didn’t appeal, or completely turned my stomach. After 3pm, it was likely I was too nauseated to eat. I did drink gallons of mint tea in an effort to control the nausea. Morning sickness is a misnomer, by the way. You want to get sick all day long. This lasted roughly from the week I tested to about the eleventh week, when I suddenly developed a ravenous craving for steak.
The cravings. Oh, the cravings. I’m taking prenatal vitamins so I’m not getting some of the odder ones, but when they do come, they come on strong and may send me into tears. Previous cravings have included eggs over medium (no, salmonella risk), sashimi (no, mercury exposure), and an ongoing burning desire for a cheap American pilsner, specifically a can of Rainier beer. This week, it was a turkey sandwich. All I wanted was a sandwich with cold deli meat (a no because of listeria risk), mustard, and sprouts (also a no due to salmonella and e-coli). I could have the sandwich if the meat was heated to steaming beforehand, but the idea of steaming hot deli turkey made me nauseated. Instead, I had a black bean quesadilla, which supplied the protein I would have gotten from the turkey. This sort of substitution is what’s recommended in at least one pregnancy book, and it’s something that is guaranteed to send me into a screaming fit. You: Having A Baby suggests that when a pregnant woman craves M&M’s, she substitute edamame. Or celery sticks for potato chips. Quite frankly, if I’m feeling well enough to put something in me besides water or popsicles, I sure as hell am not going to ignore what my body wants. I won’t eat a party-sized bag of M&M’s, but I won’t try to lie to myself and have edamame. I’m not craving a shape, I’m craving a sweet. (Side note: I have not seen this sort of suggestion from any pregnancy book written by women who have been pregnant. You is written by two men.)
Just when you think the nausea has finally subsided and you can get back to maybe making dinner (but never chicken, oh my god don’t even mention chicken, there are still strong aversions happening), it’ll sneak back up and hit you upside the head. Last week, I had possibly the best day of the pregnancy thus far: I ate a balanced breakfast and lunch, I studied for six hours straight, and then I took a nap. Post-nap was like a different day: I was nauseated, I couldn’t eat more than a small serving of potatoes. I started my day feeling like my pre-pregnancy self, and I ended the day with my head in the toilet, vomiting until blood vessels burst in my face, and realizing that with each heave, I was peeing, just a little. It was one of the more upsetting moments of my life.