Dashiell gets really excited when I get nauseous. My nausea isn’t terrible. I’m not puking or bedridden from it. It’s more like a constant, low-grade queasiness that I like to whine about.
“I’m sorry, baby,” Dashiell says with a big grin, and asks if she can fetch me anything.
I understand why Dashiell gets so gleeful about my sour stomach; pregnancy symptoms are a good thing, they mean I’m pregnant. Even though I had nausea during my last pregnancy and that didn’t stop things from going awry, the fact is that being too grossed out by dog food to feed Rodney, and being able to smell him from across the room even after he’s had a bath are good things. And so even as I complain about them, I’m happy about them, too.
Now, if my boobs would only get bigger. I would like to have some pregnancy symptoms that are actually enjoyable.
No one is telling me I look "radiant" or like I’m "glowing," compliments I collected last time around. I was always suspicious that they could be traced back to the Burt’s Bees Radiance Serum I was slathering onto my face every night -- and wouldn’t you know that since I’ve run out of this beauty potion, my glow-related compliments have seriously dwindled. Beauty products do work! But also, my radiant pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage may have people feel a tad inhibited about talking to me about such things. Hard to say.
I’m anxious for our upcoming ultrasound, which will reveal if there are one or two little jerks gestating inside me. As the days tick on, my symptoms bloom. Leftovers are banished. I’m not a food hoarder, but it does hurt my heart to toss perfectly good food into the trash, so I try to save whatever is left over from the dinners I cook and eat them for lunch the next day. No more of that. The sight of a Pyrex full of congealed veggies in the fridge, or even something innocuous as a day-old bowl of beans and rice, makes me gag. Everything gets tossed into the compost.
Also, my boobs are getting bigger! Finally! I make Dashiell grab at them every day, not in a sexy way (like, no, really, it’s not sexy), asking, “They’re so big, right?????” while I flex my pectorals.
“Don’t do that,” he says, dropping my boob when I thrust it muscularly into his hand. “They’re big enough without you doing that, it’s just weird.” I stop doing it, but there is something satisfying about the little bit of oomph my boobs get when I flex. It’s like they’re my awesomely tough boob muscles or something.
Because I am not allowed to have any orgasms, lest I blow the little zygote off my walls with the force of my contractions, I am seriously sexually frustrated. This results in me having wild perverted sex dreams like every single night. They star everyone from skeezy old men to Nikki from the Juan Pablo season of "The Bachelor." Nikki is the one with the long bleachy hair who wore a slightly heavy metal-looking gown and is a pediatric nurse. In my dream she’s sort of butch and like a combination of herself and Cara Delivigne. It’s really not a bad dream at all but I do wish I could have an orgasm.
Instead, I get hiccups. Did you know that hiccups are a pregnancy symptom? You’re breathing faster because you need to take in more air to accommodate how much more blood your body is producing, and this can cause hiccups!
It is my suspicion that every little weird glitchy thing happening to my body is somehow related to being pregnant, and I don’t seem to be incorrect. When my contact lenses suddenly feel weird on my eyes, I consult the interweb and lo and behold, pregnancy changes the shape of your eyes, and so indeed your lenses do feel awkward. Wild! I guess it makes sense that something as monumental as growing a person inside your body would change your whole body and not just, like, your uterus, but it’s fascinating to learn how total the effects really are.
While all these sort of wondrous things are happening to my bod, I’m a bit haunted by a hunch I have that IVF pregnancies have a higher incidence of stillbirths. Maybe it’s because a stillbirth story just ran on my momming magazine, Mutha, maybe it’s because, after months of avoiding it, I finally cracked open the memoir "Ghostbelly," in which Elizabeth Heineman recounts the her relationship with her stillborn baby. Maybe it’s because I keep thinking about a friend’s recent stillbirth and feeling my heart sag with heavy sadness at what she had to go through.
Never mind that none of these people had utilized IVF to get pregnant; I finally mustered the courage to read Miriam Zoll’s "Cracked Open," a scathing critique of the Fertility-Industrial Complex that questions if any of these reproductive technologies work at all. It is a very bad time for me to begin my own personal Baby Bummer Book Club, but these books have been sitting on my shelf forever and I finally felt ready to reckon with them. And so I turn to the trusty Internet and ask if IVF pregnancies have a higher incidence of stillborns, and voila, an article published just last month confirms the results of an Australian study that found the risk of a baby dying within the first 28 days of life is double for babies conceived through IVF. The study itself happened over a decade ago, and one obstetrician cautioned women against getting freaked out, as treatments have improved in the intervening years. There is also the sort of oddly conflicting discoveries that regularly bedevil medical studies, such as IVF increasing the likelihood of both larger-than-normal babies and premature babies –- and it seems that the preemie statistic might be the one linked to the deaths.
But then, further studies of the couples who experienced stillbirth also had high-risk problems unrelated to IVF. So, like most stuff you look up on the Internet, who knows? I’m left increasingly paranoid, and thoroughly confused. Classic researching-health-related-BS-on-the-Internet syndrome. I decide against telling Dashiell about this study, even though misery does love company. In general, Dashiell is more anxious about our pregnancy than I am, and I want to soothe her nerves, not encourage them.
Finally the day of our ultrasound rolls around and I’m in the stirrups watching our friendly Nurse Practitioner Jennifer roll a super-sized condom type thing onto The Wand. Dashiell looks at me and grins hopefully and nervously and supportively and slightly comically, all at once. Jennifer slides the beast up my vag and presto, there nestled against my uterine wall is a lima bean. Maybe a fava bean. Maybe even a peanut, still in its shell.
I note with relief and disappointment that there is only one little bean in my belly, and Jennifer, sliding the wand around me, confirms. We have a singleton. A totally healthy, awesome singleton who is developing ahead of schedule.
Jennifer knows all about our recent miscarriage, and encourages us to feel happy and optimistic about this news.
“You have a one in four chance of miscarrying, every woman does,” she explains. “And you just got your one out of four over with. There’s no reason to believe this pregnancy won’t be a great, healthy one.”
She’s happy for us, and I’m happy to believe her. Even though we started this round of IVF with a new hesitation, even gloom, my pessimism burned away after the transfer and I’ve felt positive and excited in spite of myself. In spite of the specter of that last miscarriage, in spite of traumatic memoirs and Googled medical studies. I’m giddy with this bean in my belly and it seems dumb to try to talk myself out of it with worst-case scenarios. I decide to be happy and enjoy being pregnant.
It’s not until we’re back in the car, eating the ice cream cones we always stop and get on our way back from the fertility clinic, that I realize I forgot to ask Jennifer if I can stop having sex dreams about contestants on "The Face" and have a real-life orgasm. Goddammit! Dashiell takes his eyes from the road and gives me a pleading look.
“Why not just forget it for a little longer?” she begs, making me feel like a frenzied sex addict, which, truthfully, I’ve been feeling like without her help. “We have our whole life to have orgasms. Let’s just wait a little longer. Please?”
Easy for her to say, the cynical among you may be thinking, but Dashiell has also pledged off orgasms for the duration of my abstinence, wanting us to suffer together. I really admire this, though I in no way require it, and encourage her to, you know, take care of her own business; there’s no reason for us both to be sexually frustrated.
But Dashiell is a team player. We keep our hands off each other, and don’t make out so much as kissing swiftly leads to other things. Her vibrator collects dust in her bedside table and mine collects dust bunnies under the bed. We haven’t even had our baby yet and our sex life is already compromised.