You'd think that a first pregnancy would be a fairly simple thing to conceal over the first few weeks of the nine-month odyssey.
But you'd be wrong.
With no baby bump in sight at week eight, no one would ever guess that there's a blueberry-sized person inside, multiplying by 100 cells per minute and creating ventricles in the newly developing heart that will last this kid for a lifetime.
So what—besides my own rabid desire to share the secret—is so hard about keeping an early stage pregnancy on the down low? Two words: Morning Sickness. Or, as it should be named in my wife's case, Forever Sickness.
How young and foolish we were after getting that positive pregnancy test. “Well, lucky you! It seems that you're avoiding that whole morning sickness thing! Let the good times roll!"
Fast forward one week and my wife was spending more time hugging the toilet than me.
But this is not an isolated phenomenon. Throughout history, there have been millions (billions?) of un-hugged husbands and over-hugged toilets in the homes of expectant mothers. The struggle is real—and from my front row seat—awe-inspiring.
My wife's body has been growing and nurturing a new tiny person from scratch. Her entire being is now focusing its energy and nutrition on the act of creation. There's no denying it—pregnant women are ballers. (And sometimes bawlers, but that's just the hormones, okay?)
Before watching my wife suffer through it, I had a very glamorized ideal of what morning sickness was all about. I figured a pregnant woman woke up feeling nauseous, eventually threw up and then felt fine for the rest of the day. The morning is over and so is the sickness. Then maybe the process starts over again the next day.
Don't get me wrong, that still sounds terrible, but not nearly as terrible as what my wife has been enduring recently. The stomach turmoil starts before the sun comes up, making sleep nearly impossible and continuing right through the ring of our morning alarm. We've Googled the heck out of the subject in search of remedies and came upon the idea of eating something to settle the stomach before she gets out of bed.
The foldable snack tray that I used to eat dinner on in front of the TV in my bachelor days now contains a morning buffet line of foods for my wife—saltines, celery and peanut butter, bread, bagels and more. Almost every morning, a menu item that previously did the trick is deemed unworthy, usually after it requires her to present another oral offering to the porcelain bowl.
Eventually, it's time to greet the day (whether her stomach likes it or not) and she attempts to get ready for work so we can get out of the house in time for me to catch my morning train. She brings along another care package of food for her morning commute—a 40-minute drive in heavy traffic—so she can report to her cube and try to concentrate on work while she battles her stomach in a never-ending war to resist the urge to upchuck or lie down.
No one besides me knows that she is pregnant, so this battle is privately waged in public. This is no easy task when coworkers ask you to join them for lunch and everything they order looks disgusting. Or when the office is flooded with the sweet smell of cookies and delectable treats from vendors, but the mere thought of something sweet leaves you feeling queasy.
So basically, my wife is a saint. ?
She was already a saint when she helped me through similar side effects when I was undergoing chemotherapy (another story for another day), but now she is an invisibly pregnant saint who must soldier on throughout daily life while secretly enduring a much more intense version of what I experienced. After my six months of chemo and three months of remission, the shoe of suffering is firmly on the other foot…and it's way too tight.
I want more than anything to ease her discomfort, but there's little I can do besides obtaining more foods that solve her short-term problems until they eventually turn on her and join the steadily growing reject pile. Goodbye, chicken noodle soup. See you later, mashed potatoes.
I hate this feeling of helplessness when someone I love so much is struggling so mightily, but no one ever said the work of creation was easy, and our baby seems to be working overtime in the fetal factory most days.
I'm grateful to my wife for the incredible sacrifice she's making growing our baby, but I'm also glad for modern medicine. Finally relief came in the form of medication—Diclegis—a weirdly named pill containing an even weirder icon of a pregnant woman. But if weirdness works, don't knock it. The pill is a combination of Vitamin B6 and doxylamine. And it's working. For now, at least.
After a few days on Diclegis my wife has been doing much better, though some days can still be a little rough—especially if she isn't eating every hour or so. I can only hope that the Forever Sickness downgrades to Usually Sickness or Sometimes Sickness, or heck, even Morning Sickness, so my wife can lead a more normal, comfortable life for the rest of the first trimester.
She tells me repeatedly how grateful she is for my service in the line of duty and I honestly feel honored to be able to help her fight through this, even if it just means waking up next to Mrs. Hyde every morning and returning her to Dr. Jekyll with a plate of apples and peanut butter (which have thankfully not worn out their welcome yet!).
Morning sickness has allowed me to be the Samwise to her Frodo. “I can't carry the baby, but I can carry her!" And from what I've read on the subject, this is probably one of the most vital times outside of the delivery room that I will be able to support my wife during the pregnancy, even if all I can do is rub her upset stomach or give her some ice to lick. (It really works to fight nausea!)
All in all, I'm so proud of her for what she is enduring on behalf of our child's development. The opportunity for me to step outside of my own needs and put her first is making our marriage stronger and no doubt also preparing me for that glorious day when the new human she is working so single-handedly to protect is finally out and about—and relying on us for everything.
But until then, I think I hear my wife calling me, so I've got some more apples to slice. ?