When I told Kenny several weeks ago that I was interested in a mom’s weekend out–wearing non-mom clothes (delicate knits, dry-clean only silk), eating non-mom foods (spicy, requiring utensils), doing non-mom activities (reading quietly to myself, going for long, quiet hikes, quietly enjoying the quietude of quiet)–a hospital room with a sweeping view of 495 is not what I had in mind.
We are suddenly, surprisingly pregnant (hurrah!), and I am suddenly, not-so-surprisingly doing my best Princess Kate impression (only my hyperemesis gravidarum doesn’t sport a pastel pillbox hat collection). This is familiar territory, as I essentially withered in my dark bedroom in a pool of my own vomit and melodramatic tears for 7 1/2 months while pregnant with Simon. It started earlier this time, but the feeling is the same, and strawberry banana Jell-O still does not taste nearly as delightful on its projectile return journey.
Knowing my history, the perinatal specialist didn’t mess around and sent me into the hospital for fluids a few weeks ago. I arrived wobbly legged and unbathed and draped myself over the information desk. A sprightly college student in a red jacket and black tie eased me into a wheelchair and careened down the hall into the elevator. When another visitor stepped inside carrying a bag of Chinese food, I thought I would be a first: death by (scent of) Peking Duck. I tried not to appear rude as I whimpered and pulled my sweatshirt up to my eyebrows.
My escort wheeled me into a room. Kenny and a nurse chattered about blood work and admission forms, and I was handed the requisite backless gown that always makes you regret not shaving and choosing the nude underwear. A young medical tech admired my veins and started the process of inserting an IV. As a geyser of blood squirted onto the sheets, bed frame, and down my arm, her mouth said, “Oh, look at the mess I’ve made!” but her moon pie eyes stammered a string of four-letter words. I only had eyes for that magical banana bag.
For someone who is typically precise with language, I always struggle to answer questions posed by medical practitioners:
“On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your nausea?”
“Can you describe your pain?”
“It’s not so much pain as–as abject misery.”
“What color is your urine?”
“What is Sedona Sunset!” quipped my smartass husband.
Over several nights, Luz and I reminisced about the fresh fruit carts in Los Angeles. I swapped Spotify running playlists with Paula. And I marveled at Wilma and Christine, who each endured abbreviated bouts of illness for three pregnancies and still managed to propose vasectomies to their husbands as if they were optional. (I’ve already informed Kenny that this branch of the Pyle lineage stops here.) Conversations like these, and pregnancy in general, make me think critically about motherhood. And I’ve had a lot of time to think critically over the last week because looking at the computer screen for the duration of one sentence has the same effect on my stomach as that perilous mid-ride escarpment on Space Mountain.
What is the evolutionary, baby-makin’ necessity for our digestive systems to come to a grinding halt? For our stomachs to reject everything: water, the same chocolate soy milk that sustained your last pregnancy, the heaven-sent Saltine cracker? For the noble task of harboring the original 3D printer to come with the not insubstantial caveat of–heck yeah, I’ll say it–an unfair choice: do we prioritize family or career advancement?
This article isn’t being published in The Huffington Post because it’s already been published by The Huffington Post 927 times. But the issue remains relevant because, despite the increasing frequency and candor of this conversation, I challenge you to find a woman (who had the privilege of choice) whose heart is completely at peace with the professional v. parenting decisions she’s had to make. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all women are routinely tempted by regret, or worry that they’ve made mistakes. To be sure, many do (come talk to me after Sallie Mae casts her monthly shadow, or as I’m signing the delivery invoice for this week’s supply of Zofran syringes)–but most of the time we rightfully and wisely seem to recognize that we’ve done the very best that we could with the information and resources we had at the time. We hear the couldashouldawoulda train chugging along our liminal consciousness, and occasionally hop on board over a cup of tea, because isn’t that human nature? I know I reread those Choose Your Own Adventure books until I had exhausted all possible outcomes, however fantastical. But tangled up in the day-to-day…ain’t nobody got time for that. There are clients to call and crusts to cut and political platforms to decipher.
The other day, my dear friend Kate sent me this beautiful recording of Ruthie Foster singing “Phenomenal Woman“ as encouragement. I watched it and began quietly weeping in bed, then promptly threw up half a sleeve of Saltines. I cried because, well, Maya Angelou. Because my pregnancy hormones tend to rapidly crescendo without warning, and because I really don’t feel phenomenal right now. I cried because I felt the symbolic tension in Ruthie’s performance: a strong, beautiful woman asserts her power, and no one can pinpoint its origin. But it is in the whole of her–her effervescence and her quiet grace, her resilience and vulnerabilities, her curves and her edges, her journey and her homecoming.
I took a deep breath, whispered thanks for cool bed sheets and phenomenal friends, and quietly enjoyed the quietude of quiet.