I'm disabled. I don't mean differently abled; I mean incapacitated. I have lost capacity. It's not something I'm used to.
Within a week of learning that I was pregnant, at the end of June, I started to get woozy whenever I stood up. A week after that, the feeling turned to nausea. If I were lying down (and not hungry), I was fine. If I sat up, or God forbid tried to walk somewhere, the nausea would come back. The way I understand it, I was subject to low blood pressure (the babies were taking my blood from me) and low blood sugar (they were taking my sugar, too).
It would have been okay if I had been able to remain in bed, but I couldn't. I wasn't working. I had no responsibilities outside the house and few inside it. But I started getting hungry at least once an hour. Desperately hungry. Hunger made me nauseous too.
And so at least once an hour I had to plan out in my head something that I could grab quickly and eat in bed. According to my "anti-nausea diet and lifestyle" instructions from my doctor, I was to have both sugar and protein in every snack to stabilize my blood sugar. So I would get a plan (apple and peanut butter, say), then dash out of bed to go realize it. I would slosh some water over the apple. I would grab the peanut butter, a knife, and a paper towel. If I were unlucky enough to be thirsty, I would start filling a cup with water and hope I could keep standing long enough for the cup to be filled. And then with superhuman speed I would sprint back to the couch or bed, lie flat on my back, practice deep breathing, and hope that my system would equalize before I had to throw up.
It was glamorous, to say the least.
All of my meals and snacks, for a full two months, were eaten lying on my back. I became devoted to straws and napkins. I have spilled yogurt on the neck of every garment I own. Once I burned the back of my neck and shoulder with a little chunk of chicken and a noodle from some soup. That was nice.
Confident that I would get better soon, I made a few plans. One by one, I cancelled them. I counted the days till the end of the first trimester, when I would definitely be better.
I am now about a month in to the second trimester, the time when some women feel exhilarated, better than ever. I am not feeling exhilarated; I'm not feeling better than ever. Fortunately, I have reduced my vomiting significantly, and I am much better able to stand up -- sometimes for an hour at a time! But I am beat.
Except for my utter fatigue, every other one of my symptoms lines up exactly with my pregnancy book. Expanding ribcage? Check. Stronger fingernails? Check. Nasal congestion? Check. Never has such a bizarre, new, weird condition in my body been so by-the-book.
But what about the fatigue? What about the fact that I've been waiting for months to be able to go back to work? What about the 15-minute errands that do me in for the rest of the day? My OB tested me for anemia and other conditions, my bloodwork came back fine, and she said I was just pregnant with twins, so I should listen to my body. I asked my high-risk maternal-fetal specialist whether I should be concerned about my desperately tired state. He said it was normal in pregnant women, and especially women pregnant with multiple babies.
That was yesterday. I came back home from that appointment and went to sleep for a long time. As usual. When I woke up, I saw that a book I ordered from Amazon.com had arrived: When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quadruplets. And it all made sense.
Turns out, pregnancy with twins+ is significantly different from pregnancy with a single baby. Supported by loads of data, the book made the case that nothing is more important in the health of newborns than time in the womb. How to prevent premature labor and other complications that would force multiple babies out? LIE DOWN. The book recommends that expectant mothers in this situation stop working and traveling at 24 weeks (that's 8 more weeks for me) and take three naps a day, plus a full night's sleep. Up until then, the more time we can rest rather than work, the better. Ten to twenty hours of work a week should be the upper limit.
Finally, something legitimized my need to rest!
Two days ago, when I attempted ONE task in the whole day (buying cat food at the pet supply store), I found myself inevitably thwarted. Seeing three whole aisles of catfood, I sat down on a big bag of dogfood and called James. It would be impossible to walk through three aisles. I thought about poor Central American women who had to walk miles and miles of tough mountain terrain every day to get a bucket of water for their homes. How could they do it when they were pregnant? What would happen to women who didn't have the cushy life I had? I wonder how the human race has gone on for so long.
I have been blessed, BLESSED, with the ability to take time off from work. And my mom has come over almost every day for months to do laundry, wash dishes, and feed me. James has done a double share of grocery shopping, errand-running, and invalid-attending. My whole family has been very doting. When I wondered aloud what women would do if they didn't have this support, if their normal duties continued as usual, my cousin Ashley said, "they just do what they have to do." The very thought makes me tired.
How have I gotten so lucky?