The Gift of Morning Sickness

Maybe my father’s right. Maybe I don’t appreciate anything. Since I never fulfilled his dream of landing a secure job in the insurance industry, I didn’t fully appreciate the college education he funded. He says I never appreciated anything he did for me. It’s got to be true. If I had already mastered appreciation, there would be no way to justify what I’ve been through these last few months.

I thought I was a pretty appreicative person. For more than 10 years, I’ve shared a gratitude list with a group of women five days a week. I stop and smell the roses. I say “thank you” a lot. So up until a few months ago, I thought I was leading a pretty grateful life. Then I got pregnant. I was more than grateful for that. We’d given up on pregnancy and decided to adopt a second child. I’d been researching adoption for two months, thinking God, it would be so much easier if I could just get pregnant and Boom! Two lines on the pee stick.

So yaay, we would have a second child. Cool. About a week after I took the test, a close friend confided that she’d just suffered a miscarriage, nine weeks into her pregnancy. She didn’t know until she saw her ultrasound. I reassured her and she eventually recovered, but I could not stop thinking: I could lose this baby. I’m 41, the risks escalate as women age. Oh, God, I hope I don’t have a miscarriage!

A couple of weeks later, the morning sickness started. Every day, all day, all night, I felt like puking. I did not puke. Puking offers about an hour of relief. No such break for this mama. With the nausea came overwhelming headaches. I would also awaken in the middle of the night for an hour or two, unable to fall back to sleep. It was natural insomnia but my current worries about miscarriage and a million other things didn’t help alleviate it.

Last year while we were actively trying to get pregnant, I thought about the truly horrible morning sickness I’d suffered with Rose. (See “Pregnancy: It’s Not Pretty” for a full description.) I maintained that I’d go through it all again if it meant we could have another girl. Yes, it’s a wives’ tale that girls make you sick, but it’d proven itself with Rose so I was willing to believe.

Eight weeks into the pregnancy, I had some spotting and freaked out. I’d never spotted with Rose and I was so obsessed with miscarrying that I thought this was it. Bye-bye baby. The doctor ordered an ultrasound and the baby was fine, and I was not eight, but nine weeks pregnant. Woohoo! My doctor reassured me that it’s very rare to miscarry after nine weeks. In fact, she said, it usually happens at four or five weeks, but unless they bleed, women don’t find out until nine weeks, when they have their first ultrasound.

Nine weeks along also meant I had only five more weeks of morning sickness to go. With Rose, it stopped at 14 weeks. They say the first pregnancy’s a good predictor of the second for things like that.

Well, Week 14 came and went, and the sickness raged on. I couldn’t take it anymore. For 10 weeks so far, I’d struggled to function every day. Back at 12 weeks I’d begun to cry every day, just asking for relief from the sickness. One night during Week 14, I fell to my knees in the dark, sobbing for an hour, begging God to take the morning sickness away. I’d still take good care of the baby, I promised. Just please, please, make it stop! I can’t take it anymore! I cried myself to sleep. The next morning, I thought about all the prayers He hears from people who really suffer — prayers for adequate food and clean water, prayers for safety in war-torn countries, prayers pleading for relief from daily abuse. I felt guilty. Here I was, a financially secure woman with a loving husband and daughter and a healthy pregnancy and I wanted relief from something as trivial as morning sickness. How many of those people would willingly suffer sickness for two and a half months if they had what I had? Why did I think I was entitled to feel better?

At about Week 15, the morning sickness began to subside. At first, I had four hours of nausea-free bliss, then it came back. Oh well, I thought, with Rose it went away 30 percent and then for good. The next day I was sick all day. Soon after, I had a nausea-free day but the following day it came back. This went on for about 10 days. Then I had three sickness-free days in a row. Wow, I thought. This is it. It’s gone!! The next day it was back. But as it improved, I learned real gratitude. I learned to appreciate the hell out of every moment I didn’t feel sick. I took advantage when I felt well and wrote or cooked or gardened until I felt sick again.

I realized that morning sickness had robbed me of something that was not as crucial as basic needs or safety but was indeed important: my freedom. Every day I was sick, I had to take an afternoon nap just to feel well enough to make it through the evening. Before that, those two hours during Rose’s nap used to be my “mom time” – the time I used to write or read or do something that was a “want to” not a “have to.” I used to look forward to those hours. I would never squander them doing anything I could do when Rose was awake. I would plan them, so that I could utilize every single minute. And suddenly my two daily hours of freedom were gone. For three months, everything I did was a “have to.” I enjoyed nothing. Even the fun moments with Rose and Matt were diminished because I was too sick to feel happy. That’s what took such a toll on me. Imagine going three months without cracking a smile.

So when I started to feel better, I realized that I had learned a lot about gratitude and more about living in the moment. Sometimes a few moments of wellness were all I had, so I had to make each one count. And I did.

I believe that when the student is ready, the teacher comes. Experience is the biggest teacher of all. I thought I knew how to appreciate the present but I tend to worry about a lot of things that never happen. I tend to construct disaster scenarios in my head. I guess I needed a lesson in staying present. I don’t think it needed to be quite so harsh, but at least I can count it as the one reward for enduring 3 months of morning sickness. I’ll begin to appreciate the other reward when he or she is born.

Marriage and the Scientific Method

I remember in sixth grade, our scientific focus turned away from absorbing information and toward testing ideas. That’s when we learned the Scientific Method. According to my research, the semantics of the Method have changed over the years but in sixth grade, its first step was “Define the Problem.” Now it’s “Make an Observation,” followed by “Ask a Question,” which, if you ask me, is the same thing as “Define the Problem.” I guess they had to dumb it down because some children got left behind.

Through making observations and asking questions (thus defining problems), I’ve learned that the Scientific Method applies not only to discovering the best way to grow mold but also to romantic relationships. That’s right, relationships. We (well, women anyway) hear and read so much relationship analysis that characterizes so many of our differences as unknowable, we begin to think fights happen because “men are impossible” or “women are so hormonal.” And truthfully, some fights do stem from the differences between the sexes. Some really are irresolvable. But what I’ve realized, using the Scientific Method, is that some fights have nothing to do with our behavior or our hormonal state. With the right solutions, some fights just go away.

The key is to define the right problem. My husband, Matt, and I used to fight at least twice a week because we didn’t have clean forks. Dishes were Matt’s job and if he hadn’t done them, I’d look in the drawer for a fork to say, beat some eggs, and the only thing in the fork slot would be crumbs. Blood would flood my face, my head felt as if it would explode and I’d yell, “WE’RE OUT OF FORKS SO I CAN’T COOK! HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO COOK WITHOUT FORKS?” And then Matt would say, “I was gonna do the dishes tonight.” And I would say, “Well we need dishes NOW!” and we would argue until he did the dishes or I resentfully washed one fork and wouldn’t talk to him for the rest of the day.

When we first moved to Seattle, we were at Wal-Mart shopping for the new apartment when we stumbled upon the flatware displays. Matt said, “Do you want to get a new set now?” For ages, we’d said that we would buy an additional set of silverware but the opportunity never presented itself. Now here we were. So we bought a new set. We brought it home and no matter how long Matt dragged his ass on doing dishes, we never ran out of forks again. Boom. No more fight.

So let’s define the problem. I thought it was, “Matt drags his ass on doing dishes so I never have the right tools to cook.” Matt thought it was “Maria would rather bitch than wash a freakin’ fork.” The problem really was: We don’t have enough forks. It’s not like we didn’t know that. Like I said, we’d been intending to buy more silverware for a long time. It’s just that we got so mired in our own definitions that it never occurred to us that if we instituted this one little fix, we’d solve the whole problem. Instead I thought Matt needed to stay on top of the dishes and he thought I should just shut up and wash what I needed. Both of us were too stubborn to cave, so if we hadn’t supplemented our silverware, we’d still be having that fight.

Here’s another problem we couldn’t correctly define. Since the start of this pregnancy, I’ve been sleeping poorly. The kid wakes me up between 3 and 5 a.m. Between the natural pregnancy insomnia and Matt snoring I can’t get back to sleep. Once I slept so poorly I couldn’t function the next day so I asked Matt to work at home and watch Rose so I could go back to bed. Anytime I interfere with his work, he gets really mad. He stayed home that day but he insisted I call the doctor and see what she could do about the insomnia. I knew there was nothing she could do because insomnia’s a normal symptom of pregnancy and you can’t take aspirin, for God’s sake. It’s not like you can take sleeping pills. But he continued to rant that day that he wasn’t sleeping well either because the woman who was carrying his second child was getting up too many times during the night to pee.

It’s not like sleeping was a sea of bliss for us in the first place. I go to bed before Matt because I can’t fall asleep while he’s next to me. He dozes; he jerks, he dozes; he jerks. Then when he falls asleep, he snores. For the record, I snore too, but he can sleep through mine, whereas I cannot sleep through his. So additional sleep issues just stirred the pot. Plus, losing sleep makes us irritable, so that exacerbated the marital unrest.

I was telling my best friend about the sleep issues and she said, “Just get a new bed! You’ve been talking about getting a king-sized bed forever anyway. What’s $3,000 compared to saving your marriage?” The marriage was never in trouble, but who knows what would have transpired had we kept losing sleep and fighting about it? Plus, she’s never steered me wrong so I said, “You’re right. We should buy a new bed as soon as possible.”

We raided our savings and got a really good deal on a bed at our buying club, so with a good chunk of cash and some wee-hour Benadryl we solved our sleep problem. We got a foam bed, so I don’t feel Matt jerk when he dozes anymore, and he doesn’t awaken when I get up to pee because he can’t feel me move either. We still snore, but I wear earplugs when he’s snoring now.

So the problem was not, “Matt is impossible to sleep next to and now he’s even more of a pain in the ass,” like I thought it was. And it was not, “I never should have knocked up my wife because the bitch wakes me up five times a night now,” as I imagine he thought. It was: We have inadequate sleeping accoutrements.

Although each problem ultimately involved making a purchase, I want to emphasize that retail therapy is not the answer to all marital problems. And even the Scientific Method, in all of its glory, doesn’t fix everything. But for some fights, especially the ones we believe would be resolved if our partner could just CHANGE, maybe we’re focusing on finding fault where we really should be finding a solution. If we focus on the problem itself and not our partner’s role in it, maybe we can see clear to a simple fix that will make us wonder why we didn’t just do that in the first place.

What’s in a Name? Everything.

These are the top ten names we have for Baby Boy Fisher:

1. Commercial Fisher
2. Charter Fisher
3. Hunter (Gatherer) Fisher
4. Finn Fisher
5. Compliment Fisher
6. Fly Fisher
7. Marlon Fisher
8. Sustainable Fisher
9. Fisher Fisher
10. Offshore Fisher

Let’s just hope it’s a girl! This happened last time too. We wanted a girl so badly that we had only joke names for a boy. We’re still leaning toward girl, but this proves we’re just bad at picking boy names.

Most kidding aside, naming a kid is a huge responsibility. Names are so important. Ask my mother-in-law. Her maiden name was Smelley. When she married Matt’s dad, she became a Smelley-Fisher. Maybe that’s why we poke so much fun. Seriously, your kid’s name will be his or her calling card. The name every teacher will have to learn. The first line of the resume. The first shot at acceptance or rejection by potential dates, employers and, most importantly, kids in the schoolyard.

The trend now for boys leans toward “unusual” names. I meet a new “Aidan” or “Jayden” every week. Let’s stop right there. If you want your kid’s name to stand out, try to stretch a little further than the ones that make the top 20 name lists. When I was a kid, we’d have to call kids “John A.” or “John F.” or “John S.” because we’d have three “Johns” in our class. Same story with Mikes. When parents began to get more creative, I thought the three Johns phenomenon would become an old-fashioned memory. But it’s not. Especially if your kid’s name is Aiden.

Girls name are trending toward the traditional, but the “unique” ones still enjoy some popularity. I picked “Rose” ten years before I married Matt. I loved the name since I was in my 20s and vowed to use it one day. I didn’t know it would be Grandma’s middle name. That was just a bonus. Truth be told, I probably got it from “The Golden Girls” but what the hell, I love it. It was really popular throughout the 19th Century all the way to the 1960s, when its use sharply declined, probably in favor of “Hayfever” or “Wheatgrass.” But every time I introduce her, someone says “Oh, that’s Sailor’s middle name!” or “My sister’s godson’s cousin is named Rose.” It kind of makes me freak. I thought it might be really popular and my kid would have to be “Rose F.” through school. I’m glad I just looked it up. It’s not even in the top 50, according to It’s not that I’m on the “unusual” bandwagon, I just don’t want my poor kid to have to distinguish herself from others at every introduction.

Which brings up another pitfall. I see a lot of variations on traditional names and there’s nothing wrong with them, you just have to be careful which ones you use. My boss’ stepson will spend his life clarifying, “No, it’s Al-EC!” Don’t impose that on your kid. I hate it when people get my name wrong and mine isn’t even hard. For the record, it’s Maria, not Marie. I used to have to say, “Maria, like West Side Story.” I’ve made enough corrections to know how much it would suck to do it at every introduction. Your name is the first thing you tell people. Having to clarify and correct each time makes for an awkward first interaction and potential bad impression.

And then there are those people who ruined it for everyone at reception desks and switchboards everywhere. If you want to call your kid “Amy,” go ahead. But do not fool yourself that changing the spelling will make the name unique. The only thing you accomplish by spelling it “Amyee” will be to force your daughter to spell her name to every receptionist and secretary, thereby wasting months of her life and reinforcing the resentment she has toward you for doing it in the first place. People ask ME how to spell my name, thanks to some idiot whose mom thought it would be cute to call her daughter “Maryeiah” or “Mahreea.”

One more thing: Your child’s name should grow with her. We had an 80-year-old family friend named “Sally.” Sally sounds good for an 11-year-old, but once that kid clears 17, she’s outgrown her name. When she’s 80, it’s just ridiculous. For boys, I like to imagine my kid introducing himself when he’s 17, after his voice has changed. “Hi, I’m Dylan” doesn’t cut it unless the kid’s a professional gunslinger. My best friend likes to imagine her son introducing himself as a lawyer, “I’m Corey Rabinowitz,” just doesn’t flow with “Good to meet you, Counselor.”

Throughout all the name searching, I’ve realized I’m pretty traditional when it comes to names. I don’t have anything against the latest “unusual” names, they’re just not right for my kids. We don’t know the baby’s gender, but we’re set on “Jackie” for a girl. My top picks for a boy are “Charlie,” “Sam,” and “Ozzy.” I know “Ozzy” is weird but I just like the way it sounds with “Fisher.” My husband hates “Ozzy.” It’s just as well. I think the Nobel selection committee would dismiss anyone named “Ozzy” right out of the gate.

Once we know the gender, we can either stop the boy name search or it will begin in earnest. It won’t be “Commercial” or “Hunter” or even “Ozzy” (sigh), but when we do agree on a name, it won’t be in the top 20, we’ll spell it correctly and our son can use it his whole life.

Pregnancy: It’s Not Pretty (Part 2)

Today begins Week 14. I have high hopes for Week 14 because that’s when the morning sickness subsided last time. I’ve been OK on and off this week but yesterday I had a terrible relapse, so I know I’m not out of the woods yet. I can’t wait to feel normal again and to eat foods with flavor. When my stomach stabilizes, we’re going on World Food Tour 2010. I want Ethiopian, Indian, Japanese Steakhouse and fish and chips to start. And chocolate. I miss chocolate. Thanks for all of the comments and I hope you enjoy the second installment of “Pregnancy: It’s Not Pretty.”

Pregnancy: It’s Not Pretty

Month Four

Day 71: Since when is 12 weeks NOT the second trimester? Total of 9 months, 3 months have gone by, that’s the first third, ergo trimester. Now they’re saying 14 weeks! What the hell kind of math is that? Show me that equation.
Day 85: Wow, I woke up this morning and I was hungry. Not choking down crackers because I was sick, but actually hungry! It’s over! Thank God it’s over!
Day 85, 1 p.m.: Oh, God, it’s back. I knew it wouldn’t go away. I’m in the 9-month yak camp, I know it.
Day 92: It’s gone 70 percent of the time. So I’m sick only 30 percent of the time now. I hate the bitches who had it easy, but at least it’s something.
Day 105: It’s nighttime and I have felt human all day. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Day 106: It happened again. There is a God.
Day 107: Booked a cruise. Our honeymoon/last chance for fun before parenthood. Thousands of nonrefundable dollars if the sickness comes back, but I’ll take the chance. I haven’t felt good enough for anything to be fun in months.
Day 142: The amnio. I heard it was horrible. The sonogram’s cute, though. “There’s the head, the arms and the feet, right here by the bladder.” Hey, kid, that’s not the moon bounce! Great. Now I have to pee. Child, you are so grounded when you’re born. “Hmm, I can’t seem to break through the amniotic sack.” Uhh, I see the baby somersaulting on the monitor. Please do not stab its head and for God’s sake shut up and just tell me when it’s over. “Do you want to know what it is?” Absolutely. “It’s a girl!” Oh my God, we wanted a girl! Oh my God, what if something horrible shows up on the amnio and we have to terminate? Oh my God, why didn’t we wait for the results to know the sex?
Day 130: Sucks to forego tropical drinks on the pool deck, but it’s still all play and no work, my commute is on a tender boat to a tropical island and I can nap anytime I want. And bountiful feasts await my ravenous soul. I always wanted a tapeworm, but this kid is even better.
8:30 Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, pancakes, hash browns, fruit and decaf.
10:00 Snack: Fruit, waffle, sausage
Lunch: Italian buffet on the Lido deck.
Snack: Two manicotti and a cannoli.
Snack: Party mix at the bar.
Dinner: Cream of asparagus soup, bread and butter, Caesar salad, rack of lamb, garlic mashed potatoes, carrot medallions and key lime pie.
Snack: 24-hour pizza.
Day 131: Weightlessness in the pool. It’s like having an orgasm while eating chocolate cheesecake with whipped cream and fudge sauce.
Day 132: Snorkeling: I was watching the fishies and had to pee, and I just let ‘er rip. I love snorkeling.
Day 133: It was really hot shopping in Cozumel. We had to find some air conditioning or I was going to pass out and have to go to the Mexican ER, so we wasted our shore time in the Hard Rock Cafe.
Day 134: Oh, please, a chili relleno, 3 taquitos, 2 enchiladas and some seven-layer dip does not a Mexican buffet make. Thank God for the chocolate cake. Mmmmm.
Day 134, 15 min. later: Feel a little twitch in my stomach muscles. Damn Mexican food. Hmm, there it is again. And again. Feels a little weird, though. Could that be the baby? It IS, isn’t it? Oh, God, I’m crying. “Honey, give me your hand. She’s kicking. How can you not feel that? Fine, don’t believe me.” This is the most amazing day of my life. I wonder if it was the cake.
Day 140: Back to reality. I asked my boss for a laptop so I can work out of the ladies’ room. He laughed. Every 20 minutes and it always feels full. It’s the inconvenience of a bladder infection without the pain.

Pregnancy: It’s Not Pretty

Ok, everyone, time to come clean. I’m pregnant, and I have horrible morning sickness. That should explain the recent sick days. It should be over soon, I hope, so I shouldn’t have any sick days for the next few months, but I wanted to share with you what it’s been like. I wrote this about my first pregnancy, but it still applies. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, and you want to see more, let me know. I have a few more segments. Thanks for sticking with me!

Pregnancy: It’s Not Pretty

I always thought I’d be a parent but I never wanted to have a baby. Labor scared the crap out of me. My plan was to adopt a toilet-trained two-year-old, but my husband objected. He wanted us to have a baby and truth be told, he wore me down. By the time we got married, I was 38. My clock wasn’t ticking, the alarm was going off and much as I tried to hit the snooze, I was pregnant within a month, and let me tell you, they say pregnant women are beautiful but pregnancy is just not pretty.

Month One (two weeks pregnant)

Day 1: The test says “pink” for positive, blue for negative. I see pink, but I see blue too, it’s really more of a mauve. Could it just have soaked through and messed up the test? There are no pictures of what it’s supposed to look like! Why are there no pictures? Thank God I had that sangria last night. It may be my last.
Day 2: The gynecologist’s office. “You probably are pregnant, because those tests are pretty accurate, but we’ll take a blood test just to be sure.” Whew! No peeing in a cup.
Day 3: “You are two weeks pregnant. Would you like to make an appointment with the doctor for six weeks?” Uh, ok. Is that what you do? Until then, what do I do? What do I eat? What do I quit? Why six weeks? I have questions now! Ok, WebMD says no drinking, no Advil, no sushi, no brie, no cold cuts, no diet soda. No diet soda? Are you freakin’ kidding me? How does one live without diet soda?
Day 8: Well, except for the no soda, this isn’t so bad. I tried regular soda and eeew! That high fructose corn syrup leaves a lingering sour taste, like I just vomited. Speaking of throwing up, I don’t feel any different. Hard to believe there’s a person growing inside me. Maybe it’ll be fun.
Day 9: Hmm, I feel a little queasy. Really isn’t so bad, though. Good. I was afraid I’d have bad morning sickness.
Day 13: “Honey, is it really ok for me to fly to this interview this week? I’ll be a five-hour plane ride away, so I can’t get here right away in an emergency. I don’t want to leave you here by yourself
“I’m pregnant, not crippled, Sweetie. Relax. It’s fine.”

Month Two (two days later)

Day 15: Oh, my God, I can’t even stand up, my head weighs a ton and changing position adds to the nausea. The very idea of food is repulsive, but they say it’s the only way to make this feel any better. The idea of anything with flavor grosses me out. I may be able to choke down some bread. I just want to lie motionless but I can’t because I have to constantly scratch my legs, my boobs, my back and my feet. God, why didn’t we just get a puppy?
Day 16: “Hello?” “Want some fish from Seattle, Honey? I’m at the fish market and they’ll throw it to me! ” Oh, God, eew. I think my superhuman nose actually smells it. I didn’t think it was possible, but I feel worse. “They have halibut!” Oh, God, please shut up. Just shut up.
Day 17: Called in sick. On the way from the airport, my worried husband stopped for seasick wrist bands and after wearing them for two hours, I was able to sit up straight. The thought of eating makes me woozy. My head hurts, my body aches, and I feel dizzy, which only worsens the never-ending nausea. I’m only 5 weeks pregnant, so I can’t go on maternity leave which means I have to function at work tomorrow.
Day 18: At work. If the hour and a half commute in a shimmying pickup didn’t kill me, the food smells from the microwave will. I just have to sit at the computer and feign normalcy. Fortunately no one will notice I’m sick because now I look like all the other federal drones in our windowless office.
Day 24: My first OB appointment. “Give us a urine sample. You’ll do this every visit.” Oh, I can’t wait to soak my undies and fingers once a month. “Let’s take a look at the baby.” Seriously? Cool. “Ok, there’s only one baby. There it is.” Holy crap, the idea of twins never occurred to me. Are they sure it’s a baby? It looks like a marshmallow. But there’s definitely something in there. Are you sure it’s not a cyst? How am I feeling? Oh, lady, you don’t know the half of it. Normal, yes. No treatment or cure? Women have been having babies for thousands of years. How is it that we have a cure for impotence and not morning sickness? If men had the babies, women would rule the world.
Day 25: I am exactly as sick as I was last week. Potatoes, pasta and bread are my friends. The ginger candy the doctor recommended works for about five minutes, but they are five minutes of bliss. This is new: if anyone or anything physically touches my belly (like pants), my head gets swimmy. And I was heretofore unaware of this, but there are NO maternity stores in Annapolis, MD. Well, one in the mall, but I hate the mall. Thank God for Target.
Day 26: I threw up before work this morning. The hour reprieve from nausea was quite unexpected and pleasant.
Day 30: I’m so tired, I can’t stop shivering. I had so many errands and chores that I pushed myself too hard and now every time I get tired, I quake uncontrollably.

Month Three

Day 40: I haven’t felt this suicidal since high school. I can’t go to work like this anymore. I can’t get out of bed and commute and function and pretend I’m ok while my stomach threatens to turn itself inside out. I can still get an abortion, right? If I did, the sickness would go away and I wouldn’t have to go through labor and then we could adopt a toilet-trained 2-year old like I wanted in the first place. Shoot. Snooze alarm expired. I have to take a shower. You’d think it’d feel good, but it just makes me hot and more nauseated.
Day 48: Everyone says once you hit the second trimester the nausea will go away. Well, everyone except those few bitches that felt the need to share that they were sick the whole pregnancy. Nice. Your kids are in their 20s. Let it go. Let’s talk in a month if it doesn’t go away. Until then, shut up and don’t take away my only shred of hope. I have noticed, though, that women with multiple children tend to say they didn’t have morning sickness. That explains a lot.