Archimedes Inside and Out:
Chronicle of a Pregnancy
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Part 5: Opposite Ends of a Spectrum
Several weeks ago I had been feeling a bit gypped because the second trimester is supposed to be the golden one, but instead I lay in bed sick. I am rarely sick and am horrible at it. I whined for ginger ale and Nilla wafers, which my English husband, Liam, dutifully supplied after some initial bafflement as to what Nilla wafers are.
I was hesitant to call the doctor. I'm not a wimp, I thought, and this is just a spring cold. But after a few days, my blinding headache forced me to make the call. Doctors must get calls like this all the time, because they're efficient yet kind. I received an OK to take Tylenol. Although my doctor said it would be fine to take over-the-counter meds for a few days, I worried crazily that this may cause Archimedea to grow a third nostril or something. But the nastiness of the cold won, and the Tylenol was downed.
I was desperate to get well because I was terrified of causing Archimedea harm and also, quite selfishly, I wanted to be healthy for Liam's and my last vacation as a couple. We had chosen Paris as our destination. While I'm absolutely loathe to believe the naysayers who groan that your life is over once you have kids, I did want something of a couples-only last hurrah vacation. And I'd been told the second trimester is the best time to do stuff like this. I'd always wanted to go to Paris and was very excited.
I armed myself with emergency food (half a dozen granola bars), in case the plane food was inedible. It wasn't, and the flight to Paris was remarkably easy. We arrived, navigated to our well-located hotel, and marveled at how friendly and helpful Parisians were to us. A random chunky guy helped us through the subway interchange—unsolicited help, even. My big belly was like a secret backstage pass that got us kind treatment with a knowing "ah, you are with baby" smile, much more so than back home.
Paris was glorious! So easy to get around, tons of museums and things to see. The dark branches of the trees were just beginning to yield to the bright yellow green buds of early spring. We planned easy days of sightseeing, interspersed with quests for the best pain au chocolat and ice cream sundaes. We wandered charming little streets spilling over with painstakingly restored antiques and extraordinary window displays of Easter chocolates. We spent hours sitting in chic cafés and well-manicured gardens, trying to become adept at the Parisian art of just hanging out.
Perhaps I was delirious from the ethereal hot chocolates, but I also felt much more connected to Liam and grew cozier to the idea of becoming a parent with him. We always have a great time traveling together, but he was especially attentive on this trip. As I savored the luscious whipped cream in my mug, I mused that Liam will be equally if not more sweetly wonderful to Archimedea when she's born. I felt deep remorse at having yelled "What moron doesn't know what goddamn Nilla wafers are?" at him just a few weeks earlier.
Three days before we were due home, Liam came down with a nasty stomach virus that held us captive in our hotel. He encouraged me to wander about myself; I tried, but it was no fun without him. I went back to the hotel to keep him company, and two days later I was sick too. It was a strange virus: I'd be fine for a few hours at a time, then feel like the plague was sitting on my head. Same thing happened to Liam. We did, however, get to fit in most of the stuff we wanted to do and be sick at the same time.
The plane ride home was long and miserable. A couple of hours of feeling OK were followed by several hours of chills and fever. I pulled the hood of my sweater over my head, not caring that I looked like a freaky Ewok stranded in business class.
Once at home, I stupidly ignored the just-call-the-doctor lesson I should have learned a few weeks earlier and wallowed in misery for several days. It occurred to me that I felt quite hot, so I decide to measure my temperature: It was 103.
I was horrified. Especially when it finally hit me that being sick isn't about me at all—it's about Archimedea. I'm just the pod. I was doing a horrible job of taking care of her. I berated myself for being an irresponsible, self-centered idiot pod and not calling my doctor. As if on cue, Archimedea kicked me vigorously and made me worry that she was sick too, or really pissed off at me.
I called my doctor, only to find she was on vacation. Another doctor called me back and instructed me to go to the emergency room immediately. She said I might have a kidney infection, made it sound super serious, dire even, but refused to tell me the possible ill effects to the baby of the infection. Not knowing the potential downside made me mental.
We went to the ER, and they confirmed the doctor's assessment. I was admitted to the hospital to receive intravenous antibiotics and other fluids. The medical personnel sidestepped my questions about what could go wrong with Archimedea. My head spun, thinking the worst. While we waited, the ER nurse tried to keep us in good spirits and became especially friendly when we discovered that she used to live near my old boss in Austin. Eventually, the doctor came to say it was too late to transfer me to the maternity center. The ER nurse made it her mission to shake down some other wards and found me a bed quickly.
The bed, however, was in the organ transplant ward. I'd never been in a hospital before, except in college to get a sprained thumb put into a splint, and this was far more serious. I was completely freaked, but the nurses were great and seemed genuinely excited that I was not super sick like the other patients in the ward. And Liam was very calming and sweet, despite being tired from the continuous foot massages he'd been providing me for the previous five hours. The nurses brought me gallons of cold drinks, and drinking them with straws I somehow downed all that liquid remarkably quickly. Through the night, I dragged my IV machine back and forth between my bed and the bathroom. The antibiotics seemed to make a difference, and all the liquid streamed through me.
If I had felt sorry for myself earlier, that feeling evaporated when I heard the predicament of my roommate. She had been waiting for a kidney for three years and had just driven up from Fresno that evening, two hours after she got a call for a transplant that needed to be completed within twelve hours. She pulled out a big plastic bag full of pills: her current medication. I felt badly for her—she looked younger than I—and her situation helped me put mine in perspective.
My doctor's substitute visited in the morning and I greeted him with a barrage of neurotic questioning. Is the baby ok? Will she have birth defects? Is she supposed to kick like she's MC Hammer? How did I get this infection? What did I do wrong?
He answered each question with easy authority. It turned out that he's an obstetrician specializing in kidney related diseases, and so was comfortable with my interrogation. His main worry was that I would go into premature labor. After asking a bunch of questions he told me that Archimedea should be OK. Finally! An answer to my big question. Apparently, kidney infections are quite common in pregnancy, and mine was not caused by any inadequacy I may possess (regardless of what Mom may say).
My day nurse, Ralph, who sported an impressive moustache, acted protective and lobbed a bunch of knowing questions at the doctor, too. I felt so relieved, so grateful, I thought I might burst into tears. If this was a typical hospital experience, I feel a lot less anxious about giving birth in a hospital now.
I was sent home with some strong antibiotics and lots of advice. Liam stocked our apartment with tons of ginger ale, Nilla wafers, and mindless girl magazines, which I consumed while recuperating the entire next week. It felt like eternity passed before I felt fully normal again. Apparently Archimedea makes sure she gets the good stuff first, which is great, but consequently it took me longer than normal to recuperate. I'm glad her survival instincts are better than mine.
We put the doctor's number on speed dial and have vowed to call sooner the next time, if there is one.
Copyright © 2002 Yumiko Shinoda.