You have to understand I am doing a secret thing. A bad thing. A thing I never dreamed of doing. On this point we must be absolutely clear. I never set out to do this.
I’m not the only one.
Just last Sunday I read an italicized statement at the bottom of a blog post. It communicated something along the lines of, thank you for your ongoing support. The best way you can support us now is by reserving all medical opinions on the matter of my birth choices. I appreciate each of your comments but any medical advice in this thread will be deleted. Thank you for understanding.
This is where we’ve landed. We have to head people off before things go too far because we all know what everyone is coming at us with: opinions.
I had an opinion once. A strong one. We all carry around a few of those special pets; ones we feed and bathe and bring in at night to sleep at the foot of our bed. These are our special opinions and we look for opportunities to share (bestow) them on others. I bestowed my strong opinion (did I hear self-righteousness in the back?) about my secret taboo on a choice few. Well, I’d say. And here close your eyes, bring three or four fingers to your chest in a sweeping motion, and raise your chin a bit. Repeat, well I would never.
Now you get the idea. I was Never until I Needed.
Need is astoundingly skilled at trumping Never.
I have something to tell you. It’s hard for me not to use the word confess here. Confess evokes guilt though. Am I guilty? I have something to confess tell you. Sometimes (not all the time! not everyday!) when my morning sickness is really bad, I take a Zofran.
Big deal, you say? Oh right, that’s not the confession.
I have something to tell you.
I used to judge women who took Zofran.
Now I’m taking it.
There. I said it.
Four months ago I looked out from my blanket bunker on the couch and saw what my children had done. The floor had become some horrible art installation piece making a statement about what I am not sure, with its litter of granola bar crumbs, and skinny string cheese wrappers, and the occasional silver foil packet. Of late I’d taken to saying, to breathing with the fragile air only an ill person can produce, “get whatever you want from the pantry.” I said these words everyday for 90 days to a 5, 3, and 1 year old. They took me up on it.
One day I looked up from my true crime story on my Kindle and found myself in a veritable snow storm of Pringles particles. An Amazon box arrived the day prior, mysteriously full of single serving Pringles tubes. I didn’t order them. My husband doesn’t have any affections for Pringles and even in our current state of national emergency level disarray, no one had given the kids a tutorial on Prime. I’ve heard that marriage is a series of one person asking what do you want to do today and the other saying I don’t know what do you want to do ad infinitum. I read a hilarious IG post saying marriage is not eating your spouse’s special leftovers (and to that I say hear, hear!). But I propose marriage is opening up your spouse’s Amazon boxes and shutting up about it.
So there I am, June in Southern California and I am wrapped in a fleece blanket, eating roughly 400 calories a day of whatever bland grain sounds not horrendous, reading $50 worth of novels a week because they distract me from nausea and watching my kids toss chips no one likes in the air. This is not to speak of the laundry situation, the sticky floor situation, the situation in every bathroom in this house. My nutrition tanked, and our home tanked, and my kids had gone whole-hog feral. My husband spent his evenings bailing water out of our sinking ship until his arms nearly fell off but it wasn’t enough. We all needed a mom.
And I spotted the pills where I’d put them on the windowsill in the kitchen. I filled the prescription just like I did the last two times, never intending to ingest a single one while pregnant, but knowing they came in handy if my husband or I had an unfortunate run in with e. coli or the like. We keep a padlocked tool box in the garage (old habit from our fostering days) full of medicines and I like an assortment. It makes me feel prepared. When I’m not pregnant, I am all for medicine, even the Western kind. But when I am pregnant….well….the only doctor I trust starts with a G and rhymes with oogle. With the pills of promise in my sights I turned to him.
My search turned up an article from CBS Los Angeles with a tantalizing title: UCLA Study: No Evidence Linking Anti-Nausea Drug to Birth Defects. It highlighted findings from an article originally published in a journal called Reproductive Toxicology.
I was all in.
The study was authored by an associate researcher of medicine named Marlena Fejzo and she was quoted saying a bunch of words I wanted to read:
“We did not see any increased risk of birth defects.”
“The overall results do not support an increased risk of birth defects.”
The piece de resistance, “What was really significant to me was that women with extreme morning sickness who took Zofran reported fewer miscarriages and terminations and experienced higher live birth rates.”
Fejzo went on to describe her own experience with morning sickness. She called it torture. She said it would be devasting to see her daughters go through what she did. A few more clicks of my thumb and I learned that Fejzo had lost a baby to hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy; a condition made infamous by one Kate Middleton of London, England) in 1999.
This woman, this researcher, this mom, understood my affliction. She called it torture. And she said it was okay to take the pills. The very ones I’d scorned for so long.
I took out a single white circle. I felt it’s weight in my hand. I watched to see if it would bleed chalky white in my palm. I was Alice, cautiously holding the tiny bottle: Drink Me.
I swallowed the pill that day. I felt better in 30 minutes. I felt terrible about it for months.
What everyone seems to remember about Jim Gaffigan’s stand-up act Mr. Universe is his bit on having 4 kids. He says, “you want to know what it’s like to have four kids? Just imagine you’re drowning and someone hands you a baby.”
But my favorite part is his whole thing about McDonald’s. Some highlights:
“It’s fun telling people you go to McDonalds. They always give you that look like ‘oh I didn’t know I was better than you.’”
“You ever been to McDonald’s and you see a friend? For a second you’re like, oh crap! Eventually you’re like hey hey hey what’s going on? They’re just like I’m just here for the $0.99 ATM, what are you doing here, Jim? I’m just meeting a hooker. Certainly not eating here, that’s for sure.”
That’s me with Zofran. I carry the stuff on my person at all times. I want it near me, close to me. If I don’t hear it rattling around in my bag I panic. But if someone were to ask me what that rattling sound is… “That? These? No these aren’t Zofran. It’s just my ecstasy. I’m uh, popping Molly and stuff now. With hookers.”
That’s all of us maybe. My friend Heidi has this great story about meeting a new woman at a park day. This was a large group play date, and the woman, visibly pregnant, had only attended one or two other times. She walked up to Heidi and whispered, “Hi, I’m Claire, and I’m having this baby in a hospital with an epidural. Please don’t tell anyone.”
Oh hey! Hi! Good to see you. I’m not going into this hospital to give birth. I’m meeting a hooker.
I’m not giving birth at home. Ha, can you imagine? No, we just thought it would be a nice change of pace to put a blow-up pool in the living room.
Maybe our biggest secret isn’t our birth choice or school choice or if we want the drugs. Maybe it isn’t that we don’t spank and we don’t do screen time and we don’t get our kids vaccinated and we don’t eat refined sugar, not even on holidays and special occasions.
Maybe the biggest secret is we’re judging people who do.
Maybe the biggest secret is we’re judging people who don’t.
And maybe the best possible outcome is to be proven wrong.
If we want to post on Facebook about something truly wrong, we won’t have far to look. But where we probably ought not look is in the medical charts and medicine cabinets and refrigerator shelves of the moms who invite us in.
We don’t have to pine for hard, truth telling conversations. They’ll come.
Sometimes, if we are very fortunate, they will come for us.
I was wrong to judge women for using Zofran. I was wrong for thinking they should power through it, put things in perspective, remember that it’s only a short time for us but a lifetime for them. From what I’ve researched science doesn’t back me, but worse, neither does the Bible. If ever I am going to take a stand, it ought not be over the pharmaceuticals moms choose. How ridiculous. How embarrassing. Pride cometh before the fall and after the puke.
I puked and I fell and I was left knowing the terrible extent of my own pride.
Good news, though. One of the best medicines for a prideful heart is humble pie. Did you know it now comes in pill form and goes by the generic name Ondansetron?