Throughout my first trimester everyone kept telling me that it would get better. They insisted the morning sickness that had turned into all day sickness would ease up. Eventually. At least I was working again. After getting laid off from the call center, I went to work at the carousel at the mall. Sounds easy, right? I thought so too, but once you factored in the pregnancy it was anything but easy. The reality is being on my feet, lifting little kids on and off the carousel horses for eight hours a day was exhausting. When you’re only 5’2″ some of those kids were half my size and I was lifting them all chest high! I knew I needed to find something else.
My lucky job break came by way of my mom. It was another great advantage I was privileged to receive. It was an office job, over minimum wage, and I’d be working with my mom and many other women I already knew. I was related to more than just my mom. She’d even managed to help my ex get a job in a different department of the same company. He was working there before I was, actually. He wasn’t my ex at the time either. There was a reason I used ‘unwed’ in the first segment rather than single. I wasn’t exactly single, but I don’t think anyone thought we were in a relationship that had any hope.
During the second trimester I ballooned in size. That I kept gaining so much didn’t make any sense to me because I was still throwing up every day. Every. Day. I felt like an unwilling bulimic. I wasn’t expecting a lecture when I complained about how sick I was to the midwife at my OB’s office, but that’s what I got. I was gaining too much weight and I needed to stop. I told them about the constant puking, the constant exhaustion, and they put me through some tests. Everything came back normal. I wasn’t dealing with gestational diabetes, so as far as she was concerned, I was just eating too much. She suggested I mix Pedialyte with regular Coke to help with the nausea and, of course, stop gaining weight. That’s all I needed to do, apparently. Stop gaining weight and I wouldn’t feel so sick. Got it. I cried…
After the Pedialyte and Coke prescription, I felt that everything I was doing with this pregnancy was the wrong thing. I was doing what they told me to do and I was still sicker than shit every day. I was going to work, dealing with comments about my size on the regular. “Are they sure you’re not having twins?” one co-worker asked so many times I threatened to push her down the stairs. Not to her face, of course, but I thought it very violently. I was thankful, actually, to be a part of a team of women because I knew I wasn’t really carrying my weight at the workplace. I was missing hours, or days, quite regularly. One fun morning I “went home sick” but spent an hour in the bathroom before I could actually leave the building. I sat on the floor in the handicap stall, waving my hand over my head every few minutes to reactivate the lights that shut themselves off. If it wasn’t for the fact that they all loved my mom, I probably would have lost that job as well, way before I did.
Not being able to perform at work wasn’t an easy pill for me to swallow. I started working at sixteen because I wanted to work. I’d had many different jobs since my sixteenth birthday, and I never wanted to be that team member. I wanted to carry my own and do a good job. Being pregnant prevented me from doing that and that turns into guilt and embarrassment that you stack on top of everything else you have going on. And I had A LOT going on. See, I wasn’t just pregnant and unwed, sick and financially struggling. I was also hiding a drug problem. Not my own, my ex’s.
I tried to hide a lot from my family after I moved out with him. I knew right away that I should have stayed in my parent’s basement, but shortly after the new year he and his friends got evicted from their apartment, so I needed to make sure he had a place to live. I quite naturally fall into the caretaker/fixer role in life, and this relationship brought that out hard. He wasn’t using when we met, and I wasn’t aware there had been a drug problem in his recent past until his friend told me after he realized we were getting serious. I’m pretty sure the stress of trying to live together and the pending parenthood was too much for him. He relapsed shortly after, and I stayed quite firmly in denial.
This isn’t a bash of the ex post. I gave him the option to leave the night that I told him I was pregnant, but he didn’t want to leave at that time. He probably should have because we wouldn’t have moved in together and that was our first big mistake. His employment status became very unreliable, and he left jobs without my knowing more than once, so budgeting was difficult. The financial struggle was crippling and forced me at times to ask for help, which was as hard as being pregnant. But I’m going to stress here the importance of the fact that I had people to ask for help from. It would have been unimaginable to go through what I was going through in the middle of my pregnancy without the help I had. To face it all alone would have been terrifying. I kept a brave face, at least I think I did, but by Easter of 1996 I was so sick, the size of a house, not getting any better, and I was scared.
To be continued…