The seven-month itch, or why pregnant women cheat
Oh, please, as if! But you clicked, right? Alright, that was a dirty trick, I admit it. I have no idea why pregnant women cheat, or if pregnant women cheat. You’d have to ask a sociologist or Maury Povich. All I know is I didn’t!
Anyway, during my first and second trimesters, I sometimes wished that I felt more pregnant than I did just so I would believe it. I know I was tempting fate and that I was so lucky not to have morning sickness or the other miserable symptoms that other women have. I started to get nervous when I didn’t feel the baby kicking. I had sonograms before my appointments with Dr. Cleary approximately every 3 weeks, and each time I held my breath for the few seconds it took the technician to show me the heartbeat and confirm that all was fine. And then finally around 24 weeks, he started fluttering; at first, it felt more like muscle twitches than kicks. During the last few weeks, he had the hiccups every night around 10pm, and that continued after he was born!
By the end of March I went out on early maternity leave. When D and I first discussed having a baby, we decided that one of us would stay home for at least one year and maybe two, so I never had any intention of going back to work after the baby was born, but things changed. But I’ll talk about that some other time.
Once I no longer needed to go to work every day, I slowly reverted to my normal sleeping schedule. I’m a natural night person, and if I don’t have to work 9 to 5, I prefer to stay up until almost dawn and sleep through the morning into the early afternoon. As I got into the third trimester, this became a necessity or a compulsion more than a preference. It was nothing special about my pregnancy or my age–like any pregnant woman of any age, I was unable to find a comfortable sleeping position so I tossed and turned all night long. Then, of course, I had to get up to pee every hour or so. Since we only have a one-bedroom apartment, I wanted to sleep in the living room on the couch, where I was actually more comfortable than in bed. I wanted D to have the chance to sleep without my waking him up constantly all night long, and I could get up and move around without waking him if I slept in living room.
Then in the middle of my third trimester, I developed one symptom that stumped my doctor. I started itching. It would start around 9 or 10 pm each night and it wouldn’t stop until sunrise. I eliminated some of the obvious suspects right away. Bedbugs? (a gross reality in NYC again). Nope, if we had bedbugs, why didn’t D itch too? And I had no marks, bites, or rashes anywhere on my skin. My skin wasn’t dry. I had been rubbing cocoa butter all over since the first trimester. New laundry detergent, soap, perfumes, lotions, anything? Nope. I had friends who came back from a vacation years ago where they stayed in a lot of grungy youth hostels and got scabies, which causes you to itch at night. So gross! And again, I could rule it out because I hadn’t slept in a prison, nursing home, or youth hostel recently and neither had D. And of course, no bite marks.
At first, I didn’t even think to mention it to my doctor. I read a few pregnancy books that all mentioned itchy skin is normal as you expand and the skin stretches. I had spray-on Benadryl that I soaked myself with every night. But the itch kept getting worse. I realized that I should mention it at my next appointment with Dr. Cleary, but I never thought to call before to check it out.
Then late one Friday afternoon around my 34th week, I had an appointment to interview a pediatrician, Dr. Jeremy Stoepker at Westside Family Medicine. I met with him and loved him and was just about to walk out the door when he asked me how I was doing, and I mentioned the itch kind of in an offhand way, not thinking anything of it. He told me that I needed to call my OB right away, that there was a condition called ICP that would require immediate attention. He even said something about having to have an emergency C-section if I did have it. I called Dr. Cleary’s office and talked to the ever calm and reassuring nurse practitioner extraordinaire, Mary, who ordered blood work for me. Then, I had to wander around Manhattan to find a Quest Lab to have my blood drawn. I have to admit, this was the most worried I was during my entire pregnancy. I felt really alone. D was at work in Newark and couldn’t get back in time to help me, although he was in front of a computer and helped me by trying to find the closest lab location. I had to get a cab there, and as it turned out, the lab was closed. So, back out in the street to hail another cab at 5pm on a weeknight on the Upper West Side, not the easiest thing to do. I finally got to a lab and had the blood drawn. By Monday, the results were back, and I did not have ICP. I was just crazy. Or pregnant. My mother had warned me that when you are pregnant, anything that happens to you will simply be attributed to pregnancy. “Doctor, I’ve grown a third eye.” “Yes, that will go away once the baby is born.” And it’s true, really. I mean, once my baby was born, the itch was gone. But for the rest of the pregnancy, another 5 weeks, I really didn’t sleep at night at all. I could doze during the day, mostly from sheer exhaustion, but that was it.
Next time: This fat, middle-aged woman walks out of a bar….
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