Thursday, November 27, 2008


I passed the boards, got a job. Food continues to taste like poison and probably will   forever  for the next 6 months. For some reason I get heartburn every night, even on an empty stomach. I spit into hand towels in the grocery store and I may never be able to eat chocolate ever again. Fuck Dooce. I hate her. I've gained a pound and a half and maybe, maybe, I'll be able to snowboard through January.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No you may not bring any water bottles, cell phones, pagers or electronic devices into the testing center. She looks up at me over the counter, red orange streaked hair and purple cotton jumper, rearranges her papers, stares at me and waits. What if, I offer, I pour the water out and only bring in the bottle? 
These are the rules, and she pushes three laminated pieces of paper in front of me. You're really supposed to have read them before arriving here.

It's 8:17 in the morning and I'm getting a little bit desperate. I've arrived for my boards, despite my better judgement and complete lack of preparation, and I am trying to explain to a women with inadvertently orange hair and a purple sweater that, well, basically, my mouth over flows with saliva every five seconds and I just need something to spit into. I put my head into my hands and sigh. Can I at least bring in an empty cup? I ask, motioning to the water cooler behind me.

These, young lady, are the rules, she is staring right at me and tapping a fingernail onto the counter.  Okay, I say, I'll figure something out

I've packed two fried eggs with beans and a tortilla and place them in the designated locker. You are required to eat in the waiting area, she tells me. If you take anything out of your locker you need to show us what it is. I hold up my toothpaste, toothbrush and water bottle filled with dilute baking soda. I need to brush my teeth before I begin, may I use the restroom? She looks at me as if I were absolutely insane. Five minutes, she tells me.

Walking down the hall I bite back the tears. I just want to be normal again. I just want my mouth to stop revolting against me, filling up with a toxic kind of saliva I could never bear to swallow, completely dehydrating me, forcing me to drink huge gulps of water that then make me wretch and gag because oh my god everything tastes like its made of poison. In the bathroom I stand in front of the sink, vigorously scrubbing out my mouth and regarding my reflection. My skin is gaunt and pale, my eyes dark, sallow. Even though I can tell how much my body is changed, my jeans hang off of me, my shirt clings only to my chest, my belt takes up more space than my quietly protruding belly. I don't yet look pregnant, just crazy.

After spitting, rinsing, spitting and rinsing I galvanize myself for the four hour exam ahead of me, take a deep breath and walk back into the door. A new woman is behind the counter, she smiles at me kindly. Do you have a moment? I nod mutely. She beckons me to the back of the office.

Do you have a medical condition that necessitates a cup? She is looking right at me and nodding vigorously
Um, kind of
Do you have a note? We both know that I don't. 
No, no I don't. 
Okay, she says. Listen, I put a call into our head quarters to ask them about this. Mostly they don't want water next to the computers. Can you at least begin the exam and I'll let you know? I nod. She touches my shoulder and smiles. I want to hug her and sob but refrain from either.

My boards, by and large, were a disaster. I felt flush and weak and nauseous, forcing myself to read the questions on the screen. Question and after question, section after section, I sat there in awe and horror. It's as if I had never trained for this, had no idea what any of the questions were, nonetheless the answers. My mouth swelled with toxic spit, I tried discretely to empty it into my non-absorbent wool sweater. My body staged a full on visceral distraction and I was losing the battle to cope. My stomach swelled and my mouth filled with the few bites of cereal I'd eaten three hours before. I looked around in panic, couldn't get up, couldn't forfeit an entire section of my exam and, without recourse, spit it out into my sleeve, biting back the tears and folding the edges over itself in effort to hide what had just happened.

At lunch I opened my little box of fried egg and beans to an overwhelming stench that made me gasp. I snapped the container shut, closed the locker and sighed. I'm starving, shaking, nauseated, defeated. The kindly woman in the yellow dress looked over at me and smiled. I'm still waiting to hear back. If you'd like something to eat we have granola bars, cookies and crackers. She motions over to a table and nods, encouraging. I smile feebly, thank her but say no thank you. How do I explain that anything with any kind of sugar i it tastes like battery acid and splenda? Instead I go back to the bathroom, trying forever to scrub the rancid taste from my body.

Driving home, hours and hours later, after several failed attempts to find anything, anything, anything to eat that doesn't involve a deep fryer and a drive-thru and missing New York more than I ever though possible, the guilt and rage and frustration unleashes itself in torrents. I have five incredibly close and lovely friends who want nothing more in their lives than to be pregnant, all of whom have high likelihoods of not getting to see that happen. Equal to, and in a case or two, almost more than the overwhelming desire to have children, they want, so badly, to be pregnant. I hear people talking about this being the most important thing we can do with a lives, the most important experience in a woman's life (period) and I swell with sorrow and frustration. If this, to be simple and essentialist about it, is the whole reason we exist, then why the hell am I failing so miserably at it? Why the hell do I hate it so much? Why is my body doing everything it possibly can to prevent me from doing the one thing I need to---eat. My previous convictions that my relationship to my pregnancy has nothing to do with my relationship to wanting children is beginning to erode and as I start the long drive home I cannot help but feel as if I am failing in an enormous, universal, evolutionary way.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Quite possibly the worst part about vomiting is waking up the next day to realize you still have some left over in your nose.

It's week twelve, day five and for reasons I cannot explain or justify I have begun vomiting again. Yesterday I ran to the bathroom, threw up my chai and stayed on the floor, sobbing. Because it gets in my nose, it makes me see stars and it pulls at my stomach muscles. I haven't gained any weight, can't eat anything with sugar in it since that, to the best of my ability to ascertain, seems to make me vomit with hawklike fidelity. I am running this operation somewhere between one to two fried eggs on a flour tortilla with refried beans a day. Yesterday was a banner day. Four eggs and two tortillas.

We had our first ultrasound on Tuesday. It was crazy and strange and very surreal. The last time I was in the opposite situation, standing in the dark room with one of my patients, looking on the screen as they saw their baby for the first time, trying to capture the heart rate, trying to measure the back of the neck. It is always weird to be where I am now, patient not practitioner. But things seem fine, and I have a very uncharacteristic sense of calm in me lately. We saw five fingers on one hand and lots of jumping around, healthy movement. 

I'm just waiting to be able to eat, to be able to drive again, to be able to anything more than stay close to the toilet, waiting for the inevitable onslaught of nausea to finally, finally win.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The strip mall is sparse and sprawling, grey bright orange and yellow, filled up with McDonald's and Burger King, Pizza Hut and K-Mart. It is where we shop, because we have to, because these are the options and this is our life here, now. I pull across the two lane street and into a parking lot, drawing up next to an old Civic filled from roof to floor boards in boxes of clothing, empty food containers and cartons of cigarettes. My car is 4 months old, dust covered but undented. Beside me the Civic sits on three tires and a spare donut. I notice that it is missing the passenger seat. Two spaces down a girl, easily ten years younger than me, pushes a stroller, holds a toddler on her hip and ushers a young boy of about six across the lot towards the discount grocery store. I clutch my bag given to me by my mother in law a few years ago, bought at a department store in New York unimaginable today. 

The Sears store is tiny, crammed with last season's items and offering only one or two selections in each of its four small departments. The salesmen lean lazily against the washing machines, the store is empty, the ring of the bell as I walk in echos and all heads turn to face me. He ambles up to help me, short and balding and cyanotic, breathing in shallow rapid breaths and leaning every few steps on a shelf, a dryer. Can? I? Help? You? Young? Lady? each word punctuated with one quick inhalation. I'm here to buy a refrigerator. A new refrigerator. An extra refrigerator. Because our family is coming up from New York for the holidays and we'll need more, we'll always need more, to prepare for it. He tries to sell me more, bigger, fancier. I watch him leaning along the aisles, gasping, ambling, trying to sell me something anything to make his commission. No, I say, just the smallest cheapest refrigerator you have, we don't need much, it's going to live in the basement. His efforts are valiant and I understand them, although I set my face into stern refusal and repeatedly rebuff him with no, what do you have that's cheaper until finally we reach the dark end of the aisle where last year's items languish in dust and discount. This, I say, pointing to the cheapest, that one. He sighs, takes the ticket and begins the slow journey back to the computer. I walk behind him, observing his gait, watching his shuffle, my face burning with guilt and confused consumerism, wondering how we are obligated to best help each other.

At the register he writes the ticket, I look at his clubbed and yellowed fingers, note the distention of his external jugular vein, the heavy weight of ascites pulling at the buttons along his belly. I want to ask him, why aren't you on oxygen? His oxygen saturation is clearly dismal, his lips are dusky purple, his chest rising in quick ascent. Broken blood vessels smatter his arms in the characteristic pattern of disease and while we make small talk about his sons in community college it is all I can do to keep up with the charade and not turn to him and shake him, ask him if he's even on Lasix, has anyone ever drained the fluid from his belly. He mentions the economy, the hardships of being a salesman, worrying about foreclosures and his kid's college tuition. I nod and smile in a gesture of silent agreement, fold the receipt for my extra refrigerator for our bounty of good fortune and walk towards the door. I turn to thank him, to wish him a good holiday, he smiles back and suppresses a cough and I walk into the cold bright outside, always and again uncertain about how we can best and ever actually help each other.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

three things

Thing one: OMFG President Obama. I almost* cried last night but couldn't, because my body has hijacked every molecule of water remaining left in it to make saliva. Not that I hate it or anything.

Thing two: things got better with the whole full body invasion of symptomatic side effects and then they got worse again. Guess where we are now. I've decided I'm not going to talk about it because I sense that most people find it boring and trite and possibly more than a little annoying. And then I'm likely to get onto a wooden soap box and let loose about the unrealistic and quite frankly maddening social expectation that women who are pregnant are supposed to be glowing and happy and absolutely vibrating with joy. And if you aren't, if you are, say, tired and sick and tired of being sick and tired of people looking at you weird because you have to walk through the grocery store spitting into a hand towel because lord with no mercy the freaking saliva, that somehow implies that you are going to eat your children with fries and ketchup. And you know what? I really resent that. But I'll work that one out later and spare you the diatribe. For now.

Thing three: I've been missing New York albeit in a strange and subtle way. Mostly I miss the things you can buy, purchase or have access to. Namely chinese delivery and any other place to shop besides K-Mart. Last night, however, I really missed New York. I sat in the study of our big, cozy farm house house, siting beneath the old wood and plaster beams, listening to the election on podcast radio and wishing I were in Brooklyn. Envisioning the amazed and joyful faces of everyone at my old hospital, wanting to be precisely right there in this moment in time, this incredible part of history. I wanted to be embraced by the Jamaican nurses and get another 'Sup white girl from the security guard. I wanted to squeeze Miss Adam's hand as we passed in the darkened, dirty hallways, I wanted to hug to janitor on the fourth floor with the bright eyes who always opened doors for me,  say hell yeah to the cafeteria clerk with his thin dread locks and knitted cap. I wanted to be back there then, right now, today. The world is immeasurably different today than it was just yesterday and from where I am in Northern New England it feels dampened, distant. I miss the pulse, I miss the pulp and flesh and grit of it and want, for now, just for this moment, to be back in it once again.

*Upon further review I believe the word almost gravely misrepresents my emotions on the night of November 4th --- a hazy solution of elation, disbelief, immense relief, immense and unspoken fear for the life of this incredible, important person, exhaustion, extreme nausea and heartburn. Looking back on it now, when someone asks me where I was when Obama was elected President I will be able to recall vividly our little house, our little study, in the white and rural backdrop of New Hampshire. And, looking back on it even now, I wish we had made more of an effort to be with humanity in that moment, to be connected, and complete. We don't even own a television (because we are stubborn liberal intellectual elitists and aren't we sorry now). I'll go back and youtube the visuals when the world first found out but I do feel as if one of the most important parts of this election, the humanity, happened without us.