This is the fourth time I have witnessed a transition of power during my lifetime. No, I am not talking about the passing of the American presidential torch. I am talking about what happens when a woman’s body experiences an amphibious invasion and the monthly message sent to her unmentionables is intercepted by a microscopic tadpole.
That is the beginning of a takeover in management of the female creature, which I will attempt to explain while in the midst of the takeover for two reasons: One, if I wait until the takeover is complete, I will have no recollection of how things used to be and, therefore, will be unable to communicate to you who are still ruled by a civilized, somewhat polite power, what is happening to me; and two, I plan on this being the last time I undergo the voluntary takeover of my body. Plus, it has taken me this many times to figure out how to verbalize my experience.
Most women, when asked what part of them is in charge, would probably say their mind or heart. No woman wants to admit that her hormones are in charge since those moments of emotional instability, sexual indulgence, and physical upheaval tend to be cyclical, and therefore, predictable, no matter how surprising these episodes may feel when compared to her typical routines. Her willingness to work, to face the demands of the day, and to push on despite opposition are the defining characteristics of the strong woman. A woman is dependability in motion. Admitting to being strongly influenced by forces she cannot generally control is not easy for her.
So what I am about to tell you is not easy. I learned about the many organ systems of the human body during elementary, secondary, and higher education. I administered medications meant to modify, control, and manipulate these systems in others when I was a nurse. Everyone knows that the Central Nervous System—the brain and spinal cord—are the center of sensation, perception, and decision-making. Although the brain is only beginning to unfold its mysteries in that higher resonance frequency of the nervous tones that we call the mind [I made up those terms], we are fairly well convinced that its feats are what set us apart from lesser creatures.
Though I once studied them, I am no longer well-versed in the psychology, physiology, and theories surrounding human behavior. I can only speak from my own experience blended with the odds and ends of scientific evidence I have used as tiny stakes to keep my tent of knowledge from completely blowing away in the storm of adult life.
Whereas I used to wake up each day in conflict over whether I got out of bed and met the day head-on or I lay there a while longer to contemplate the great questions of the universe, I am now compelled by a force stronger than my mind to leave the sanctuary of my bedroom in search of food. And the suggestion in many prenatal books to keep saltine crackers next to my bed to help settle my stomach before arising is complete nonsense.
Do you know what happens when I have eaten saltines while pregnant?
Imagine a hostage crisis in which the powers that be decide that although it is against their policy to meet the demands of the culprit, they will, in this case, attempt to appease and soothe the one making demands because all he asked for was a box of crackers. So they send in the box of crackers, feeling certain that this aberration from the usual plan will result in a peaceful resolution of the crisis. However, they soon hear from the culprit. He says that because his demand was not met, he is now upping his demands. The negotiator looks up at the chief of police in horror while covering the phone’s mouthpiece.
“He says the saltines never arrived.”
“Never arrived? How is that possible?! We saw them go in.”
The only explanation is that the crackers dissolved and evaporated before they ever reached the culprit. And that is what will happen if you try appeasing the gaping maw that has become your stomach with saltine crackers. “Crackers? I never saw them. I now want steak. And if I don’t get it within five minutes, I am sending up evidence of my displeasure.”
You hear the beast, but you also know that your life is orderly, and so you pursue a decision based on higher cognitive powers than stomach pains. You consider that in order to eat food, you must first take your daily dose of thyroid medication since the prescription label says to take it on an empty stomach. And so you make the mistake of drinking water on an empty stomach. You have just awoken the terrible beast.
Eyes rolling, mouth gaping (imagine Java the Hut), he bellows, “I ask for steak, and you send me water?!”
When the beast gets angry, his fury sends waves of revulsion so powerful that all stomach contents are sent rocketing into the nearest receptacle. And if you haven’t been keeping up on your pelvic floor muscle exercises, your full bladder just went for a ride also.
The beast chuckles, and you realize that you are now ruled by a heartless overlord who punishes mercilessly when the whim strikes him.
It is five in the morning and no steak is available. Your daughter of two, who always arises at 6 am, has no interest in your explanation that Daylight Savings Time has ended, and 5 am is a cruel time to wake up for the day. You plug your nose and look in the fridge for breakfast. Dairy is disgusting. Deli meat could harbor Listeriosis. Eggs have been previously rejected by the beast.
Then an idea takes hold: a bean and cheese burrito? Could a bean and cheese burrito appease the monster?
You open a can of refried beans. “Holy Catfish! Beans now smell like cat food, Batman!” After some dry heaving at the sink, you resume your food preparations. Tortilla, smear of beans, sprinkle of shredded cheese, sour cream because that’s how Mom did it when you were five, and a short stint in the microwave. You cautiously fold up the tortilla, and take the first bite. Mind and stomach feel slight relief, and then the waiting begins.
For now the Deliberations Phase has begun. Momentary relief was recently followed by rejection with an egg salad sandwich, with a bowl of bean and bacon soup, and with a harmless looking bowl of cereal. There is no telling what the beast will decide with this burrito.
After twenty minutes of making peace with whatever outcome the beast chooses, you realize you have won this battle. Your small meals at two-hour intervals become bean burritos…all day long.
And remember this battle for future reference, because later you’ll hear echoes of it when trying to feed your toddler.
[I wrote this six weeks ago, back when I could still laugh about the misery of morning sickness. Within a couple of weeks, I had reached the despondency phase, and I have now pretty well settled into a life of minimal expectations where most of the time I equate the word “pregnancy” with “torture.” Sleep is no longer sacred, as the beast awakens me all night, and taming the beast by refusing him food is something you can’t sleep through. If pity parties aren’t your thing, or if you ache from childlessness or pregnancy loss, I hope to sound grateful eventually. Right now the thought of being both grateful and pregnant hints at a mythical creature, so this blog gets to hear all about it.]