This article is the first of a ten-part, experiential master’s program thesis on pregnancy and beer.
My dog Ted lies curled up on the soft armchair just outside the kitchen door. The soothing tones of Bon Iver’s latest album drift in from the living room. I find rhythm in the chopping of leeks and potatoes for a simple soup recipe I’m reading from a book on the counter. Leeks, stock, herbs, potatoes, blend. Breathe in, breathe out.
In a sturdy Le Cruset dutch oven, I let the leeks and garlic soften in oil, making sure not to brown them. A familiar aroma fills the kitchen and my brain slows down. I progress through the recipe, cleaning up as I go, like my mom taught me. The potatoes and leeks simmer in the stock and I feel centered. On nights like these, when leaves rustle in the alleyway and cold air slips in through the cracked window, soup is particularly comforting.
I pour a bowl, pull a stool over to the kitchen island and gaze at the floating specks of fresh parsley. I’m proud because I “productively managed” my emotions tonight, instead of wallowing in them. I dip into the bowl with my favorite spoon, the silver one with the words “cereal killer” stamped into the head, and call my Mom. Like soup, a conversation with her is particularly comforting.
Two hours later, I’m on my knees in front of the toilet, staring at my soup again.
Soup, rhythm and a call — it didn’t matter. Two hours later, I’m on my knees in front of the toilet, staring at my soup again. I squat in front of the bowl, lost in waves of nausea. With a tilted head and soft eyes, Ted stands at the threshold of the bathroom, confused and concerned by the guttural sounds that heave through my body. My husband, Rob, who has since come home from school, stays on the couch where we had been sitting. Not for lack of concern, but because he knows I just need space.
I vomit until I’m empty, until the heaves turn into whimpers. Tears cling to my eyelashes. When it’s all over, I rinse my mouth, wash my hands, and stumble back to the couch where I collapse in a heap into Rob’s open arms. Putting my head on his lap, I have no choice but to submit to the tears that I had spent all night laboring to control.
I’m so tired of the fatigue and the nausea. I long to feel in control over my own body, to feel strong and fit again. Just a few months ago, Rob and I stood on stone steps overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, where we joined hands in marriage. We welcomed the rest of our lives together with strong drinks, fire pits, and handwritten vows. After a mini-honeymoon in Vermont, we piled back into our truck, Ted and wedding gifts in tow, and headed back to Pittsburgh for our last year of grad school. On September 5th, we learned I was pregnant.
After a mini-honeymoon in Vermont, we piled back into our truck, Ted and wedding gifts in tow, and headed back to Pittsburgh for our last year of grad school. On September 5th, we learned I was pregnant.
Now, I relinquish myself to the alien growing in my belly. I submit to the nausea and the fear and the fatigue (as if I even had a choice), but love continues to fill up my core and rush through my limbs. I am going to be a mom.
As fall settles over Western Pennsylvania, so does the reality of the first trimester. I never thought it would happen this fast. I never thought I could feel this sick. Our newlywed glow is immediately overshadowed by a bigger, more “holy shit” type of life event.
As I lie with my head on Rob’s thigh, curled up in a defenseless heap, I can’t help but notice the tall can on the coffee table. I tilt my head up to get a better look at the label. A white conifer branch silhouetted against red sky. Sap, made by Treehouse Brewing in Monson, MA. Sitting up all the way and wiping my eyes with the cuff of my sleeve, I ask Rob to describe it, to distract me from my discomfort with tales of hops, carbonation, and the satisfaction of a beer at the end of a long day.