Week 6: Toxoplasma Gondii and Other Delights

Our secret is no longer ours. Sarah told Tricia, and Tricia immediately told her fiancé, Jason. Fortunately, Jason is far more interested in his fantasy baseball team than babies, so the information should die with him.

Sarah’s justification for blabbing was sound, I suppose. The four of us (plus T & J’s dog, Lou) are getting ready to go camping in Michigan. We are going to be in the same car all the way to the Upper Peninsula, and it would’ve been tough to explain why we’re pulling over every 60 miles so Sarah can throw up out the window. Fine.

But now I’m sure that Sarah will call the whole thing off (the camping, not the pregnancy), and part of me hopes she will. My caveman instinct, to lock her in the house for nine months so nothing can harm the pregnancy, is hard to overcome. A bunch of pregnancy propaganda literature has begun appearing around the apartment, and I have noticed that it specializes in scaring the bejeezus out of pregnant women.

I can’t find any specific warnings about first-trimester camping, but it’s even money that at least one of these books has a sidebar cautioning that, I don’t know, the vinyl in tents and the smoke of firewood combine to produce a chemical that triples the chances of birth defects. Or that sleeping on the ground increases the fetus’s risk of scoliosis. Even I know that a sudden impact-say, a car crash on a Michigan backroad-can cause the placenta to separate from the uterus, leading to a miscarriage. This trip was a goner.

But after I wrote the previous line, Sarah came home from Costco with enough marshmallows, beans, beer, and hot dogs to feed Babe Ruth on a bender. The trip is on. My wife is a lousy secret-keeper, but she’s never been much of a worrier either.

The whole way to Michigan, Sarah talked pregnancy. Weight gain. Swelling breasts. Folic acid. Pack ‘n’ Plays. While hiking, she schooled us on the foods that she would be saying goodbye to, certain bacteria-laden cheeses like Brie and Roquefort, and such essential food groups as sushi, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. She ruined multiple meals around the campfire by describing toxoplasma gondii, a dangerous bacteria in raw fish that can blind a fetus. Then there was the two-hour deliberation on the merits of the Diaper Genie versus the Diaper Champ.

I listened because it seemed in my best interest to do so: her brain was a great warehouse of knowledge whose shelves she had already stocked. Tricia, a great devotee of All Things Baby, took it all in, too. A sweet, maternal woman from southwest Missouri, Tricia cries every time she has her period, because it’s another month she has to wait to get pregnant. But she and Jason don’t have babies and aren’t planning to any time soon, so by the second day of the trip, the nonstop babe-a-palooza became too much. Tricia expressed a desire for “real” conversations. Jason went for a lot of walks alone with the dog.

Sarah and I spent a lot of time in our tent, leafing through pregnancy books by flashlight, and whispering about morning sickness. “It’s caused by changing hormone levels,” she read aloud. “Either that or it’s the body’s way of protecting the fetus from toxins that lead to birth defects and miscarriage.”

“Why does it happen in the morning?”

She scanned the book. “I think it happens all day.”

“So why – ”

“I don’t know. Just because.”

One of her books said that the husband should put water and crackers next to the bed for his wife for when she wakes up in the middle of the night. I got her a huge bottle of water from the backpack, but we had no crackers. Beyond that, we had no bed.

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