In Sarah’s pregnancy books, there’s a lot of space dedicated to the importance of flowers. Flora seems to represent life, growth, and beauty, and a Devoted Hubby is expected to have FTD on speed dial for nine months.
I have always bought my wife a lot of flowers, and not just when I screw up. Problem is, my taste in flowers sucks. Carnations, it turns out, are as romantic as nose hair. But every time I brought them home, she smiled and kissed me, because at least I was trying. “That was so sweet of you,” she’d say in a syrupy voice that sounded familiar because it was the same one she used when a family member sent a really awful sweater.
Every year, I send Sarah a bouquet on the first day of school, and this year was no different. (It was something pathetic with forget-me-nots or peonies or ham hocks or something.) This time, though, she was touched to the point of tears, a reaction that dumbfounded me because my past flower purchases rated the equivalent of a nice pat on the head. Maybe the books were right: The flowers were the same as always; it was the woman who had changed.
Now I keep this list on my bulletin board at work:
Yes: roses, hydrangeas, tulips, lillies, daisies, daffodils
No: geraniums, zinnias, ferns, mums, baby’s breath
Just don’t: carnations
I don’t think it has anything to do with flowers, but her puking lately has been different. It doesn’t have the wearied ring of a Pregnancy Puke. Nor is it marked by the desperate gag of Alcohol Puke or the debilitating heave of Food Poisoning Puke. The other night when she ralphed into a garbage can next to our bed, we knew it was something else: the flu.
A pregnant woman, so I’ve read, can come down with all kinds of weird maladies. Her immune system is pathetic, in order to keep her body from rejecting the fetus, which leaves her open to respiratory infections, colds, and other fun stuff. I googled “pregnant flu” and didn’t like what I saw. Recent studies by the American Psychiatric Association have shown that children born to women who have flu during pregnancy may be at increased risk of schizophrenia later in life. Schizophrenia?
I ditched work the next day to take care of Sarah. She was immobilized, and I was petrified. We’ve spent months obsessing over every little thing that goes into her body, and now a nasty virus was ravaging her insides from head to toe? Not a great environment for a fetus. When we called Dr. Harth, she sounded vaguely alarmed, but calmly said to call her back if Sarah’s temperature got up to 102. It was 101 at the time.
That was as high as it got. After that phone call, something in her body clicked, and she started to feel better. When I woke up this morning, she was gone. No note, no nothing. She had gone back to work, and that was that.
Today, still dazed by the whole thing, I ran into my colleague Laura, who was also pregnant, just a few weeks ahead of Sarah. I told her about Sarah’s rough stretch, but it turns out that Laura’d had an even worse couple of days: On Tuesday, she’d had a root canal; on Wednesday, a kidney stone. Yikes.
When I told Sarah about Laura’s string of bad luck, I figured she would thank her lucky stars that she’d only had mild case of the flu when it could have been so much—
“My back is killing me,” Sarah interrupted, and disappeared, presumably to lie down in a quiet room. The lesson was clear: a pregnant woman isn’t remotely interested in another pregnant woman’s unpleasant weekend. She’s got problems of her own.