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December 22, 2003

Watermelon - And Chop Suey!

When your toddler figures something out all by herself, you either have a true prodigy on your hands or else the something she's figured out is becoming quite obvious. As much as any parent would love to think it's the former, in this case I believe that it's the latter (mostly). While she was using her potty about a week ago - quite successfully, I might add - she looked up at her mother who was standing over her, looked at her belly, and asked, "Baby in there, Mommy?" That means that my wife's pregnancy was becoming evident at a fairly early 8 weeks. When your chatty toddler knows that you're pregnant, and all signs point to a healthy pregnancy, there's little point in trying to keep a secret. Thus, we've started telling all our friends that we are on the way to becoming parents yet again.

Thankfully, this pregnancy is turning out to be a healthy and normal one so far, allowing us to be hopeful that it won't be a repeat of last time Bloodwork has shown that the key pregnancy hormones are increasing at a normal rate. An early ultrasound confirmed not only the presence of a fetus, but showed a heartbeat as well. Jeans have stopped fitting, both toddler and mommy are taking afternoon naps, morning sickness (now called NVP - Nausea and Vomiting due to Pregnancy) has descended with authority, and right on cue, the cravings have started. We're definitely pregnant.

With blood volume increasing by 50%, organs shifting to make room for the uterus, and hormones going pretty much berserk, pregnancy is no easy deal for a mother-to-be-again. Throw on top of it all-powerful all-day morning sickness and you've got one pooped woman. Last week we had just finished dinner, and my wife put her head down on the table to rest for a second. Well, instead of just resting she actually fell asleep on the table for about 20 minutes. As we keep telling our daughter, "It's hard work growing a baby." When nausea is a constant companion it can make eating enough - and enough of the right stuff - a difficult task. I believe that this is precisely why God invented cravings.

I've had cravings before, but never to the extent that I've seen in my wife when she's pregnant. When pregnant with our daughter, she went through a two or three week period in which she absolutely had to have poutine. That in and of itself isn't too bizarre until you realize that previously the idea of poutine actually repulsed her. However, the pregnancy hormones won out, and she was happily snacking on poutine a couple of times a week. There was also the canned fruit salad craving, which I captured on film by showing her eating directly out of a huge Tupperware of assorted fruits in light syrup. There wasn't any real pickles-and-ice-cream kind of weird craving that I remember, but there has already been one strange one come up.

Even with such a small sample set to work with, I've come to know my wife's cravings cycle fairly well. This doesn't mean I know what she's going to crave and when, it simply means I recognize when a certain item is a craving that needs to be met. Half the time it's a slow build-up to the need to satisfy a hankering for a specific food. These kinds of cravings are fine, as we can easily fit them into our regular schedule. However, the majority of her cravings come about quite suddenly, requiring satisfaction soon-ish. She can usually hold off for up to 24 hours, but I try to fulfill each craving as soon as reasonably convenient. Thankfully, I have never been sent out in the middle of the night in a storm. Yet.

The oddest craving she's ever had thus far (and that I've had to satisfy) occurred a couple of weeks ago, late one Tuesday night. Our daughter had just recently started watching our copy of the animated Disney classic Lady and the Tramp. At one point in this movie, the pregnant wife sends her dear husband out in the middle of the stormy night for "watermelon - and chop suey!" When my wife asked out loud what she felt like eating (sometimes she just doesn't know) I jokingly suggested watermelon and chop suey. She agreed that the watermelon sounded good, but didn't know what else she wanted. Then suddenly, she said, "Sushi." This caught both of us off guard, and she tried to convince herself that she didn't really want sushi. Knowing better, I told her that she did, and as I had to do a quick trip to the grocery store that night anyways, I'd pick up some sushi and watermelon for her. Well, I came back at 9:30 with watermelon and 8 California rolls, the latter of which she eagerly devoured right then and there. All I can say is, "Weird."

I have a personal theory about the source of cravings: A pregnant woman's body becomes so well attuned to the needs of both the developing baby and the changing bodily needs of the mother that the subconscious can correlate what something tastes like to its nutritional content. Perhaps my wife simply needed an infusion of protein, a boost of energy from fat, and some extra salt for electrolytes when she craved Kentucky Fried Chicken. Maybe the watermelon provided both a source of water and sucrose, and the sushi's rice and avocado had nutrients that were necessary that night. It would be an interesting study, but I honestly don't know how one would go about studying such a topic. I'll leave it as an exercise to biologists, nutritionists, and fetal development experts to figure out.

As much as I would love to end this off with timeless and sage advice for other people with pregnant partners, I really can't in any specific manner. While I now know my wife's cravings structure, another woman's cravings may be (and likely are) totally different. Watch and learn - that's all you can do. Two general tidbits that may serve you well are: 1) Don't ignore her cravings, and 2) if she's craving something, don't go to Costco and buy a crate of it - she may well be sick of it a day later. Trust me. Other than that, good luck, to all of us!