After spending time with family in Michigan and Kentucky over the winter holidays, we flew to Southern California to soak up some sun and visit with family and friends.
We planned this trip with the theme of: make Julia want to live again.
Was it an immediate cure? No, but it did help.
I was about 18 weeks pregnant, going into my 5th month, and still nauseous constantly, but overall able to function. In this case, what I mean by “function” is able to drink water, eat small bites, and drive. I still wasn’t able to shower regularly so please excuse the condition of my hair in all pictures (really, please excuse my hair situation until March). Even though I was feeling better physically than I had been, I still didn’t feel well, or like any version of me that I had ever known. Emotionally, I felt numb. Physically, I was still very much in survival mode — able to drink water, but not able to trust that it wouldn’t come back up.
The days we spent traveling were rough, and we took everything really slowly. For example, when we landed at LAX, I had a vomiting episode and then had to sit for about an hour to gain the strength to leave the airport. When we did make it outside, the temperature was in the 50s and it was cloudy and humid, and it felt amazing for us after living in the freezing midwest.
Every leg of the trip felt like a victory, and we kept things tentative, knowing that we might have to completely change plans at the last minute if I couldn’t move. It sounds so dramatic now to write, but it’s truly how it was.
I didn’t have it in me to share publicly at the time, but I do want to share my experience now.
After a night in LA, we headed to Joshua Tree. We stopped at the Visitor Center, and then drove in a big loop through the park, stopping often to check out the view and scramble over rocks and admire the trees.
For sunset we brought a little picnic dinner and headed to Keys View, a crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains overlooking Coachella Valley.
There were about a hundred other people up there with us, and it felt comforting to send out 2017 with them.
After watching the sunset, we picked up some food for Matt and Yanzi, and then pulled into McDonald’s at exactly 8pm BECAUSE YES I thought of all the things I might be able to eat this life-time vegetarian NEEDED A CHEESEBURGER from McDonald’s. AND THEY CLOSED AT EXACTLY 8PM… so we drove away without a cheeseburger. =(
Sigh… so we headed back to our room (booked super last minute and one of the only rooms still available).
Matt and Yanzi had wanted to camp and sleep out under the stars to ring in 2018. So for the weeks leading up to the trip, we went back and forth on whether we could make it work — in terms of gear and my health. But as the trip grew closer, I knew I didn’t want to sleep outside on the ground with temperatures in the 30s.
That’s been one of the difficult things for me with this pregnancy. It’s been impossible to predict how I will feel in the future, and for all of my first trimester, everyone (and I do mean almost everyone) told me I would feel better soon. Maybe starting around week 12, but definitely by week 14. And when week 14 came… then, then by week 18… and then week 20…. you get the picture.
(Spoiler alert: it wasn’t until week 28 that I felt okay for a full 12 hours of the day).
SO! At the last minute we booked ourselves a room. And our place had an outdoor hot tub!!
Yes, pregnant women are supposed to stay out of hot tubs (raising your core body temperature is really bad for baby’s development), and yes, showering had triggered vomiting episodes for the last few months, so immersing myself in a warm body of water was daunting, to say the least.
But it was New Year’s Eve and we were in the desert under the stars – how could I not for a few minutes?? And if I felt sick, well, I was about to take my medicine anyway and it would make me sleep regardless of any heat induced nausea.
We looked up the American College of Gynecology’s recommendation for limiting time in hot tubs (less than 10 minutes), and we set the timer for 5 minutes, and climbed in. When the timer went off, Matt and Yanzi made me get out into the freezing air, and I insisted they stay, and I headed inside.
When I got back to the room, I stood in front of the mirror and looked at my naked body. I weighed less than I had in 15 years, but there was a slight curve to my belly and my boobs were already huge.
And I had just done something I didn’t want to do – get out of the hot tub – for this creature that had been trying to kill me for the last few months.
And I felt something – emotionally, I mean – towards the creature. I felt protective and proud. I felt like a mom.
The next morning we woke up before sunrise to see the stars.
That night happened to have a full moon, and the moon didn’t set until the sun started rising, so unfortunately it was less than ideal for stargazing, but we did see a beautiful sunrise!
I slept in the car while Matt and Yanzi explored Cholla Cactus Garden.
And afterwards we grabbed breakfast.
I almost cried biting into the gluten-free, vegan muffin pictured below.
It was January 1st, a new year, and one of my first bites of food (besides cereal, toast, potato chips, ice cream, and clementines) in forever.
I also had a smoothie that day, and it didn’t come back up.
We spent the day driving around Joshua Tree a bit more, and stopped in Palm Springs on our way back to LA.
This post was originally posted April 20th, 2018, but I am putting the publish date as January 2018 to keep things in order for my future self.3