Wretch (#218)

My mother loved being pregnant. When I was 10 and she was pregnant with Baby Brother, she gave up alcohol and cigarettes without complaint. Same thing when I was 11 and she had Baby Singing Sister. She rarely threw up and was always cheerful.

My older sister, the Judgmental Genius Doctor, had miserable pregnancies. Her nausea was so bad she wore ice packs while operating. She gained 75 pounds because only Dove ice-cream bars were appealing and food had a fifty-fifty chance of preventing her from puking. Once the nausea ended, her cervix became problematic. She spent months on bed rest to avoid an early delivery.

When I told Dr. Sis I was pregnant, she immediately asked how I was feeling.

“Good,” I told her. “I mean, a little cramping where my innards are rearranging themselves, but I don’t feel sick at all.”

“How many weeks are you?”

“No more than five.”

“Hahahaha, enjoy not feeling like shit while you can,” she advised me. “Which will be one more week.”

“You don’t know that,” I argued. “Mom felt great during her pregnancies. Dad’s mom was the one who was sick and miserable when she was pregnant.” Gram had been so sick with her third pregnancy that she’d had an abortion – in the 1950s. Gram only managed this because her father was a doctor with connections. I only learned about this then illegal procedure when I spent the summer with my grandparents and experienced A Summer Night of Too Many Martinis.

“You’re gonna be sick, too,” Dr. Sister predicted. “It’s in the genes.”

“Not necessarily,” I countered. “You’re tiny and built like our little Welsh Grandma. Of course you take after her. But I’m built like Mom, from strapping Germanic peasant stock. I’ll be one of those women who finish threshing a row of wheat, push out a kid, and finish the next row.”

“You can tell yourself that all you want. Don’t you remember high school?” Dr. Sis asked.

“Are you talking about the genetics part of Biology? Of course I don’t remember that. Or Geometry. Never used them again, they were completely useless–”

“I’m not talking about Geometry,” Dr. Sis interrupted. “I’m talking about you. Every morning…” She made a retching noise.

“Oh,” I said, remembering. “Shit.”


I’ve been a night owl since infancy. I was the kid that always snuck out of bed, unable to sleep. Then I’d overhear my parents fighting and have to sneak back into bed. Once I hit adolescence, I rarely slept before midnight.

Our high school started at 7:30 AM. It took almost an hour to get there, either by school bus or driving, thanks to northern Virginia traffic. To manage staggered morning showers with low water pressure, 6 siblings, and 2 working parents, I had to get up at 5:30 AM.

Almost every school day, I either threw up or felt like throwing up until at least 8 AM. Sometimes I threw up waiting for the bus. Sometimes my sister, or friend, or boyfriend had to pull over so I could vomit. I had multiple winter scarves; they were for face-wiping, not fashion. The good news was that on the mornings I did throw up, I only did it once. After that, while I didn’t feel great, I didn’t feel queasy.

The fall of my freshman year, I begged to stay home. My father had no sympathy. “You always feel like crap,” he told me. “Unless you have a fever, you’re going to school.”

So I perfected the art of predicting actual heaves, as opposed to just feeling like I might puke. I learned to immediately assess every venue and vehicle for places I could get to quickly and heave with minimal clean up. Bushes, for example.

I also learned how to chew gum without teachers noticing.

During a particularly nasty morning episode in the kitchen sink as a senior, I heard Dad grouse to my stepmother, “I don’t understand this. I mean, she can’t be pregnant. Not for four years!”

Once I got to college, where the earliest I ever got up was 7:15 AM, my nausea disappeared. Research appeared, showing that adolescents need more sleep, and they need to sleep as late as possible, thanks to the biology of puberty. My body decided that puking was the best way of  punishing me coping with sleep deprivation.

Northern Virginia high schools now start at 8:10 AM — or later. (Thanks for nothing, fuckers.) Like many high school districts, they’ve learned that later classes mean higher test scores and better grades.

And possibly schools that smell less like puke.


“All that high school heaving means it’s your body’s go-to response for biological stress. And pregnancy is NOTHING but physical stressors,” Dr. Sis said.

“You don’t have to sound so damned gleeful,” I muttered.

“I am not being gleeful. I’m just preparing you for the fact that you’re gonna start puking soon. Just like I did. Get ready.”

“No way. I already spent 4 years puking, that’s enough! I did way more vomit time than you. You only had six months, you poseur!”

The conversation deteriorated after that.

But my appetite did not. I passed the 6 week mark.

“Ha!” I gloated to Andy between bites of an In-n-Out burger. “Six weeks and I still feel great! I was right and I got the good pregnancy genes!”

My high lasted 12 hours. I woke up queasy the next day. I ate little oatmeal. It didn’t help.

I gagged brushing my teeth.

When I walked the dogs, I threw up in a neighbor’s yard.

“Goddamn it,” I said to the dogs. Sitting nicely, they cocked their heads at me as I dabbed my mouth with the precautionary wipe I’d stuck in Fey’s pack. “Dr. Sis was right. And now I’m gonna feel like shit for the next three months.”

I tried to look on the bright side. I hadn’t puked on my shoes. I’d at least avoided puking in the yards of my close neighbors. In fact, I’d made it to the yard of the jerk who shot raccoons (and ate them, but that’s another post, this one has enough nausea in it already). The vomit had missed my shoes and landed in a nice, concealing bush.

The dogs needed a walk. We forged ahead. I ignored the nausea when it returned, but I was ready with one of the dog’s plastic bags when I did have to heave again.

I used five bags on that walk. Only two of them were for dog poop. But we made it several miles that day, and almost every other day of my first trimester.

Various girlfriends and family members told me to stop being masochistic and make my husband walk the dogs. Sometimes I did. But mostly I kept trudging along.

I may never have used Geometry or Chemistry again, but at least there was one high school skill that proved useful later in life:

How to keep functioning while puking.


Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

27 thoughts on “Wretch (#218)”

  1. I hate throwing up. The gagging and acid burn followed by disgusting partially digested food. (At least that’s how my cats describe it.) I rarely do. I’ve never been pregnant. I have mastered the art of cleaning up cat barf without barfing. I consider that a huge skill worthy of being on a resume except that someone may actually ask me to do it for them.

  2. Puking and that feeling of throwing up is horrid, and you know it’s something you can barely control. Didn’t know it can be the body’s coping mechanism towards early mornings. Sometimes I wake up in the mornings wanting to throw up – sometimes that’s due to having an overly acidic stomach, sometimes it really is due to a bad night’s sleep. Either way, yuck.

    I wonder what happens next.

    1. Here’s a spoiler — there was more throwing up. SO. MUCH. 🙂

      Yeah, it might be sleep deprivation for you, too. Though if your Asian stomach is anything like Andy’s, it must be made of cast iron. He’s never properly sympathetic to stomach ailments.

      1. The spoiler does not give an indication of the outcome. But the ride is going to be so fun 🙂

        My stomach is definitely not iron-like. It’s very weak…no chilli and acidic foods as they cause stomach ulcers. I think in many Asian families, there’s little sympathy towards stomach issues.

  3. So unplesant. My experience has been mostly bone deep exhaustion but the nausea is there too. Really want to know more about raccoon neighbor though. He ate them!?

  4. I’m sorry to read you had a not so smooth pregnancy. Don’t hate me, but I haven’t puked even once. No nausea either. According to statistics I’m part of the lucky 25%. I also don’t have mood swings, heartburn or pretty much anything my book says. I wonder if I am really pregnant, hahaha.
    I did have cold sores and athlete’s foot at the beginning (and it sucked not being able to use my usual drugs, I had to do with garlic for the cold sores and vinegar for the athlete’s foot and I found out those home remedies work, although slower than drugs for sure). Now I am having lower back pain and when I walk Nico I get tired more easily than before.

  5. What an unpleasant thing to put up with. I’m glad you figured out how to cope with it. I have one son-in-law who has a delicate stomach and a tendency to vomit when he’s sick. I guess all our bodies have their own particular weaknesses/coping mechanisms. Vomiting isn’t one of mine. I can’t remember the last time I puked. Maybe when I was a child.

  6. Wow you’re making pregnancy and children sound better and better with each post, haha.

    I did not know about sleep deprivation and throwing up–that’s fascinating! I was pretty sleep deprived night-owl myself in high school and in my early 20s (in Niigata I’d only sleep 4 hours per night), but no puke! Maybe I got the Asian stomach genes like Andy?

    So… do you puke through the whole pregnancy? Is that normal? I heard it’s only the first trimester right? (Or is it a surprise for your next post?!)

    1. I am clearly on a one-woman crusade to curb childbirth, right? Only Marta keeps showing up and telling everyone how easy it is. 🙂

      Yes, Andy you belong among the iron-stomached Asians. 🙂 With Marta.

      Can you imagine sleeping only 4 hours a night now?

    2. I am clearly on a one-woman crusade to curb childbirth, right? Only Marta keeps showing up and telling everyone how easy it is. 🙂

      Yes, Andy you belong among the iron-stomached Asians. 🙂 With Marta.

      Can you imagine sleeping only 4 hours a night now?

  7. Oye you will hate me but my pregnancy involved nausea and no throwing up, although my boobs really hurt. I did suffer from headaches though and had to take acemitophen instead of Advil pill. I also was sensitive to smells and craved sour foods like green grapes or pineapple even.

    But I guess one can say I paid the price of having an easy pregnancy by having gallbladder surgery and then going through a nightmare with the baby donor…

    1. Also forgot to mention the issues I had with low iron levels and that at one point there was a thought that the baby might have had IUGR ( intra uterine growth restriction)

      1. Maybe my misery will arrive in the final months xD Or maybe my baby will be a screaming monster and I will not be able to sleep in 10 years… let’s see xD

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