Pregnant in the Time of Zika
By: Kayt Molina | Date: September 27 2016
Pregnancy is… interesting. My belly button is slowly disappearing like part of a Vegas magic act. “Now you see it, now you don’t.” And please, strangers, stop touching my bump. In a mere ten minutes, I will have to pee five times. Little limbs are bubbling around under my skin like a scene from Alien, much to the amusement of my husband. I am surprised every time I try to squeeze between the grocery cart and the checkout stand and get stuck, even though I have tried and failed at least six times before during previous grocery trips.
Thank God we don’t have cable because, if a 5 second video clip on Facebook can make me cry, just imagine what cable commercials would do to my emotional health. Also, everyone is suddenly concerned about me. Some people may love the attention but, when I hear, “How are you feeling?” so often, I worry something might really be wrong with me. I look at them, thinking, “What do you know that you aren’t telling me?” Does everyone just assume I will be a sickly invalid because I am pregnant? Or are they just genuinely that desperate to start a conversation with me?
I mean, I know I look pretty cool in my dazzling hand-me-down pregnancy jeans with fake pockets. They must really admire me when I tug up my belly panel in the middle of a conversation, making an ugly grimace. Or maybe it’s the totally modern statement I am making by not caring to do my hair or makeup. And shaving? I mean, it is hard to reach but it is much cooler to just say I am part of an emerging social movement. And, yes, it is cute how I turned this shirt that fit me a week ago into a really sweet crop top. Tres chic. I’m at the forefront of making real change. Look, I’m already knocked up, I’m not trying to impress anyone.
I also worry about everything. Every. Thing. Watching my daughter sit on the balcony during our vacation, caused such anxiety that I had to ask my mother to watch her. Even the Florida Keys Tourist Guide could not stop me from having such vivid images of her slipping through the two inch railing, that I felt physically ill. When I was pregnant with her, I had a fear that she would be ugly. I was equal parts haunted and embarrassed by this fear. I was too ashamed to talk openly about it for fear of judgement so it only grew— a horrible Catch 22.
This may come as a surprise, given the evidence above, but I am not naturally a “worrier.” Even while pregnant, I am generally optimistic and laid back. However, compared to my non-preggo self, I am a total nervous wreck. I worry about worrying too much then worry that I am worrying too much about worrying. Yes, it gets ridiculous. To top it all off, I live in Miami, which means I not only worry about zombie attacks and sinkholes, but I also get to worry about Zika. What joy!
There have been 33 non-travel related cases in Florida as of August 17th. And sorry, Texas, we also passed on the virus to one of your residents when he visited Miami and he brought it home. When Zika was first mentioned, there was a lot of misinformation. Everyone flooded my phone with links to articles and many of the “experts” contradicted one another. I saw numerous Facebook posts that insisted that Zika was related to the spraying of chemical pesticides. Although that has since been generally debunked, I still see these circulating weekly. I am not a medical expert but, I did spend a considerable amount of time scouring the internet for facts. None of which offered much comfort.
I shifted uncomfortably on the ultrasound bed, the thin medical paper crinkling underneath my every movement. The technician pushes the transducer (Yes, I had to look up what ‘that thing’ was called.) onto my warm-jelly-covered belly. I crane my neck to get a good look at the baby and watch carefully as she measures his head. The measurement calculates that his head size is a week larger than his actual gestational age. I breathe a sigh of relief, followed by a pang of guilt. What would my feelings be if I had seen otherwise?
For those who do not know, one of the main concerns with Zika is that it is linked to microcephaly. Babies with microcephaly have smaller than normal heads due to improper brain development. Side effects are many and vary in severity.
“Microcephaly may be associated with developmental delays, mental retardation, and seizures, and in some cases can be fatal.” — via Parents.com
This diagnosis is a devastating blow for parents. Christine Grounds and her husband, John Mir, discuss their son who has microcephaly in an extremely candid interview. “Life with Nicholas… encompasses love and pain, pride and regret, cherished bedtime snuggles, and horrible moments when he bites and hits, unable to control his temper.” A Kansas mother, who has two daughters with the condition, says, “There’s some days where, if I didn’t laugh, I’d be crying. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and not a lot in between.”
Though none of these cases were caused by Zika, these families’ provide honest insight into their lives and I am moved by their openness. More than 4 thousand babies have been born with microcephaly in Brazil alone. With the Rio Olympics underway, many medical experts are weighing in on the future spread of Zika. The virus can be present in male semen up to 3 months after the initial infection and can be spread through any kind of sex. I think about my friends who had plans to get pregnant this year and wonder how many dreams will be put on hold.
We sit, wide eyed, watching as a fly zooms into the electronic bug zapper my husband insisted on buying. Pop! Sparks shoot out as the fly falls to the floor. Despite his best efforts, I convince him that the fly-murdering eyesore would look much nicer in his office. I haven’t seen a mosquito in months yet, my husband douses me with insect repellent before I walk outside. I act annoyed but I am actually flattered by his love and concern. A Florida mother of two children with microcephaly says her children are “God’s greatest gift” and I am sure, no matter what, I will feel the same about my son. Daily life goes on. I try not to worry and, instead, focus on the beauty and joy this season of life has to offer. I let my daughter use my belly as a table for her bowl of Goldfish. I cry watching a Dove commercial. I eat a pickle at 3am. Another day — pregnant in the time of Zika.
About the Author
Kayt Molina currently lives in Miami, Florida with her husband, two children (one still in utero), and their loyal dog, Salinger. She is a voracious reader, former preschool teacher, and cooking show addict. See more of her work at: www.kaytmolina.com