Portrait of a Not-So-Perfect Pregnancy: Part One

04/16/2013 02:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013

My sister was the ideal pregnant woman. Twice. She planned her pregnancies, entered into them in the healthiest way possible, relished being with child, had no problem gaining weight, ate whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted (and it stayed down!), and breezed through it all with a patience and positivity that is now reflective of her parenting style.

I've had a slightly different experience. (Please note, it's slightly TMI and I apologize in advance.)

Mine's gone a little something like this...

While on a relaxing and over-indulgent trip to Lake Como, Italy, let's just say "things happened" and I woke in the middle of the night after the happening knowing two things. One, I had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and two, I felt certain I was pregnant (more on that later). At the time, you couldn't have convinced me which was worse.

My husband and I frantically called down to the front desk to be told in very broken English -- neither of us speak much Italian -- that there was an all-night clinic on the other side of town. So off we went in a taxi to the clinic in sketchy town where we paid our cabbie to wait for us (The last thing we needed was to be stranded at 3 a.m. in the middle of nowhere, not speaking the language with a raging infection inside of me and my unborn baby). We struggled once more to communicate with the poor doctor on call.

She didn't speak a lick of English, and my spotty Italian wasn't getting us anywhere. In a last ditch, frantic effort, I asked if there was any chance she spoke Spanish. She did! Did I? Well, I did. Once upon a time. In high school and college, but it had been years, and I was rusty at best. You'd be amazed what the mind is capable of when in dire situations. Suddenly, I was rattling off words I didn't even know I knew. It wasn't so much medical or technical terms, more like "pain" and "down there," but she got the gist. I hadn't been that proud of myself and my language skills since I was 25, drunk and trying to impress guys. (C'mon, we've all been there. There's something about being intoxicated that makes you want to speak a foreign language.) I managed to convey what was going on and obtain a prescription for antibiotics to clear up the infection.

Next stop? The only all-night pharmacy to pick up said meds. Thankfully, the cabbie was still there. He drove us up to a little slat in the side of a graffitied brick wall and I rung the buzzer. Within moments, a set of eyes were peering back at me. This time, I chose to stay silent and let my piece of paper do the talking. Soon enough, I was paying for my pills and on my way to relief.

But first, I had to go back, pack and take a five-hour train ride to our next destination: The Amalfi Coast, a beautiful, scenic trip if you're not burning below and having the constant urge to use a public, tiny, mobile, lurching bathroom. Within a day, I was feeling like myself again. Except different.

Inside, I knew I was pregnant. I didn't feel physically changed, but mentally, it had all shifted. My husband thought I was crazy, but I was convinced. Did that stop me from drinking wine every night and eating questionable cheese? No. I was in Italy! Can you blame me? (If you can, please don't comment below.) And, really what were the chances I was pregnant? We weren't trying, (TMI alert again!) and every story I'd ever heard was how difficult it was to conceive. How couples had actively tried for months, years even, while using calendars, charts and medical intervention to help it happen. I'd never had a pregnancy scare in my life. And, once I went off the pill after ten years, I had been diligent, much to his dismay, about using condoms. Except, of course, this time.

I tried to put my irrational thoughts out of my head and enjoy the rest of our trip. But during moments like when I was walking through Capri up a ton of stairs in 95-degree heat, I knew. A fairly fit person, I was finding it much harder to climb than I should have. On a boat to the Blue Grotto, I started feeling queasy. Now, I practically grew up on the water, spending most weekends on my grandparents' boats and never ever got the slightest bit seasick.

Back home in CA, I raced to the drug store. Those two minutes were agony. And when the negative sign appeared, I was met with a mixture of elation, confusion and sadness. My husband was smirking with his "I told you so" expression as he gave me a consolatory/celebratory hug.

With just a few weeks until I started a new job, I fulfilled all the obligatory rituals: running errands, spending time with friends and seeing every doctor for my annual check-ups. While at the dermatologist, she convinced me to get a chemical peel for the hyper-pigmentation I had accumulated over the years from being a fair-skinned sun lover.

The next morning, I awoke to an inferno on my face. I darted to the bathroom mirror to see Sloth from The Goonies staring back at me. I shrieked. My husband came running in and the look on his face confirmed it. I was a freak.

My face was so swollen and inflamed that I was unrecognizable. The doctor said there would be some redness, but this was molten lava. I immediately called her on the phone and shared my saga, to which she replied it was normal what I was going through, feeling and looking like. I said nothing about this was normal and demanded she see me. I was in her office thirty minutes later. Her staff could not stop staring at me as I waited for her.

She walked into the room and her mouth dropped open. "Oh, you weren't kidding!" I wanted to kill her. Yeah, this was my idea of a funny joke, how I got my giggles these days. She proceeded to spend the next thirty minutes consulting books and others as to what to do. Really reassuring. I promise this woman is board-certified, works in a posh area of LA on high-profile clients and came strongly recommended. I wasn't seeing some quack in Compton, although I might as well have!

Next, she brought out the big guns: steroid creams, antibiotics, pain relievers, gel-infused packs, hydration machines... I even had a few sessions in a hyperbaric chamber à la Michael Jackson.

After a few days of being on such a strenuous cycle of healing, I started to look a bit better, but I felt worse than ever. I had terrible cramping, as if my period would come at any minute, but it never did; my breasts were sore and I was unbelievably tired. I convinced myself it was due to being abroad, having a different routine and schedule, being on a ton of meds... all of it surely wreaked havoc on my health. Then I started having intense pressure in my lower abdomen. In all of my years of being on this planet and a woman, I had never felt this sensation before.

I knew what I had to do. There was one remaining test in the pack of two I'd purchased and it needed to be used.

This time, the sign came within seconds.

This time, it was positive.

To be continued...