Pass The Smelling Salts

February 27, 2008

The thing about pregnancy? It is comparative, as a physical and emotional experience, to being drunk, 24-7. But it veers, sometimes dramatically, between different varieties of drunk: the kind of drunk that is just barely-buzzed-but-a-little-off-kilter drunk, the full-on-happy-buzz drunk, the ever-amusing wobbly-and-weepy-drunk, the inevitable crouched-over-the-toilet drunk, and – in its worst incarnations – the collapsed-on-the-floor-while-world-spins drunk.

I had thought that I was well past the floor-kissing-spinny drunks, but apparently not. For the past week I have been having bad dizzy spells of increasing intensity, which culminated yesterday in multiple spells which ended with me crumpling to the floor, unable to get up. Which, when reported to doctor, resulted in the always encouraging immediate summons to hospital.

I’m fine, sort of. I am, apparently, pretty seriously anemic – and that’s even while being on iron supplements – and have very low blood pressure (low enough that they didn’t want to do blood tests, which is good, but also bad, because I have to go back and do them anyway when I’m not all faint-y), but the baby’s fine, which is, to my mind, all that matters. That said, it seems to me that maybe this baby is just a little bit, you know, too strong. Iron-sucking-strong.

My diet’s okay. I’m not big on the meats – hence the supplements – so it’s a bit heavy on the carbs and the dairy and the chocolate, but it’s really pretty decent, especially compared to the starved-out-wasteland of barfiness that was my first trimester. So how is it that I’ve become this pale, wan limp life-form, prone to buckling at the knees and slumping to the floor? (This would all be so much more compelling if I looked like Keira Knightley and wore filmy, lacy nightgowns and had a raspberry-velvet chaise-longue to fall upon backwards in a graceful faint. Sadly, I look nothing like Miss Knightley and do not own a chaise-longue and am much more likely to be wearing milk-stained yoga pants than filmy Victorian nighties as I crumple inelegantly to the floor, so. My spells are not so aesthetically compelling as they could be, I suppose.)

Assuming that I don’t have some sort of malignant brain tumor (*knocks wood furiously*), it must be that this alien life-form, this adorable-but-nonetheless-parasitic superbeing, is sucking every nutrient from my body and turning these to his own nefarious supergrowth purposes. I mean, I can feel him in there. He does not rest, he does not stop moving (that this is fully reminiscent of Wonderbaby’s fetal tenure is both wonderful and entirely disconcerting) and I’m guessing that all of those fetal gymnastics and marathon kick-sessions require high-level doses of mommy-juice. Sumo-level doses, that are sucking me dry.

How long this can continue before I waste away to a pale, bulbous shell, a dessicated old tulip petal, fallen and forgotten on the floor, of no use to anyone but the adorable little life-sucking vampiro-fetus growing inside me? Not that I wouldn’t give my life to him many times over, but still. I’d much rather remain conscious and upright, the better to enjoy the little WonderSprout and his equally energy-draining sister.

So what do I do? Embark upon an all-steak diet? Hunt down some iron-fortified chocolate and binge? Or maybe just invest in some Victorian nightgowns, a chaise-longue and a bucket of smelling salts?

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    Hot Librarian February 27, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Chaise lounge. You definitely need one of those. With a side of steak. Perhaps steak with chocolate sauce.

    Cursing Mama February 27, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I believe you can be assured you are carrying a meat eater. I would start saving for those trips to the butcher shop right now – college will be cheaper ;)

    Anonymous February 27, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Hey there,
    I’m also preggers with #2, although I’m on the other end, working to keep BP lower as it’s on the high end of normal…. anyway – hang in there and start doing all your cooking in a seasoned cast iron skillet. It adds iron to everything, especially if it is an acidic sauce like tomato sauce… Cooking with an iron skillet normally means no more iron supplements…. but keep taking them as the leech, I mean adorable baby will keep consuming! Good Luck! ~Wystful

    Mrs. Chicken February 27, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I’m with you on the no-meat thing. Ever since I found out I was pregnant this time around, meat makes me want to pass out. I think you can get iron-fortified juice and cereals these days.

    Hope your dizziness ends soon!

    Syko February 27, 2008 at 10:30 am

    There are also quite a few veggies that have iron. Can you face broccoli?

    I went through that fainting thing in all three pregnancies, toward the end of the first trimester. Lucky for me, it passed. But just a month ago I fainted at the bus terminal! I’m certainly not pregnant, since I’m 65 (if I am, I’m going to be very famous!) but OMG what a terrible feeling! To be walking along on my way to work, and suddenly finding myself face down on a dirty sidewalk with my face hurting like hell because apparently I have smashed it into the concrete. (It was almost worth it for the dramatic black eyes, though). But my heart is going out to you for the fainting, SO hard to lose control. I hope they figure it out and fix it soon!

    verybadcat February 27, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Spinach. :)

    Kelly February 27, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Spinach did wonders for me with #1′s iron-sucking powars. #2 was even more of a succubus which, in hindsight, is good since he’s a *strapping* boy (not fat at all but very large) and has trampled milestones like nobody’s business (he was walking, well, at 9.5m).

    I wish you higher iron and bp and patience for the active little boy who’s on his way.

    Binkytown February 27, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Oh honey! Eat more! When will you ever get the chance to have someone actually encouraging that again? (Unless you plan on getting knocked up again that is..) If I were you (and I kind of am) I would (do) strap on that feed bucket and chow some cheese burgers. Hope that resolves soon..

    Heather February 27, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I make this wonderful cheese ravioli with spinach alfredo sauce…maybe you could try that for the iron in the spinach…

    Those boys are good growers aren’t they?

    Anonymous February 27, 2008 at 11:31 am

    catherine i would go for the chaise lounge some wonderful smelling salts and TONS of iron infused chocolate….LAVANDULA

    Niksmom February 27, 2008 at 11:47 am

    If you can tolerate it, try some osrt of protein shake/fruit smoothie. The protein will help slow the burn rate of all the carbs which willhelp you metabolize and retain more iron and other nutrients. ALL of which should be done on a velvet covered chaise-longue with a box of delectable chocolates on hand. Filmy lingerie optional. ;-)

    Trillian February 27, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Speaking as someone who has been anemic her entire life, I would second the spinach and add that raisins are your best friend. Just carry small boxes of them everywhere you go and eat them pretty much non-stop. They are actually good with the spinach too. Also, onions are a good source of iron but may bee too pungent for you at the moment if you are still having morning sickness. Also, eat meat, the rarer the better, if you can handle that. I actually crave rare meat when I am particularly low on iron.

    Maman February 27, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Please, please, pretty please eat some meat… it contains iron in its most digestible form as it has already been digested. The spinach and kale are great options, but it is harder to unlock the iron from.

    The fainting spells are you body talking to you… please answer it!

    Mouse February 27, 2008 at 11:54 am

    To piggy-back on Trillian’s comment:

    You could put together the spinach, onions, and raisins. I usually make this with garlic, but sauteed onions would work too. Just brown the onions in a skillet, wilt the spinach on top and add raisins. For a more complex (and yummy) taste, throw in apple chunks and pine nuts too.

    Then follow up with chocolate!

    Table for Five February 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I recommend dark chocolate with raisins, for the iron of course (the Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar is particularly delicious), eaten while watching “Pride and Prejudice” in your filmy nightie and laying on your chaise lounge. Perfect!

    motherbumper February 27, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Raisins, spinach, and broccoli theme in the comments is dead on – just eat ‘em up and keep yourself armed with excuses for the farting (it was Wonderbaby, I swear!).

    For the spinach (which I was never a fan) I made a salad that I actually crave now: Renee’s Sweet Onion poppy seed dressing, red onion, spinach, mushrooms, mandarin orange slices, and toasted almonds (maybe with some sliced chicken) tossed together – rocks my socks every single time.

    Miss Britt February 27, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Eat whatever it is your craving.

    With my kids I always found I craved whatever my body was lacking.

    Karen February 27, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    easier to digest than veggies:
    whole grains (oatmeal with raisins on top!), also dried apricots & for the very best absorption, take all your iron rich foods with vitamin C.

    And there is iron in good chocolate, no need to eat sub-standard chocolate, is all I’m saying.

    kittenpie February 27, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I’m all for buying a chaise and some slinky nighties, but maybe also a nice juicy steak? Or you know, join up with the red cross and sneak a couple of units at lunchtime? My doctor told me that the baby will take what it needs from my stores, no matter how good or bad my diet is. It will draw the calcium from your bones – hence I am taking loads of extra calcium! How creepy. But there it is – parasites of the first order. If onyl we could eat the steak rare, it would be totally fine.

    The City Gal February 27, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I have neber been pregnant, but I have very low blood pressure and I have low count of red blood cells (not a lot of iron).

    So, I know that I have to lay off sugar!

    I have to eat a LOT of meat and no sugar!

    Sugar makes me dizzy and I faint!

    Beware the chocolate!

    metro mama February 27, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I love spinach, but if you don’t, you can hide it in lots of things–pasta sauce, pizza, burgers, etc.

    emma February 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Well, the Brewer Medical Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, by Gail Brewer and her husband (Mr. Brewefr?) got me through twins with no anemia, swelling, diabetes, etc. But its kind of hard to find. You can get it on Amazon, and my local library had a copy, but the big chain stores did not. Good luck!

    mamatulip February 27, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Do you like dirt? Apparently dirt is quite high in iron, which is why Oliver was eating it by the bowlful last summer…turned out he was iron deficient and had to go on a supplement for a while. We were told to beef up his diet with iron-rich foods like red meat, spinach and broccoli. Can you stomach spinach or broccoli?

    Other iron-rich foods…asparagus, dried apricots, peaches and dates, cream of wheat, Bran Flakes/All Bran, almonds, cashews and ham, I think.

    I’m glad the baby is okay and that your doctor summoned you to the hospital.

    FishyGirl February 27, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I am anemic normally, so pregnancy put me in much the same position as you are. So, my assvice:

    Chili. With meat and beans. Side spinach salad. Don’t scrimp on the salt and it will help with the bp. Make sure there is tomato sauce in the chili – vitamin c will help your body absorb the iron. Make it all in a cast-iron dutch oven for added iron.

    I also found some formulations of iron supplements easier to take and were more effective (according to blood tests) than others. My favorite was Vitron-C, but I don’t know if that’s available in Canada or not.

    All that seemed to work much better than my husband’s suggestion that he go grind up some nails for me to sprinkle on my food. Though the chaise and chocolate sound pretty awesome to me.

    Christy February 27, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I’m expecting #3 in May. I’m not usually a big meat eater, but I have craved red meat this time. It seems to be the only thing that makes me feel better. This week I’ve gone back to my usual diet of high carbs and chocolate, and I’ve been feeling really fainty. I guess it’s back to meat for me.

    Anonymous February 27, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Eat Liver…very high in iron and was fed to pregnant women in traditional cultures.

    slouching mom February 27, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    as a spinach lover, i wouldn’t have a problem bulking up my iron intake. but if not for the spinach, i’d probably be in trouble.

    everyone’s had wonderful suggestions, but catherine! take care of yourself, please!


    Mimi February 27, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I love the iron-fortified chocolate idea, I do. I had the faints as well: low blood pressure, low iron. I just ate constantly. Lotta spinach and orange juice. Lotta supplements. Then bran muffins to counteract the bunging up effect of the iron — don’t want to pass out on the toilet. That’s worse that lacking a fainting couch, I think.

    wright February 27, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    You’re too funny! I hope you start to feel better soon, but until then I think you should come up with a cool phrase to say as you swoon or just upon regainin consciousness.

    Lydia February 27, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    While pregnant with my son, I ate NO meat. Couldn’t even look at it–and I am a carnivore. So the spinach/broccoli thing worked well for me. I REALLY liked creamed spinach. Cream sauce, cooked spinach–then throw in brown sugar so it tastes good. Yummmmm–ee!

    Little girl inside me now likes meat, so it hasn’t been a problem this time..

    But the chaise lounge? Oh yeah. do it.

    pkzcass February 27, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Mmmm, liverwurst.

    Never mind all of the iron suggestions, when are you due?

    Anonymous February 27, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I’m totally w/ you on the no meat business. I’m in my 3rd trimester and don’t eat red meat anyone. To add to the complexity of things, I haven’t to be able to eat *any* poultry since 8 weeks. For iron, my midwife recommended red raspberry leaf tea and alfalfa tablets.

    Here’s some other ideas:

    Good luck!

    tallulah February 27, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    When I was pregnant (a vegetarian as well), the doctors had to give me two bags of blood I was so anemic. I swear to you….I have never felt as good as the day I had blood. I felt like a Vampire.
    Hope you feel better soon!

    AnotherMomCreation February 27, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Pregnancy is just not nice to your body.

    Have some green leafy spinach, no oj as it blocks the absorbtion of iron.

    I hope yo feel better soon!

    Her Bad Mother February 27, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    pkzcass – I’m due end of May. Which can’t come soon enough.

    GeekLady February 27, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    You said you’re not big on meat, so most of your iron you’re getting is non-heme (veggie and supplement), and you’re big on dairy, so…

    Tannins (from teas), calcium, some chemicals found in legumes and whole grains, and some proteins found in soybeans inhibit absorption of non-heme iron. If you eat these with your iron supplement, I bet it’s less effective.

    Meat proteins and Vitamin C will improve absorption of non-heme iron.

    You may have to play around with your diet to find a time when you can take your supplement when it will be most effective without the supplement itself making you sick to your stomach.

    Dietary Iron Info:

    Redneck Mommy February 27, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Take care of yourself friend.

    I’d hate to fly all the way over to see you just to visit you in the damn hospital.

    Now go eat some spinach or something. While you are lounging on that chaise.

    flutter February 27, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    It’s not the Vapors, is it?!?! ;)

    take good care of you.

    Chicky Chicky Baby February 27, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    When getting up off the couch made me grab the wall lest I fall down in a messy heap I went big on the red meat and spinach. And I mean BIG. It helped a bit but come to find out I was also a bit dehydrated.

    So, to recap, get yourself a bunch of steaks, some rare roast beef for sandwiches, lots and lots of spinach and a butt load of bottled water. And a chaise because all that didn’t help entirely.

    Good luck, hon.

    Janet February 27, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Do try to get as much iron as possible from food. Because those iron supplements can really mess with the plumbing. Or so I have heard. *cough*

    The Estrogen Files February 27, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    I agree – cast iron skillet and TUNA helps my anemia. Good luck with this. Not too long left? I never was able to figure out when the vampire baby is due.

    Baby in the City February 27, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    No more bad stories of 2nd trimester please! Better days on the horizon are all that are pulling me through right now.

    Crumpled up on my own floor, in solidarity, sister.

    Dana J. Tuszke February 28, 2008 at 12:48 am

    I had never thought of pregnancy like that before, but now that you mention it, it’s true! It is like being drunk.

    Anonymous February 28, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I believe also lentil soup would help; very high in iron.

    A. "cheeserhausen" Beaverhausen February 28, 2008 at 11:45 am

    You need the proteins…however you can get them. I had the “slumps” with my last pregnancy and although he does consume meat, what he’d REALLY love to eat (24-7) is a heaping bowl of macaroni and cheese. Maybe he’s just a cheese freak.

    Laural Dawn February 28, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I don’t have too much advice for you.
    But, my iron is kind of low too, and since meat is kind of making me ill this pregnancy my ob told me to eat chick peas and spinach.
    I sware … it grows on you after awhile.

    Her Bad Mother February 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Y’all – I ordinarily LOVE spinach. This pregnancy, though? HATE. Raisins are a possibility, though I would be eating them under duress. THIS SUCKS.

    I did, however, go and buy a cast-iron skillet last night. For grilling my chocolate.

    Jaelithe February 28, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    1.) Try switching supplements. Are you on a prescription prenatal vitamin, or are you taking a brand name? There may be something about the formulation of your current supplement that is interfering with your iron absorption.

    2.) When you take your vitamin, take it with a glass of orange juice. The acid in the juice helps the vitamin pill dissolve more quickly, and the Vitamin C in the juice aids iron absorption. I don’t know why other comments above say to avoid orange juice when taking iron. I have had more than one doctor specifically recommend that I drink orange juice with an iron supplement (and if you do a search on “orange juice and iron” you will get several hits confirming the benefits of the combination).

    3.) If you want to optimize your limited meat consumption, pick and choose the type of meat you eat carefully. Red meat has more iron than chicken or fish. Of course, I am a vegetarian and I made it through my whole pregnancy without meat, with perfectly acceptable iron levels, but I did make sure to take my vitamins, eat iron fortified cereal, and eat a lot of spinach and soy, which are both good vegetable sources of iron. And apparently my kid was not an iron sucking machine ;)

    Jaelithe February 28, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    P.S. Frosted Mini Wheats, if you like them, are an excellent secret weapon against anemia because they have a whopping 90% of your daily iron value in each serving. Plain Cheerios are pretty good too; they have 45% of the daily recommended iron.

    Anonymous February 28, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    This has been very helpful. I must be something dreadfully wrong. I’m entering the second trimester, absolutely fatigued and sleeping constantly.

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