« I choose to believe it's a sign | Main | Marco. Polo! »


The best ear wax I ever ate

I am finding gestational diabetes to be deeply depressing.

I love food. I love to shop for it, to cook it, and to eat it. Before any meal is over, I'm plotting the next one. In the car I like to play a game I call "A Thousand Sandwiches," that involves lovingly describing, yes, sandwich after perfect sandwich in minute detail, down to specifying the size of the grains in the rough Dijon mustard. And when it comes to remembering meals I have known, I am a twitchy Rain Man of a gastronome: name a place I've travelled and I can instantly tell you what I ate there. (Hilo, Hawaii? Lilikoi ice cream, sweet and creamy but tangy enough to rip the fascia of complacency off the most jaded, calloused tongue. Belfast, Maine? A milky, buttery bowl of stew, studded with orange dots of lobster fat and floating an intact mitten of meat, at Young's Lobster Pound, at a windy picnic table overlooking the bay. Percé, Gaspé Peninsula? Pizza topped with what called itself pepperoni but bore every terrifying hallmark of Lunchables-grade bologna.)

These days I am still thinking about food every waking moment. That's a given, a behavior as innate as firmly relocating one's errant underpants when they begin to migrate crackward. What is new is that I am now drooling at the very thought of foods I don't even like. I'm starting to suspect I've hit rock bottom: not only am I looking forward to brown rice, for God's sake, meaning we're completely through the looking glass, but I get downright weepy as I confront the fact that the most I can eat at any one meal is 1/3 cup of it. (My fidgety inner Rain Man is urging me to count the grains in 1/3 cup. Rain Man: "246 total." Paul: "How many?" Waitress: "250." Paul: "Pretty close." Waitress: "There are four more left in the pot." I imagine myself patiently chiseling those last recalcitrant grains off the side of the saucepan, rubbing them into my gums for the maximum cocainey rush.)

When you have gestational diabetes, it's normal for it to become harder to control your blood sugar as the pregnancy progresses. While most people can manage diabetes with diet at first, it's not uncommon to need insulin toward the end to regulate glucose levels. The placenta, swollen with its sense of its own importance, acts like it owns the fucking place and kicks your already-enfeebled pancreas to the curb. I know this, and I also know it stands to reason that my tolerance for certain foods will decrease as the weeks pass. White bread is completely off limits, and today I had to cross whole-wheat couscous off the list for the duration. Will brown rice — which I have always called punishment rice — be the next to go?

I am trying not to dwell on the fact that my options are dwindling at an alarming rate. I expected to make sacrifices as a parent, and even as a parent-to-be. I did not expect to be confined to the sensory deprivation tank that I sometimes feel encapsulates me. I don't like the food restrictions; in fact, as I said, they're depressing me. But as much as I whine, I'm not tempted to cheat. All it takes to re-establish my resolve is a single thought of whose health is at stake.

There has been one dietary highlight in the last three weeks: today at childbirth class I ate a solitary high-octane, full-sugar jellybean. As part of an exercise to illustrate how delicious breast milk is to babies, the instructor passed out a handful of jellybeans to each participant, cajoling me into having just one. (Jeez, I knew she didn't like me, but who knew she'd try to kill me?)

I selected a single jellybean from Paul's colorful assortment. I chose one that looked like nothing so much as the end of a used Q-Tip, white flecked with a golden brown the exact shade of ear wax. It didn't look good, but it seemed the most appetizing flavor available, since every other jellybean in Paul's hand was a different blue. I do not know how those tasted, but I'm guessing Windex, Listerine, Clostridium perfringens, and Crayola.

I ate the jellybean. And you know what? It was delicious. I gasped aloud as the full wallop of sugar hit my tongue, the first pure jolt of sweetness I've had in weeks. I can't say it was good, exactly. Sure, okay, it did taste like ear wax with a powerful note of high fructose corn syrup. But it wasn't brown rice, by God.