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In Hansel and Gretel’s Oven

Hot flashes are Mother Nature’s catty epilogue to pregnancy. And all I want to know is, Why? Hasn’t she messed enough with me and my body?

When I began telling people I was pregnant last year, women kept warning me that I would feel warmer than usual while pregnant. All that extra poundage and swirling blood would add heat. Initially, I thought these women were nutty, since I spent the early part of my pregnancy feeling incredibly cold. No matter how warm it was outside, I felt like I was in a meat freezer. I wore a coat to go outside on days when other Bostonians wore t-shirts. Granted, this seemed to be tied to my intense morning sickness and my inability to do much moving, let alone exercise.

When my morning sickness resolved itself, I felt more like my usual self again. That lasted for a short time, before I became Boston’s newest human radiator. Even though it was a cold winter, I would sometimes find myself sweating just sitting still. Walking outside in the chill was actually a relief at times.

My sudden disconnect from the real temperature in a room wasn’t fun, but it was manageable. I figured all I had to do was wait until I gave birth in May, and everything would return to normal – no more morning sickness, edema, or poor balance. And, of course, other mothers had repeatedly told me I was lucky; my early May due date, they said, would spare me the worst discomfort – being pregnant in summer heat. So, I looked forward to my daughter’s birth and the end of my pregnancy pains and inconveniences.

Little did I know that Mother Nature wasn’t done toying with me yet. Since Lila’s birth, there are several reasons I can no longer sleep through the night. The first, and most justifiable in my book, is that Lila needs to eat. The second is that my breasts become painfully engorged, and I need to pump. Lastly and most annoyingly, I wake up because I’m burning up.

It doesn’t matter how high I crank the air conditioner before getting into bed. I still wake up feeling like a roasting rotisserie chicken, desperate to escape my oven-like covers. If I leave our bedroom, the only air conditioned room in our apartment, to pump in the middle of the night, I typically sweat raindrops. I dream of returning to the air conditioning and pray to feel cooler. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I need to stay on top of the covers for some time to cool down.

If Lila wakes us up to eat in the early morning, I often express shock at how unbelievably hot it is, only to have my husband clarify that it’s me; the room is actually quite cool. That’s disconcerting. It’s like my body has been locked in an oven, the Hansel and Gretel nightmare come true. It’s one thing to enjoy a summer spritzer, but who enjoys a summer shvitzer?

This went on for a few weeks before I called my OB’s office, frustrated by my unchanging situation. The nurse listened to my symptoms before calmly remarking that I was having hot flashes, which are apparently normal among postpartum women. This made me feel a little better, knowing that this wasn’t some alarming out-of-left-field ailment. Although, it made less happy when she explained that these hot flashes could last through Lila’s first birthday. My jaw dropped. The nurse observed that I should now have more sympathy for menopausal women, and it’s true, I do. I just didn’t think I’d be sharing in their misery for another two decades.

I wish I understood why Mother Nature felt it necessary to offer me this parting-from-pregnancy gift, but I won’t be writing her a thank-you note. And I think Hansel and Gretel would agree that an oven is no place for anyone but a witch to be.

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