WARNING: Graphic language
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It sucks to be fat. As much as I appreciate the recent positive body image movement, almost no fat person chooses to be fat. Period. If each of us were told we could snap our fingers and POOF… we’d be at a healthy size? Every person with an even slightly elevated BMI would be like Thanos in this piece. That's actually why things go so wrong with Eupepsid, a drug that gives you control over your metabolism in my serial, Gnawed. Go check it out! I digress…
My own struggles with obesity are myriad, but the long and short is that I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) around 2008, bringing with it infertility, a lovely new beard, and rapid, copious weight gain. PCOS allows your estrogen, testosterone, and insulin hormones to just do their own thing. It also impacts cortisol, thyroid, and adrenal levels unpredictably, meaning that stress hits harder, your metabolism is at a standstill, and you have absolutely zero energy: the perfect storm for chonkifying a woman with the quickness.
When I started taking Estradiol (estrogen) in preparation for my Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET), the final step along my IVF journey, something inside of me just clicked into place. It was like my PCOS was instantly corrected, somehow. I felt energized, motivated, and compelled to move my body for the first time in over a decade. I immediately took advantage of this and began walking, exercising, hiking, and even logging my food on MyFitnessPal. My hope was that this newfound drive could help me drop some pounds before naturally gaining from my pregnancy. I went home to the UK almost immediately after the FET procedure, and continued to go hard, which is so much easier to do there with it being so walkable.
One day, I had to go into a town called Colchester to get my blood drawn, and decided to walk each step of the way. This is probably just a day in the life of your average Brit, but it was a big deal for my just-recently-sedentary self. This is what it looked like for me, with each leg being about 20 minutes or a 3/4 mile:
My house to Ipswich train station
Colchester train station to the hospital
The hospital to the Colchester train station
The Ipswich train station to my house
My house to take Cloud to daycare
Cloud’s daycare back to my house
My house to pick Cloud up from daycare
Cloud’s daycare back to my house
The very next morning, the day after British Mother’s Day, I woke up bleeding as though I was on my period. When I saw that I’d passed a few clots, I immediately knew in my heart that I’d lost our baby at just 5 weeks pregnant. It was a punch in the gut, but I took it in, breathed through it, and tried to find solace in it being so early. I hadn’t even really felt pregnant at that point; plus luckily, we had more embryos frozen and could try again. I broke the news to my husband, and then to our families. It was my older brother, Dazz, who first urged me to go to the doctor to just get checked out. I called and the amazing NHS had me booked in for an emergency ultrasound, what they simply call a scan, the next day.
In the morning, Chris walked Cloud to daycare, then he and I called a cab to take us to the Ipswich Hospital Maternity ward called Peggy Cole. While we’re in the waiting room, I go to take a picture of the gorgeous, sprawling view of Ipswich that we were afforded from the fifth floor. Hm. My phone is not in my pocket. Chris thinks that maybe he'd seen it on the settee, what we call a couch, but I was preeeeetty sure I’d looked up the cab driver’s name (Semhi) whilst in the car. The first thing my dear Cloud does when we get in any cab is ask what the driver’s name is, so I’d developed a habit of checking.
Chris calls the taxi company, Hawk Express, while I use my Apple Watch to find my phone and put it in lost mode, designating Chris’s phone as the callback number. After just a few minutes, he gets a ring from me! It turns out that I did indeed leave my phone in the cab, and that a pair of ladies had taken it with them. When they asked where we were, we told them. When they asked if everything was alright, I told them that, unfortunately, I was afraid I’d lost my baby. It was a little loud where they were, but I distinctly heard the woman in the background burst into tears. The lady still on the line expressed her apologies for our situation, but offered her wishes for a positive scan. She told us to meet them at a nearby pub and to look for two heads full of curls named Tina and June (names changed for privacy).
A few moments later, we’re called back for the ultrasound, which they did first on my belly and then vaginally. The way the technicians do the scans is very smart, in that they look to see what’s going on and then turn the screen so that they can explain what you’re looking at. It’s wise, but also a little nerve-racking to analyze their face as they’re analyzing the image. When she finally turned the monitor around, it was promising news! The little amniotic bubble was there and we could see the yolk sack, as well, with our little bean attached.
Although everything was in place, the sonographer was reluctant to confirm whether or not the pregnancy was viable. She could not detect a heartbeat, but noted that this was completely normal at such an early stage, and that she thinks that we didn’t have anything to worry about. And so, we left to go pick up my phone in a state of cautious optimism.
We roll up to the Royal George Pub and spot the two ladies, who immediately get up and give us both big bear hugs. June hands me my phone, but my magnetic wallet with a couple of credit cards and my UK Permanent Resident ID wasn’t attached. I figured we could call the cab company back to see if it was under the seat or something, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I could cancel the cards, and although getting a new ID card would be a bitch, I didn’t really need it for anything right away.
Chris and I went to the bar and got them a round of drinks and £20 a piece to reward and thank them for their kindness. Tina let June have all of the money, because she was the one who found the phone, which I thought was incredibly sweet. Then June told us in all seriousness that she would have sold the phone if she didn’t see my little girl on the lock screen. I didn’t really know what to say to that other than a swift thank you for not doing that. Turns out, they’re Travelers, and nothing is more important than family to them. We also learned that June had lost a baby, which is why she cried upon hearing what we were at the hospital for.
The conversation that ensued was pure balm to the soul in its hilarity, candor, and variety, and all of it just could not be made up. Tina is an incredibly strong, thoughtful young woman who is fighting her own battles every day. June is biracial and talked about what that’s like for her and said that’s also why our mixed daughter, Cloud’s, picture struck her. Both ladies spent a great deal of time admiring my ample bosom. I’m aware that a pair of 38Ks must be a lot to take in at first sight, but I’ve never really had anyone express how agog they were over them.
So, yeah, I was motorboated. There was twerking. It was all around shenanigans interspersed with these profound moments of deep connection.
After a while, June asked if she could talk to me alone. We stepped away and she teared up, held my hand, and apologized so profusely. I thought she was sympathizing with our recent ordeal, but she continued, saying how embarrassed and regretful she was for her actions. She not only had my wallet, but had also used my debit card to pay for a cab ride, as well as some milk and other items from the store.
I could not have cared less, and told her so instantly! I was, and still am, AMAZED that she would confess this to me. I told her in all seriousness that I have nothing in my heart but gratitude for her admitting such a difficult thing, but she was still very broken up. I squeezed her hands tighter and made her look me in the eye. I said, “June, I absolve you of any and all guilt. You have just done the most honorable thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Consider anything you spent my gift to you.” I meant that. I still mean that.
June and I returned to Tina and Chris, and I could tell she felt so much lighter, which made me even happier. She’d left my wallet at Tina’s house, which was a walkable distance away, but in a gated area, so both ladies left to go retrieve it. June made a point of leaving her phone with me as collateral, but I was in no way worried… until they were gone for a little longer than we anticipated. I did sweat a little, but come back they did. In fact, they returned with my intact wallet AND armfuls of books and games for Cloud!
It was actually getting close to her daycare pick up time, so we ordered a taxi, bought them another round, exchanged numbers, and promised to keep in touch. Tina and I WhatsApp regularly, and I’m hoping to have lunch with both ladies soon. As for our little chickpea? I was slated to go back for another ultrasound two weeks later, but as I’m writing about the past from the future, that’s not at all how things went down. CLICK HERE to read my next blog post, Found in Loss.
Bonus Lost And Found Story
I am a free walking billboard for two companies: Zenni Optical (I haven’t paid more than $40 for a pair of prescription glasses in years) and Skiplagged. The latter is what helped me get a flight on Norse Airways from JFK to London for less than $250. Once I landed at Gatwick Airport, I spent another $30 for a 3-leg train journey that should have taken me an hour and a half to get home. Well, I’m so busy keeping an eye on my roller bag in the luggage racks at the front of a jam-packed carriage, that I hopped off at Farringdon Station forgetting that I’d placed my book bag on the overhead storage shelf.
My book bag with my laptop in it. My book bag with all of my IVF medications in it.
I burst into the ThamesLink Despatch (yes, that's how they spell it) Office utterly distraught, stifling tears, and feeling helpless. Before I could finish my probably unintelligible sentence, the gentleman was like, “Stop. Calm down. Start over.” And I did. I knew from the second this man took control of ME, that he would take control of this situation. Sure enough, Timothy (for that was his name) says it happens all the time, and he began making attempts to contact stations along the route to try and get someone to check the car I believed it to be in.
After a few minutes, Tim’s colleague, Tyrell, joined the hunt: calling stations, berating laziness, and demanding answers. All the while, updating me at every turn and chatting with me while they carried on about their other duties. By about an hour into the search, we had begun to get kind of deep; in particular, we talked about our parents and parenting. Both young men are Nigerian and both had very Nigerian fathers, meaning that they were stern, stoic, and standoffish.
Timothy harnessed his experiences growing up with a seemingly unfeeling parent to inform how he’s raising his own children. He makes every effort to be available to his kids and encourages them to talk to him about absolutely anything. Tyrell’s father, on the other hand, has the added personality trait of pure, unadulterated narcissism, using his children as pawns against his ex-wife, Tyrell’s mom. Growing up with a mother who also won the narcissist lottery, I knew exactly how he felt.
Hour two comes and goes with Tyrell and I adamantly making cases to Timothy for why it’s virtually impossible to truly have any sort of relationship with a parent who exhibits this kind of personality disorder. Because Tim’s dealings with his dad improved as he grew up and became a father himself, he was convinced that it was up to Tyrell to keep trying, just as he did. The crucial difference, sadly, is the narcissism. Keep in mind, please, that this entire time, they’re still trying to head off my train WHILE answering endless questions from passengers, assisting disabled people, checking trains, and making announcements.
By hour three, we finally had some progress. My 'Find My' app showed that my laptop was at the train’s terminus, a town called Peterborough, and we were really only waiting for a confirmation that the bag was with the train’s cleaning crew. Tyrell and I are also making progress with Tim, or so we thought until he posited that there could always be a chance for two estranged people to rekindle their love, if only they’d remember what made them fall for each other in the first place.
I’ll take narcissism for $500, Alex. Tyrell shared how this is inapplicable because his father was a completely different person when he was pursuing his mom. I hypothesized that he was actually donning the exact facade that she’d want to see until he trapped her with marriage or getting her pregnant, and Tyrell said that hit the nail square on the head. He became more controlling, more demanding, and more isolating the moment they were married. I think we got through to Tim after enough brute force was applied, but I felt kind of bad for removing his pie from the sky or desaturating the rose from his glasses.
Timothy is, without a doubt, the coolest, calmest, most collected guy alive, so I’m sure we didn’t shake his faith in humanity too much. In fact, once we got the call that a bag matching our given description was indeed with the cleaners in Peterborough, we were all hugging and laughing like we’d just won the FA Cup, so I think if anything this whole thing was a point for the optimists. In fact, Tim’s final words to me were that of remaining as stress-free as possible and remembering not to worry about the things that we can’t control, especially while pregnant.
Now, I’m sure that to them, all of this was probably just part of the job, but the level of care and empathy that I received was without a doubt as far above and beyond as you can go. I met two genuinely, authentically amazing people that day, not just employees. I still made it a point to contact their manager the second they waved me off from the platform to thank her for hiring the highest caliber of people.
What’s funny is, as they were preparing a note to provide me with free passage to Peterborough, a gentleman burst into the office, utterly distraught. He’d lost his wallet on the train. I just smiled.