And then, late last Friday night, or early Saturday morning, depending on how you define those things, I had a dream that I had the chicken pox. In the dream, I was itchy and covered in spots. I woke up that morning to find a handful of red spots -- one on each arm, a few on my abdomen and chest, a few more on my back. Most of them were hard to see, but the one on my right forearm was clear: pink, asymmetrical, and with a blister of clear fluid starting to form on the top.
After a few moments of panic, I called the OB/GYN's office to find out what to do. When she called me back, she managed to calm me down, telling me that at 28 weeks pregnant, the risk to the baby was minimal. She also told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was not to go to their office -- or to my childbirth class on Monday night and my ultrasound on Wednesday -- because I did not need to expose a whole bunch of pregnant ladies and infants to the pox. Instead, she sent me to my primary care doctor, who had not seen a case of chicken pox in a very long time -- let alone in a pregnant 36-year-old. One of the other doctors in the practice had advised that antiviral medicine was not only safe, but recommended, for pregnant women with the chicken pox, and so, after a little bit of research, she sent me on my way, prescription in hand, and warned me to be very careful of any potential complications such as infected blisters or symptoms of pneumonia.
I spent the week taking the medicine, avoiding interaction with people, trying not to be itchy and uncomfortable, and making sure I did not get any sicker. Some things worked better than others. For example:
- I learned that oatmeal baths are great, if a little weird and slippery.
- I learned that the worst part of telecommuting is the lack of human interaction. Every time the phone rang or I got an email, I was very excited.
- I learned that avoiding contact with other people is harder than it seems. First, when I tried to sneak into the pharmacy at an off time to pick up my prescription, there was the woman with two small kids that, no matter how hard I tried to avoid, kept following me and wheeling her kids up right next to me. (Hope they've been vaccinated!) And then, on Monday, not only did the cleaning lady show up (after I had left a voicemail to cancel the appointment), but the condo manager brought two workmen in to check our air-conditioning.
- Most of all, I learned that the baby is pretty resilient. She seems just fine, kicking away, as if nothing happened.
POSTSCRIPT: I am very lucky that this case of chicken pox was so mild, and that I got it at this stage of the pregnancy, rather than (1) early in the pregnancy, when it is higher risk to the baby, or (2) very late in the pregnancy, when there was more risk that I would go into labor and then the baby would contract it. But more than that: according to WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, and a whole bunch of other sources, the odds of having a severe case of chicken pox increase incrementally in adulthood, and then, as many as 20% of pregnant women with the chicken pox get pneumonia as a complication -- and as many as 1/3 of people with varicella pneumonia die. So, right now, I am especially thankful that I have good health insurance, doctors that answer my calls on Saturdays, and quick, easy, and cheap access to antiviral medicines. I wish everyone else could be so lucky.