I had always wanted to be pregnant, and even before my wife and I started trying to conceive, I was already reading up and planning. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was going to take excellent care of myself throughout the pregnancy. Nutrition was key, and I planned to use my love of fruits and vegetables to carry me through. But pregnancy, it seemed, had different plans for me, and rather than eating the wide variety of nutritious whole foods I had dreamed of, I ended up surviving by stuffing myself on a food I actually loathe.
I tried my best to be a health-conscious mama-to-be. I found out I was pregnant, and two days later, I was in the kitchen merrily making kale pesto. Then, I got sick.
Actually, “got sick” is a bit of a misnomer. Throughout the vast majority of my pregnancy, I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, which is a lot like regular morning sickness, except it’s 1,000 times worse. Nothing can prepare a person who’s never been pregnant for the intensity of the food cravings and aversions that (typically) come with pregnancy. In my case, being faced with the foods I was averse to would literally cause me to wretch and vomit. At my lowest point (which was almost half of the pregnancy, honestly — ask my poor wife), you were not allowed to say the word “pizza” in my home, because just being reminded that said food existed could make me spew whatever tiny amount of food I had managed to force into myself that day. Over time, the list of foods I could keep down became shorter and shorter.
Enter the popcorn.
Now let me explain. In my normal life, with my usual tastes and preferences, I do not like popcorn. In fact, I hate it. I do not even eat popcorn at the movies (I know, I know, it’s sacrilege). The texture reminds me of Styrofoam, which I also abhor, but thankfully no one ever expects me to eat it. The taste of popcorn is bland as hell and is only augmented by various spices and flavor powders which, frankly, would taste better on literally any other food ever. Plus, the kernels get stuck in my teeth. I will make a rare exception about once a year for caramel corn, but other than that, do not offer me popcorn.
Until one day, somewhere in the beginning of the second trimester (it’s all sort of a blur), I had a craving for popcorn. My wife listened to me describe the intensity of my need (I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it through the day if I didn’t get it) and then walked to the corner store and came home with a bag of the plainest, most boring popcorn it had on offer. I ate it in bed while watching Netflix, and nearly purred with joy. That is what pregnancy does — it takes over your body and your entire being, until one day you find yourself deeply enjoying things your brain knows are gross while rejecting things you love (like pizza).
That’s how it started, and then it didn’t stop. Popcorn became the thing I could eat, the thing I could always manage to keep down when nothing else would sit right. I couldn’t look at kale, threw up piles of spaghetti, and let’s not even talk about beans. And while all the books and pregnancy trackers said I should be feeling better, I was still sick as a dog and surviving somehow on a diet composed primarily of popcorn and apple juice boxes.
I munched on the flavorless Styrofoam-like bits with greed and abandon. I was constantly texting my wife “plz bring home more popcorn.” One time she got the wrong kind of popcorn, and the resulting crying jag lasted several hours. My dream of a healthy, whole-foods, I-eat-so-well-I-don’t-even-take-prenatal-vitamins kind of pregnancy was totally dashed. Instead I kept a careful eye on my popcorn stash, which was next to my bedside, since walking down the stairs to the kitchen often caused me to hurl just as dramatically as the dreaded word “pizza.”
Pregnancy forced me to survive on one of the foods I hated most in the world. Rather than a nutritionally dense diet full of variety, I got by on what I could. And for whatever reason (to this day I still don’t get it), the thing I could keep down well enough to get by turned out to be popcorn. So I did what we all do; I did what I had to to keep myself and my growing fetus alive. When I couldn’t eat anything else in the world, at least I had popcorn.
Until one day, I didn’t anymore. After bag after bag of popcorn, week after week of popcorn — after roughly a month of eating mostly freaking popcorn — one day I couldn’t take it anymore. Like flipping a switch, my one sanctuary suddenly became the most disgusting thing in the universe. And then, of course, I had to find a new weird food on which to survive.