01 Feb Don’t Go Camping When You’re Pregnant
My husband and I have had a tradition of going camping every spring since we’ve been together; six years dating, three years married, nine years total. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I was pregnant ruin that streak. I was in my fifth month, so almost there. I didn’t have the weirdest of cravings like most people warned and my baby was pretty calm. It would bump me ever once in a while, but other than that, Little One was a sleepy baby.
Graham had asked me a million and two times if I was sure I wanted to go, that it wouldn’t hurt to miss one year, that we could go twice next year. I just laughed every time he worried, letting him know I was pregnant, not dying. We got the truck all packed up; food for the weekend, toiletries for the outhouses, and more water than necessary. I couldn’t help but shake my head as a memory popped back up.
It was our senior year of college and our fourth time going camping. The difference this time was that it was just us two, the three other times we had friends come along. It was our fourth year of dating and we decided we wanted a romantic camping getaway. Well, it wasn’t very romantic. We ended up staying one night only because we ran out of water by sundown. Ever since then, we’ve always packed more than we thought we needed.
Graham’s red pickup was jammed to the brim, looking like a Tetris pro’s fantasy. He wouldn’t even let me lift up my sleeping bag. I stood on the sidelines, hands on my puffy, pregnant hips as I watched my husband do all the work.
“Babe,” I quirked, “I’m not going to break, honey.”
“Can never be too careful,” Graham grunted, bumping the hatch closed with his hip. “Now, are you sure you want to go? We can go right back inside, snuggle up on the couch, throw in some pizza rolls, and turn on Netflix,” he smiled, wrapping his arms around me as best he could.
“Ohhh,” I melted into his arms, “as tantalizing as that sounds, I want to go camping.” I patted his butt before going to the passenger side. “Pizza rolls and Netflix, huh?” I called, laughing. “Sounds like our honeymoon.”
The all too familiar drive to the campground seemed like it passed in a blink. We had driven this road so many times that it seemed as natural as my heartbeat. I instinctively rubbed my stomach, watching the trees whiz by. I didn’t look away until I felt Graham’s hand on mine. He trapped my fingers in his and brought them up to his lips, planting a kiss on the palm of my hand.
“I can’t wait until Little One can go camping with us,” he smiled.
“I know,” I squealed. “And we’ll pack squirt guns, teach Little One how to play bags, how to throw a football…” I fantasized.
“And what if it’s a girl?”
I turned my head and furrowed my brows. “What do you mean? Our kid’s going to know how to throw a football regardless if it’s a boy or a girl. It’s one of the basic things you need to learn to survive,” I explained, counting off my fingers, “tie your shoes, wipe your ass, and throw a football.”
Graham erupted in laughter, his deep voice vibrating the air around us, “Gosh, I love you.”
“I’m just playing,” I giggled, rubbing my stomach again. “Little One can do whatever they want.”
For the longest time I had taken spring in Texas for granted. Having grown up here, I never knew anything else. It wasn’t until I spent a year in Chicago that I realized how great Texas springs were. High 70’s during the day, mid 50’s at night; warm when you’re awake and nice and cool for bedtime. That day was a particularly perfect spring day, 79 and sunny. Not a dang cloud in the sky. I remember a warm breeze blowing through our car, carrying Graham with it. He had on his red flannel shirt, my favorite thing he owned. The cotton scent drifted to my nose and made me smile even more. He was perfect.
The closer we got to the campgrounds the more it smelled like musty earth and budding leaves. My leg bounced in excitement as we crossed the entrance gate. By then, we were on a first name basis with the gateman, Greg. We said we would pay at the front like we normally did, but he refused. Told us we qualified for a free camp, a Pregnant Lady discount he called it.
He had saved us our favorite site, site D. It was smack in the middle of the woods, far enough from the highway that we couldn’t hear the cars, but close enough that in case anything happened we could get help. It was in front of Little Lake Pond, a secret oasis hidden among the trees. It was too small to be called a lake, but too big to be a pond. At night, the moon shone off the water and illuminated every rock on the shore. Crickets and toads sang together, gently lulling you to sleep. We always requested site D.
Graham pulled up to our site and I carefully hopped out, clapping my hands at the surprise waiting for us. On the picnic table, baby balloons were tied all around with pastel colored streamers getting gently swept up in the wind. Wrapped presents sat waiting for us to open, with cards saying congrats and welcome new baby. But it was the plates of cookies and other goodies that called to me.
“Well, look at that Little One,” I said, talking to my stomach, “you have friends already.”
We got all our coolers out and the eating station set up, and by we, I mean Graham. He still wouldn’t let me do a thing. I felt horrible and wonderful at the same time. I was guilty because he had broken a sweat 30 minutes into getting to our camp and was doing all the work. But I felt great because I didn’t have to do a damn thing. I sat at that picnic table and ate, opened presents, read cards, and then ate some more. I couldn’t believe that I was still hungry by the time dinner rolled around; hot dogs over an open fire.
“Now make sure you cook yours all the way,” Graham said.
“Huh?” I grumbled, bouncing my stick around the fire.
“Your hot dog, make sure it’s fully cooked. You don’t want to poison the baby or anything.”
I felt my shoulders slump and my mouth flop open in annoyance, “Graham. If you don’t shut up, this isn’t the only wienie I’m going to be roasting tonight.”
His half-amused expression glowed in the orange flame, “Is that a threat?”
“I don’t make threats,” I pointed at him with a smile.
He waited a beat before dropping his voice, staring at the dirt under his boots, “Summer, I’m serious.”
I looked over at him and saw his worried face. He always looked so much older when he wasn’t smiling. He was going to be a great dad.
I leaned over and kissed his shoulder, “I’m fine, I promise.” Smiling, I scooted back over to my side. “Plus, if you’re so worried about what I’m eating, the last thing I should put in my mouth is a hot dog,” I joked, holding the charred meat in front of me.
“She’s correct,” another voice joined us.
I jumped a bit, almost letting out a little pee in the process. I blamed the baby. We both turned around and saw a man in khaki shorts and a wilderness hat standing at the edge of the road. We didn’t even hear his trailer pull up behind us.
“Fatty tissue, animal feet, skin, slaughter-by-products,” the man spoke, shuffling his feet, “depending on what brand you buy.”
“Yummy,” I groaned, still taking a bite out of the thing. I was too hungry. “We’re sorry, you scared us a bit. Didn’t hear you pull up.”
“That’s alright,” the man smiled. “I was just going to ask for directions.”
“Well, come sit,” I invited, beckoning him to come over, “you’re welcome to a hot dog. Despite the whole…you know…by product thing.”
Graham wiped his mouth and stood up, holding his hand out to the approaching man, “Graham Steele,” he introduced.
“Professor Johnathan Tool,” the man greeted, briefly shaking my husband’s hand.
“I’m Summer,” I smiled, taking another bite out of my hot dog.
The man sat down tentatively next to me, flicking a smile before gasping, “You’re pregnant!”
I mirrored his surprised look and stared down at my larger stomach, “What?!” I looked over toward Graham and slapped his arm, “Whoa, why didn’t you tell me? I thought I was just getting fat.” We laughed and looked over at the quizzical professor. “I’m just kidding,” I smiled, embarrassed at my failed joke.
“May I?” he asked.
I didn’t even have to look at him to understand what he was asking. I nodded my head and he outstretched his hand, gently placing his palm against my belly. His eyes widened in wonder, despite the fact Little One wasn’t very active. I felt the genuine smile grow over my face at the man’s wonderment.
“Crazy, huh?” I asked. “I can’t tell you how long it took me to get used to the idea that I’m growing a human.”
“Remarkable,” Professor Johnathan mumbled, “beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.” He sat back and looked up at the two of us, “Do you know?” He pointed to my stomach, asking if we knew it was a boy or girl.
“Well, I’m hoping for a human,” I joked, rubbing my stomach. “No, we don’t know. We want it to be a surprise.”
“Lovely,” Professor Johnathan smiled. “I never had any kids myself.”
“It’s never too late,” Graham offered.
“Oh, no,” the professor shook his head, waving the thought away. “I’ve given up on that idea. I have different kinds of kids.” He pointed behind him toward his trailer, “I’m an Entomologist.”
It was now our turn to not understand what he was talking about. I looked over at Graham for clarification, but he just shrugged his shoulders.
“Bugs,” the professor explained, “I study bugs.”
“Oh,” I nodded, “and they’re in there?” I pointed toward his trailer.
“Yes, would you like to meet them?” without waiting for us to answer, he stood up and started walking toward his RV.
I stood up, feeling Graham grab my arm next to me. “Wait,” he whispered, “you think it’s alright?”
“Come on, Graham,” I teased. “Scared of meeting some buggies?”
He shook his head and grabbed my hand, walking with me toward the opened RV door. The moment I was helped up the stairs, a smell assaulted my nose. A strange metallic, sour yet sweet smell that I could only describe was the scent of bug. You could hear all sorts of fluttering and flitting through the glass cases lining the walls. Flying bugs, stink bugs, moths, maggots; it seemed like every sort of bug in the world was in the little RV.
“These are my kids,” Professor Johnathan smiled. “People misunderstand bugs. They can really be our friends if others would just give them time.”
“Really?” Graham asked, mostly out of politeness. “How is that?”
I watched the professor’s eyes light up from behind his glasses. “Take this beauty for example,” he said, leading us toward a terrarium with blue beetles, “I’m studying the mutations these bugs have and how they could become a natural pesticide for farmers.” He smiled as he looked back and forth between us and the beetles, “They eat already dead plants, so they wouldn’t harm the growth, and their scent is a natural deterrent to other plant destroying bugs.” He walked over toward another glass case and pointed at the wiggling maggots inside, “These ones, I’m trying to study how they could help the medical industry by eating dead flesh.”
“What?” I asked, a grimace unceremoniously crawling across my face.
“No, no,” he worried, “it’s not a danger. You see, they only eat rotten things, not fresh. Say someone comes in with gangrene or frostbite. These guys could help clear away the dead cells in order for new cells to regrow or be put in its place.”
“And, they would do that?” Graham asked, still holding onto my hand.
“That’s what I’m studying. The effect they have on humans. So far, everything seems to be going in the right direction,” Professor Johnathan smiled.
“That’s wonderful,” I nodded. “You could make some great progress.”
My eyes wandered over the cases that were eyelevel with me. I thought the one was empty, until the stick in the corner started moving. The carefully disguised bug gently crawled over the foliage, not even noticing that I was there.
A noise to my right caught my ear. It was a faint, weird buzzing noise. Like someone was spinning a coin in an empty can of soda; tinny and hollow. I stepped up toward the glass and saw a gray cone hive in the corner of the terrarium. The hole in the front was tiny, so I couldn’t see inside of it, but I sure could hear it.
“Oh, that’s a beauty,” the professor’s voice was right in my ear. “That’s the Megarhyssa Rixator. I wish she would come out.”
“T-that’s…fine,” I assured, not quite sure myself that I actually wanted to see the thing that was making that noise.
“She’s pregnant,” he added.
“Aw, cheers,” I nodded to the humming hive. “Mamma needs her sleep.”
“She has to find a place to pay her larva,” his brows furrowed, searching her terrarium.
“Looks like she’s got a decent sized home right there,” I pointed toward the gray cone. “Could be bigger, but if it’s just her and baby, seems like it’d be roomie.”
“I guess,” the professor shrugged. “Yes, it will do. She’s expecting any minute. I’ve been looking for days,” he said standing up straight, looking down at me. “Hopefully she’s found her perfect spot. When are you due? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” I smiled. “I’m in my fifth month, almost there!”
“Lovely,” he smiled. “Cravings? Baby moving around?”
“Somewhat,” I shrugged, “but so far so good.”
“Hun,” Graham said from over my shoulder, “we should head back. Don’t want to leave our fire unattended for too long.”
“Of course,” Professor Johnathan said, shooing us away. “Have a nice night. Get some rest, stay healthy,” he smiled, grabbed my hand, and looked me in the eye. “You’ve been a great host.”
I stood there for a moment, looking at my own confused reflection in his glasses. I didn’t really understand what he meant, but I figured he was just being nice. I smiled and said you’re welcome before leaving the trailer with Graham.
“Giving me the creeps,” I heard Graham grumble, pulling me back to our campsite. “Why did we go in there again?”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged, grabbing another hot dog to roast, “he seemed nice.”
“He didn’t seem weird to you? Off? Not all there?”
“Graham,” I scolded.
“What?” he whispered. “I’m just saying, the man’s driving through the forest with the Bug Mobile, inviting people in to see his kids.”
I held the hot dog over the flames and watched it sizzle, “To each his own.”
The rest of the night was peaceful. Professor Johnathan drove off and parked a couple sits down from us and I assume he made camp there. I relished in the late-night moonlight for a bit, dipping my toes into the sparkling water.
“Come on,” Graham stretched, yawning as he stood up, “it’s almost 1, water’s cold, and we don’t want to become a mosquito buffet.”
“A few more minutes,” I pretended to wine, crossing my arms in a mock pout.
“Suit yourself,” he shrugged, heading to his truck bed. “But don’t blame me for hogging the blankets when you try crawling in.” I watched him pull down the hatch and unzip the bug net, shimmying into our makeshift nest.
“Ah, crap,” I grumbled, rushing over toward him, slapping a mosquito off my arm.
“Did you get bit?” he asked, voice a bit panicked.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged trying to unzip the net, “let me it.”
Graham had me up and in the truck bed before I could complain about getting in by myself. He tightly zipped the net shut and gently grabbed hold of my arm, looking at the red slap mark I had made.
“I don’t see any bump,” he said more to himself than to me. “Does it itch?”
“No. Babe, for the 80 millionth time. I. Am. Okay,” I sighed, grabbing onto his face. “You’re going to croak before this baby is born if you keep worrying like this.”
“I know,” he nodded, kissing my cheek. “I’m sorry. Goodnight.”
“Love you,” I smiled, snuggling into his grasp.
With the crickets and the toads singing in the distance, I fell asleep like a charm. It wasn’t until I had strange dream that my sleep was disturbed. I dreamt I was in a room from what I remember. I could only describe it as cold; cold hues, cold metal, cold air. My breath puffed out around my head as I walked, looking for that noise. It buzzed, vibrating the hairs in my ears. The more I walked, the louder it got but the colder it got too. The walls seeped a wet goo that shined in the gray light. My feet squelched against the ground, slipping, and threatening to make me fall.
I held my hands out, trying to get my balance, but all I felt was thick air. My palms went slick as I flailed them through the atmosphere, like I was walking through clouds. I seemed to blink once and it was in front of me. A furnace. It’s muddy body slick with the same goo that covered the walls. It hummed, begging me to come closer for its warmth. Dream me crept forward, the buzzing becoming part of my body. I felt it reverberate against my bones, settling deep in the pit of my stomach.
It’s heat finally cut through the thick chill, wafting over my body in humid waves. The cold mist steamed off, hissing as it sizzled against my hot skin. I was face to face with the furnace, but my eyes were out of focus. I blinked and blinked, slowly concentrating on the buzzing oven.
Bugs. Millions of them, crawling over each other. It was no furnace, it was a hive. Tiny wings flitted, spitting up bits of dust. Spiny legs sticking to everything they came in contact with. I looked down and saw the very first one reach out toward my stomach, sticking its spikey legs into my skin. Soon, my entire stomach was littered with wasps and the radiating heat turning into a burning sting, spearing through my body. I doubled over and opened my mouth, letting out an echoing scream. As I did, the wasps took flight, covering the air in stinging clouds.
I woke up to the same stinging pain, just condensed to one area. I hissed and sat up on my elbows, rubbing my stomach. Graham was instantly awake too, leaning over me.
“What? What is it? Is it time? The baby’s coming?” he slurred, still half asleep.
I couldn’t help but laugh through my grimaced face, “No, dork. I think something bit me.”
“Where? Let me see.”
I sat up as much as I could and lifted my shirt. A little red dot lay below my belly button, a tiny bump directly underneath. Nothing else was around it, no cut, no oozing wound, no spidering lines. Just a dot and a bump.
“Do you think it was a spider?” Graham asked.
“It feels like a bee sting,” I hissed, the stinging coming back in waves. “I can feel my pulse in my stomach.”
“We’re going home,” Graham said, not waiting for me to agree.
This time, I didn’t argue with him. I was in pain and a little worried if I must admit, but I would never have told Graham that. He would have had a fit right then and there. We quickly packed and were up and out in a matter of 30 minutes. My stomach still stung, but it was getting less and less. I put some Neosporin on it and a cold rag.
Our truck kept getting stuck in the grooves of the road, something had driven through there that was obviously too heavy to be on wet dirt trails. They lead to a campsite a couple of spaces ahead of us, where Professor Johnathan’s RV used to be.
“Wonder where he went off to so early,” I thought aloud.
“Looks like he took a shortcut,” Graham said, pointing out his window.
The deep grooved tracks lead from the campsite, across the dirt path, and disappeared into the woods.
“Wouldn’t that go right to the highway?” I asked, looking through the back window as we drove by.
“If he made it through the maze of trees, I guess it would,” Graham shrugged, pulling up toward Greg’s gate office.
The old man walked out with a big smile on his face, “Leaving so soon, kids?”
“Yeah,” Graham breathed, running a hand through his bedhead, “Summer got stung by something. I’m just going to take her home.”
“Is she alright?” Greg’s voice mirrored my husband’s.
“I’m fine!” I called from the passenger side, poking my head over Graham’s shoulder. “Could I use your phone though?”
“Of course,” Greg nodded, running to my door to help me out.
“Going to call the doctor,” I said, “just to make sure I don’t need some special help-baby-defend-against-beestings medicine or something.”
I told Greg thank you as he showed me to his office and I plopped down in his chair by the phone. I dug around my bag until the little laminated card slipped between my fingers and hastily dialed my doctors number. I wouldn’t have been so nervous if Little One wasn’t flopping around so much. Baby didn’t like something. I knew beestings, or bug bites in general for that matter, wouldn’t reach all the way to where baby was, but what if some poison got in my blood? What if it was going directly to Little One? Or…he could just feel that I was stressed out, making him stressed out, and making me more stressed out.
I’m not sure, but I do know that after one reassuring talk with the doctor I was fine. No more jitters, no more flips. My sting still stung, but that was normal. Doc said to take care of the bite and that Little One would be fine. Just drink some fluids and I should be all good.
And I was…until later that night. We were on the couch when I heard it again, that buzzing from my dream. It was in my left ear, tingling my brain and making my scalp itch. I jumped up and tried sticking my finger in my ear.
“What?” Graham asked, fumbling next to me.
“I think a bug’s in my ear,” I groaned, bending over and pounding on my forehead, trying to make it fall out.
“A BUG!” I growled in annoyance.
I stood up and went over to the kitchen sink, turning on the water and sticking my head under the faucet, hoping to flush out whatever was in there. I had gotten up way too fast and my vision started to blur a bit. I sputtered under the water, hands too frantic to correspond with my brain. The rushing water battered against my eardrum, overpowering the buzzing noise. I finally shut off the faucet and breathed. And that’s all I heard; me breathing. No more buzz. I sighed and stretched my neck, wiping my wet bangs off my forehead.
But, I felt like throwing up when I looked out the window. There he was, Professor Johnathan. He was in our yard under the oak tree staring straight at me. The light from the kitchen sink gently glinted off his glasses, making him look like he had glowing eyes.
“Hun,” Graham’s voice was right behind me, his hand on my shoulder making me flinch. “Whoa, it’s okay.”
“Do you see him?” I asked, turning toward Graham, and dragging him to the window.
“Professor Johna-” my voice cut off in my throat.
We were both looking into our empty yard filled with nothing but strobing fireflies and gently rustling bushes. He was there! I knew he was there, I looked at him with my own two eyes! I pressed my palms against the counter and leaned forward, getting as close to the glass window as I could before touching it with the tip of my nose. He had to be out there somewhere.
I flew backwards and into my husband’s arms, this time my bladder wasn’t as strong as I hoped. Again, I blamed Little One. Something had flown into the window and crashed against the glass, making a dull ting sound. A pebble? A rock? I didn’t see what it was when it happened, but when I looked back I saw it still stuck to the glass.
Splattered in a pile of its own goo, was a beetle. It’s iridescent purple shell was shattered to pieces and its unforgettable bug stink slowly seeped its way into our house. Graham rubbed my shaking shoulders as I caught my breath.
“It’s just a bug,” he soothed, resting his chin on the top of my head. “You’re okay.”
“Oh, God,” I sighed, burring my head in Graham’s chest, “I’m losing my mind!” My muffled laugh vibrated against his shirt.
“Let’s just get to bed,” he smiled, turning off the tv and guiding me upstairs.
When I finally got to bed, I couldn’t help but lift the blankets and sheets just to make sure there were no bugs waiting for me. I hoped a good night’s sleep would help un-fog my brain.