Is what I went to the hospital for, when I was pregnant and in the third trimester.


Not to deliver a baby, not because of false labour, not because of Braxton-Hicks or swelled fingers or spotting.

Hiccups. The baby’s hiccups.

I’d just had such a smooth pregnancy, I was terrified. Actually, I’d been terrified the whole time.

Right after finding out I was pregnant, I went through every beauty product I owned — and there were many, many of them — and looked up every ingredient in every product on one of those websites that tells you the toxicity of things (a great idea in theory, but which doesn’t exactly account for the actual concentrations of the ingredients in said products). I panicked, and threw everything out. Hundreds of dollars in product, literally down the drain. Shampoo. Conditioner. Body wash. Lotions, creams, salves. Lip glosses. Oh, the lip glosses.

I still feel good about getting rid of the really bad things, the ones with parabens and heavy perfumes. I just might have gone a wee bit overboard on the other stuff. Even a moderate risk, when the ingredient was the very last one on the list, sent me into a tailspin. My love of cosmetics was no match for my extreme paranoia.

I went for weeks without makeup because I couldn’t get to the right store (Sephora) to buy the right eyeshadow (Sephora) that wouldn’t cause inevitable and irreversible harm to my unborn child. My hair went all weird and crispy because I would only use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap. I looked everything up. If I had to buy something new, I could count on at least an hour of research. If I couldn’t find the ingredients, I didn’t buy it. There was a deodorant issue, for a while. Cough.

I was determined to do everything I could to protect my baby, though I wouldn’t admit to being so crazy. I acted like I believed that pregnant women get entirely too freaked out by overblown health scares. Caffeine, wine, soft cheeses. “We’re just all so paranoid, here in North America,” I’d say. And I’d go on about how stressing and obsessing about having a glass of wine was probably worse than the wine itself.

Just not when it came to my baby.

I sailed through the first and second trimesters nearly symptom-free. (I had nausea, but that was great! It meant the baby was healthy.) All my tests came back negative, and the baby’s size was right on track. Nothing had gone wrong.

So when the hiccups came along, I was primed and ready to overreact. I knew that babies hiccup in utero, but there seemed to be an awful lot of them. One day, there were six episodes that lasted about 30 minutes each. So I made the stupid mistake of looking it up. “Baby hiccuping how much” I Googled.

Here’s a tip: never, ever go on the Internet if you’re worried about something.

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Pete said, for the millionth time. (I had worried when she wasn’t kicking enough. When she was kicking a lot — was it too much? When I ate too much ice cream — would it spike my glucose levels? When, early in the first trimester, I slipped on ice, very gently, and landed on my butt, more softly than if I’d gone down a kiddie slide.)

Another tip: if you do look something up online, phrasing it like a question will bring up results on forums. And even if you don’t intend to visit the forums, the snippets in the search results are enough to make you panic.

“I recently read that during late pregnancy, if your baby hiccups too much and is incredibly active, it could mean …”

What? What could it mean??

And even if you somehow manage to ignore the forums and go straight to an authority like WebMD or Babycentre, guess what disclaimer is included in every single piece of health-related content ever? “[your symptom here] may be a sign of something more serious. If you’re concerned, call your doctor.”

So I did that, and better. I went to pregnant lady emergency.

The very first time I went to emergency, I was 18. I thought I had an STD and that I was dying. It turned out to be an um, infection of the very common variety, the remedies for which are frequently advertised and oh please don’t make me say it, it’s gross. So naturally, after being advised by my obstetrical nurse that hiccups were very probably nothing to worry about, but that if I was really concerned over the weekend, I should go to Labour and Delivery at Mt. Sinai, well, I did just that.

“They might look at you a little funny,” she advised.

At the hospital, I stepped up to the nurse’s station, aware that there were pregnant women in the waiting room who probably had much bigger issues to see the doctor about.

“Hiccups?” the nurse said. Lasers shot out of her eyes. She may have made a hissing sound.

I shrank. Maybe I shouldn’t have started with, “This is going to sound crazy, but…”

“My baby’s hiccups!” I stammered. “Cord compression! Many many hiccups! I’m worried about cord compression!”

After I got hooked up to the machines and they checked the heartbeat and showed me that everything was looking fine, the doctor came to talk to me. She had never heard of hiccups being caused by cord compression, which I found slightly alarming because hello, it’s on WebMD. She also tried to reassure me by pointing out that the cord gets wrapped around the baby’s neck all the time.

All the what now?

“I mean, I’m glad we went in,” I said to Pete as we were leaving the hospital. “It’s good to know that everything is okay.” Except for the very likely possibility that right that minute, my little baby was wearing her umbilical cord as a scarf. How much longer did I have to wait until she was born? Where could I rent an ultrasound machine?

The hiccups continued, and as I got closer to my due date I still worried that there seemed to be too many of them, but as the long days wore on I had other things to think about, like would my body make it to Sept 24 because holy crap, it felt like the baby was just going to fall right out, in like a Loblaws or something. (I didn’t make it; she came 2.5 weeks early.)

In spite of all my fear and obsessing and over-thinking everything, I liked being pregnant. In spite of throwing all my beloved makeup and toiletries out; in spite of the Great Hiccups Scare of 2013. In spite of calling the nurse one day from work to ask if I had hurt my baby because the waistband on my leggings was too tight I mean it’s pretty tight should I go home and change? Oh yes, I did that. You bet I did. But it was awesome, having a little someone in me. Plus, all the ice cream.

I’m glad everything is back to normal, now that she’s…out. Because it’s not like there’s anything to worry about with a new baby around. Like germs, or anything. Whoops, dropped my phone on the floor. Pete, can you disinfect it? … Great, thanks, but the hand you disinfected it with touched the phone before it was clean, and then again after you cleaned it. So really, it’s still dirty. Oh, and can you disinfect the vinegar bottle too? Just remember, if your hands are dirty before you touch the bottle, and then you touch it again, it’s not really clea–Ack! Don’t put the remote control on the couch! That’s where the cats sit!

Yup, all back to normal.

3 thoughts on “Hiccups

  1. Having been there for all of this, I can attest to almost all of it making perfect sense at the time. I can also attest to the look that nurse gave you when you said we had come to the hospital because of the in-utero hiccups. We should have told her it was the internet’s fault!

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