by Tawnya Calvillo
It’s now been three weeks since we arrived on land and I’ve finally found it in me to share my side of the story. I’ve never been sea sick, I love sailing, but the sail down for me was NOT pleasant. To be quite honest it sucked. I hated the movement of the boat when we sailed, hated breathing the diesel when we motored, the smell of the food these crazy South Americans cook, the pictures being taken of me, everything.
I spent 98% of my awake time in the “dog house,” the small little platform at the front of the cockpit hidden behind the bimini. When it was cold I was there with layers of clothes and blankets, when it was hot I was there in a bathing suit with a towel pinned over the bimini blocking me from the sun. The dog house happens to be right above the galley (kitchen) so you’d find this life long vegetarian with a blanket over my face half the time to block out the smells of meat and fish being prepared below.
It’s a good thing Day 1 started off great or we may have turned around right then. I woke up around 6:30 am. We were about 2 hours off shore from Marina Del Rey. I went above deck just in time to see the sunrise over the Southern California mountains. It felt soooo good to finally see the rewards of our hard work and dreams coming true. We enjoyed the day watching dolphins, painting with water colors, snacking and relaxing. I may or may not have thrown up that day, I can’t remember, if so it didn’t matter, it was my happiest day in months!!
Day 2 was the exact opposite and the next few weeks were down hill for me from there. I woke up that day to gusts of nearly 40 knots, the boat rocking forward, backward, side to side over (and sometimes under) huge waves and rough winds. Everyone threw up at least once that day (except Captain), I certainly did multiple times. Luckily, we arrived in Ensenada that evening and we could regroup on land. It was a nice port, but I didn’t feel any better and hated land too. The town was stinky. Walking around was annoying. The cruise ships were loud. The restaurant food made me ill.
Back to sea….with a few stops in between that you may have or can read about in our previous (and more positive) posts, not a day went by that I didn’t throw up. I only made it to my usual favorite spot, the bowsprit, three times during the entire 17 day trip (11 days which were at sea). Each bowsprit visit for no more than 5 minutes, then back to the dog house and straight to bed by 7 p.m. latest. All the other adult crew took shifts each night, watching the beautiful and calm night sky (but also having to wake up for their shifts which went “A shift” 9 p.m.-12, “B shift” 12-3 a.m., “C shift” 3 a.m.-6 a.m. and “A shift” again 6 a.m.-9 a.m.). I would usually rise around 8:30 a.m. with Ella. Straight to the dog house. Holding back vomit. Totally useless. Ella certainly helped hoist more sails, coil more sheets, serve more snacks and clean up than I did. I did nothing. A useless body aboard. And I hated that too. I’m not that good at sitting still. The one thing I was useful for was navigating our course by chart and I often quit, forgot what I was doing, or slept through that, which sent us off course a few times. The dog house earned a new name “The Throne” as Francisco said, “The queen of the ship ordering people around from the throne.” I never really left the spot, except to lean over the side of the boat of course…posted up there only speaking to say things like “bring me a water, remember extra lemon, I want this snack prepared just like this, can’t you see that loose line, go grab it! Tighten the traveler, take us 4 degrees starboard, don’t talk to me I feel like shit….” And bless their hearts they (mostly) followed orders day in and day out and even cleaned up after me when I got sick. Ella was cute and would say, “Francisco! Mommy’s throw upping again,” and he’d come to help. I didn’t want him to correct her wording ’til the very last day or two because I liked how she said it wrong. “Throw upping,” at least it gave me something to chuckle about in between.
Luckily for all of us, I only REALLY lost it once. Out of frustration, loss of hope and the feeling that no one understood and everyone was so normal and happy sipping their cocktails and laughing the days away while I tried to ignore the overwhelming discomfort, I screamed profanities as loud as I could at everyone, threatened to throw stuff overboard and stormed below to bed.
There was a half decent day for me around day 15 as we crossed the Sea of Cortez. The water was like a pool, not even a ripple. We stopped and swam, you can read about it here. EVEN I made it all the way out of the newly named dog house and into the water. I walked around the boat a bit that day and surprisingly laid on the deck for an hour or two instead of the thrown which I would ruthlessly tell you if you sat there, “Get out of my spot.”
FLASHBACK to December while we were still in Marina Del Rey working hard for hours on end to prepare for the trip. It was Dec 8th, I walked down the dock ramp towards our boat slip. As I walked passed the pile of Sea Lions sun bathing on the dock the smell of these marina pets was extra strong that day. I instantly started leaning over the dock gagging. I went straight to the store that night and picked up a pregnancy test which read “best results first thing in the morning.” I woke up Dec 9th, my birthday, pee’d on the trusty stick and watched TWO lines appear. Happy birthday to me! I calculated the due date based off my last period…. Happy birthday to Francisco! Due August 9th, his birthday! That evening on this same lovely day of mine, our dear Kiran was brought into the world as well!!! Ella’s first little brother, born a month before his due date, on my birthday!
The next six weeks of boat preparation leading up to our Jan 26th departure would be hell. I was sick with Ella, maybe a little more than the average morning sickness considering it lasted 24 hours a day for a couple months straight, but it was bearable and it diminished around 12 weeks. This time would be different. 24 hours of INTENSE discomfort and we had SO much to do to prepare for sea. We had originally planned to leave around my birthday, but as with most sailing journeys there’s no definite departure date between preparing the boat, ourselves and watching the weather, etc. I ended up in the hospital sometime around early January because I had become so malnourished and dehydrated from not holding anything down due to how sick I was. They kept me longer than expected and gave me more than double the fluids and medicine they had anticipated. I was diagnosed with HG (hyperemesis gravidarum), which is basically EXTREME and never ending sickness during pregnancy, a rare experience that blesses only 2% of pregnancies. I wanted to get out of the Marina already!
Great, now I had some rare acute pregnancy sickness that only this poor pirate and the Princess of England share. I was prescribed pills to take multiple times a day to help with the vomiting. I hate taking pills. They did help a little bit, though it was much more discomfort than just nausea I was suffering from, so I often day dreamt they were morphine pills. I very seriously say, I contemplated if I might need to check into a mental institute multiple times. I didn’t even want to see or talk to my best friends because it was too much effort and no one I knew truly understood the intensity, mothers or not. I tried anything and everything to feel better. I became depressed which I had never really experienced in my life. Finally, I spoke to one of my childhood best friends, Sheena who had HG with 1 out of her 3 pregnancies. Gosh I love that woman, the sweetest. It broke her heart to see me that way because she KNEW. I was directed to information and support groups online that basically said there’s nothing that helps, “All the advice people give you for morning sickness are not going to help you, this is not morning sickness.” It was suggested that the best thing was support, bed rest, and mental strength. I stopped reading the support site as I couldn’t stand to do anything at all. Portia researched many times in hopes of supporting me and finding anything that could help. She recently told me she had read many forums of women feeling the need to be institutionalized, and sedated, I wasn’t alone. I hope some day I can put into words inspiration and advice that might calm another HG expecting mom.
On the BRIGHT SIDE, and not just talking about this hot Mexico sun…..last week at 17 weeks pregnant, I woke up a new person, feeling at least halfway myself!!! Pretty good, not amazing, but super happy to be functional, to have an appetite and my mind not so blurred, enough to look at a computer and write this post. Enough to finally enjoy where we’ve journeyed to and walk my ass to the beach or day spa to relax. Being debilitated since the sea lion initiation and several weeks into my 2nd trimester, even having spent weeks back on land, was making me feel mentally insane again, a loss of hope that it would never ease up, and now I didn’t have the sea to blame for it still lingering! BUT low and behold….here I am! Feeling what I would say is normal pregnancy sick, which is a huge relief (although it would be really awesome if it would disappear completely), it’s really something to feel that way with out a minute of relief for that many months STRAIGHT. It’s like waking up with a horrible hangover, the kind where you want to die and say you’ll never drink again, contemplate going to the ER. The kind where you feel it all the way until falling asleep the next night, but you make it through and wake up the next day just a bit worn out, but the next day after that you drink a beer! Yep, that kind, only it never went a way for even a minute, no next day beer for me.
Because I was so sick I didn’t see anyone and chose to not tell many people that I was pregnant before departure. As far as I was concerned, their opinions on sailing while sick didn’t matter anyways and I felt, “Well f*!# it, send me to sea. I’d rather be suffering sick out there than stuck on land.”
Did sailing make my diagnoses easier or harder? Probably a bit of both. I think it certainly eased my mental state, not having to drive around town taking care of errands or see anyone in public, etc. but it was physically harder being swished around at sea.
Would I still make the same choice? YES! (that is to this whole sailing thing)
So anyways… SURPRISE!!! It’s a Mexican boob job! The more kids you have the longer it lasts!
(Yes I made a joke about Mexicans having lots of kids, yes I’m half Mexican, yes I love Mexico and Mexicans and all humankind) #theoceanhasnowalls
One last thing. While I’m on my rant, I hate these stickers..
But guess what…