JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU: I remember setting out for a late afternoon run and the overpowering perfume of plumerias from the tree outside my house. That’s the moment I knew something was up.
Normally, for me, getting a whiff of the bright pink flowers requires plucking one and holding it close. That afternoon, I could smell them from afar.
I had temporarily developed a superhuman sense of smell when I was pregnant with my daughters, now 9 and 7. So as I breathed in the scent of plumerias, the thought crossed my mind: Could I be pregnant?
I brushed it off as part of the longing I’ve had for years after the birth of my (until now) youngest. Almost daily, I’d daydream about having a third child. I had a miscarriage before my daughters were born, and it felt like our family was incomplete. But I always tell myself it’s not practical: We live in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.
Now is an especially bad time. The pandemic has decimated Hawaii’s economy. The state has been forced to pull the welcome mat from throngs of tourists who normally purchase the food my husband sells at farmer’s markets.
I’m not pregnant, I insisted as I set off on my usual 3-mile route.
Then I found myself jogging effortlessly into Waikiki, then back up to my home near Honolulu’s Punchbowl crater. My running app showed I ran 8.9 miles.
I’ve read somewhere that thanks to a surge in red blood cells, early pregnancy gives athletes a performance boost. It proved true during my two pregnancies.
The next weekend: 10.25 miles — my longest run in more than two years.
Somewhere in between struggling through remote schooling for my daughters, working from a very hot spare bedroom and worrying about the future of my husband’s business, the symptoms became harder to ignore — including cravings for pineapple doused in vinegar and for limu, or seaweed.
During low tide, I scrambled over craggy reef at a spot near Diamond Head where my mother took me as a child to gather a type of limu called “pokpoklo” in Ilocano, her Filipino language. I rinsed the sand off right there and ate it — as if my body desperately needed the chewy, dark green, nutrient-rich seaweed.
I knew I should take a test. But I really didn’t want to be inside a store, and it seemed awkward to use Target’s drive-up service for a home pregnancy test.
On Mother’s Day, my husband couldn’t take it anymore. He had to know. I wanted to wait. (Honestly, I just really wanted a mimosa that day.) He went to the store and returned with a test. I had a feeling there would be no mimosas for many months.
I laughed when I saw “PREGNANT” in the plastic wand’s tiny window. Then I braced myself for a flood of panic because of the pandemic.
But it never arrived.
I do worry about not knowing what would happen to the baby if I catch the virus, and I fret about precautions to keep our family safe. But mostly, this pregnancy brings a calming hope.
I’ve accepted that this one will be different. I have a new obstetrician. I may never know what she looks like without a mask, but she has kind eyes. My husband may not be allowed to witness any ultrasounds, but if you’ve seen one amorphous fetus image you’ve seen them all. And if a spike in cases forces hospitals to revert to restrictions on visitors, he may not be at my side when it comes time to deliver.
Until then, I’ll keep running. On days when I’m not bowled over with nausea, I instantly feel better and stronger as soon as my feet hit the pavement under that plumeria tree.