I found myself sprawled out on the brown couch, indulging in my daily (or okay, twice daily) mint chocolate chip popsicle, while envisioning the upcoming birth of my child. At eight months pregnant, I was preparing myself for the extraordinary and life-changing event that billions of women had gone through before me. Although I anticipated some drama and pain, I took solace in the fact that I planned to have an epidural. If there was a way to minimize the pain of childbirth, count me in. I felt somewhat prepared and ready for anything, until I heard a scratching sound.
Reluctant to get up from the couch unless absolutely necessary or for the purpose of getting another popsicle, I decided to wait. It could have been the sound of a tree branch brushing against the house or an innocent lizard. However, the scratching sound persisted. As pregnant women, we are often exhausted, yet constantly vigilant, with every nerve in our bodies on high alert for any potential threats to our unborn child. The scratching grew more aggressive, and I rolled off the couch and reached for my phone.
Without bothering to exchange pleasantries with my husband, Jerett, I dove straight into the reason for my call. “We have rats!”
“How do you know? Did you see one?”
“I heard it. It’s in the walls.”
“Maybe it’s just a mouse?”
“It’s way too loud.”
“I’ll take care of it tonight. I’ll set up some traps.”
No matter what goes wrong, Jerett always claims he will handle it. Whether it’s a tree limb falling on the roof or a burst pipe, his handiness can be incredibly attractive, and at times, immensely frustrating. However, these scratches sounded serious. I was certain we would need professional help, but if he wanted to take on the challenge, I was willing to give him a chance.
I had read a few baby books, such as “Eat, Sleep, Poop” and “12 Hours’ Sleep By 12 Weeks Old.” The latter book, with its charts and diagrams, had stressed me out so much that I threw it across the room in frustration. I had learned about cord blood banking and tummy time, but none of the books had prepared me for dealing with rodent infestations.
For the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but shiver each time I heard a scratch. Our 800-square-foot bungalow, situated on a hill in northeast Los Angeles, didn’t offer any escape. It was built in 1920 and had a crawl space rather than a basement, allowing critters of all kinds to freely come and go. The number of spiders and silverfish entering through cracks and baseboards was astonishing. An exterminator seemed like a lost cause.
That night, we set a few traps in the crawl space. The scratching sounds had been unsettling, but having a rat trap snap shut at three in the morning was downright terrifying. The silver lining of being pregnant was that I didn’t have to be the one to check the traps and dispose of the rats.
Come morning, Jerett donned work gloves and armed himself with a shovel and plastic bag. He disposed of a rat the size of a large squirrel. A few nights later, the scratching started again. The following morning, we discovered our bedroom floor covered in rat droppings. By some miracle, they hadn’t made their way onto the bed. Another perk of being pregnant was that I could leave the house while Jerett handled the cleanup.
For the second round, we invested in a fancy “smart kill” Wi-Fi-enabled rat trap that claimed to be humane. I took pride in the fact that I hadn’t completely lost it. I wanted to be a calm and collected mother, someone who handled challenges with grace and ease. Yes, even rats.
During this time, I received another unexpected surprise. I learned that I would need to be induced, as the doctor worried my baby wasn’t gaining enough weight. My pregnancy was classified as “geriatric” because it was assisted by IVF, so I was willing to follow whatever advice the doctor gave me.
We set a date for the induction. I was informed that a “balloon” would be inserted into my cervix and I would be given the synthetic hormone Pitocin to stimulate contractions, which could potentially be more painful than they should be. Throughout the process, I continued to devour my popsicles, pretending to be calm.
A few days before the scheduled induction, my doctor called with some bad news. “I have broken my arm while mountain biking. I won’t be able to deliver your baby.”
Wonderful. But at least the rats were gone. Right?
The day of the induction arrived. The cervical balloon was inserted, and Pitocin was administered. The entire experience was far from cute or movie-worthy. I was only a couple of hours into a long and arduous process when my sister Amy called. She was at our house with my niece.
“I’m so sorry to tell you this, but we saw three rats run across the floor. We’re standing on the coffee table.”
I offered to pay for a hotel and went back to writhing in pain. Women have given birth in log cabins without electricity or on the banks of rivers. I could handle this.
Finally, after more than 30 hours, our beautiful and healthy six-pound son was born. Two days later, we brought him home to find my in-laws, parents, and pregnant sister eagerly awaiting our arrival. I knew the rats were still lurking, but Jerett assured me he had set up more traps, and we had even enlisted the help of an exterminator.
On our first night back home, my father-in-law opened a kitchen cabinet, only to have a baby rat jump out and land on the floor after bouncing off his bald head. I had a meltdown. I was definitely not the calm and collected mom I aspired to be.
Eventually, we conquered the rat problem with the help of the exterminator and moved out of the bungalow. However, unexpected challenges continue to arise in our lives. From snakes in the yard to bloody noses at peewee basketball games, if I hear another scratch in the walls, I may not maintain my composure, but I will be prepared for almost anything.