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Where EAST meets the Northwest


PANDEMIC & PREGNANCY. At five months pregnant, reporter Jennifer Kelleher is seen going on a morning run in Honolulu, in this August 28, 2020 file photo. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Sinco Kelleher via AP, File)

From The Asian Reporter, V30, #11 (October 5, 2020), page 9.

Virus Diary: In HawaiĎi, pandemic, pregnancy, and plumerias

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

The Associated Press

HONOLULU ó I remember setting out for a late afternoon run and the overpowering perfume of plumerias from the tree outside my house. Thatís 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 super-human sense of smell when I was pregnant with my daughters, now nine and seven. 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 Iíve had for years after the birth of my (until now) youngest. Almost daily, Iíd 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 itís 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 HawaiĎiís economy. The state has been forced to pull the welcome mat from throngs of tourists who normally purchase the food my husband sells at farmerís markets.

Iím not pregnant, I insisted as I set off on my usual three-mile route.

Then I found myself jogging effortlessly into Waikiki, then back up to my home near Honoluluís Punchbowl crater. My running app showed I ran 8.9 miles.

Iíve 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 ó 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 husbandís business, the symptoms became harder to ignore ó 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 ó as if my body desperately needed the chewy, dark green, nutrient-rich seaweed.

I knew I should take a test. But I really didnít want to be inside a store, and it seemed awkward to use Targetís drive-up service for a home pregnancy test.

On Motherís Day, my husband couldnít 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 wandís 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.

Iíve 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 youíve seen one amorphous fetus image youíve 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, Iíll keep running. On days when Iím not bowled over with nausea, I instantly feel better and stronger as soon as my feet hit the pavement under that plumeria tree.

Virus Diary, an occasional feature, showcases the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists around the world.

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