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U Is For Uppers

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

\”Honey,\” the obstetrician said (for that is how we girls were addressed in 1969), \”you\’re two months pregnant and you\’ve gained four pounds.  If you keep this up you\’ll have a bad delivery, you\’ll get varicose veins, and you\’ll look awful.\”

\”But Doctor S.,\” I replied, \”I have horrible morning sickness all day long, and food is the only thing that helps.  Plus I keep falling asleep in the library stacks, when I\’m supposed to be doing research for my dissertation.\”

\”Here\’s something that might help,\” Dr. S. said, handing me a prescription.  \”Take one in the morning.\”

The next day, having taken the new pill, I went to the library.  At noon I met my husband and some friends at a cafe on campus.  \”You\’ll never believe what a day I had!\”  I said, before even sitting down.  \”It was terrific!  I found just the sources I was looking for, lots of them!  I wrote and wrote and wrote until I ran out of index cards!\”

\”Don\’t you want to eat something?\” my husband asked when I stopped for breath.

\”What? No…I\’m not really hungry.  I think I\’ll go buy some more index cards!  I\’ll see you at home this afternoon!\” and, waving gaily, I sped off to the campus bookstore, got the cards, and returned to the library.

Reader, those pills changed my life:   my nausea vanished, as did my appetite and my need for sleep.  The dissertation research was going famously.  True, after several weeks I noticed that a vague feeling of apprehension would come over me when the pill\’s effects started wearing off, a littler earlier every day.  But it never occurred to me to wonder about the pills.  They had been prescribed by Dr. S., and it was his job to take care of me and the baby.

In January, 1970, when I went for my four months check, I saw Dr. P, a partner of Dr. S.  \”I no longer have nausea,\” I explained, \”but the pills that Dr. S prescribed give me energy, so I\’m still taking them.\”

Dr. P looked at my chart and looked alarmed.  \”Do you know what you\’ve been taking?  Those are diet pills!  Do you know how addictive they are?  I advise you to stop taking them right now.\”  I went home, put the  pills away in the medicine cabinet, and waited apprehensively for the agonies of withdrawal to begin.  Miraculously, they never did.

The pregnancy progressed, and, thanks to that early pill-fueled burst of research, I finished a paragraph-by-paragraph outline of the dissertation.  When my mid-May due date came and went with no signs of labor, I felt betrayed by the universe. It was hot, and I was so uncomfortable that I couldn\’t even read, much less work on the dissertation.  One especially sweltering afternoon, I remembered the pills.  I got the bottle out of the medicine cabinet, split a pill in two, and swallowed a piece.

In a flash, I was in the fabric store buying material and patterns for not one but five dresses to wear after the baby came.  I flew home, ironed out all the fabric and all the patterns, pinned the patterns to the fabric, cut out the five dresses, and went into labor.

The next day, I was nursing my plump and sprightly daughter when Dr. S came into the hospital room and stood beaming by my bed, \”Honey, I\’m so proud of you,\” he said.  \”Your baby weighed eight pounds, but your total gain was only fifteen pounds!  You\’ll be able to fit into your clothes in no time.\”

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