So pregnancy is great. Really. There are lots of things I love: feeling the baby kick and flip, an amazingly bigger appetite than I’ve ever had before, watching in wonder as my middle grows. Those things seem very magical to me. Then there are some less magical parts of pregnancy: Fatigue, nausea, heartburn, and an oddly acute sense of smell. These things slam me back into reality pretty often. Strange smells are especially good for a reality check.
A few weeks ago I was walking up the big hill south of campus and I smelled raw onions. This is one of my least favorite smells in the world and it just wouldn’t go away. I swear someone was weed-whacking some green onion plants nearby. Or maybe the food science lab had just thrown out a huge batch of chopped onion from some pungent project. No one else really seemed bothered by the putrid air.
I told Blair about it later and he helpfully told me about some tidbit he read on mentalfloss.com. It goes something like this–apparently some people smell things that really aren’t there. This little defect has a name: Phantosmia
My dear husband really thought he was being helpful. Here’s what he thought he said: “Don’t worry, some people just smell things that don’t exist—even when they’re not pregnant.” Here’s what I heard: “Your brain is malfunctioning and you’re crazy. Don’t even try to blame it on pregnancy.”
He really thinks this little brain defect is amusing. A few days after that conversation Blair noticed that I wouldn’t kiss him as much as usual (a big relief for those who know us). I tried to gently tell him that I couldn’t take his breath. So he brushed, flossed, and used mouthwash then came to me for assessment of his handiwork. “Well, it’s sort of better.” I swear I still smelled something putrid.
Not to be deterred from his quest for more kisses, the next night Blair bravely used some super bad breath busting toothpaste and mouthwash formulated for halitosis. It has been sitting in our bathroom closet for a long time and he finally busted it out. After a thorough cleaning, he again came to me for assessment. “Uhh….well…I still smell something weird.” I think he seriously thought I was nuts.
That night as we were getting ready for bed I noticed that I smelled that strange smell even when Blair’s mouth was closed. I asked him to close his mouth and breathe out through his nose. There it was! That strange smell wasn’t halitosis of the mouth—it was halitosis of the nose! Does that even exist? How do you freshen your nose? Now Blair is sure I’m certifiable. The good news is I finally stopped smelling it after a few days. Now I’ve moved on to smelling other strange things in unexpected places: stale cigarette smoke, mildew, rotten garbage—why can’t it be vanilla or lavender or baking bread or some other pleasant scent? Don’t worry. I don’t smell bad things all the time. Just every now and then something will tickle my olfactory center and remind me that pregnancy isn’t all peaches and cream. I just hope I’ll get back my normal sense of smell once our baby comes.