Do you keep bags around to puke in?
April 10, 2012 7:35 PM   Subscribe

How do women in a corporate environment, surrounded by men, who share an office FAR from any sinks or bathrooms deal with all-day morning sickness?

Disclaimer: for those of you that know me, I am not pregnant, nor do I plan to become pregnant in the near future. I'm just absurdly curious about this (wouldn't you be too?).

I work as a software developer in a building filled mostly with awkward unmarried men. The nearest bathroom to me is one football field away in the middle of the building. What do nauseous women in their first trimester do?

I picture myself having a sudden wave of morning sickness and needing to, idk, puke in the waste bin in my office? Next to my office mate? And then walk the full football field to the bathroom to ... wash it out? With toothbrush in hand?

It all seems like a bad sitcom.

Point out how naive I am. Would I have already gone to the dr. for anti-nausea meds if it were this bad? Would I be able to feel it coming and have time to high-tail it to the water closet? Is it really only in the morning? (Ok I know that last one is a lie, I'm not that naive)
posted by kthxbi to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ask HR for a reasonable accommodation. (I'm not your lawyer and this is not legal advice.)
posted by The World Famous at 7:45 PM on April 10, 2012

I am pregnant and was super vomity for about five weeks. The toilets are downstairs and at the opposite end of the building to me so in answer to your question: I have thrown up in my bin (I don't share an office), I have walked to the toilets as casually as possible with a mouth full of vomit (this is doable for little ones only, obvs.)and I have thrown up in a paper bag in the stationary cupboard. All options sucked but then nothing about morning sickness is fun.
posted by Wantok at 7:50 PM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh and even with anti-nausea meds I still threw up 3 - 4 times a day, all day. Its very rare that you haven't been building up to a crescendo of nausea for at least five minutes previously..
posted by Wantok at 7:52 PM on April 10, 2012

I worked in a department where a good number of the women became pregnant at around the same time. We rearranged cubicles so they were closer to the bathrooms. HR didn't need to get involved, they just said it would be easier (also easier later in pregnancy when they had to go to the bathrooms to pee lots more often).
posted by xingcat at 7:52 PM on April 10, 2012

Not all pregnant women get horrendous morning sickness. During my pregnancy, I was nauseous on and off for about 6-8 weeks, but only actually barfed a few times. I think this is pretty typical. I did carry a plastic bag in my purse just in case, but I always had enough time to get to the bathroom and never had to use it. The nausea was worse if I had an empty stomach, so I constantly snacked on crackers, candied ginger and sipped ginger ale. Really strong smells seemed to set me off. I carried a vial of lavender essential oil in my purse and for awhile, a wedge of lemon in a plastic bag to smell if I encountered a gross smell. I did share an office with a single male colleague during this time. I just told him what was up pretty early on and it was never weird or an issue. I did use some sick leave when I felt really bad. Sometimes just going in to work a few hours late or going home to lay down for an hour helped out a lot. One of my friends had REALLY bad morning sickness and did get a prescription for Zofran so that she could continue working.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:55 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have wondered about this mostly on days when I had a terrible hangover and I figured I would work from home, at least for mornings because even if it is all day, life is always worse in the morning IMO and half a day is better than no bread.

Option 2 - there might be a 'new mother's room' nearer than your bathroom, in most buildings I've seen they are near the lobby/elevators (but I'm generally in the Studios which all have newer/similar layouts). You could rush to there and throw up in the bin to save your office mate?
posted by jacalata at 7:56 PM on April 10, 2012

You might have luck rubbing a drop of peppermint oil above your upper lip. All you smell is lovely, non-barfening peppermint.
posted by mochapickle at 7:57 PM on April 10, 2012

A coworker of mine would just spend periods of time in the bathroom evidently, rather than walking back and forth...none of us really noticed she was gone. i guess her productivity kinda sucked but she just blew it off and figured why did they have such a sucky floor plan.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:22 PM on April 10, 2012

My workplace was not a problem, but almost everywhere else was. I carried plastic grocery store bags (doubled) in my car and purse and pockets, and puked into them many times. I didn't have any "mouthfuls" of vomit as mentioned above - never heard of that. All my morning sickness was full on heaving BARFS.

I threw up in many random garbage cans (whenever possible, I would tie up the garbage bag and remove it to an outdoor garbage). I always kept a travel toothpaste and toothbrush with me, and always had a water bottle for swishing and rinsing. In a pinch, I also threw up outside in shrubs, behind trees, etc.
posted by peep at 8:37 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I worked in a giant national call center on a shift that began at five a.m., with really horrible morning sickness. Our bathroom was probably not quite as far as yours but it WAS on the other end of the building, and my job involved non stop talking, ideally in a peppy and personable tone, eight or more hours a day. I am still honestly not sure how I survived it; it was the worst few months (before I got a schedule change) of my life, but when you have no choice you can do some astonishing things.

So yes, I have puked in bags. I have made many, many awkward half-runs to the bathroom clutching my mouth. My productivity (strictly calculated and involving active phone time, sales, returned contacts and so forth) went drastically low. I had mornings where I was late for work because I had to pull off the freeway and throw up on the side of a road on my way. As for the coworkers/awkwardness? You kind of lose all sense of care or dignity by a certain point. It's really not the top concern.

Then again, as someone above pointed out, severe pregnancy sickness to this point is actually not all that common. Nausea is, but not the constant puking. And yes, you can get meds; but they only help to a certain extent - I've used Phenargen and Zofran to varying efficacy at varying points.

Overall, you really just do what you gotta do.
posted by celtalitha at 9:25 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I have actually had to throw some poor caller back into the queue with a sudden "I'm sorry, emergency, please hold" as I started throwing up in the middle of a call. That's an especially fun one. I begged forgiveness from the gods of customer service karma as I pelted for the bathroom.
posted by celtalitha at 9:34 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does your workplace have any handicapped/one-person bathrooms, or perhaps shower rooms? I'm not pregnant, but I had some sort of bad stomach issue earlier today at work, and ended up using our women's shower room which also has a single toilet (and lockable door, thank god).
posted by sarahsynonymous at 9:42 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah we have locker rooms with showers and towel service in the parking garage under our building. We also have a new mother's room a couple floors above me. We are not lacking in awesome amenities. They are just not close enough for what I described in the original question.
posted by kthxbi at 9:50 PM on April 10, 2012

Yep. Puke in the garbage can if you can't make it to the bathroom. (Or start walking towards the bathroom the *second* the nausea starts, but make sure to carry the garbage can in case you don't make it.) Keep toothpaste/brush and an extra set of clothes at work. I had to change at least once, due to splatter. :(
posted by belladonna at 5:32 AM on April 11, 2012

I threw up 30 times a day, every day, for seven months, with both pregnancies. The second one I barfed myself into the hospital for rehydration three times and had to take the meds. (The first one they said, "yep, you're throwing up a lot, but you're managing to keep some food and plenty of water down, so we are not worried.") During the worst part of the morning sickness during my first pregnancy, I was lecturing to three classes and then one of my colleagues left mid-semester for an emergency and I picked up four of his lectures, so I was lecturing to seven classes. It was insanity. It wasn't male-dominated per se, but the bathrooms were small and shared with students and I was "on stage" for 60-90 minute stretches. I kept LemonHeads candy tucked in my cheek ... the nausea kept right on rolling, but the lemon flavor and sugar and sucking could stop the heaving part of the vomiting long enough for me to deliver 90-minute lectures. My students thought I was super-weird with my industrial-sized bags of LemonHeads. I did occasionally call a rather abrupt break so I could race to the bathroom. Or sometimes a trashcan in the hall. It happens, it's not the end of the world.

After a while, if you're throwing up 30 times a day, there's not anything in your stomach, so you're just dry-heaving uncontrollably. So once your stomach's empty you don't really need the elaborate tooth-brushing, mouth-rinsing routine; you're not getting grosser (except for the sweating).

I found that my students had basically two reactions: They didn't notice anything at all, or they were familiar with horrific morning sickness (personally or through a partner) and it occurred to them I might be pregnant and morning sick, but were far too polite to say anything if I didn't. None of my colleagues noticed even during (long) shared-office office-hours. The handful of my students only noticed because they were staring at me lecture.

I actually found the later stages of pregnancy a little more awkward, when there some flatulence (awkward!) and I had to pee a lot because of the baby's positioning. You can't exactly *race* anywhere at that point, and when I had to pee, I HAD TO PEE. The other thing that was awful was, the only errand I was running when I was pregnant was to the grocery store and only because it was life-necessary, so there were several times I was overcome by morning sickness in the grocery store. Usually I made it to the parking lot, but not always. That was super-embarrassing, but the store was really nice about it. (I still shop there. Also, usually by the time I left the house there was nothing left in my stomach so it was mostly dry heaving. But dry heaving in the middle of the grocery store also not my finest moment.)

I don't know, after a while, I just got USED TO IT. When you're throwing up 30 times a day for months on end, you just can't go on with life if barfing is a crisis situation. Boot and rally, my friend. Boot and rally.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:52 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have found men to be just as accommodating of pregnancy issues as women are, actually, with a tinge of fear about breaking the pregnant lady. When people saw me throw up the women tended to look sympathetic and the men tended to look terrified.

And yeah, I always carried a plastic bag in my purse.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:58 AM on April 11, 2012

In your proposed situation, you should tell your colleagues as soon as you are comfortable making the announcement, because as the young rope-rider says, many men are terrified of pregnancy related issues and would prefer to avoid them. Thus, when you are running (or awkwardly hobbling in later stages of pregnancy) to the bathroom they will not get in your way. The single time I did not make it to a toilet in time was because a well meaning waiter got in my way, and the result of that was a toilet stall assaulted in full Exorcist style.

I'm still too embarrassed to go back to that TGI Fridays.
posted by crankylex at 7:18 AM on April 11, 2012

At my office, a pregnant lady asked our boss if her desk could be moved to an office closer to the restroom. Our offices are open plan with a few people in each room, so it worked out fine with minimal fuss. She is just back from maternity leave and has reclaimed her original office.

I guess there is a problem where you don't want to tell people at work that you are pregnant too soon, but the morning sickness may have already started. I suppose the bin will have to do.
posted by bluefly at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2012

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