Ice, Ice Baby: Pica, Anemia and Me

I’ve seen a few shows lately featuring women who eat chalk. “It’s like candy” “I love the texture” “it soothes me” – these are some of the sentiments of chalk-eaters. Seems really odd, right?

The condition of craving and consuming non-foods like chalk, dirt, ice, clay, etc., is called pica and I partially know this because I had it.

I started craving ice very late in my pregnancy – I think it was in December, my final month. December in Chicago. Who craves ice in the winter?

I’d read all the books and was aware of pica, but it didn’t dawn on me that maybe my insatiable craving for ice was pica. I wasn’t eating paint or dirt. My thinking was, it’s ice. It’s frozen water. Water is healthy.

The texture and feeling of ice in my mouth was so soothing, I didn’t want to stop. I was a junkie. I found my favorite gas stations and fast food places for ice (I remember Thorntons was pretty legit). I even got the guy down at the Dunkin Donuts in my office building to give me cups of ice for some odd change. I learned how to thaw out my freezer ice to the perfect texture, too. Sure, it was a little manic, and I’d be a liar if I said eyebrows weren’t raised, but no one got hurt. I mean, your body does so much freaky shit during pregnancy, craving ice seemed pretty vanilla. What’s more, what person in their right mind is going to argue with a preggo as big as a house if she wants to crunch on a cup of ice?

Somehow my doctor aunt got wind of this and said I might be iron deficient. I brushed it off. Like, how does craving ice have anything to do with iron deficiency? Seemed totally unrelated. This was part of my defense. The other was entitlement. I guess I was thinking I was due really soon and my pregnancy has been pretty uneventful, why can’t I just satisfy this one harmless craving? I feel really stupid now even trying to defend my ignorance. I mean, I had all of the tools to add it up, not to mention by 8 months, I was seeing my OB weekly. And it’s not like I didn’t care. I was very cautious during my pregnancy. But I guess I was just being a shithead.

Turns out, I was iron deficient. Anemic, in fact. According to the Mayo Clinic, “ice has a new and better taste to some people who are iron deficient.” I take the blame for not being in tune with my body.

I found out about my anemia after I gave birth. I almost fainted in the recovery room. My complexion was so ashen, my freckles (of which I have many) had all but faded. This made worse by people commenting on how bad I looked. I had a total of two blood transfusions. I started on an iron pill after I came home from the hospital. Now I try to eat iron-rich foods like beans, eggs, whole-grain bread and nuts. All I know is next time I’m knocked up, I’ll commit myself to more steak and eggs. Far tastier than ice.

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1 Response to “Ice, Ice Baby: Pica, Anemia and Me”


  1. 1 katiekw December 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Totally had the same thing and didn’t know until long after my pregnancy. I read every friggin baby book/website/fluff piece… Thanks for the public service announcement – no one seems to be getting this one out there.


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