Michaela Martin, 23, Wanganui, NZ
Scooping up a bundle of clothes, I tossed them in the machine.
As I filled the compartment of my washer with Surf powder, I breathed in the sweet scent.
'It smells so good,' I thought.
While doing the laundry was normally the chore I dreaded, it was the third load I’d done today.
But it wasn’t just seeing the bottom of the laundry basket that made me happy – it was the smell of the powder!
In fact, from the moment I’d entered my third trimester of pregnancy, I’d had an obsession with the cleaning product.
‘It must just be my hormones,’ I sighed, rubbing my blooming belly.
While I’d breezed through my first pregnancy with my little girl, Averhy, now two, it had been tough this time around.
I’d suffered terrible nausea and morning sickness so I just assumed it might be messing with my sense of smell too.
But now at 28 weeks along, I was suddenly fixated on it. Every time I walked past the laundry, I’d open the box of powder and breathe in the fragrance.
Just like when I’d craved ice cream while I was pregnant with Averhy, it felt like sniffing the washing powder soothed me.
What was going on?
After a few days, I wondered what it might taste like.
‘Don’t be stupid,’ I told myself. ‘It has so many chemicals in it. You can’t eat it!’
But the next time I did the laundry, I suddenly found myself wetting my finger and dipping it in the grainy substance before popping it in my mouth.
As I crunched the grains between my teeth, the sweet smell filled my airways. It didn’t taste as good as I’d hoped but I felt an instant sense of relief.
I was worried it might harm my baby so I spat it out after a few bites and rinsed my mouth.
Telling my partner Israel, 23, about my strange habit, he thought I was joking.
I didn’t blame him – I never would’ve believed it if it wasn’t happening to me.
‘Why can’t I just crave pickles or chocolate like a normal pregnancy?’ I sighed.
So the next time I went shopping, I slowly browsed the washing powders, searching for different brands that might taste the way I imagined they would.
As I sniffed my way along boxes of Fab and Surf, I knew I must look a bit unusual.
‘Let’s go this way,’ Israel laughed, trying to steer me away from the aisle.
But I soon found a tropical lily and ylang ylang scented box of Surf that was perfect and tasted just how I wanted.
Before long I was using any excuse I could to do the washing so I could experience that familiar smell. I was embarrassed by what I was doing but I just couldn’t stop myself.
Desperate for advice, I posted on a local mothers’ group page asking if anyone else had experienced the same thing. I was worried I’d get negative comments but I was shocked by the responses.
'I had the exact same cravings,' one mum wrote.'
'I used to crave fly spray,' another even confessed.
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it was so common!
Relieved I wasn’t the only one, I went to my midwife for advice.
‘You’ve got pica,’ she said, explaining that it’s a condition where sufferers have an appetite for non-nutritious substances like chalk, dirt and sand.
While experts don’t know exactly why it happens, it affects around eight per cent of people, commonly during pregnancy.
While my habit hadn’t done any harm yet, she warned me it could cause severe damage to my kidneys or hurt my baby if I kept going.
Hearing that was the wake-up call I needed and I vowed to stop eating it straight away. Tests soon revealed I had extremely low iron levels so I was given a supplement.
Doctors believed the two things might be linked and I was relieved when my cravings began to subside.
I also discovered that eating sherbert has a similar texture, so I snack on that when I feel the urge to head to the laundry room.
Israel has also swapped our brand of washing powder to one I don’t like so that I’m not tempted by it.
I’m now 36 weeks pregnant and can’t wait to welcome our new baby girl.
If my cravings are anything to go by, she’ll love doing the laundry, too!
● A Florida, US, woman, Adele Edwards, made headlines after admitting she couldn’t stop eating the foam filling from her sofa. In one year, she’d consumed seven lounges and was eventually rushed to hospital with a blocked intestine. While doctors warned her she could die if she continues, she’s still hooked on the furniture foam and her partner is helping her cut back.
● While most people eat toast or porridge for breakfast, 28-year-old Patrice eats a tablespoon of brick, scraped from her bedroom wall! She first tried it when she was 18 after picking at the wall and was curious about how it would taste. She quickly became addicted, eating around six teaspoons per day.
● Mum of one, Jess Gayford, developed uncontrollable cravings for bars of soap and liquid sanitiser when she fell pregnant with her second child. While she never had any strange cravings when pregnant with her son Alfie, she got the sudden urge to lick her Dove soap bar one morning. She then progressed to drinking liquid soap, consuming up to two bottles a week! That’s definitely not one to try at home!
Originally published in that's life! issue 43 - October 29, 2015