It was late September in 2006 when Marty and I discovered we were pregnant. I, of course, freaked out. Marty, of course, also freaked out.
As somebody who had worked in a sexual health centre for a few years and who had performed a couple hundred pregnancy tests for other people, I had been positive that I would either know right away if I was pregnant (just like in the movies) or that, failing a magical ‘conception awareness’ moment, I would at the very least take a pregnancy test if my period was only a few days late, max. Max. I had never understood the women who came into our centre when their periods were weeks or even months late. How could they stand it?, I wondered. I would need to know about a possible pregnancy right the eff away. None of this ‘waiting and seeing’ junk. [Enter karma, coming along to sweetly kick my ignorant ass, as per usual…]
We came back to Canada from the Czech Republic in mid-September, bloated and jetlagged. I was expecting my period to come on the flight home (good times), but when it didn’t arrive, I chalked it up to the stress of spending the prior 24 hours in the Frankfurt airport and to the 8 hour change in time zones between Europe and Calgary. I wasn’t worried.
We stayed at Marty’s parents’ house for a short while upon our return. When my period still didn’t come, I figured my body was taking its sweet time adjusting to being back in Canada. That was fine by me: I was still sleeping 12 or 13 hours every night and generally feeling the jolt of a transatlantic flight in my circadian rhythms. I figured I’d give it a few more days, you know– just to ‘wait and see’.
We were in Edmonton a few days later when my period finally came– a whole week and a bit late. Not at all wishing to be pregnant, I was overjoyed! So what if my period was rather scant and the colour of coffee grinds: all I cared was that I was bleeding something and that my life could therefore continue as normal.
Needless to say, my ‘period’ didn’t last long. It changed from the coffee colour to a light pink hue, and then faded off to nothing in about two days. This was nothing at all like a regular period for me. I was concerned by then, but I still didn’t take a pregnancy test.
I remember hanging out with my friend Carolyn a few days after that. We had worked together at the aforementioned sexual health centre for a while, so it wasn’t at all unusual for us to discuss our fertility cycles together (because we are so cool and not at all geeky). We talked about our cycles that afternoon as well. She hadn’t had a regular period since giving birth 11 months ago. I mentioned quietly that I had gotten a strange (and late) period which had subsequently disappeared. She suggested I take a pregnancy test. Although both of us forcibly laughed it off at the time and tried to make up some lame reasons why my period would be so different this month (aside from the obvious), I think we both realized in our guts that I was so pregnant. We just didn’t say it out loud.
It was a few days after that when I finally got my ass in gear and bought a pregnancy test. It sat in my backpack on a bus ride back to my grandparents’ house, where we were now housesitting. My mind felt dull as I thought about it, resting ominously in my bag. I also felt extremely carsick and uber-sensitive to scents, but of course I tried to attribute my nausea and bionic nose to something else, like stress or… food poisoning? The mere thought of taking the test– even if it came back negative– made me feel sick to my stomach. For all of the hundreds of tests I had performed before, none of them had ever been for me. I was beginning to understand what many of the women I had supported over the years had felt.
Being the clever woman that I am, I took the test right before Marty had to leave for a giant, important business meeting. In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t wait until the next day to take the test– it had already been two weeks, and what difference would another day make?– I just did. I followed the instructions to the detail and promptly went downstairs to feed my grandparents’ dogs.
Marty came downstairs a few minutes later, quietly asking me to explain what to look for on the test. My auto-pilot kicked in, and I calmly explained, as I had to legions of women before him, about hCG (“the pregnancy hormone”), and urine, and about how ‘one line indicated a negative result, or no pregnancy’, whereas two lines ‘were a positive result, meaning a pregnancy’.
“It’s showing two lines”, he said.
I was shocked. Positively stunned. So much for my instantaneous, Disney-esque sensing of a pregnancy. I was a full two weeks late for my period, my period which normally came like clockwork, and I still could not believe what I was hearing. I had experienced text book symptoms of a pregnancy (late period, coffee-coloured discharge, slight nausea, ultra-sensitive sense of smell), and I had explained these symptoms to so many women in so many ways before, and I still could not believe what I was hearing. I felt sick.
I remember scraping at the dog food in the can, trying to register that I was pregnant. Hot tears quickly streamed down my cheeks, and I began trembling with the weight of what I had heard.
‘Are you sure?’, I asked weakly, knowing full well that Marty was most definitely sure.
‘Yes’, he answered quiety, coming to console me.
The dogs were frantic and practically foaming at the mouth to have their breakfast, which I suddenly could not stand the smell or sight of. Their whimpers and whines crashed against my ears like cymbals. They tried jumping up at the counter to get an early taste of their food, and their nails clicked loudly on the linoleum as they paced back and forth in excitement. I confess that I hated those dogs at that moment. They had no idea what I had just heard or what that meant to me, to us. They just had no clue.
I cried and cried for the rest of the morning, which soon faded into afternoon and then evening. Marty had to leave to go to his important meeting almost immediately after he broke the news to me (such bad timing on my part, taking the test when I did), so I was left at my grandparents’ house, alone with my pregnancy and the nearly rabid dogs.
Of course, in a scene reminiscent of my worst nightmares (or a very bad sitcom), an aunt I had not seen in nearly a decade chose that very day, that exact moment– when the positive pregnancy test was still sitting out, plain as day, on the bathroom counter– to stop by for a visit. I didn’t even have time to rush upstairs to stash any evidence of my pregnancy away, should she need to use the washroom. We visited for 10 minutes, then 15, then 20. I tried to listen to what she was saying to me, but mostly I was praying to Jesus that she would not need to go to the bathroom before she left. Please don’t let her go upstairs. Please don’t let her go upstairs.
Luckily, our visit ended without incident. I was still pregnant, but secretly so. (Had she gone upstairs and discovered the pregnancy test, my entire extended family, totalling around 30 people, would have found out about it in less than half an hour. Word spreads like wildfire in the Fraser clan.) I didn’t have the nerve to talk to anybody about being pregnant just yet. Not until I (at least) had time to digest the news myself.
As it turns out, I never had enough courage to tell anybody about being pregnant until after I miscarried. And even then, I only told my family, my friend Carolyn, and a handful of other people.