What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting
Don’t worry- I have permission for the story I’m about to tell. The subject of it the story (we’ll call her N) asked me to write this because she says that she needs to laugh about her situation. If you know N in real life, please refrain from posting on facebook to congratulate her, but she honestly doesn’t care if you know. As always, this is not a perfect reconstruction of exactly what happened, but it’s basically for real.
On Wednesday, I came home from work and went to my friend N’s apartment to pick up my dog and commiserate about our work days. I walked in to find two highly excited schnauzers, but N was not sitting in her customary spot on the sofa with her trademark glass of white wine. I called out for her, and she replied from her bedroom, her voice high pitched and thick with hysteria. As I approached her bedroom, several scenarios occurred to me: she got laid off, her dad is sick, she lost her ongoing battle with the condo management over her insistence that her dog go leashless, and so on. I rounded the corner and found her sitting on her bed clad in her pajamas with her hair in disarray. She gestured toward her dresser and said, “I have a problem.”
Her problem was about 5 inches long and plastic: a positive pregnancy test.
Some things to know about N: she’s in her 30s, she’s happily married for the last few years, she’s employed, her husband is also employed, N enjoys a cocktail or 3 after work a few times a week, and she was not really planning on children for about 2 more years. Most of our Friday afternoons consist of beers on the dog walk, and you can’t go to her house without her re-filling your wine glass as you protest and then give in.
I looked down at the test and then back at her wild eyes and said, “Did you do it right?”
She shrieked, “You pee on a stick! How could I do it wrong?”
There are some things you don’t say to a woman currently freaking the eff out about being pregnant. You don’t remind her that she never reads the fine print and fudges the details on a regular basis.
“Um, I don’t know. But you should probably take another one. To be sure.”
As sure as the statistical probability that you will lose all of your tape when it’s time to wrap Christmas presents, N could no longer pee. Curse words streamed from her bathroom, but absolutely nothing else was gushing forth. Her second test ended with a digital image of a book. You will be sad to learn this does not mean that you’re giving birth to a NYT best selling series of vampire books. It means your test has an error.
You know that part in Peanuts when Charlie Brown runs for the football and Lucy rips it away and he flies through the air with a capitalized, “AHHHHHH,” issuing from his speech bubbled mouth? N was like that.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do,” I told her in my best crisis interventionist voice, “You’re going to drink a bottle of water and I’m going to buy you another box of tests.”
Standing in the family planning aisle of Target, I stared at the array of tests before me and chose the one with 5 tests in it. A woman stood two feet from me pondering the selection of antacids and it occurred to me that I’ve never bought a pregnancy test before. This person probably saw my school teacher cardigan and sensible flats and assumed this was the happiest day of my married live. I hid my ring finger.
At the register, I wouldn’t make eye contact with the cashier. I thought about throwing in a pack of gum, but it seemed desperate She rung me up wordlessly, and I focused on my debit card like it required all of my powers of attention to correctly swipe it. I thought to myself, I’m buying a pregnancy test for my friend who doesn’t want to be pregnant and I’m hoping I don’t see anyone I know. This is some straight up high school shizz.
I returned to find N sucking on a bottle of water like it was a can of beer in a case race. She grabbed the tests and produced two more errors before another positive emerged.
“Well, maybe I’m positive because of the water,” she said in her most earnest voice.
I wanted to tell her that I didn’t think bottled water usually causes increased production of hcG, but that felt a little cruel.
“Okay, uh, why don’t you take another one? Third time’s the charm? Make sure you really follow the directions.”
We read the directions word for word, and then I waited in the living room, trying to interest my dog in a chew toy. N came out to join me and stared at the test in her hands like she was a teenager at the Reaping before the Hunger Games. After a few moments, she threw her hands in the air in a touchdown dance and screeched, “OH YEAH! NOT PREGNANT!”
I admit, a part of me wanted to stop there and split a bottle of wine to celebrate. Still, the odds did not seem in our favor.
She was getting ready to break into a full body happy dance when I said, “Look, I think you need another negative to be sure. Right now it’s two against one.”
Looking considerably more optimistic, she nodded and trotted back to her bathroom. “Please, please, please, please,” she chanted as she stared at the stick on the counter. By now, I was fairly certain of the reality of the situation, but I decided to keep my mouth shut.
She groaned at the result– another Positive.
“I guess that’s that. We should get you a doctor’s appointment in the morning to make sure, but I think there’s good chance that–”
N cut me off, “I need more tests. I mean, three errors and a negative. There could be something wrong. Maybe I did them wrong, held the stick the wrong way or something. Like, maybe it’s the water. Or a tainted batch. Or maybe it’s the pollen. It might be the pollen.”
“N, it’s not the pollen.”
“It just can’t be. There’s no way. I don’t know how this happened. I mean, I know where babies come from, but I don’t… this is crazy. It’s the water. Or maybe pollen.”
As a licensed mental health clinician, I’ve been trained to cooperate with delusions in crisis settings. Contradicting a delusion can just agitate someone further.
“Alright, let’s get more tests. I’ll drive.”
“No, I’ll drive. I drive faster.”
N drives like she’s playing MarioKart when she’s in a good mood and in absolutely no hurry. I insisted upon driving.
We returned with two more boxes of tests. The first one was one of those ridiculous plus/minus ones that claims to be easy to read, but it really just gives delusional girls a reason to doubt results. We held the test up to the light where a plus sign was very faint but partially visible. Admittedly, it was not a clear result.
You can tell where this is going without my play by play. A few tests later, the answer seemed pretty obvious: three errors, one solid “Not Pregnant,” one faint plus sign, and five crystal clear “Pregnant” results. The jig was up.
The delusional mind is a powerful thing. I was preparing my, “This will be okay, let’s get on board” speech when N decided to call her insurance nurseline. “It could be false positives,” she said with rabid conviction. She went on to list all of the physical symptoms that would suggest she was not pregnant. I’ll spare you the details, but I looked them up on my phone as she went. Every last one could be interpreted as a sign of conception. I kept this information to myself and nodded in silence.
The nurse, likely called from her family dinner after a long day at work to deal with this “emergency,” was not as kind. “Are you in denial? You are definitely pregnant.” My friend and I agreed she was a heartless wench, of course.
“Um, so, I guess you should just wait and go to the doctor tomorrow and be really sure. I mean, I guess it could be something else. If you really are pregnant–”
“I’m totally pregnant.” The quarter had finally dropped.
We sat in awkward silence watching the nightly news while we waited for her husband to come home from work. She occasionally interrupted Brian Williams to remind me there was no way this was possible or to flatly confirm that it must be true. I suppose the rapid mood swings did nothing to help her cause. At least twice, I almost suggested she have a glass of wine to calm down before reminding myself that was a bad idea.
The next morning, her doctor cheerfully confirmed her bundle of joy and sent her home with paperwork and a follow up appointment. We went to get Mexican after work, and she stared at my margarita like a starving woman.
“It won’t be so bad,” I told her. “People will buy you stuff. All those people who are getting married will have to throw you showers. And you can start getting your husband to do stuff for you by telling him the baby wants him to do it.”
She sucked on her water and smiled a little.
“We can call it ‘The SItuation’ until you find out about the gender.”
She laughed at this, “Oh god, Snooki is pregnant too.”
“Yeah, if she can do it, so can you.”
She nodded thoughtfully at this and chased some guac around the bowl.
“Also, we can have a baby shower and try really hard to be crass. Like, “B dropped his anchor in N’s harbor and now there’s a new fleet! Join us for a co-ed baby shower on Sunday!'”
She laughed outloud at that one for the first time since Wednesday.
On a roll thanks to my drink, I pressed on, “I you can post an ultrasound on facebook, only it will be a fake one of a dinosaur.”
She snorted and then said, “Absolutely no ulrasounds online.”
I sipped on my margarita and she smiled a little wistfully, and we lapsed into silence for a few moments.
“Your mom would like this, ” I said, “She’s probably in heaven cackling and clapping.”
She sighed and smiled, “She would love this, yeah. She would think this was hilarious. And she’d be excited too.”
I don’t know what N was thinking, but I was thinking no one is ever really ready and that unexpected twists are often the best parts of a story. I was thinking she was going to be okay and her baby was going to be even better.
Who knows what will happen to N in the next few months? She’s still pretty early in the process and things could easily go a couple of different ways. She doesn’t know what to expect, but I still expect some good things in her future. I’m Positive.
“It might be the pollen!” Best line ever!