Tag Archives: false positive

Finding out you are pregnant, in slow motion

I’d always thought that you would find out you were pregnant for the first time in this sudden, formative, instant.

Here’s how I imagined it went: You show outstanding restraint and take a pregnancy test on the day after your period is due. If you are, indeed, pregnant, the line on the little stick that you have just managed to pee on in one graceful controlled stream that doesn’t go anywhere except on the stick and in the toilet, turns pink (or blue, or whatever colour it’s supposed to turn). Bright pink. Bright, neon, practically flashing-like-a-Las-Vegas-show-sign, pink (and well within the two minutes that the test is supposed to need to work). Then you know. You know within the span of a single heartbeat that your life is about to change forever and you rush out of the bathroom and find your husband and have a moment. A once in a lifetime, tender, unique, set to the music of violin-playing-angels, moment.

Yeah. That’s so not how it happened for me.

I took the first test the Saturday my period was due – the morning I was to leave Mike behind in Laos for two more weeks while I headed to Australia early for Christmas holidays. I will not comment on where, exactly, pee went during this process. I’ll just tell you that the result was negative.

Later that night I started to feel sick in Bangkok airport. Very sick. I began to wonder whether the test had been wrong – maybe this was morning sickness? By the time I was throwing up violently in the bathroom of the boarding gate right before I got on the plane I was desperately hoping it was not morning sickness.

It was not morning sickness. It was food poisoning.

In Australia my period still didn’t come. Perhaps the food poisoning had thrown my system out of wack? Perhaps I was pregnant? I took a test on Tuesday, then one on Thursday. Negative. Not pregnant, then. I celebrated/mourned these results with a glass full of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

“I don’t understand,” I said to Mike on Friday night when my period still hadn’t appeared. “Most of those things promise “early response” and claim to be able to tell you up to five days before your period is due. The tests say 99% accurate.”

“Isn’t that the false positive rate?” Mike said. “It’s probably not the false negative rate.”

Oh, right. Duh. Five years of statistics classes at university serving me well yet again.

I did some research on Dr. Google. The false negative rate for pregnancy tests is significantly higher than 1%.

While we were out and about on Saturday I bought another test. I was appalled to find out how much they cost in Australia and set the expensive little sucker aside to use first thing in the morning on Sunday, as per instructions.

On Sunday I woke up at 5:30 in the morning needing the loo. With this test you had to pee in a cup and then float the stick, firmly anchored in a rubber ring.

I peed. I floated. I watched. Two minutes passed. Nothing. I consulted the instructions again. It said that results would almost certainly appear within two minutes, but if they appeared within two to ten minutes it was still a valid result.

I went back to bed and lay there staring at the ceiling.

After eight minutes I got up and checked again.

There was the very faintest of pink lines, almost a shadow really, where the positive result should have been popping up.

I checked the box. The picture on the box showed the positive line as fainter than the control line (a sturdy, vivid, purple) but surely the line should be brighter than that??

Back to Dr Google. Had anyone else gotten faint lines with this test and wondered if they were pregnant? Were they? Half an hour of research later the answers to those questions appeared to be yes and yes.

So I was very likely pregnant.

I lay back down on the bed to think this over and fell asleep.

When I woke up two hours later I called my mother upstairs.

“What do you think?” I asked, showing her the stick and the box.

“Maybe I need my glasses,” she said slowly, “but I’d say that’s positive. Yes. Well. There you go!”

Then she walked out to continue getting ready for church.

Luckily Mike was up, Mike was on skype, and skype was working. We even had video.

(Pause here to insert melodious Ode To Skype).

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Taking care of our baby puppy,” Mike said, still sleepy. “He woke me up at five, whining.”

“Well,” I said, “while you’re taking care of our baby over there I’m taking care of our baby over here.”

I held the stick – not that he had a hope of seeing that faint shadow of a line, but it felt like a useful dramatic prop for our big moment.

“Oh, that’s great, honey!!” Mike said, smiling. Then he said, “I knew you were pregnant yesterday. After all you are a week late now, and you’re never a week late – but I thought I’d just wait until you figured it out yourself.”

“What?” I said.

“History suggests you need time to process these things,” Mike said serenely.

“That is not…” I said, then stopped. I sighed.

“Hey,” I said conspiratorially, “can you go down to the corner chemist and buy me another pregnancy test and bring it out with you next weekend?”

“What?” Mike said.

“They only cost sixty cents over there, and they cost twelve bucks here!”

“But that one’s positive!” Mike said.

“It’s very probably positive,” I said, looking at it again. “But I just want to be sure.”

“OK,” Mike said. “You’re pregnant, but OK.”

Mike did not bring me my backup test from Laos (he said he thought I was kidding when I demanded he produce it the following Saturday – husband fail) but I’m not sure it would have convinced me. Frankly, there was a part of me that still couldn’t grasp it until we had an absurdly early ultrasound (since we were headed back to the land of few doctors) and I saw the heartbeat on the screen. Contrary to everything I’d expected, the whole process of finding out that I was pregnant was much more of a slow reveal than a single, life-transforming, moment. I wonder what other expectations will get turned on their head during the next couple of years?

What about you? When’s the last time you had a “moment” not go at all as you’d expected?

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