Ambiguous Arithmetic

pregnancy test

Anticipation: the act of looking forward

It’s the only time I can remember standing in front of store shelves searching for the highest priced option. Decades of necessary frugality had internalized a unit cost calculation that nearly always resulted in Crispy Rice instead of Rice Krispies for breakfast and inevitably favored mac and cheese in any color box but blue. And yet, there I was, reaching past one small box for a nearly identical small box that cost three times as much.

I didn’t want to scrimp on this purchase. If I was going to pee on a stick I wanted the highest quality stick on the market. In the absence of empirical data to fact check the marketing claims about accuracy and speed I had decided to judge quality by price.

I tossed the most expensive box in my basket alongside the few filler items previously selected to make the purchase of a pregnancy test look like a casual afterthought of a trip to the store primarily motivated by a need for bananas.

Home with my bananas and my pregnancy test, I read the instructions in detail. I’m a college educated woman but not acquainted with the point at which my urine qualifies as midstream. Aiming for good enough while prioritizing dry hands, I did my part then waited an excruciating three minutes while the test did its part.

During the three minute interlude, I worked to ignore a twinge of guilt. In pregnancy test commercials, the wife emerges to a waiting husband and reveals the news. I had left work early for the express purpose of taking the test alone. Partly because holding a plastic stick in the midstream of my urine while Husband stood outside the bathroom door tracking my progress through auditory clues sounded like the least romantic couple activity I could imagine; but mostly because I wanted a few hours to savor the knowledge alone. It was an act of uncensored selfishness in response to a gut feeling, a truth written in estrogen ink by ancestral authors, that this was my last chance to have something all to myself.

I approached the test on the glass ledge above the sink – mentally noting that my next order of business should be to disinfect said ledge – ready to accept my fate in the form of a plus or minus sign. Instead, I saw a blurry horizontal line and what I thought could be a perpendicular line. Or, maybe not. It was nothing like the picture on the box full of high contrast and easily recognizable arithmetic symbols. I’d been duped and paid extra for the privilege. I’d splurged on the blue box mac and cheese only to discover the same freakishly orange powder that was no more closely related to cheese than the powder in the Western Family box.

I hypothesized that the ambiguity of the symbol was the reason the EPT legal department was willing to sign off on the 99% accuracy claim. Reasonable minds could disagree on whether the test result indicated that I was or was not pregnant. I imagined a court trial with my pregnancy test bagged as People’s Exhibit 1 and held up before experts who would offer conflicting testimony until my physical form revealed with clarity what the test did not.

Confident enough in my junior high health course knowledge to know that there was no such thing as being sort of pregnant, as the test results suggested, I turned to the most accurate source of medical knowledge I could find (Google) and read about interpreting the results until I was convinced that any hint of a perpendicular line counted as a plus sign.

I sat on the couch, fingers hovering above my laptop keyboard and let what I’d suspected for weeks soak in. I was pregnant.

My brain began to digest the news. This was something exciting. The most exciting thing that had happened since Husband had asked me to marry him. In fact, it felt similar. An engagement ring marks the beginning of the anticipation period preceding a wedding. A positive pregnancy test marks the beginning of the period preceding a birth. I allowed myself to be carried away with the fun similarities. Babies and weddings are both cause for celebration! Both come with parties! And presents! And registries! And presents!

I kept sitting. My brain kept digesting. I was going to change shape. I was going to squeeze a baby out an alarmingly small opening (or so I assumed at the time). I was going to be a mother.

Holy $#!@!

I had all the parts necessary for birthing a baby, but I was nowhere near qualified to be a mother.

Suddenly, Husband could not get home soon enough. This was too much to bear alone.

I thought about how I should share the news. Should I go big or keep the reveal understated? Going big felt too much like a proposal and this wasn’t a question. Husband didn’t get to choose whether or not to accept the results of my pregnancy test.

I cooked dinner and listened for the sound of Husband’s shoes on the porch all while trying to imagine a world in which a human called me Mom. I had good intentions of playing it cool and calm and not letting on about the anxiety that had been growing all afternoon.

Good intentions failed.  The moment Husband’s butt hit the dining room chair, I unburdened myself by blurting, “I have news…”


6 thoughts on “Ambiguous Arithmetic

  1. I love this post. Mostly because I can totally identify! Recently for some reason I kept thinking I was pregnant. I took 2 pregnancy tests in about 2 weeks, both negative. But still, the instructions were confusing and trying to get the midstream thing to work was… interesting! Thank you for the great read and I’m excited to get to know you better 🙂

  2. Makes me think of my own memories of those times when I knew . . . and I only knew before I had told anyone. Also, that picture make me click very quickly!!! For sure thought there might be surprising news!

  3. I have that that experience of thinking and testing 5 or 6 times this year already. Despite the gamut of symptoms my body throws at me each month, I haven’t got pregnant yet. I’m just enjoying a rare period of no symptoms at the moment but that will no doubt change before the end of the moth with pms.

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