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Girl Talk: Taking A Pregnancy Test At 36

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The first time I bought a pregnancy test I was 17. I’d gotten my period but was so new at the whole sex thing, not to mention paranoid, that I wanted to be sure. We hadn’t used condoms, but instead a small, see-through film that hardly seemed like it was going to do its job. I used it anyway because I was 17, and he was hot, not to mention 31, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. I wasn’t pregnant, but taking that test set the tone for every other pregnancy test I’ve taken, including one last weekend.

The biggest difference for me between taking a pregnancy test at 17 and 36 wasn’t so much the technology as the fact that I’m in a vastly different place than I was then. I know more about sex, relationships and myself, and while at 17, I was pretty sure I would get an abortion if a test were positive, now I’m almost certain I wouldn’t. I was scared, but not as scared as I’d been at 17. Another difference is that at the moment, I don’t have health insurance—bad, I know, and after this scare I’m joining the Freelancer’s Union and getting health insurance ASAP.

I’m less paranoid, but since my period has always been extremely regular, when I got it early while traveling, then was spotting for two weeks, then seemed to get it again, I was concerned. I’d also had a headache off and on, though mostly on, for two weeks and, while I don’t weigh myself, could tell I’d gained weight. Granted, I was attending the Minnesota State Fair and eating things like deep fried Reese’s peanut butter cups and deep fried breaded pepperoni and cheese on a stick, but still; when the inkling that I might need to take a pregnancy test takes hold, it’s strong.

I went to CVS and was grateful that at least there weren’t too many options; I have enough trouble selecting a brand of shampoo or aspirin without spiraling into buyer’s remorse and wondering if I couldn’t have found a “better” brand. I opted for e.p.t., since its display would write it out in words I couldn’t misinterpret: “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” The store brand offered the same option, but while I’m sure it’s much like off-brand foods and the exact same product is inside, I couldn’t take the chance that maybe the name brand was superior. I was so distracted by my worries that I didn’t even use the peel off coupon attached to the box.

I was staying at my boyfriend’s at the time, but decided not to tell him about the test before I took it; whatever the results, I could tell him afterward. The directions sounded straightforward; pee on a stick for five seconds. I did, but then kept peeing for two more seconds, since I was peeing anyway. What could it hurt? Well, I don’t know if that was the culprit, but I set the test on top of the bathroom sink, a flat surface, and waited the requisite three minutes. And kept waiting. The image on the screen was a book with an arrow, their way of telling me the test was being “read.” After five, then six, then seven minutes, I dug out the instructions, which I hadn’t bothered to look at beforehand. They told me that if the test is stuck on the book, it means something has gone wrong and to try again. Thankfully, I’d bought a two-pack.

I decided to take a break, but was even more frazzled than before, my headache pounding and worry rising to the surface. I went downstairs and lay down on the couch with my boyfriend, and couldn’t keep all of it inside anymore. I told him the whole saga, and cried, and he just held me in his arms. A few minutes later, I tried again, and before I even opened the second test’s package, I felt better knowing that he was there for me no matter what. This one did only take three minutes to tell me I wasn’t pregnant. If I hadn’t cried before, I’d have cried tears of relief.

As a testament to just how paranoid I am, when my therapist told me the best time to take a pregnancy test is in the morning, I got another e.p.t. test, this one with plus and minus symbols. The night before I took it, I had a dream that I was in some weird bathroom, not in a home but in a store, taking the test, and it was positive. Thanks, subconscious. I took another one and it confirmed that I’m still not pregnant.

I learned several important lessons from having to deal with this pregnancy scare. One is that I need to start using birth control ASAP. I’ve been rather cavalier about it with this relationship, resorting to a method I know isn’t a long-term, or even short-term, solution: pulling out. I hadn’t realized that in the back of my mind, it adds a hint of worry every month, and also isn’t ideal for enjoying sex. Two, I need health insurance. Yes, it’s a chunk of money that will be challenging to my full-time freelance writer budget, but it will be worth it for the peace of mind even if I don’t get what I think of as “sick sick.”

Third goes back to the contrast of taking a test now versus then. A few years ago I was at Costco’s pharmacy section picking up a prescription with a friend and found their row of pregnancy tests. Some had photos of babies on the boxes, and I was at first extremely confused. Why would you market your product like that? Then I realized that for lots of women taking pregnancy tests, they’re doing so because they want it to be positive. Since I’d only ever taken a test with the opposite wish, that had truly never occurred to me. I assumed women trying to get pregnant got tested at their doctors’ office. Someday in the not too distant future, I hope that I will be in that category, taking a pregnancy test without fear coursing through me, but hope. I couldn’t have imagined that at 17.

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