on not using pregnancy tests

I didn’t buy any pregnancy tests this time.

I haven’t peed on a stick, set a timer, waited with baited breath, and discovered two lines or a plus sign or what have you.

I think this may be the weirdest thing I’ve done yet, and that’s saying something. It’s also been a really wonderful thing. I’ll tell you why, but first, let me be clear: I am not anti-pregnancy-test or somehow down on the (nearly 100%) of potentially-pregnant folks who use them. It just wasn’t for me, not this time, perhaps not ever.

Here are some excerpts from my journal that might help illuminate this path:

2 September:

Day two of pregnancy/menstruation watch. I am only sort of joking. In some ways I’m going about my business, thinking about other things, in a fairly normal series of moods. But I’m also hyperaware of how my body feels, and I’m looking for not-blood every time I go to the bathroom. I’m not sure quite how long past the start of my last period I should go (this time, I hope, or sometime in the future) before thinking pregnancy is likely and more seriously trying to meet [potential midwives]. Six weeks? [...] Seven? I don’t know—my cycle is so freaking irregular.

I decided before I was even trying to get pregnant this time that I’d prefer not to use a home pregnancy test again. That seems like a strange whim, even to me, especially given my I-want-to-knoooow whiny internal voice during the past couple days, but it still seems best. I generally try to avoid tests and interventions that are curiosity-based, that are just spending money and wasting plastic and chemicals for no real reason, and I certainly don’t need a box of pregnancy tests: if I am pregnant, I will figure it out plenty soon enough to do what needs doing. Home pregnancy tests aren’t the environment’s best friend [...]. They’re also not 100% accurate. And if I do start bleeding, tomorrow or next week, I know I would feel even crappier if I’d had a positive result on a pregnancy test and gotten all excited about a due date and so forth, rather than just not knowing. As much as not knowing feels strange, because thinking of my body as pregnant and thinking of it in its typical state are two different experiences indeed, and not knowing how to conceptualize my own body always feels surreal (whether I’m hoping I’m pregnant or scared that I might be). [...]

The biggest reason I’m averse to running out for a box of tests, though, is that I didn’t believe the results anyway last time. I only believed my body’s signals—with suspicion—and only really accepted that I was pregnant and could begin feeling excited about it when I heart the fetal heartbeat at my first prenatal appointment. The positive test introduced far more anxiety and hectic messy feelings than peaceful happiness and anticipation for me. Not knowing beats that any day.

5 September:

I calmed down a bit after the first couple days of wondering whether I’m pregnant. But I’m now 5w 5d past the first date of last menstruation, and getting more hopeful. I know I’ll be more upset now if I do start bleeding, but it’s just not reasonable to expect myself to feel and think nothing until, when? there’s a positive test? the end of the first trimester? the birth? So I’m getting hopeful and just trying not to tilt over into excited for now.

9 September:

Anyway … still waiting to discover what’s going on in my body. I’ve had this really weird relationship with food—I’m indifferent to it, I find the idea of it slightly off-putting but not stomach-turning, I only really have eyes for fruit (or smoothies … mmm, pure frozen fruit smoothies …), and I get about halfway through a normal meal and am just done. I have zero interest in cooking. Yesterday I felt pretty normal, no more exhausted or dizzy than I would have expected from the early rising and commute and new schedule/people, which worried me—but today I feel just as exhausted, if not more so, without all the reasonable excuses. [...] I was too wiped out to work during quiet time and only made it through about half of food prep before Eric just took over while I lounged helplessly on the sofa. Not exactly my usual driven self.

In other words: universe, am I ill or am I pregnant?

11 September:

Well, it seems pretty clear that I’m pregnant. I don’t know whether I’ll stay pregnant, but that much does seem evident at this point. I said that to Eric this morning and he laughed in agreement. Somehow, my body deciding still water is gross and the water in our refrigerator is just not as cold as it should be / used to be feels a lot more meaningful than an extra line on a stick (Eric said, “stupid stick, thinks it knows everything,” and I quite agree).

In contrast, last time I wrote:

I had been feeling ‘about to start’ for a week or so. So he went to a Harris Teeter to get a pregnancy test, and I took it, and almost right away a second line started to show up, which had never happened before; but I thought it was a fluke and would go away. So I didn’t say anything. But when we read the test, it was clearly there! I got all shaky and excited and flustered. We then looked online to see how common false positives are, and found people complaining about false positives with that particular test. So Eric went to a different Harris Teeter for a different brand, and we got two more positives (one as soon as he got back at 1:30 or so, and another early the next afternoon). [...]

Anyway, I feel so weird. The past four or five days I’ve woken up before the alarm and felt funny in my belly and all wiggly with my feet. I’m weak and shaky, but I don’t know whether it’s from the excitement and anxiety or from something physical. I’m terrified that I’m not really pregnant, and I’ve spent practically a whole day on the phone trying to get in touch with my cardiologist and my insurance company and the birth center I’d hope to use. And I woke up this morning very early (for me) and almost immediately threw up. So I’m either pregnant or sick …

And:

In the meantime, I’m constantly nervous that I’ll miscarry and that I’m getting excited about and invested in something that still has a substantial chance of not working out. We hope that I can carry this pregnancy to term.

And:

It’s still hard for me to believe for sure that I’m pregnant, which I know sounds crazy in view of how I’ve been feeling. And I realize that my period would now be about a month late (though that has happened before). There’s just a nagging, doubting part of me that thinks maybe instead of pregnant I’m just crazy.

Last time, we tried for eight months before I got that first positive test result (and many more after it, as I secretly kept testing because I couldn’t quite believe the results). This time, we tried for two months, and it was a good thing to have a week and a half to process the possibility of a pregnancy, feel my body’s feelings, talk with each other, think, and consider. There was no abrupt “I’m pregnant!” There were no anxious minutes waiting outside the bathroom. There was no immediate-leap-into-fear-of-miscarriage, since I didn’t even know if I was pregnant. There was just me and my body, waiting the thing out, feeling the thing out.

A test didn’t tell me I was pregnant. My body did.

If nothing else, that’s a pretty clear sign of how much my relationship with my body has changed in the past six years. Six years ago, I didn’t trust my body one tiny little bit. I didn’t know it. I was uninterested in listening to it, really feeling it. Now, though … well, I’d rather come to understand its good news directly, is all, I guess. Slowly, gradually, with the quiet growth of hope.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted 11 November 2011 at 2:50 PM | Permalink

    (My post from Facebook) I agree with you about not needing a test to know. We were kind of trying to get pregnant. One day out of the blue I had a feeling that I was pregnant (this was only day 24 or 25 in my cycle) and I just knew it. I did take a test that day a low and behold a faint blue line (funny thing, i googled faint blue line, and got a lot of pregnant hits). Looking back I knew that I didn’t need to take a test, I just knew. I also loved that the midwife we chose never had me take a test either (we found her very early on, around 4-6weeks so I wasn’t visibally pregnant). It might not seem like such a big deal, but it says a lot about patience and trust in yourself and your body a culture obsessed with control.

  2. Posted 11 November 2011 at 6:09 PM | Permalink

    I knew I was pregnant about a week before my period was due. I can’t tell you what exactly made me think it, but my body was definitely telling me I was. (We were trying, so I was thinking more about my body at the time as well). I did take a pregnancy test, though, at about 5-6 weeks, partly because it seemed like the thing to do and partly because we were seeing my family (visiting from overseas) that weekend, and I wanted to be sure sure sure before telling them. I think it’s awesome that you didn’t take a test at all.

  3. Posted 14 November 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

    I so love you sharing your perspective on this, Molly. Mostly because I had never framed not taking a pregnancy test this way–i.e. in terms of trusting my body and its cues instead of investing so much worry into the results of a pee-stick. (And then so much more worry into, “Oh no! Oh no! What happens next? What if? What if?)

  4. M
    Posted 23 July 2012 at 1:14 AM | Permalink

    This is brilliant. Totally resonate with it.

    With my first pregnancy, just like you said, I had not much knowledge/awareness of my body, but I do know I waited 6 days after I missed my period to take a test – there was something in me that just was too scared to do it. I finally had to force myself to do it cos I wanted to tell my husband…and the waiting while it processed was the worst thing ever. Nerves, shaking, heart racing. When it turned up positive – huge emotional upheavel…all positive and happy of course….but somewhat unsettling. And then you are in the “I’m pregnant” box – obsessing about the fears and worries and hopes in that box. I don’t regret anything though, it was right for the first time. A learning experience.

    But now, I think I’d like a gradual settling in to that knowledge, a quiet growth of hope like you said. No abrupt moving in and out of boxes in the mind, no objectifying and labelling the experience and making it separate from me. Just an organic slow dawning of awareness and being in harmony with nature’s rhythms and cues. A welcoming of each moment for what it is. Allowing life to be. That way of being will carry into the whole pregnancy and birth.

    Thanks so much for sharing so eloquently your feelings and convictions.

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