The first time I bought a home pregnancy test I was eighteen years old (don't tell my mother) and scared out of my wits. Back then home pregnancy tests did not have six feet of shelf space in the feminine products wing of the mega-super store. No, there was only one brand of test, in a plainly marked box, and they were only available in the local drug store.. the same store where your mother shopped for cold medicine and corn pads.. hidden in an aisle near the pharmacist's counter. From there the kindly, white coated, gentleman could oversee the purchase of unmentionable birth control items and, the ultimate proof that you hadn't visited that aisle before, pregnancy tests. In order to maintain my privacy and living arrangements it was necessary for me to plan carefully. Not only did I need to buy the test at a pharmacy far from home and hide it until I could catch that very important first morning urine (not as easy as you might think in a 900sq ft house with one bathroom and four people in residence) but I had to set up a mini chemistry set, mix the carefully measured liquids in the real glass test tube and wait. After thirty minutes, if everything had been done correctly, the results were ready to interpret. There was nothing, clear, blue, or easy about these results... clear liquid in test tube meant negative but positive was also clear with a faint circle of brown sediment at the bottom. As I peered into the little tube suspended in it's flimsy wire frame on the brown wood of my desk I realized I was never meant to be a scientist. Fortunately, after sliding a piece of paper beneath the contraption I was also relieved to realize I wasn't going to be a mother any time soon. Then I had to hide the evidence.
Yesterday, twenty four years and many pregnancies later, I found myself standing in Target staring at dozens of hpt choices and remembering the first one. Yes, I have seen my share of tests since that delightful day but this was different. Different because I haven't even thought about hpt's in almost ten years. The last test I had seen announced the coming of a very unplanned fourth child. At thirty-three I felt physically too old to be having another baby.. but I survived and was blessed with my delightful Delaney. Shortly after I she was born I had my tubes tied, closed the baby factory for good, and haven't looked back. Until two weeks ago. During that particularly emotional week my long-suffering husband accepted my rebuff of his advances, again, and politely acted sympathetic when I groused about extreme pms, sore boobs and bloating. I'm sure he thought I was just trying to turn him off. "In fact" I joked, "if I didn't know better I would be worried that I was pregnant." That made him laugh and, although still unsatisfied, he drifted off to sleep with a small smile on his face. He laughed even harder two weeks later when I announced that the threatened period was now five days late. However, I wasn't laughing. I was trolling the internet looking for reassurance.. and what did I find? Multiple articles about tubals failing after ten years!
Which brings us back to me standing in Target. Standing in the aisle where I had recently spent fifteen minutes discussing pad options with the daughter who has never been able to tolerate underwear tags and is mortified that there isn't a panty liner that doesn't bunch up and annoy her delicate nether regions. (She didn't believe me when I told her about sanitary napkins and belts.) Standing in that aisle debating... one test or two, digital, worded, plus signs or just lines.. and wondering if the disinterested teenager at the check-out counter might know my son. I finally grabbed a package, filled my cart with paper products and laundry soap, and got out of there. At home I read the instructions and had to ask myself an important question.. can I actually pee on a stick for five seconds? I decided not to take a chance. Three minutes later I had my answer. Negative! Oh the relief! I called my husband who said "Oh good!" and then said "Are you ok with that?" Which made me laugh a little. In truth, I had let my thoughts drift to ponder "what if?" and I found there was a small part of me that would have rejoiced if the test had been positive. But it was a very small part and it gave in with little more than a sigh at the memory of a perfectly fuzzy head resting in the palm of my hand.
Of course, before the kids got home from school I had to hide the evidence and the extra test so that I didn't have to answer any embarrassing questions and then it was back to normal life again. For a few days this week I felt strangely young.. like an embarrassed teenager sneaking around with a huge secret.. but now I face the truth. I'm not young. In fact, I might really be getting old! I wonder if our local pharmacist is hiding a home menopause test somewhere behind the counter?