The stomach bug had blown through the entire family. In true mom fashion, I was the last one to get it. I came out of the bathroom after tossing my cookies again, feeling incredibly annoyed. Everyone else had experienced a different set of digestive problems but when I got it, all I could do was throw up. It wasn’t even like me. I could count on one hand the total number of times I had thrown up in my entire life.
When I started to think about it, I realized I’d had this bug longer than any of the boys had. I was beginning to worry I had some other serious problem. I texted my sister Ronda. We did not live anywhere near each other, but we were kind of on the same cycle. After texting her I realized I was two weeks late for my period.
I did not want to make an appointment with the doctor. Steven had been laid off from HP with hundreds of other Conway residents that summer. We had no health insurance. The more the days of sickness started to pile up, my worry grew. I realized I was going to have to make an appointment somewhere. I knew the first thing they would ask was if there was any chance I was pregnant. I knew I was not. I had a tubal ligation three years prior when Oliver was born.
Just to rule that line of inquiry out, I decided I would get a pregnancy test and take it so I could say it was negative. After working until 7pm that night, I drove to Fred’s to buy the test. I thought it was less likely I would run into someone I knew if I went to Fred’s. When you need to buy a pregnancy test, the last thing you want is to run into someone you know in the store. Trust me. If you ever run into someone in a store and they have a pregnancy test, ignore it. Pretend you never saw it. It is the kindest thing you will ever do.
I scanned the multitude of tests available. I went straight for the cheapest one. As a mom of five, I knew that a positive was a positive was a positive and it did not matter how many dollars the test cost. I also knew I was not pregnant, and I was likely to start my period any second, so I also grabbed a box of feminine hygiene products and headed to the checkout.
The young woman who was working the cash register looked at my two items on the belt. She raised one eyebrow, and looked at me, but did not say a word. Jokingly I said to her, “Well, I’m going to need one of them!” Still saying nothing, she slowly drug the items across the scanner. There were no sounds between us but the beep of the register. She was as silent as a priest at a confessional. Okay then, I thought to myself.
After completing my purchase, I drove home. I was exhausted. Steven had already given the boys a bath and I could hear him down the hall reading a story to them. Anxious, I went straight to the bathroom and immediately took the test. 2 minutes later I looked at it. Incredibly, there were two lines. I said aloud, “holy shit!” and looked at it again. That could not be right. I dug the box out of the trash and re-read the information as though I was someone who had never done this before. I said again out loud, “holy . . . shit!”
In a daze, I walked down the hall and stood outside the boys’ bedroom waiting for Steven to come out. We met there in the hallway by the long horizontal mirror. “Well” he said, “What did it say?” In a mild state of panic, I said “It was positive. Positive!” He busted out with maniacal laughter throwing his hands in the air and then doubling over. I stood there with my mouth dropped open staring at him. “Why are you laughing?” I said to him. He took a minute to catch his breath and said, “What else are we going to do but laugh?”
I walked around for 10 minutes not sure what dimension I was even in. “This can’t be right.” I said. “I’m going back to get a different test.” Steven looked at me and chuckled. “Okay” he said. Ignoring the way he was looking at me like I was a crazy person, I got in the car and went back to Fred’s. This time I got the EPT multi-pack. We could clearly not rely on an off brand in this situation.
I put it down on the belt at the register and looked the same girl from before right in the eye. “I didn’t believe the other one” I explained unnecessarily. She did her classic one eyebrow raising routine and silently slid the box across the scanner. Beep. It went into the bag. She was a consummate professional.
When I got home, I took another test before bed and one again in the morning. They were all positive. Everything in the whole world was positive. After consulting Dr. Google, it became clear that I was probably not going to survive. One of the websites said that 70% of pregnancies post-tubal ligation were tubal pregnancies. I immediately called my doctor’s office, only to be stonewalled by the woman at admission. She was insistent that I give her my insurance information before she would make me an appointment.
“Listen, my husband was laid off from HP we don’t have insurance right now. My doctor at your clinic did my tubal ligation three years ago, and I’d like to see him” I explained. “Are you in any pain right now?” she asked me. “No” I told her. “Then it’s probably fine. When you come in, you will be a cash patient and your first installment will be due before you see the doctor. It will be $750” she told me. With Steven looking for a job, we did not have $750 laying around. I had no idea what I was going to do. I hung up on her, tears in my eyes. I could not even go apply for Medicaid. We were in the middle of a government shutdown and no new applications were being processed.
Later that day I called a friend of mine who worked at a crisis pregnancy center and told her what was happening and that I was worried it was a tubal pregnancy. “Listen, it’s okay!” she told me. “Come on down here and we’ll do an ultrasound and make sure everything is fine.” I was so relieved. “Thank you!” I told her. “Hey, I have a couple of interns is it okay if I let them do your intake?” Laughing, I replied “Sure!”
When I got there, she gave me a hug. I took a seat and waited for them to call me back. The two young college girls started asking me the questions. “Is this your first pregnancy?” one of them asked. Laughing I said, “Um, it’s my 6th.” She looked startled and said, “Oh, okay.” The rest of the visit went along those same lines. When we finally made it to the ultrasound, we saw everything exactly where it should be. The pregnancy was regular and not in the tubes. I was just shy of 7 weeks. The pregnancy resource center followed up with me regularly until I was finally able to get in to see my regular doctor.
That did not happen until I was 15 weeks along.