I have that ostrich-in-the-sand thing when it comes to certain areas of my personal life. That thing where if I just pretend it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t, right? My brain is very good at tricking me into thinking things are just fine and dandy when things are far from it.
Like recently, for example, I’ve made a series of bad financial decisions that have put me in a really tough place, but I just sort of ignored the situation until *boom* I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and now I’m scrambling to correct course.
Or ask me about that tiny cavity I didn’t have filled way back in 1995, and then through a string of complicated events involving lots of dentist visits over the years, that tooth had to eventually be pulled out of my head -- and now I have a $2,400 permanent bridge, like the ladies in my grandma’s bowling league do, except I’m only 36 years old. When I could have just had a teeny cavity filled in 1995.
I know, you guys. I know. This is the work I have to do in my life.
And I’m learning to recognize it, my ability to shut out the unpleasant things. The mind is a tricky thing, though. That’s why I find it totally believable that there are women out there who either don't know or "don’t know” they are pregnant until they’re actually giving birth in a bathroom stall or whatever. The brain is the worst kind of accomplice in these denial situations.
And indeed, the way I dealt with most medical situations, when I was in my 20s, was to ignore it (whatever “it” was) until it went away. I was scared of going to the doctor, and I didn’t have medical insurance for a few years. By the time I was in my mid-20s, I wasn’t on hormonal birth control because 1) I didn’t do well on it, emotionally, the first time and 2) refilling the prescription required an annual exam, which I was really scared of. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know why (especially now that medical procedures are no big deal to me, these days).
So in the late summer of 2004 when my period was late, I was not all that concerned, at first. I thought my body was just being weird, and if I ignored it, I would eventually get my period. Right? Because that is how I thought everything in my life seemed to play out up until that point: ignore it and it will go away.
I thought maybe I’d miscalculated the date when my period was supposed to come. That must be what it is. I’m not pregnant. But a few more days went by. I felt crampy, but nothing was happening.
Seth’s mom and aunt came from Portland for a visit, and still my period did not come. I was a full week late at that point. And still, I thought it was just late. We went to Disneyland on Saturday, where I rode on the Hollywood Tower of Terror (a ride where you are flung up and down multiple times in an elevator-type thing) like five times in a row. I had two cocktails at dinner that night.
I went to the ladies’ room multiple times, convinced that my period had just started, only to find nothing. I didn’t question my constant need to pee, because I was drinking a lot of water. The next day, we went to the Queen Mary, and I had a hot dog and a Guinness.
Except I couldn’t finish my beer. Something wasn’t right, and no matter how well my brain had convinced me otherwise, I began to panic. Sunday night, the minute Seth’s mom and aunt left to go home, we got in the car and went to the drugstore.
We bought a home pregnancy test in nervous silence, and in the parking lot on the way back to the car, I had a cramp that nearly made me double over. I was sure I was getting my period -- of course I was, after we had shelled out money for this test.
When we got home, I went into the bathroom immediately to take the test. The first time, I accidentally peed on the result window, instead of the stick part of the test. It instantly showed positive. And I thought maybe because I’d done it wrong, that it was a false positive. So I did it again, this time the right way.
Again, it showed positive almost immediately. I didn’t have to wait those three minutes to get a result.
I showed Seth, and we both cried, I think. Not tears of joy -- tears of sheer fucking what-do-we-do panic. Seth walked to the store to buy ice cream, clearly the only thing that could lessen the blow of this devastating news.
Oddly, the idea of actually raising a kid wasn’t what freaked me out -- it was that a pregnancy would require visits to a doctor. I would have to be poked and prodded and given pelvic exams and blood tests and who knows what. Plus, the baby would have to GET OUT OF ME somehow.
I thought, briefly, that maybe I had cancer, because I’d heard that certain types of cancer can show up positive on a pregnancy test. Plus, a friend of mine had recently had a pregnancy scare, with a missed period and a positive test, and it turned out to be an ovarian cyst.
This is how screwed up my brain was: I actually weighed the merits of having a baby vs. having cancer.
Ultimately, I decided that having a baby was way less worse than having cancer, of course. So as I dialed the number of an OB I’d found on the insurance website, I thought at least it’s probably not cancer. At least it’s probably not cancer.
I broke down crying at the woman who answered the phone at the doctor’s office. I blubbered out something like, “I think I’m pregnant!” before dissolving into tears.
She asked me (gently) when making the appointment, “Do you plan to keep it?” probably because she thought I was a 16-year-old girl, and not a 28-year-old woman. Because what 28-year-old woman in a stable long term-relationship goes all after-school-special when simply arranging an appointment to confirm a pregnancy?
I did keep it -- “it” being my kick-ass kid, Oliver. I sucked it up and went to the doctor and endured regular appointments where I was poked and prodded and peed in a cup and had blood drawn. I gave birth to him and learned some valuable lessons about what I am capable of, physically. And now I no longer get that nervous bowling-ball feeling in my stomach before every medical appointment. Having a baby broke that spell.
I look back at this and I can’t believe how scared I was of something so simple as a visit to the doctor. Since Oliver was born, I’ve had root canals, an endoscopy, mammograms, multiple blood draws (thanks, anemia!) -- medical procedures during which someone inevitably assures me that it will all be over soon.
To which I always reply, “Don’t worry, I’ve had a baby.”