Waiting to Test
By Alisa Ikeda
So you think you may have made yourselves a baby…but it’s still too soon to take a home pregnancy test. The wait, typically about two weeks, can be excruciating. But it can also present you with an unparalleled opportunity for reflection, nurturing, and togetherness.
“Before something is a fact, there’s the wonderful place of ‘I don’t know,’” says Jennifer Louden, the author of five books, including The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life and The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book, and creator of ComfortQueen.com. Many of us, however, dread that place. Angie Boss of Anderson, Indiana, is all too familiar with the am-I- or am-I-not-pregnant suspense: “When you want something that badly, your entire life feels as though it is hanging in the balance waiting for a stupid stripe to turn pink.”
“During these times, we tend to say to ourselves, ‘I have to get through this—I just don’t want to think’ or ‘I’ll be devastated if I don’t get this,’” says Louden. “That causes unnecessary suffering.” What if, instead, you took advantage of this fragile time to learn about who you are and what you might become?
Louden recommends asking yourselves what she calls “mindful” questions, such as:
- What is my vision of pregnancy?
- What is my vision of parenting?
- What are my expectations of myself as a mother/father?
- What are my expectations of you as a mother/father?
- What are some options if we are not pregnant?
- What are the first choices we need to make if we are pregnant?
- What are some ways I can take care of you during this waiting time?
- What are some ways I can take care of myself?
- What do I most fear about the possible outcomes?
- What do I love about my life and our relationship as it is right now?
Ponder these alone and/or together. Consider journaling your answers apart from one another and then swapping journals, or try the “counsel format,” whereby you talk for three or five minutes without interruption—exploring anything and everything that comes to your mind—and then give your partner the chance to do the same. It’s not about judging or solving, warns Louden; it’s about honoring your thoughts and feelings during this most tender time in your lives.
“Nobody really wants to do this stuff—we’d all rather watch Seinfeld,” admits Louden. But the insight, perspective, and shared understanding we gain can be invaluable to us as individuals, as partners, and as potential parents.
Savor the anticipation, relieve your stress, and nurture one another during these uncertain weeks with one of Louden’s suggestions:
- Look at baby pictures of each other together.
- Talk about some of the things that were important to you when you were young and what rituals you’d like to create or maintain for your child.
- Engage in meditative exercise together, such as a partner yoga class, tai chi, or even just a stroll instead of a power walk, so you can share—and calm—your anxiety.
- Sit, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes, and take refuge in the fact that no matter how intensely you want a baby, all you can do is breathe together.
- Creating a gratitude list, because when you begin to appreciate what is, you become less anxious about what could be.
If you test too soon, you may be unnecessarily disappointed. False negatives are likely before there’s enough hCG (human chorionic gonadatrophin—the hormone produced when implantation occurs) in your blood to register on a home pregnancy test. “I admit I cheated and took a test the day before I should have,” recalls Jennifer Reno of Howell, Michigan. “The line was so faint that we couldn’t decide if it was really there or not.” That uncertainty can be more nerve-wracking than another day’s wait!
Don’t let other people add to your pressure. Angie reached a point where she stopped telling her friends and family she was testing. “They were dying to know the answer, and I hated telling them that I had ‘failed’ again.” Share only if or when you are ready.
After months of fertility treatments, Jennifer and her husband decided to make their upcoming day of reckoning an occasion. “That way,” says Jennifer, “it could be a celebration if positive or a time to heal if negative.” Knowing they could test on Halloween, they planned a two-day getaway over the holiday. They tested in the morning—it was positive!—and enjoyed a day of sightseeing and then a night out on the town, complete with tickets to “Phantom of the Opera” and dinner at a four-star restaurant. Your plans needn’t be that extravagant, but they should be relaxing and special.
What Will Be
“As much as we want to control what the future brings, we can’t,” Louden reminds us. “No matter what our plans or fantasies are, they will not come to fruition exactly as we think they should.” That’s the thrill, and the blessing, of the unknown.
A home pregnancy test veteran, Alisa Ikeda is a mother and writer in Marin County, California.