Negative tests and practicing my poker face

{I’ve been leery of sharing these thoughts and stories about our journey to have Baby #2. I don’t want to get pegged as an infertility writer cause I will feel guilty for getting pregnant when my readers are still trying. But more than that, letting strangers see the longings in my heart has been just too much. Way too much vulnerability. But two weeks ago, I was freaking out in a waiting room, hoping for certain test results. And I watched myself fight transparency and cover up emotion. It was weird. I didn’t want anyone to know. So this is the first time I’ve really talked about it. Here goes.}

Two weeks ago, something strange was happening to me, something “not normal”. I hoped maybe the weirdness was pregnancy, but home tests read negative. I ran out of homeopathic options and patience so I called my doctor. My regular, non-hippie medical doctor.

“We may have to run some tests, but we have to wait,” the nurse informed me. Of course. Tests. And waiting. Dislike.

“Can I rule out pregnancy?” I squeaked in the most non-neurotic voice I could muster. “I just want to be sure I’m not so I can make the necessary adjustments.” Yea, adjustments, like curing my racing mind and my feverish curiosity. The nurse humored me.

Less than 24 hours later, I left work early for my appointment in the lab. The drive to the clinic gave me 20 minutes to remember the last few times I sat in the lab waiting room, doing what you do in a waiting room: waiting. Trying to sit still, distracting myself with newsstand magazines, pretending to breathe.

The lab tech would call me back and draw my blood, and we both acted like it was no big deal, that I was just there for the Band-Aid, and I didn’t really mind at all if there was only one line on that test.

They would send me back to the waiting room for more discomfort and squirming. There I’d become spiritual.

I would try to imagine all the things I could do to make the test positive. Cross my fingers, blink five times fast, forgive all the people I’m mad at. I land on the best make-things-happen action step: surrender. Not real surrender, of course. Fake surrender. Super-spiritual apathy.

I tell God that I will be okay and he is still good and I trust him, not so much because I do, but because that’s how you get what you want around here, right?

I want surrender, but I would rather just be pregnant. That would save so much time.

After I wave my faux white flag, the lab tech inevitably comes out with the poker face and no voice inflection. “Tests are negative today.” Whoosh. Out goes the little flame of hope.

I am always surprised, but I pretend I’m cool. “Okay, thank you,” I half smile back, feigning confidence. So the results are only negative today, right? So maybe tomorrow they will be positive? Okay, I will be back. Tomorrow. And there’s always next month.

But I don’t feel confident at all. I’m disappointed. Something must be wrong. I wish I’d stayed home and let the white stick tell me the answer, but I had to come in. Just had to know. I can’t let the lab techs, the bearers of sad news, see that look on my face. I can’t let the strangers know my sadness.

After lab room flashbacks on the drive to the clinic, I decided to practice my own poker face. I knew the tests would probably be negative, but maybe not. That’s what I was there, right? I was ready for anything, and a positive result wouldn’t be hard to deal with. I just had to protect myself from the Messengers of Negative, ensure they don’t see even a change in eyebrow posture. Remember: stone-faced. Be prepared.

They draw my blood, and I wonder if I’m wasting my time. I don’t say that. I tell the lab tech I like the wall decor. “It’s so colorful,” I cheer.

Back to the waiting room, where I pull out my iPad to write. But I can’t write because I’m calculating my due date and how old John will be when his sibling is born and what if it’s a boy and I don’t think I can handle another boy, but I will just be happy if it’s a baby at all and I can always adopt a girl…

And then the lab window slides open. “Tests are negative today,” the blond lady announces. I’m alone in the waiting room, but I feel alone in the world. I will go home and tell Josh, and he won’t understand what it feels like to hope your body is growing a human life, only to find out it’s just messed up instead.

“Okay,” I stutter, but I wasn’t prepared like I meant to be. “I guess I’ll have to do something different.” What? Something different? What ever does that mean? My secret was out. I sounded drunk, but it was just the sadness. The out-of-controlness. The I’m-trying-everything-so-what-else-do-I-need-to-do?

I shoved my iPad back into my tote, wishing I’d been prepared to leave, hating the moment I lingered there helpless. She knows I’m sad. She knows I wanted the baby. She knows something is wrong with me. She knows.

I still don’t really understand why the lab techs scare me. They are only messengers. They don’t make me un-pregnant with their words. I just hate to hear it. It feels vulnerable. I don’t want the first person to know of my hope deferred, the person who tells me my body can’t do it, or just won’t do it, to be someone I’ve never met.

I walk to the car, texting my friends the news. On my way home, I call my cousin in Texas. “I’m not pregnant.” I try to sound optimistic.

I don’t say it, but I think the pregnancy tests should have a sad face for the negative. Then maybe it would feel like someone understands.

A friend recommended this book to me for those of us struggling with infertility at any level. It’s not advice. Lets be clear. Just journal entries, thoughts and prayers from a woman who was waiting. The book is called Moments for Couples who Long for Children. It sounds immensely helpful. Thank you for the tip, friend.

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6 thoughts on “Negative tests and practicing my poker face

  1. If only our practiced poker faces made it easier to receive the hard news! I’m sorry to hear of your struggles, but I’m glad you’re talking about it. Good luck with everything.

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  2. I don’t really know how you feel, and will likely never really know how you feel. But I can empathize with you thinking of my own struggle with hope deferred. It’s hard. Really hard.
    It’s strange that knowing others struggle with a sense of loss when their future hope disappears makes our own struggle with a different disappearing hope a tiny bit easier to bare. Although I don’t know exactly what you feel, I have an idea … and I feel ya. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  3. Sarah, what a beautifully written post. I happened upon your site from your guest post on The Actual Pastor. When I was tooling around on your site, I saw you had adoption resources, then saw you were struggling with infertility. I am the Exec. Director of the national adoption and infertility education and support nonprofit–Creating a Family. Coincidence? (I think not. :-)) In any event, I’d recommend you come on over to our website (www.CreatingaFamily.org) and play around. We do a weekly radio show/podcast interviewing leading experts on adoption and infertility. Also, we have a terrific support group-Creating a Family Facebook Support Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/40688106167/). With your permission I’d love to share this great blog with our audience, even tho you aren’t an infertility blogger, just a blogger who happens to be infertile. I get it, really I do.

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