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What You've Been Missing

I’m now pretty comfortably settled into the new column at BlogHer. It’s a lovely little site and it feels a little bit like a blog version of The View, without Barbara Walters or Joy Behar, and with more discussion on…well, actually, everything I unearthed on the front page of BlogHer right now is View-worthy. So it’s a blog version of The View.

And maybe you like The View or you don’t like The View, but if you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you like me (or, perhaps, you’re one of those people who read blogs that you don’t like) and this column is very much like this blog only over there instead of over here. To get over there, you can either click on the link that I leave in the top post of this blog on Thursdays or you can access it any other day of the week via the little icon on the right sidebar.

I thought I’d reprint this week’s column right here, sort of like a pusher giving you that first hit for free, so you can try it out. See if you like it. Put it on your calendar in Thursday each week with a little heart instead of the “o” in BlogHer. If you click over to the BlogHer site via my link, you’ll come to the exact same post. It’s sort of like my post, looking into a mirror. Doppelgangers. But I’m saving you that step and reposting it here. Like a pusher. And you can answer the question at the end over here too. Come on, you know you want to read more about infertility…

Urination Fascination: Home Pregnancy Tests, Infertility and Halle Berry

Perhaps this will reveal how outdated the magazines are at our house, but we’re making our way through some October issues of People magazine (in my world, Eddie Murphy has yet to get married therefore, he still has two weeks of wedded bliss ahead of him!), which is where it was reported that Halle Berry announced on Oprah that she saved 35 negative home pregnancy tests when she was trying to get pregnant.

Those who are not actively trying to conceive probably can’t imagine how one ends up with 35 urine soaked sticks inside a drawer, likening it to keeping a human head in the freezer. But I could easily see how it happens. You save the first negative stick because it’s the first month trying to conceive. You don’t really know why you save it, but you do because that first time feels momentous. You collect about 8 sticks during the first month because you begin peeing the second First Response Early Result (lovingly known as FRER) gives you the go-ahead on the direction sheet and some days, you pee more than once because you just happen to save up four hours worth of urine and there should be some good use for that much fluid intake and leg crossing.

The next month, it simply becomes a reflex because you saved the ones from the month before. This time, you go easy on the FRER, only peeing on two because you aren’t even sure if you ovulated. You notice a distinct lack of cervical fluid–fluid you have never been aware of prior to this point but are now obsessed with because you have already worked your way through Toni Weschler’s book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Not that you’re worried or anything.

The next month, you drop four pee sticks in the drawer. You have timed it well and your period is late–three days late. Snow white.

By the fourth month, the peeing-on-a-stick (often abbreviated POAS) record becomes spotty. Some months, one or two sticks are added to the drawer. Other months, your period comes before there is time to peel off the wrapper. Still others, you pee on one or two even though you know you have a beta scheduled for the next day.

Along the way, your husband finds your stash of urine-soaked sticks and he begs you, for the love of G-d, to get them out of the bathroom because it makes him throw up in his mouth to think about the fact that he is brushing his teeth just inches away from a pile of festering plastic soaked in bodily fluids.

You remind him that urine is sterile.

You google this fact later on to make sure it is true.

But you can’t throw them out because you have entered into such deep magical thinking about those pee sticks about how your positive will only come if you hold onto them indefinitely. So you keep adding them to the drawer, shifting them this way and that way to ensure that the drawer closes.

That’s how you end up with a drawer of 35 pee sticks.

Pee sticks have long been a topic of conversation in the infertility blogosphere. Weekly, people post pictures of their negative or positive sticks, ask for opinions on judging the darkness of the line, question the occurrence of evaporation lines on Dollar Store home pregnancy tests. A quick jaunt through my blogroll brought me to TheNewLifeofNancy and the test she took this week despite being on birth control pills for her upcoming IVF cycle.

See, my boob hurts. Not my boobs. My boob. My left one. Enough to go to the doctor (which, by the way, couldn’t find out the problem, so I have a boob ultrasound coming up). And what did she ask me? “Is there a chance of pregnancy?”. Uh, no. Then, I puked my guts out Saturday evening. Felt terrible all night. Okay on Sunday and then again on Monday. I had to take the day off I was puking so badly. Laid around like a slug. And what did like 4 people ask me? “Are you pregnant?” Every time someone asks me that, I want to punch them. No, I’m not pregnant. And even if I were, these would ~not~ be my early pregnancy symptoms. But yet I POAS.

Trucking on to someone currently in an IVF cycle, I read Tobacco Brunette’s disappearing and reappearing positive.

I snack on my food, read the NYTimes, and periodically (often) stealthily remove the pee stick from my purse to glance at the nearly invisible, but still very much there line. After about an hour, I pluck my new friend from my bag to find the slightly positive HPT has become negative. I mean, it is white as snow in the place I’d sworn I’d seen a positive sign all day. I panicked, but then thought, “It’s just the light in here. The sun is shifting in the sky. It’ll be there when you leave.” Ted called me to be picked up not long after the line disappeared and I headed outside, where I held the stick up the sun and STILL there was nothing there. No second line…AT. ALL…I’d pee again when I got home. And I did. This time instead of using the test that indicates success with a blue plus sign, I switched things up a little and used First Response, which tells you you’re knocked up with two pretty pink lines. I got a second line. It’s not visible from a distance of more than 2 feet, but can be seen with the naked eye. In fact I can see it right now in my bedroom with just the light of the computer and a small reading lamp. I wish my camera was working so I could show you it’s here and then if it disappears again, you can all assure me I’m not crazy. So, two lines for now.

A beta of 192 confirmed the truth of the pee sticks for her days later. Lastly, This, That, and the Mother Thing had a post this week about a month in the life of an infertile woman, which, of course, contained many lines devoted to pee sticks.

Wake up and pee on a stick with no expectation of success, which, ironically, in the past meant a real possibility of success but now mean
s you are not freakin’ pregnant. Despite all reason, stare at the FRER HPT in 3 different light settings to see if the faintest of faint lines is detectable. Occasionally, tear the test apart to see if the line you see is “real” or an evaporation line. Decide after tearing the test apart that’s as white as the driven snow, that it’s perfectly acceptable to not feel guilty over a big fat glass of wine. Continue to whine, also.

My own stash? Not nearly as impressive as Ms. Berry’s. But a little surprise for any house guest who cares to poke around our bathroom drawers.

So, are you a toss or save sort of girl?


1 Tigger { 02.25.08 at 12:59 pm }

I’m a tosser. This house has enough stuff in it as it is, without me saving pee sticks. Not that I’d really have that many even if I DID save them, given that I often refuse to test except to convince AF to show up. I think I can count on both hands with fingers left over the number of times I’ve tested in the past 4 years. I often don’t get a chance!

Also, I don’t want the reminder. I finally had to move all of my “baby gear” into storage – all the Tigger baby items I’ve bought over the years, the toddler ones, the clothes, etc. The reminder was too much for me. I couldn’t even incorporate them into my Tigger shrine because they just…were too much.

2 Jen { 02.25.08 at 1:14 pm }

Loved this post when I read it on BlogHer! Oh and I’m definitely a tosser when it came to negative tests although I have a test early and often philosophy.

3 Jen { 02.25.08 at 1:36 pm }

I’m a tosser. I did save all the positive ones, but threw them away in a fit of misery later (you know, when I wasn’t so much anymore). I never did save the negative ones. But I got sick of seeing negative after negative so now I wait until I am late to test. And since I haven’t been late and my cycle just keeps getting shorter, I’m not testing so much anymore.

4 Denise { 02.25.08 at 1:46 pm }

Tosser. I don’t want reminders of what could have been, but isn’t. Maybe that will change if I ever actually get a positive pee stick. Regardless, I always toss the OPK sticks.

5 LJ { 02.25.08 at 1:48 pm }

I keep the sticks during the cycle, comparing and contrasting the whiteness on each one to torture myself. I toss ’em after each cycle though.

6 Dee { 02.25.08 at 2:04 pm }

The only one I ever kept was the only one that ever showed up positive. I sitll have it. 4 years later, and no baby…but I can’t give up the proof that, for however short a time, there was one.

7 DD { 02.25.08 at 2:47 pm }

I’ve saved my positives up until the point I would miscarry, then it would all go.

I still have the FREDS from November, and funnily enough, while using the ironing board yesterday I found two of the dollar brand ones I had hidden up there. I had used the lighting in the laundry room. That’s why they were there.

8 Perchancetodream { 02.25.08 at 2:48 pm }

I’ve kept the sticks from the first cycle that “worked”. Even though it ended in miscarriage, those sticks are a reminder to me of what is possible and that I am actually capable of getting pregnant.

9 Jess { 02.25.08 at 2:52 pm }

I toss.

I saved the positives the first time and then tossed them (or I think so…no clue where they are if I dind’t toss them) after we lost the baby. But we had pics. HOWEVER after reading your post the other day I was sad to realize that I’m pretty sure I never got any pics of the positive sticks that I had when I found out I was pregnant this last time. And I’m pretty sure the sticks are long gone.

Blast. I was so busy being sure he would die and it would all be fruitless like the first time that I neglected them!!

10 Sassy { 02.25.08 at 2:58 pm }

I’m a tosser, a hide at the bottom of the trasher as well. Still, I can get it. I like Halle Berry better now – she seems so much more, well, human, than I thought of her before.

11 loribeth { 02.25.08 at 3:05 pm }

I was never one to be constantly POAS, but when I did, I tossed. Never even occurred to me to keep my one positive test, or at least take a picture of it, until I started going online & hearing that other people did. 🙁 Which is odd, because I am generally a packrat. Oh well…

I do read you over on BlogHer, but haven’t registered there & so can’t leave comments.

12 megan { 02.25.08 at 3:10 pm }

my initial response was that i’m a tosser, but that’s not entirely true, and it’s different for HPTs and OPKs.
i always tossed the negative HPTs. often quickly and violently.
positive HPTs would be lined up on our bathroom cabinet in order to measure the darkening of the second line, no matter how much i knew that meant nothing… especially after they had been left out on the cabinet for days upon days…then weeks. i suppose i easily believed the negative, but needed a LOT of reinforcement with the positives.
then there are the OPKs..in order to be true to the instructions i would always test mid-day which means testing at work. i would sneak my little dixie cup into the loo with me and my little stick, the shove the stick in my sleeve and bring it back to my desk drawer so i could peek at the appropriate time. needless to say, i ended up with a drawer full of peed upon OPKs.
i was cleaning out my desk a few weeks ago and came across them… thank goodness i remembered to clean out that drawer!

13 Amy { 02.25.08 at 3:13 pm }

I’m definately a tosser. Most of my POAS was done without my DH’s knowledge that I was POAS. He would say I was obsessed. So I would POAS and wrap it in tp before throwing it, not in the bathroom garbage, but actually outside in the trash can. How bad is that?

14 SarahSews { 02.25.08 at 4:07 pm }

I wasn’t not a seriel POASer. I hate to waste money and was never late in almost the entire three years we TTC. I tested a few of our IUI cycles (including the one when we had a chemical pg) but stopped for a long time after that. I keep all the positives tests (from three different pgs, two of which ended in mc) in my top dresser drawer in labeled plastic bags. For a long long time the ones from the chemical were the only thing to remind me that I wasn’t hallucinating and that we could get pg. And now i just don’t have the heart to toss them.

15 Heidi { 02.25.08 at 7:40 pm }

I am a total tosser, and after seeing my best friend’s “notebook”, I totally regret it. She has every opk, every hpt and anything else she might have accidently dripped her pee on taped into a notebook logged by cycle number, date and time.

It is so nice to be able to look back on cycle #14 and see that yes, after 5 days of negative opks, a positive one did show up!

16 JuliaS { 02.25.08 at 10:46 pm }

I’m a saver – definitely. I saved the bfns and took them apart too. I saved the bfps and took them apart sometimes too. One of my pregnancies was such a shock to me I had to take 14 hpts over a 2 week course of time – yes, that would be one a day. Seemed like I needed continual confirmation. I saved them all too and kept referring to them. I compared the lines to the lines on the other tests. I even have the very first postive hpt I ever had from 1993!

I do not dare tell my dh what lurks in the back of our bathroom cabinet . . .

17 Geohde { 02.26.08 at 2:06 am }


Can’t help it.


18 Rachael { 02.26.08 at 3:17 am }

I’m a “never get that far cos my period always arrives just as I’m deliberating” kind of gal.

19 TeamWinks { 02.26.08 at 6:21 am }

Toss the things. I don’t need reminders of my failures. Hell, I’d burn them and do a little dance around them in the back yard if I thought the neighbors wouldn’t notice!

20 Meg { 02.26.08 at 10:45 am }

I toss the negatives. This last 8th ivf cycle was my first postive pee stick – I had four – in my top drawer in the bedroom. I tossed them after my m/c. Dont need the reminder of what was.

21 Rachel { 02.26.08 at 11:58 am }

When we were trying, my period was always so regular that I never needed a test. The first test I ever took was positive, I didn’t save it and we lost the baby.

The next time I got pregnant, the lines indicated not negative, but I wan’t certain it was positive either. I took another test which came out the same way. I saved both of them until I had an ultrasound picture to prove the baby’s existence. My husband tried several times to get me to throw the tests away.

22 Kim { 02.26.08 at 1:21 pm }

My name is Kim and I was a POAS addict. I was a saver but then a tosser. I saved mine from my first pregnancy – and my second. Then with baby #3 I saved and tossed after each miscarriage – I should have bought stock in HPT first! I am also guilty of testing everyday after a bfp just to see how dark the line is getting. Yes I know it means nothing and have proof – had a beta of 158 with a faint line. It was light but not so light that I needed to take it apart and angle it in natural light and then when I wasn’t sure take a picture and enlarge it on the computer. I also had a realy dark line and my beta was only 79. So,you never know!Yet I still did it! I had recently tossed all of them but took pictures first – it was hard to do. I tried to toss them several times before I succeeded.

23 Heather { 02.26.08 at 1:30 pm }

I tossed every negative test…but my positive ones are on top of my cabinet stand in my bathroom. I pull them down and look at them when I need assurance that I am indeed pregnant.

24 Michell { 02.26.08 at 4:12 pm }

I save for a while. The negatives, never save those. With my chemical pregnancy I saved the two that I could sort of almost see a line on and then when I got my result I tossed them all. Then on my IVF I saved them until after my second beta then tossed them. Even though my beta had went up I knew in my heart it wasn’t going to happen and I tossed them.

25 S { 02.26.08 at 8:03 pm }

OMG – I love it!!! I guess I’m a tosser, only to later dig them from the trash and toss again and dig again..you get the picture. With my dd, I kept the 7 positive tests are a little past her first birthday! With the last 3 losses, I keep the positives (with the cd written on the test in black sharpie) until the pregnancy fails. Sad but true!! I loved reading this–thanks!!!

26 Vacant Uterus { 02.26.08 at 9:43 pm }

Love this post! Loved it, loved it.

I tossed mine mostly because I stopped peeing on things early on. I don’t know why; maybe I thought that if I didn’t check there still might be a chance? If I didn’t check I was leaving a bigger window for faith? I don’t know. And after the miscarriages, I just didn’t even think about POAS anymore. It’s like that part of my mind closed down and it’s only now starting to reopen.

But I can understand why you’d save. And I’m totally peeking in your drawers if I ever visit your bathroom. 🙂

27 Julia { 03.06.08 at 9:56 am }

I eventually tossed the negatives from the summer, but I still have the two positive ones from this December. I didn’t POAS before– just did blood draws, and this time around, when I started using the sticks, I was developing an all-consuming hatred. Which is how, I think, the ones from the summer ended up tossed– they were in danger of more and worse violence.

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