It’s been a while (and then some) since I first had sex, and throughout those years rarely a month has passed without my offering up silent supplication to the goddess of effective contraception, and a prayer of heartfelt thanks a week or so later when everything turns out to be crampy and A-OK. Anecdotal evidence suggests I’m not alone: almost every woman I know, no matter how sensible, diligent, or frankly obsessive she’s been about her contraception, has had some post-coital flutter that, maybe, defying the holy trifecta of nature, luck and science, one of the spermy little buggers has snuck its way through.
Which was a situation I found myself in recently, because, despite all rational arguments with myself to the contrary, I’d been having niggly thoughts of the worst for just over a week. They’d started about 10 days previously, when one evening I found myself with a desperate craving for pineapple juice. As someone who rarely gets intense desires for particular foodstuffs (daily hankerings for post-work G&Ts notwithstanding), it set off the quietest of back-of-the mind alarms.
And once that vaguest of notions had taken hold, there was absolutely no shaking it. No matter how many times I told myself that I had just come back from the gym and the craving was probably the result of my being a bit low on blood sugar, I couldn’t help but wonder if it might be the worst. And once one niggle had wormed its way in, it was joined by a host of its friends.
“Your boobs have been a bit tender for days,” they whispered. “That’s not normal, is it? And you’ve been very tired the past week… that’s a symptom too, isn’t it?”
For several days, I fought valiantly in my attempts to banish the evil interlopers, telling myself in no uncertain terms that, biologically speaking, I’d have to be the unluckiest woman since Cassandra; that maybe I just needed a couple of new bras; and that a stressed-out, slightly insomniac other half who’d not slept properly on the other side of the bed for the past week probably had at least something to do with the fatigue.
And then, on Friday morning, following a particularly heavy night out with a client, guest starring more bottles of red wine than is entirely proper and food nowhere in sight, there might have been a moment during which my deeply hungover nausea got the better of me, and the vestiges of the previous evening’s excesses were, er, revisited.
At which point, my inner demons had a field day: “Ah HA! Well, you can’t ignore us now, can you? You’ve got MORNING SICKNESS!”
“Oh, shut up,” I tried to tell them. “It’s just a hangover. It’s nothing that a burrito and a Fat Coke can’t fix. Nothing more than that.”
“But you don’t know that, do you? And with everything else…? Well, you can’t be sure, can you…?”
A little later, clutching the lunchtime burrito in one hand, I texted PolitGal, whose hugely successful career in an inordinately stressful industry has made her entirely unflappable, to tell her that paranoia had well and truly set in. Without judgment or panic, there was a prompt, no-nonsense reply: shall I pop round with a test later on?
Which is how I came, on a Saturday morning in early September, to be sitting on the sofa of one of my best friends, clutching a soon-to-be peed-in ramekin and hoping to all that’s holy for the lack of a line on a little white stick.
A speedily-quaffed half mug of tea; some chat about who we fancy to win this year’s edition of the Great British Bake Off (very possibly Smug James of the Knitwear, although Danny looks dangerously competent); and some (careful) peeing into a ramekin later, I yelled at PG through her bathroom door.
“NOT PREGNANT! AMAZING!”
“NOT PREGNANT! AMAZING!”
“HURRAH!” She yelled back from the sitting room. “CONGRATULATIONS ON NOT BEING PREGNANT!”
Never in my entire life have I been so happy to fail a test. Or, pass with flying colours – whichever way you want to look at it.