Home Pregnancy Tests Are Not For the Faint-Hearted

Home pregnancy tests and I got off to a bad start at the beginning of last year. As I explained in great detail in my post A New Level Of Ditsyness I had an unplanned pregnancy scare when The Princess was ten months old – all because I’d kept the positive test from when I fell pregnant with her and re-used it, twenty months later, without realising that it wasn’t a fresh test. Gross. And dumb. But it was my first test and I was excited.

Just liked I’d planned falling pregnant with the Princess down to a T, I wanted to plan and be mentally prepared for a second pregnancy. After countless cocktails on my solo trip to New York when The Princess was fourteen months old, I downloaded the Period Tracker app, went off the pill and tried to imagine life with more than one little monster.

After several months and no missed periods, I started toying with the idea of giving up wine for that unknown time of the month when you might be pregnant but you don’t know it. I also heard a theory that some (not all) women should avoid caffeine when trying to fall pregnant. No coffee, no wine, a certain amount of sex on certain days… this was starting to get more complicated than I had realised…

And then, all of a sudden, deep in earnest conversation with the BFF visiting from Cape Town, my I-phone started playing an unrecognisable jingle, flashing lights, vibrating and scaring the living daylights out of me. It was a message from Period Tracker:


After my false alarm seven months earlier, I decided not to rush off to Lancet Laboratories for a blood test. The number of days between my cycle hadn’t been exactly consistent, according to Period Tracker, so I figured that one day overdue was no reason to plan the nursery yet.

Because I’d heard that it’s most ideal to do home pregnancy tests in the morning (something about your HCG hormone levels being highest then), I waited until the next day to dig into my stash of home pregnancy tests. And yes, I made sure that the tests were sealed in foil this time. To this day, I don’t understand how the designers of these tests expect a full bladder to be emptied onto a tiny plastic stick that’s about 1cm wide and 2cm long (I’m talking about the surface area you’re supposed to pee on). You then have this critical “no pee” zone that you need to avoid at all costs, else your test is inconclusive. Here’s what my test looked like:

If you ask me, this test looks sort of positive – I say “sort of” because the colour of the test (“T”) line is so much lighter than the colour of the control (“C”). I therefore wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be “sort of” happy to be “sort of” pregnant or if I was supposed to “sort of” not really get my hopes up. Maybe seasoned pregnancy test users would have better luck interpreting this crap excuse for a test but I had no idea what to make of it.

Naturally, I only had one of these useless instruments in the cupboard. The logical thing to do would have been to head to a pharmacy when the shops opened at 9am or to send The Husband. The Husband, however, was out cycling all morning and The Princess and I had breakfast plans at 9am and anyway, if I was indeed pregnant, I figured that the fetus would be in need of food, as was I.

Breakfast turned into brunch and then it was time to hightail it home for The Princess’ day sleep. By now, The Husband was home and it would have been the perfect opportunity for one of us to go to a pharmacy… HOWEVER… I’d been promising The Husband that I would get my butt onto a bicycle for several months now and that very day was the day that this event was due to take place. I’d even been to his cycling store during the week to “get fitted” by the experts who’d near- mutilated his bike in an attempt to make it comfortable for me. The Husband was bursting with excitement and it was just one of those things I could not pull out of.

But I devised a plan in which I wouldn’t have to pull out of the ride AND we could buy some pregnancy tests. We’d cycle past Dischem at the Blubird centre and pick one up there. Simple.

Not so simple. We pulled up outside Dischem only to discover that on Sundays, it closed at 1pm. Next stop: Clicks at Melrose Arch. Also closed on a Sunday afternoon. Surprise! The pharmacy at Melrose Arch: closed down when Clicks opened its pharmacy. I was sure there had been a pharmacy in the Evermed centre near the corner of Corlett Drive and Atholl Oaklands: also closed down, (no doubt when Dischem moved in over the road). And so we chugged home from our urban cycling adventure sans pregnancy test.

We then rushed to make our afternoon plans in Westcliff. On our way home, I thought we’d stop at Clicks in the Rosebank Mall which was part of a heaving centre so it was sure to be open. Not at 17:10 on a Sunday, however. And then it was supper, bath and bed-time for The Princess during which time The Husband drove to The Wedge in Morningside (which appears to house the only late night pharmacy in Sandton and surrounds).

Finally, he came home armed with three pregnancy tests. These tests weren’t comparable to the R25 Dischem tests I’d been using. These tests looked like they meant business:

Although it was now 8pm and not apparently the ideal time of day to be taking a pregnancy test, I went off to pee and see.

It was negative. The first Clearblue test’s key showed that two dark blue lines in the shape of a cross (similar to the cross on the Swiss flag) meant that you were pregnant and one horizontal, dark blue line meant that you were not pregnant. My “negative” line was more of a sky blue than a dark blue but there was absolutely no second line crossing this line so it looked pretty much negative, rather than “sort of” negative.

Thus far, I had one sort of positive test and one pretty negative test. I assumed that meant that I wasn’t pregnant. I decided that this caused for a sympathy glass of wine. It looked as though I wasn’t pregnant after all. I had lost interest in the stash of expensive tests The Husband driven north to procure.

Until my bladder began to fill up, that is. Then I decided that if I had to pee, I may as well pee on one more stupid Clearblue stick.

At first I didn’t notice anything different about the second Clearblue stick, but when I had to wait the requisite few minutes for the test to show a result, I couldn’t help but sneak a peak, even though a watched pot never boils… And then I saw a digital screen with a little flashing egg timer. So this was the Rolls Royce of pregnancy tests… (If you look carefully at the picture of the two Clearblue boxes in the picture above, you can easily notice the difference between the two tests but at a glance, it’s like trying to quickly distinguish between chunky and smooth cottage cheese – the packaging is so annoyingly similar…).

After the Rolls Royce had finished thinking, it flashed its result in actual, legible English language words:


Finally! A test going out on a limb with a declarative result! And so, in the space of a day, I went from being possibly but inconclusively pregnant, to most probably not pregnant, to probably pregnant. The Husband and I were partially elated and partially unsure that we should be, even after the fourth and final Clearblue digital test announced, once more, that I was 1-2 weeks pregnant.

First thing the next morning I called my new gynae to say that I’d had two positive pregnancy tests out of four and so I thought I was pregnant. His receptionist told me to go and get blood tests done which I dutifully did within the hour. I was to call his rooms a few hours later to confirm the test results.

When I called, stating that I wanted to know what the blood tests had revealed, the receptionist sounded both bored and skeptical. Not a good sign. These were her words:

“Um… Let’s see here… Ja… Okay…Yes…So it says you’re only just pregnant.”

OH MY GOODNESS! I understand the risks inherent in early pregnancy and Period Tracker tells me exactly when the first day of my last period was so I know exactly how pregnant I am. ! I just want to know if I should currently be thinking of myself as a pregnant person or not!

Needless to say it took me a day or so to get my head around the notion and a full two weeks before the nausea set in.

Now I am about 15 weeks and am sporting what I would call a seriously distended belly. This is the one time I actually would like friends and strangers alike to inquire as to whether or not I’m pregnant but since my stomach popped just post the Christmas holidays, people are understandably wary of putting their foot in it.

A New Level of Ditsyness

One of the things I miss most about home when I’m overseas or in a very, small, very godforsaken South African town, is skinny cappuccinos. So when we got back to Jozi in early Jan, I set about grabbing one whenever I was out. Slowly but surely, however, I realised that they were making me feel sick.

After a coffee meeting with The Princess and a friend at Tashas, one morning, I was having my hair trimmed with a new hairdresser in my local centre. At one point when he was mid-sentence, I felt so nauseous that, without even thinking to apologize, I dug in my handbag for some remaining bits of crackerbread I’d been carrying around for The Princess. I then caught a glimpse of the hairdresser in the mirror. He was looking at me somewhat strangely.

I suppose it’s not every day he sees women foraging in their handbags for Snackbread crumbs. Plus I had told him that I was on a mission to lose 10kg. He probably thought I’d been starving myself for days and finally gave in to the urge to devour dry crackers.

I did put him out of his misery and explained that I suspected the strong coffee in cappuccinos was making me nauseous. He said many of his colleagues had been experiencing similar symptons and they also suspected it was the coffee.

The next day, I had an attack of morning hunger unlike any I’d ever experienced – at least that’s what it felt like. Despite really, really wanting to stick to my Weight Watchers points, at about 10:30am, after a proper, wholesome, balanced breakfast, I had to race downstairs to shovel food into my mouth. Weight Watchers went out of the window as I devoured a carb-rich sandwich replete with cheese, ham, mayo and mustard. Mmmmm.

The next morning The Princess and I were up at some ungodly hour. The kind of hour when you REALLY need coffee. And within half an hour I was lying on the couch, trying to keep an eye on The Princess but overwhelmed with nausea.

I wanted camaraderie and sympathy so I sms’ed my friend Mandy, whose little boy is 2 months older than The Princess. She’d empathise with not being able to drink coffee at 5 in the morning. And it wouldn’t be rude to sms her at 6 in the morning as she’d almost certainly be awake.

As soon as I hit “send”, I realised she’d immediately suspect that I was pregnant. I smiled to myself. There was no way. I was on the Pill and I’d used it for years and years as a very successful method of birth control. I honestly believed that the 5% failure rate was for ditsy chicks who popped The Pill sporadically and expected it to work. That was not me.

By 8am, The Princess was down for her morning nap and I was in the bathroom washing my face when I suddenly felt so ravenous I thought I might actually kill for food. That’s when I thought that maybe, just maybe, I should take a pregnancy test. I’d seen one in the cupboard a few weeks ago that I’d bought when I suspected I was pregnant with The Princess. And so, I duly removed it from the cupboard and re-read the instructions before putting it to use.

Oh my God! Two red lines appeared before I had even replaced the cap, whereas the instructions said to replace the cap and wait FIVE MINUTES. This hadn’t even been five seconds. I then replaced the cap and stared at this stick for what felt like hours.


No change.

Still two red lines.

I remembered this to be the positive result we’d had when we’d found out I was pregnant with The Princess but I checked the instructions anyway. Yip – two red lines equals “preggers”.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Someone had once told me that these home tests can give false negatives but they can’t give false positives. I realised this person wasn’t a medical professional and that it could be B.S but still… I was convinced I must be pregnant. Nausea from the same coffee ritual I’d been on for SO long, being ravenous in the morning… it all made sense.

But I was on the frigging pill! What the hell? Okay, yes, perhaps I was a bit more scatty about taking it than I had been before I became a mother – one just has SO much more time when you only have to really look after yourself. And there had been those overnight flights to the Seychelles where I’d forgotten to take it until 2 days later… Jeez. This was all way too scary.

Plus there was no reaching The Husband who was out on an epic cycle training session. (To give you an indication, I think I reached him after 11 missed calls and three hours.) So I had to go through my full blown panic alone.

I started calculating the age gap. If I was two weeks pregnant, then I had another 38 weeks to go which meant the baby would be here around early October. And Margie, our night nurse was starting with Nicky’s second baby at the beginning of June… last time they had her for four months… June, July, August, September… okay, Margie MIGHT just be free for the new baby.


Should I call her now? No, wait, let me confirm. Phone our GP. Phone goes to voicemail – it’s obviously not his Saturday on duty. Phone the practice. Only opening at 9:30. That’s nearly 90 minutes. I can’t wait that long to confirm. Phone Lancet’s 24 hour lab at the Morningside Clinic. How long for the results of a pregnancy test? 30 minutes. Perfect. Natalie, get to Lancet asap.



The Princess is still sleeping.

Waiting for her to wake up is torture.

Mind racing.

So how old will she be when her sibling arrives in October 2012? 18 months. Gulp. Better than Glamour Girl’s 16 month gap but still…

Jeez, how could this happen to me? I am SUCH a planner. I’d taken heed of all those cautionary tales of women going off the Pill in preparation for a pregnancy in 6-12 months time and then falling pregnant that night or whatever.

Not me. No ways. I never did that. I waited and waited and procrastinated and did tests and checks and did so many “last” overseas trips before I eventually went off The Pill, knowing that it could happen immediately, you could just never know for sure. When the breastfeeding consultant tried to tell me that I needn’t use contraception if breastfeeding exclusively, I had no idea I’d never get anywhere close to exclusive breastfeeding but I totally ignored her advice. I was back on The Pill asap. I wanted to at least be able to plan a minimum gap.

Finally, finally, The Princess wakes up and we get to Lancet. There is the longest queue in the world – obviously. I’ve now passed from hyperventilation to decorating the new nursery… I can’t believe this has happened but perhaps it’s meant to be and I at least have 38 weeks to prepare myself. I’m sort of coping with the idea.

The Husband calls. He’s talking in code because he doesn’t want his cycling partner to get wind of the possibility that I might be expecting. I don’t tell him that in my state of absolute hysteria Mandy called and I blurted out everything to her. Plus I had to tell The Best Friend who was up from Cape Town that we wouldn’t make our coffee date at 10 because I was checking if I was pregnant. She completely understood and encouraged me to “get clarity” immediately but added that if the home test was positive, I was definitely pregnant. Thanks, Doc.

After what seemed like hours, but possibly only half an hour later, I was called to get blood taken. I then had to wait another 40 minutes or so for the results. The “what if it isn’t positive?” question did cross my mind but I decided it was totally impossible.

Imagine my surprise then when the dude handed me the result and it was… negative. I was completely thrown. I thought it was a mistake. There was, of course, a disclaimer stating that in very early pregnancy an erroneous negative result was possible. I thought the test must be wrong, but if I didn’t trust a blood test, what could I trust?

I’d spent the morning devouring endless slices of toast caked in butter and cheese, safe in the knowledge that there was a perfectly normal physiological explanation for my ostensible hunger and resultant feeding frenzy.

I’d gone from not being pregnant at 6am to be shockingly and surprisingly pregnant at 8am to being shockingly and surprisingly not actually pregnant at 10am.

It was all too much for my stress levels and I spent the rest of the day wanting to knock back pizza, sushi and wine, but, at the same time, trying not to.

I was still somewhat convinced I was pregnant, but my rational side knew that it was very unlikely to be the case. Obviously I was just looking for an excuse to eat more. Cr*p!

Just to be sure, I got The Husband to buy some more home pregnancy tests. I did one on Sunday morning and it came up negative.


Something wasn’t adding up…

Perhaps the “positive” test was expired. The instructions said to check the “use by” date on the foil packaging. I couldn’t remember any foil packaging but then again, I was in a bit of a state when it suddenly dawned on me that I should take a pregnancy test. I’d probably thrown it away in a rush.

A search of the bathroom bin revealed no foil packaging. I hadn’t emptied the bin that weekend, nor had The Husband.

Double hmmm.

By Monday morning I realised I most certainly wasn’t pregnant and that was when the truth slowly started to dawn on me…

When I was wondering whether I could be pregnant with The Princess in 2010, I was pretty sure I had bought only two pregnancy tests: the first hadn’t give any result at all and I’d had to bin it and then there’d been the second one – the positive one announcing The Princess’ arrival. And the “current” positive test did look rather faded. Those lines weren’t quite the same rich reddish-pink hue they had been a year and a half ago…

Moral of the story: don’t keep positive pregnancy tests in your bathroom cupboard as souvenirs.

The good news: I can still try to plan the ideal gap between The Princess and her sibling. The bad news: I have reached a new level of ditsy-ness I really didn’t think I was capable of. They say you get preggy brain when you’re expecting but then you give birth to your brain 9 months later. Maybe I should’ve had a caesar. Maybe they would’ve found it because sometimes I think my brain is still stuck in the birth canal.

But phew – back to normal. Now to eat as much seared tuna and sushi as I can stomach just before I really am pregnant with Number Two.