Just eight days post-ovulation with what would potentially be my fifth baby, sixth pregnancy, I started peeing on sticks. ALL the sticks. I couldn’t wait to find out if I was pregnant again, or not. Even though I’d successfully carried a rainbow baby, now my fourth son, the same feelings of uncertainty and anxiety were back, and I didn’t even know if I was pregnant or not yet. I was officially a POAS addict, which stands for Pee on a Stick Addict, a term the infertility mamas throw around online, and I found myself staring at what they call a VVVVF line (a very very very very faint line).
I analyzed it in a few different lights — was I pregnant? Of course, I couldn’t wait the few days the test directions recommended to test again, but I did wait til that evening, at which point I was staring at a slightly less faint second pink line. I looked at the bathroom counter littered with tests and packaging, shocked at the result, and vowed to be a little less… intense this time around. I swept it all into the trash, except for the strongest test which I saved and glanced at whenever I visited the bathroom to try to convince myself this was real.
My stick-peeing habits are just one of the many strange but somehow logical things that women who have faced fertility issues do, to self-soothe, to get more information, and to connect with the rainbow babies they are carrying through the anxiety. You’d think after a digital test finally read the words “pregnant,” that I’d calm down for a bit. But that wasn’t the case. Then I moved into phase 2 — obsessive wiping. Sorry for the TMI, but this is where I spend way too much time heading to the bathroom, looking for blood reminiscent of my miscarriage, which came on suddenly at 11 weeks, but I later found out the baby had passed at eight and a half weeks. If only I’d noticed a sign, I thought in retrospect, I wouldn’t have spent those three weeks happily announcing my pregnancy, and shopping for maternity clothes. So, I frequently found myself back in the bathroom, checking for signs of a problem. This would interrupt my gym classes, evening shows with my husband, and my work days for the rest of the first trimester.
While all this sounds like a whole lot of unresolved trauma, I’m happy to say I did much of the work to deconstruct the many emotional levels of losing a baby alongside my trusty therapist, right after the miscarriage and beyond. But those two pink lines still took me right back to some tough places.
I found myself out to dinner with my husband and some friends, wildly uncomfortable mid first-trimester at my bulging belly and pants I thought wouldn’t be an issue until I sat down. I excused myself, dashing into a nearby Target for some maternity pants, switching them in the bathroom and heading out with my new, roomier jeans. This could all have largely been avoided if I’d allowed myself to dig out and set up my two bins of maternity clothes I already own in the basement. But with each pregnancy, I can’t bring myself to do it until later in the first trimester, when I think it’s really going to “work.” Two ultrasounds in, I decided it was time, and what’s left of my waistline is oh so relieved.
The maternity clothes superstitions go beyond busting out the boxes — during the time I’d lost the baby, but hadn’t yet found out, I wore a New Year’s Eve maternity dress that has just hung sadly in my closet since. It’s a great fit, so it’s a total tragedy. But I can’t bring myself to wear it again, as if it carries with it all the pain of announcing a pregnancy that I didn’t know had ended. Soon, I’ll probably donate it and put myself out of my misery.
I used to mourn the carefree pregnancies I had in my younger days, without any real experience with miscarriage or complications. But now, I recognize that there is serious beauty and miracles in each pregnancy, even the ones riddled with anxiety. It helped to find a midwife who is trauma-informed and open to ordering extra ultrasounds in the first trimester, easing the angst. And keeping my perinatal therapist on speed dial has helped me to work out some of the cobwebs when it comes to all things fertility, pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum.
With my first pregnancy after miscarriage, I was pretty self-judgey about these superstitions and behaviors. But now I recognize them as my way of processing and protecting myself from becoming too invested. Instead of worrying I’m peeing on too many sticks, I just budget some money for pregnancy tests, use them however it feels right, and move on. When my pants get seriously too tight, I let go of the superstition and put on some maternity pants. But most of all, along the way I’ve learned some mantras from other moms who have had fertility issues, that help me appreciate each day of pregnancy rather than dreading a terrible outcome: “I’m excited and blessed to be carrying this baby today” gives me a strong focus through the nail-biting first trimester.
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Alex is also mom to her four sons under age 7, who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting. For over a decade she has been helping publications and companies connect with readers and bring high-quality information and research to them in a relatable voice. She has been published in the Washington Post, Huff Post, Glamour, Shape, Today’s Parent, Reader’s Digest, Parents, Women’s Health, and Insider.
Alex has a Master of Arts in Teaching, and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications/Journalism, both from Miami University. She has also taught high school for 10 years, specializing in media education.