Or how finding out you might have a brain bleed and a baby on the way causes you to finally throw away your tattered underwear.
Jean Paul Sartre said that life begins on the other side of despair. Obviously Mr. Sartre had never spent much time in a modern emergency room. He would have found that on the other side of despair lies a triage nurse and non-accident related emergency co-pays.
I spent 12 hours in the emergency room this week.
It started with a headache. A headache that quickly morphed into battle for the heavyweight championship inside my head.
Once the situation devolved into dry-heaving and my inability to make sandwiches, my sons quickly recognized the extent of the emergency on their hands and brought me to the ER.
I believe the emergency room is one of the few places in America – more so than the courtroom – where everyone, regardless of income, becomes an equal. What sets people apart, and identifies their rung on the socio-economic ladder, is their level of resignation in regards to the wait time. Generally, the more desperate your economic situation, the more familiar you are with waiting in line for needed services. In a totally unscientific sampling of the overcrowded waiting room, it wasn’t the sketchy looking guy in a ripped flannel shirt and dirty jeans with a bloody hand bitching about the wait time – it was the guy in khakis and a button down nursing what appeared to be the flu.
But I digress.
Upon my arrival in triage I was asked the inevitable question:
Is there any chance you might be pregnant?
Now as a woman, I have been asked this question in a variety of medical settings over the years.
When I was in my late teens I took the question as a compliment.
Obviously this doctor gets that I am young and hot and therefore have a lot of hot sex resulting in the distinct possibility that I would be pregnant.
None of which was true but it made me feel good to flatter myself.
As I spent the bulk of my early twenties ACTUALLY pregnant, the question was posed by the doctor with a keen sense of irony and just a touch of sadism.
Suck it, Doctor Mengele.
Now that I am middle-aged, the question takes on a different nuance – fraught both with my diminishing capacity to get pregnant and my simultaneous and distinct, break-out-into-a-cold-sweat-at-the-thought-of-it – so my answer is always a resounding –
No chance in hell.
Then I imagine that I’ve been too emphatic in my denial and have a tendency to over-explain.
It’s not that I don’t have sex. Oh, I have plenty of sex – believe you me. It’s just that my mother went through early menopause so I think I am going through the same thing which is why I haven’t had a period in six months. And my husband had a vasectomy like 17 years ago. I mean, I wasn’t totally on board with it at the time, but I was never good with birth control so it really was the best choice or else we’d be like the Duggars by now…ha-ha, I joke…but seriously. Then again, they’re rich and famous and they don’t have a mortgage so I guess we’re the idiots…
By that time the triage nurse has moved on the drunk next to me trying to crap in his shoe and marked me down for a psych eval.
So I answered the question, my blood was drawn and I was given morphine and an anti-emetic to both immediately stop the pounding in my head and my constant attempts to vomit into the over-sized blue plastic condom I had been given upon arrival.
After which I was taken for testing. By “after which” I mean six hours of General Hospital and Judge Judy later.
Nevertheless, there I was lying on the table in wait for my CAT scan when the technician – a kindly woman with a generous, warm countenance – walked over and clasped my hand, patting my forearm. She looked me in the eye and, with not a small trace of pity, asked me the inevitable question –
Honey, is there any chance you are pregnant?
To which I replied, No chance in hell. And I left it at that.
But instead of going about her business she continued absentmindedly patting my arm and asked me the question again, this time with more probing eye contact and ardent tone – not unlike the tone you would use to speak to a child who is holding contraband behind their back.
Honey, are you sure there is no chance you are pregnant?
Well, now I feel like she was either trying to rub salt in my middle-aged wounds, or call me a whore.
Because honey, the bloodwork they did in triage came back positive for early pregnancy.
Bitch, you crazy.
So honey, do you still want me to do the CAT scan?
Do I still want the CAT scan? How about a bottle of Jack Daniels and a river to hold my tears?
Although, suddenly my headache seemed superfluous.
Instantly in my mind I gestated, birthed and raised this phantom child. For a brief second this child was the answer that would right all of our parenting wrongs. This child would be a humanitarian, not unlike Gandhi or Mother Theresa, or at the very least, Oprah. This child would cure cancer while simultaneously ensuring its parents a comfortable retirement. This child wouldn’t smoke weed, drink Boone’s Farm or pee on the toilet seat.
But then, just as quickly, I realized this child would be the one to go to prison for sure, and came to my senses.
Now let me say that this day and eventual night at the ER did not get much better after that resounding sledgehammer-to-the-skull moment. Not only did I still have a migraine, I was now also possibly pregnant with our fourth child (who would be 17 years younger than his or her next oldest sibling).
I also had to have a spinal tap done to rule out an aneurysm, exposing my continued use of the world’s most worthless pair of underwear.
Let me cut to the chase and tell you that I was – and am not – pregnant. Apparently it is not wholly unusual for someone who is pre-menopausal to have wacky hormones.
But you can bet I didn’t rely on the opinions of the medical community alone as the determining factor in that regard. Six home pregnancy tests the following day resoundingly confirmed that fact.
I can also confirm that I did not – and do not – have an aneurysm. So there is an extra-added bonus.
And I have now officially thrown out that underwear. So it was a win-win situation all around.
And it only cost me $100 in co-pays. (Plus $49.95 in home pregnancy tests. Worth every dime.)