To the woman at Walgreens…

I was picking up pregnancy tests.

Because I’m a frequent flyer I knew exactly where the tests I wanted were located. Like muscle memory.

You were standing there with your empty basket and I could feel your trepidation.

You had your basket in the crook of your arm and had two different brands of ovulation predictor kits (opks) in each hand. For a split second I wanted to ask you if you needed help.

I wanted to tell you the Clear Blue Digital Advanced are expensive and I’ve found they aren’t as accurate as (what the ‘trying to conceive’ (ttc) and infertile community calls) ‘cheapies’ or dollar store/Walmart (not smart tests).

I wanted to tell you if you went ahead with them you should know you shouldn’t use first morning urine (fmu) even if the directions advise you to. The vast majority of women have their Luteinizing Hormone (LH) spike in the afternoon and early evening.

I could have told you the easiest way to use the test is to collect your urine in a clean cup vs. peeing on your hand, missing the tip completely, or over-saturating the tip (there is such a thing as too much urine in the ttc game).

I maybe should have mentioned the other brand you had in your hand was the Walgreens brand of the more traditional opk – they work similarly to cheapies in that they are not digital – you have to interpret the results on your own. After you take the test you look at the two lines and have to discern if the second (test) line is AS DARK OR DARKER than the control line. As long as it is one of those things, you’re surging which means if the stars (and hormones) align, you’ll ovulate in the next 12-36 hours, sometimes longer – especially if you have certain conditions like PCOS.

I would have suggested you just put everything down and go to the Dollar Tree to get the real cheapies. These you pee into a cup and use a plastic dropper and deposit EXACTLY THREE DROPS OF URINE into the urine slot and wait for the lines.

I would have also had to mention if you went with the Clear Blue Digital Advanced strips – YOU SHOULD NOT READ THE LINES LIKE THE CHEAPIES… they aren’t made to be interpreted that way, just pay attention to whether you have an empty circle, a blinking smiley face, or a static smiley face (indicates you are surging).

Now, dear stranger, the above only applies if you are ovulating. Just because you get a positive opk does not mean you are ovulating properly. An LH surge doesn’t mean diddly if you’re not popping an egg.

Then there are special lubricants if your cervical mucus isn’t up to par.

And sex.

Oh it stops being fun. It stops being spontaneous. You’re either tracking your ovulation and don’t want to waste any precious sperm the day BEFORE you surge or you are ready to baby dance (BD) but you have to cram some PreSeed lubricant into your vagina so the sperm have a better chance of making their journey to your *possible* released egg. Romantic huh?

Add on some medications that aid in ovulating or regulating your cycle! Extra fun.

All of a sudden you’re having hot flashes, you’re bloated, have a pounding headache, and CANNOT stop crying/eating/sleeping. Why are you crying watching your neighbor walk their dog? Why are you randomly crying making tacos?

But you want a baby so you have to BD. And it’s on a schedule. It revolves around your ovulation. 

So let’s say, beautiful stranger in Walgreens – you get to the point where you think you’ve ovulated. You’ve BD’d when you were supposed to.

The next seven days are blissful for some (like me) – it’s too early to take a pregnancy test and you know you’ve done everything you could have done.

I pull out the pregnancy books and add to my baby Pinterest board.

Then you get about 6 or 7 days post ovulation (dpo) and you start testing. You get a (who am I kidding, you buy 6 of those things) First Response Early Response (FRER) because they can detect Human chorionic gonadotropin (hcg) levels as low as 6.3 mIU/mL – the hormone produced after implantation.

If you get a big fat negative (bfn) and you’re like me, you’ll compulsively test for a few days. It will consume you stranger. The desire to see two lines on that damn test will be all you can think about.

There are so many different types of home pregnancy tests (hpts) – all with differing hcg sensitivity. There are the spendy FRERs, there are the even more expensive digital ones, and then there are, of course, the cheapies. I have a hefty supply of cheapies (both opks and hpts) because when I go to the Dollar Store I just buy them out.

I usually wave the white flag about 10 dpo and ask my doctor for a blood hcg test. HCG can be detected in blood before urine. There are two types of hcg blood tests:

Quanitative – which will tell you the exact number of hcg in your system, anything under a 5 is considered not pregnant.

Qualitative – which will tell you yes (or no) if any hcg was detected in your blood.

If you’re lucky enough to get a big fat positive (bfp) hopefully you go on to have a wonderful pregnancy and healthy baby.

But I don’t think you’d be standing here if you didn’t have a story of your own. So you may get a bfn and the cycle starts all over again…

A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between opk brands and hcg sensitivity… I didn’t know what fmu, dpo, bfn, bfp meant.

I could have told you all of these things. The reality is – you’ll get there, only if you have to. I didn’t know your story. 

You looked like I did when I bought my first box of opks. Back when I thought my body was doing what it was supposed to do – we just weren’t on the schedule as it was.

I hope I don’t see you again. Especially if you’ve got a big ol’ belly swollen with promise and life.

If do see you again and you have the same look of fear mixed with excitement I will reach out. I’ll welcome you to the club if you’re having a hard time getting, or staying, pregnant.

Until then, dear stranger, I wish you luck in your ttc journey.


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