Recently a patient told me that she had waited a couple of extra weeks to confirm she was pregnant because she was too embarrassed to purchase a pregnancy test from a store where the clerk might size her up. I felt compassion for her, since I’ve had my share of run-ins with mean mugging at the register.
If you’ve had an unintended pregnancy scare, you likely can relate to the hyper-vigilant nature of securing the test, the adrenaline of peeing on the stick, and your booming heartbeat in your head as the timer ticks down so casually… one line or two… one line or two…
So last week I was with a friend who was in said position. She was late on her period, had been feeling very moody, and feared the big plus sign. It was early on a Sunday morning, and Planned Parenthood was closed, so we decided to head to our local pharmacy. After weaving through the brightly lit aisles, we finally came to the wall of pregnancy tests. Deciding which one to choose was daunting task enough, (check out E.G. Hanna’s post on how to choose a pregnancy test for help with that!) but since she had me with her, I tried to muster up enough medical sense to choose an appropriate set of sticks. I was shocked at the sticker price of many of these… $30? Again, Planned Parenthood for the win, at $10 testing!!
So after selecting the test, she asked me if I would take it to the counter and purchase it since she was overwhelmed by nerves and didn’t think she could make it through the encounter. Of course, sisterhood is forever!
She walked to the car and I walked up to the register. A man who appeared to be in his early 20’s stood there as I approached, and as I placed the cardboard box of anxiety on the counter, he literally said “ooooooooh, damn!” and chuckled. A wave of rage coursed through my veins; I was shocked! The complete lack of empathy and awareness that this dude was exhibiting made me sick. I felt ashamed for my purchase, like I needed to justify my situation to this stranger; it was not the weight of my entire future sitting on my shoulders, just my dearest friend’s who was cowering in the parking lot, terrified. I wasn’t the one who’d had unprotected sex, I was really responsible, I promise, blah blah blah, justify justify justify, shame, humiliation, embarrassment…. Evoked. Really, Dude? Really?!
Impulsively, I snapped my attention right to educating this guy about the lack of tact he was exhibiting, and how inappropriate it was given the situation. I told him what he had done was incredibly rude and insensitive. He responded with a certain shock and shame of his own; he began apologizing and saying he was “just kidding.” I told him it really wasn’t a joking matter. I told him that half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and that many people who are purchasing these types of tests are incredibly stressed and anxious, and by drawing public scrutiny to a very private matter, he was unnecessarily humiliating me. He dropped his cool vibe and got real with me. He told me he was sorry, and that his girlfriend had an unintended pregnancy and that they now have a kid together. He got “real” about how tense and stressful the whole situation was. He apologized for his remarks.
TEACHABLE MOMENT TAUGHT!
I thanked him, took the bag, and headed back to the parking lot. I spared my friend the details of the check out, as she had narrowly dodged the humiliation bullet and was stressed enough. We went back to her apartment, she peed, I talked her down, and then we found the results to be “negative.” Her period eventually came a few days later, and we praised that menstrual flow.
So, friends, the real deal is that people who work in stores that sell pregnancy tests are not formally trained in the art of tact and sensitivity regarding these issues. If you have a similar experience, I hope you will have the gusto to make it a teachable moment, but I understand if the redness of your cheeks won’t allow it. Might I then suggest another option? Planned Parenthood!
Yes, Planned Parenthood offers low cost pregnancy tests, and will administer them with sensitivity, professionalism, and confidentiality. We will provide you with informational resources if you are pregnant, and can discuss better family planning strategies with you if you’re not.