Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Pregnancy Test

Striking fear in the hearts of men since 1930.

It is the third Monday in May, 2012.  I’m in my hotel room on the seventh floor of the Hotel Paradiso on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Soi Ten, downtown Bangkok.  I’m in the bathroom.  My wife is out shopping.  She is carving out deals on clothes she does not need because you can’t beat the prices.  She will try to convince me that buying three things she doesn’t need is cheaper than buying one thing she doesn’t need because of the striking decrease in the per-unit price.  My son is with hisThai grandmother and she is approaching the world record for cramming food into a hungry, young boy’s face.  She hasn’t seen him in six months and has some catching up to do.   I can only assume that Thai grandmothers believe all their grandchildren have tapeworms.  I’ve waged unsuccessful battles against both of these costly and unhealthy   Thai traditions.  I’m done fighting it.  Let them all run wild.  This is our vacation in civilization.  The rest of the year we live in a jungle:  no shopping, no Starbucks and no street food (unless you have a recipe for Road Kill Pit Viper). 

Road Kill Viper.  Not bad with a little garlic.
It’s quiet and peaceful in the bathroom far above the loud, sweaty Bangkok streets.  It is the kind of quiet you can only get when your wife is out shopping and your son is busy being overfed.  I’m taking my time and enjoying the solitude when suddenly…………..BANG!  The bathroom door slams open and hits me hard and squarely in both knees.  Bad feng shui toilet-door placement.  I make a mental note to inform hotel management.

“OWWWWW!  What the hell?”


My wife is hyperventilating.  She leaps like a gazelle from the bathroom doorway straight into the shower stall.  She squats with urgency, groans and starts peeing on something with great intensity.  I rub my knees and suppress the urge to ask her what she’s doing.  This seems like the kind of riddle I’d rather figure out myself.  I’m on vacation.  I have the time.

I know exactly what she’s doing.
I’ve been silently counting the days from when she was supposed to not be pregnant until  today. We are up to two weeks and four days.  Like any attentive husband I’m well aware of my wife’s cycles.  Life is more peaceful since I’ve been doing this.  We’ve both been superstitiously silent about her delayed cycle. Too many previous days of disappointment and our own superstitions over the past three years of failed pregnancy attempts. If you’ve ever done IVF, IUI and the rest of the I’s of the Fertility Struggle Dance, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, be grateful. 

She stood up and revealed two wet, shiny, white plastic cartridges with pink lettering.  When she stopped hyperventilating she told me this story:   She had been out shopping, had eaten lunch and had finally gotten the courage to buy a home pregnancy test.  She drank a full liter of water, a Vente Starbucks latte  and waited for nature to take its course.  Her plan was to buy the tests at the pharmacy near our hotel. Then she made her first mistake and got into a yellow Bangkok taxi at mid-day. 

The taxi made its way slowly, but surely through sluggish Bangkok traffic and then came to a dead stop about a half mile from the hotel.  Traffic was four cars wide and two miles deep. She was bursting. Here’s the other problem:  my wife would rather give up a kidney than confront her phobia about public restrooms.  Too many times I’ve watched her curl up in a ball in our condo elevator, rocking back and forth like a kid lost at the mall  Instead of  using a toilet at a random bar or restaurant.  On this day she’d gotten out of the taxi and tried to run through the busy sidewalks of Sukhumvit Road, darting as best she could between the throng of lunchtime pedestrians.  She clutched her belly and held it firmly to prevent leakage.  Luckily the pharmacy was empty.  She grabbed two different home pregnancy tests, threw the money at the cashier and legged a gasping final two hundred feet to the hotel.

Knocked up.  Definitely
Knocked up.
I joined her in the shower and we both crouched over the two rectangular white cartridges.  The shower smelled like Starbucks coffee and pee.  I crouched and stared until my back started to ache.  I was too superstitious to even blink.   We stood there for three minutes that felt like three hours.  The result………………………..nothing.  I read the instructions to make sure she’d “done it right.”  Nope, this was flawlessly prepared.  Two pink lines equals pregnant, one pink line equals Shit Out Of luck.
We walked out of the bathroom angry, disappointed and confused.  All the compounded emotions of fertility failure over the last four years filled the hotel room.  It gets worse every time. Neither one of us wanted to speak.  We hugged each other and went to the usual fall-back consolation reasoning that we already have one perfect child.  He will have to be enough.

I went back into the bathroom to clean the stinky coffee piss out of the shower.  Yes, I’m that kind of husband.  I figured I’d throw the tests away so that my wife didn’t have to look at them again. I picked up one and stared at it.  Something had changed.  Slowly, but surely, this was no longer a Shit Out Of Luck result.  There was definitely a second faint pink line forming in the You Are Pregnant zone.  I picked up the second test.  Same thing.  Holy shit.

“Honey, you gotta get in here.  You gotta see this.”

She ran into the bathroom and we crouched over the two soaking pregnancy tests and beamed at them as if they’d just graduated Harvard.  We were so proud.  The lesson:  Pregnancy tests boil no faster than does a watched pot of water.

Fast forward to today:  Exactly two weeks until the delivery date of what we are hoping will be another healthy, beautiful half Thai/half American son.  We’ve known by ultrasound that it will be a boy for nearly four months.  Life where we live in this jungle is so uncertain that I feel psychologically better with even a little extra information to cut into the uncertainty.  My wife left for Thailand six weeks ago.  The airlines are sensitive about babies being born on airplanes and have strict rules about these things.  My son left also.  The look in his eyes when I suggested that he might want to stay with me was pure separation anxiety.  I just didn't have the heart.  During his earlier years I was flying all over the world nearly every month. He and his mother stayed home together. They are a tight pair.  If she has her way he will never leave.  It’s an Asian thing.
These doctors look younger and younger every day.


  1. Yeah! It been along tme without a blog post. Missed your writing

  2. Tears in my eyes! You are such a gifted writer on top of ya know being a doctor and all...keep writing!

  3. I wanna read Pim's blog about you. Now, i bet that would be some good reading! LOL

    Live Well, my friend