top ten ways pregnancy and childbirth will drive you crazy: #1- trying to use the internet to find out if you’re pregnant or not
by caitlin meredith
Ladies and Gentlemen, do me a favor. Do a web search for “signs of pregnancy.” Pretend your period is approaching a late arrival and you don’t happen to be able to think about anything else other than whether or not life is about to get really weird. “Concentrate on something else,” you tell yourself, so you try to get engaged with a New York Times article on the mysterious case of the disappearing bees, you try to lose yourself in the organic gardening tutorial you’ve meant to sit through for a year, you even try to organize your inbox by learning how to use the Gmail filter function. All to no avail. Finally, after the 47th trip to the bathroom to see if there are any new developments, you turn to the internet to determine your fate. Come on – do the search.
You’ll find that there are a gazillion web health “articles” on every site from WebMD to the Mayo Clinic with identical lists of early pregnancy signs and symptoms. Their purported intent is to help women figure out whether or not the most important event in their reproductive lives is in fact happening. In reality, they exist only to drive women bat shit crazy.
If you’re a man, you’ll probably be impressed by the results. You find some pretty good, specific stuff, right? Mild cramping, breast tenderness, mild nausea, fatigue, mood swings, food cravings, back pain, etc. Very helpful to have this info in your back pocket when you’re in doubt – if you experience these symptoms then voilà, you’re probably pregnant. If you’re a woman, however, you’ll have a very different reaction: Are you fucking kidding me?
You see, as it turns out, and as any woman can tell you, those signs of early pregnancy happen to be EXACTLY THE SAME as the signs that you’re about to get your period. So basically, something huge, life changing and dramatic has just happened to you. Or, it has not. It’s like if “Top Ten Signs You’re About To Be Fired” and “Top Ten Signs You’re About To Be Promoted” listed the exact same items. A huge disservice masquerading as a service, resulting in the “Top One Sign You’re Going Insane: You’ve Just Read Both of These Articles.” Now, I realize that there are no long-term negative consequences to this non-information posing as information to garner more web hits to sell more ads, and that it’s only a matter of days before the woman finds out concretely whether or not she’s pregnant, but those mere days can seem like years. Even more so when you have to interpret each normal female sensation as a vital clue. For the majority of the population that’s not too stoned to care or already has 6 kids so it doesn’t really matter if another’s on the way, the difference between being pregnant or not pregnant is a REALLY BIG ONE. For most women it’s either extremely good or extremely bad news. Methodically assembling a list of symptoms that happen to coincide with both pregnancy and the opposite of pregnancy is the opposite of helpful.
Because these lists are so useless, women are forced to plumb the depths of the fertility forums to find out if waking up with sore biceps could possibly be a sign of pregnancy (Barefoot_and_Trying in Tampa says it can be). Spending time on page 7 of the “Could I be pregnant?” thread at 3AM following some inane squabble about the significance of low hormone counts between TinyStar in South Jersey and Rumba97 in San Diego is something most of us wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. Figuring out the acronyms alone is torturous: TTC = trying to conceive, BFN= big fat negative, DS= darling son; there’s even LO for little one. Can they really not type out b-a-b-y?? That torture is closely matched by the realization that you’ve just lost five hours of your life snooping around the rabbit’s warren of discussions about minutiae of strangers’ fertility, pitying the women who spend so much time on the internet when they could be out in the world Living Life! only to realize that you are one of those women.
What is the answer? How can the internet be more helpful to women in reproductive limbo? How about when you Google “signs of pregnancy” an article shows up that says, “If you’re Googling this, it’s still too early to tell, so why don’t you write a letter to Congress insisting on government-subsidized child care or ensured access to birth control and safe abortions in all 50 states? Here is the address.” The angst needs to be channeled somewhere in between trips to the bathroom – why not aim it at policy-makers to help you out no matter what the pregnancy test eventually says?
In the meantime, more Top Ten Signs You Might Be Pregnant posts will be popping up like mushrooms, making women everywhere go crazy. Don’t worry – I’m not going to tell you not to use the internet to find out if you’re pregnant. Just more useless advice. Of course you’re going to use the internet. Just know that you’re not alone, and you’re definitely not crazy. The lists are EXACTLY the same.