“I need to go to the hospital.”
My mom stopped on her way back up the stairs. She looked at me, sprawled on the couch, holding my ears in pain. I had been diagnosed with mono two weeks prior, and I was positive there were complications. My throat was so sore I could barely breathe, there was a large abscess sticking out of my neck, and a shooting pain was working my way up into my jaw and inner ear. My face was so swollen I couldn’t open my mouth all the way, and for the entire vacation we were on, I could barely eat anything but smoothies and mushed up bananas. I had lost 15 pounds and standing for long periods at a time was impossible due to my dehydration. Part of me was REAL happy about that weight loss. Yay, eating disorders! </sarcasm>
“Please, Mom,” I begged. “I just want to get better.”
My mom came back down the stairs and sat down next to me. Her hand went into my hair and I was immediately transported to the time in high school when I ate too much Halloween candy and puked all over the bathroom floor. “Okay. Let’s go. But I think I’ll have Jenna come with us, too.”
So off we went to the Cape May Hospital. We had been down in Avalon, New Jersey, for about a week and a half, and my amazing vacation in my favorite place on earth had been shot to hell by my sickness. I got diagnosed right after I finished a production of Kiss Me, Kate, in which I had been thrown around and jostled by several people as part of the stage action. So you can imagine my panic when I realized later that any of those carefully constructed moves could have resulted in a ruptured spleen.
My sister assured me that everything would be fine, and she even braided my hair on the way to the hospital , but her tone changed when we walked into the waiting room at the Prompt Care Center. Sitting in hard backed plastic chairs was a woman with a broken foot, a man who insisted on playing the tambourine he had inexplicably brought with him, and a man who had probably been wheeled in from prison. (I’m not being flippant – he had on a prison uniform.) My sister is the one who drove me to the urgent care center that diagnosed me with mono in the first place, after she literally had to shove clothing on me because I was too weak to move my arms. She wasn’t necessarily thrilled about it; at one point she had called my mother saying “someone needs to put her in a shower and it is NOT going to be me!”
At this point of my illness I was so delirious from thirst and hunger that I didn’t care that we were in the middle of a lost season of American Horror Story. I just wanted to not look like the Elephant Man and I wanted to be able to eat a sandwich without feeling like I was getting force fed knives.
After changing into a hospital gown, they had me pee into a cup and a very kind nurse proceeded to stab the hell out of my arm with an IV. “You have very tiny veins” she remarked cheerfully while I gripped the sides of the bed and gritted my teeth. After she had finally gotten a vein and left the room, my mom came up to me and held my hand. “It’s okay to cry,” she said. So I did. I’m the worst when it comes to being sick. I just want to lay there and wish for death.
The doctor then came in, felt my neck, and immediately told me “you have peritonsilar cellulitis, an infection in the throat next to the tonsils. We’ll just test you for strep and then get you some steroids that should cure the swelling.”
“But I don’t have strep. I got tested for strep. I have mono!” Granted, my throat was so clogged with infection this probably sounded like “Buh ha don’t ha strep, ah ha’ modo.”
“I know, but we still have to check.” His eyes were kind, but this was a man on the go.
When he left the room, my sister came up to me and looked into my mouth. “You know when a Tampon goes into the toilet and it blooms like a flower? Your throat looks like that.”
I stared at her, while my mom roared with laughter. “MY THROAT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A USED TAMPON,” I shrieked, causing a candy striper walking by to do a double take.
“I’m just going by what I’m seeing!” Jenna snapped, and then slumped back into her chair. She looked over at my mom. “Is Coldstone going to be open when we leave?”
The nurse re-entered the room before my mom could respond. “Well, we can’t give you the medicine yet! There was a positive reading on your urine sample.”
Immediately my mom piped up. “Oh! Did it have a lot of proteins?” My mom is Web MD when it comes to ailments. Her constant remedy for everything is an Advil or a workout.
The nurse laughed, and said “No. It was positive for pregnancy.”
It should probably be stated now that at this point in my life, I was 21, and a total virgin. I was a virgin until I was well into my 20s and the process of losing my V-card was a huge production number because every single person I know treated me like a damn glass snowflake when they found out I hadn’t punched my ticket on the Sex Express. “But you have to go have sex right now or else you’ll be miserable!” one friend told me. (Wrong.) “Guys hate virgins!” another one advised. (Also wrong.) “Don’t worry if you’re bad at it at first!” another assured me. (WRONG. WHAT WHAT. I mean I was a virgin but I wasn’t a moron. I had done my homework. And by “homework” I mean “watched a lot of porn and tried to figure out what aspects were physically possible.” But I have gotten rave reviews so far. Please stop reading, Dad.)
This virginity wasn’t all by choice. I went to an all girls school, so that robbed me of a few opportunities to get busy. (Granted I was also happier playing online RPGs than going out to dances, but still.)
There were a couple of opportunities to lose my V-card in college but I was very timid and suffering from a lot of body image issues so I never really put myself in that position. Plus, most of my drama class was hooking up with each other, so I was the one on the outside meekly saying “are you SURE making out with him is a good idea?”
Plus, half of my friends in college were sexually assaulted or raped. That put me off of the party scene for a while out of legit fear for my safety. One of the campus walkways at UConn is colloquially referred to as the Rape Trail. So….there you go.
I tell this to you in order for you to understand the sheer shock and horror coursing through my body when I was told that I was possibly carrying some sort of demon spawn that had ninja-crawled into my vagina when I wasn’t looking. For a split second, the air was sucked out of the room. My mom gave a little howl of surprise, and my sister snapped up in her seat. I raised myself up on my elbows, looked at the nurse right in the eye, and declared “There is no fucking way, unless I’m carrying the body of Christ.”
She laughed, but my brain was on fire. How was this possible? What in the name of God could cause this to happen? I just wanted to get my fluids and steroids and now I’m possibly carrying some sort of hell baby inside of me? I was 21! I was planning to move to New York! I was starting a job at J.Crew! I had just reached my goal weight! EVERYTHING IS AWFUL.
Now, a normal person would say “Um, Ally, false positive.” But at this point of my life I had zero coping mechanisms for my anxiety, so when the nurse left the room after taking my blood, I sat back on the pillows and cried. “I don’t want to be pregnant,” I wailed, while my mom laughed hysterically and my sister proceeded to ask me that since she was newly engaged, could she just steal my kid? I then proceeded to sob to my mom “I swear I’m not pregnant, I’ve never done anything ever!” To which she responded “Oh, I know.” Thanks Mom.
Obviously the test came back negative, I was pumped with steroids and liquids and was sent home a happy camper. My swellings went down in 24 hours and the “Ally was pregnant for ten minutes” story has been batted around at family dinners to this day.
My point in telling this story is a simple one:
Even things with obvious conclusions can cause us to freak out. There was literally no biological way I was pregnant, but I still freaked out as hard as any teen character on an 80s TV show during a Very Special Episode. I still have my moments, but I am learning to not jump to conclusions.
My feelings on babies and pregnancy have changed as well. My sister has two babies now, and we still joke about that day in the hospital. I can’t wait to have some of my own some day. But I think that’s the thing about getting older. You start to realize what you want and how to go about getting it. I wish I could tell the terrified virgin me of 2007 “Chill out. You’re going to be fine. And keep figuring yourself out sexually. It will pay off big time. I promise. You just have to wait a little bit.”
Everything works out the way it’s supposed to. Even if it does mean you think you’re pregnant for ten minutes.
Everything is going to be fine.