I was sitting in the staff washroom at the I.D.A Pharmacy in a tiny town in central Alberta. I had driven in from my cabin on Pigeon Lake, specifically to buy a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not I was pregnant.
I was six weeks late.
I had told my partner not to worry. Every once in a while I might have a late period, especially if I was under any kind of stress. I had been diagnosed with endometriosis when I was younger and told that I will probably be unable to conceive on my own. I had already had one miscarriage ten years earlier. My new boyfriend and I had only been together for three months and neither of us were ready to start a family. I was being careful and always tracked my fertility dates just to be sure. Besides, I was turning 40 in just a few days. As a OB-GYN patient, I was considered geriatric.
I was the only customer in the pharmacy. There was an elderly lady at the cash, another elderly lady who who was stocking shelves, and another elderly lady, although perhaps a little younger than the other two, working the pharmacy counter. There were four tests to choose from. One in a pink box, one in a blue box, and two in generic-looking packaging. The house brands all claimed to be 99% accurate.
“Excuse me,” I asked the shelf-stocker. Her tightly curled hair was dyed dark brown and her eyes appeared very small behind her large glasses. She slowly rose from her position, kneeling on the floor in front of an open box, and walked toward me, smiling.
“How can I help you?”
“Out of these four tests, can you recommend one in particular?”
She looked up at the top shelf where the pregnancy tests were displayed. “Well,” She said slowly. “We’re not supposed to give out medical advice…”
“But as a product…” I asked.
“Well, they all seem to say 99% accurate…” She began picking up the boxes and reading them. “Let’s just ask Bernice here at the pharmacy.” Bernice was only a few feet away and reassured me that they were all good. I chose the pink one. I don’t know why. Perhaps pink for ‘girl’.
A thought suddenly hit me. “It just occurred to me. If this test comes out positive, I’ll need to come right back to buy some prenatal vitamins.” I said to Bernice. “Rather than driving all the way home or going to a nearby coffee shop, could I use your staff washroom and do the test here?” I asked.
“Absolutely!” Said Bernice. “It’s just around the corner here.” She said as she pointed down a hallway just behind her.
I walked up to the front of the pharmacy and paid for the pregnancy test. The elderly lady was pleasant and avoided eye contact with me. I wondered how many other small town “girls” come through here each month, head down, buying a pregnancy test, and grateful for the discretion of this grandmotherly cashier. I took the test and made my way to the staff washroom at the back of the store. I had done this a few times before, years ago, and both tests had reported ‘negative’, ‘not pregnant’. Nothing to worry about. I read the instructions, peed midstream on the little stick, then waited.
Two pink lines.
Two pink lines indicated the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone in my urine.
Two pink lines meant pregnant.
Wow. I exhaled.
I looked in the mirror eyes wide, and suddenly smiled at myself. Forty years old… and accidentally pregnant.
“Prenatal vitamins!” I announced to Bernice as I approached the pharmacy counter once more.
“Congratulations!” She said warmly.
“How wonderful!” My previous helper exclaimed, clapping her hands.
“Is this happy news?” The cashier asked, warmly but neutral, as I paid for the vitamins.
“Well, I am 40 years old and this was a surprise… but yes. Very happy news.” For me.
It was such a deciding moment, a slice in time cleanly dividing my life into two eras: BP: before the pregnancy- with myself as the sole priority, and AP: after the pregnancy and physically carrying a child, my child, in my belly. I was glad that I had made the choice to stay at the pharmacy and do the test there. Sharing this intimate experience with these women—even though I had never met them before, felt right. I felt surrounded and supported by their grandmotherly care and concern. I felt that this was a moment that needed to be experienced among other women. Other mothers, perhaps. I walked out of that pharmacy promising to come back when I needed more prenatal supplies and thanking the ladies for sharing in my happy moment.
“Come again anytime!” Bernice sang out. “We’re good like that.”
I am so glad that I took the time to record this story when it happened ten years ago. Sadly, the pregnancy in this story also ended in miscarriage and I had a total of three miscarriages before my son, Chayton, was born. My pregnancy with him was also “a story.” In a nutshell, I had been pregnant a third time, miscarried without knowing it (it’s called a “missed miscarriage”) and gotten pregnant again— without knowing. At my first ultrasound the technician announced that there was “nothing in there.” He was looking for an older fetus and told me that my doctor was wrong, that I was not pregnant. I was devastated but confused as my body kept telling me that I was pregnant. Three different doctors told me I was not pregnant yet every woman that I talked to said, “Listen to your body.” About a month later I went for an emergency ultrasound and they found a strong and healthy 7-week-5-day-old fetus happily minding his own business. This fourth pregnancy was viable and after being pregnant for almost a year (altogether with the two pregnancies) I had my son, Chayton Skye Danser.
Today, on Mother’s Day, I honour ALL of the Mothers in my life. All of the women who raised me, mentored me, and kicked my ass when I needed to be reminded to stand tall. All of the women who have gained mastery in their lives and showed me that this was possible for me was well. All of the quiet, nurturing women who have held me in their bosom and let me cry and cry. All of the women who have showed me through example, what it means to be strong, to be intelligent, to be creative, to be beautiful, to be a woman. I honour all of the missing Indigenous women—many of whom were mothers and all were daughters of mothers who grieve for them. Today, I also honour the mothers in Ukraine (war), Shanghai (endless lockdown), Afghanistan (oppression), and India (extreme heat), and elsewhere around the world who today are enduring unbearable conditions while trying to raise children or grandchildren. And I honour my son’s grandma, Lorraine Danser who always has a smile and hug ready for Chatie. I honour my grandmother, Rose Delna Nabess (Ducharme) whose name I carry and who passed away when I was 12 years old. Finally, I honour my own mother, Barbara Lucille Jashyn (Nabess), who passed away nine years ago and never got to meet the miracle of her grandson. May your strength and beauty be reflected in some way in my own life. And may I be a “Mother” to those around me in their moments of need.