I have a fairly complicated relationship with doctors. I’m not sure when it all began, but I think it was some time around 8th/9th grade, and I spent that entire year sick with a combination of tonsillitis/strep throat/mono. Those weekly to bi-weekly doctor visits were killer, and I just hated being sick. As an adult, I’ve had some rather incredible interactions with doctors – all of which have left me with a good dose of anxiety when it comes to the world of medical professionals. There are stories that I could tell that would literally take your breath away – some that might make you cry, even – and finding a doctor to help Sweet Husband and I navigate infertility has been no exception to that rule.
When we first moved to the Coast, and we decided that perhaps it was time to see someone about our inability to get pregnant, and an OBGYN was highly recommended by a colleague. My first visit was OK. I wasn’t blown away, but I chalked it up to my discomfort with doctors and the difficulty of the matter at hand. It is, after all, hard to deal with infertility.
Once we started the rounds of Clomid and the blood testing that requires, things went from bad to worse. It literally took a week to get results back, and when you’re taking medication that makes you crazy – for a test that should have results back within 48 hours – a week is unacceptable. At one appointment, I asked the nurse about it and several other practices that I found disturbing. Her answer? “Our patients who are already pregnant take priority over those who are…(insert pause that was not my imagination)…not.”
Even if true? Not what you say to a woman who is trying to conceive. Not what you say to a woman who has been taking medication that makes her turn into a stark-raving lunatic. Not what you say to someone who is already struggling with that fact that she is…not…in some many basic and complicated ways.
So I found another doctor. One who for over a year and a half has been kind and supportive and gentle and caring. One with an staff who stays late and understands and goes the extra mile because he seems to understand that these are situations fraught with great emotion and difficulty and wants to make it as easy as possible.
Except he must have been having a bad day last Thursday because instead of leaving feeling reassured and comforted (like I always do), I felt defeated and pressured and like I’ve been doing something wrong all of this time. Everyone is allowed to have a bad day. Even my very kind, supportive, compassionate, gentle doctor. Who made me feel like shit when all I wanted was to go in and get an update on my prescriptions.
Waiting to Get On Board
I suppose the truth is that I never really got off the infertility roller coaster. Over a year ago, we decided that another round of Clomid probably wasn’t in my best interest. It was a decision made in conjunction with my doctor. We decided that perhaps losing some weight, focusing on overall general health and such, would be a much wiser decision. And in the space of that year, I’ve come to terms…sorta. As much as anyone ever comes to terms, I guess…with the fact that we probably aren’t going to be able to have children.
I’ve ached at each pregnancy announcement. I’ve sucked it up with every newborn. I’ve tried to deal with the overwhelm of having three or four babies in the same place at the same time. I’ve walked away when I couldn’t handle the fuss being made over babies that will never be mine. I’ve busied myself behind a camera lens so I don’t have to think about what I am missing.
Somewhere along the way, it has gotten easier. I quit telling myself that we might have a chance of getting pregnant, and instead started telling myself that we were infertile. Not that we were struggling with infertility, but that pregnancy wasn’t going to be in our cards. Small shifts but the death of hope is a huge obstacle to acceptance.
Now, though, it’s all back out there on the line. All torn wide open, all raw and bleeding.
It started with a discussion of my blood pressure medication and why I was on that particular one if there was a chance that I could conceive. And why would the nurse practitioners put me on that medication? Didn’t I know that it was incompatible with pregnancy? Hadn’t I researched the possible side-effects and harm to a baby?
Yes, yes I had, but we decided that since I obviously was not ovulating and the risk of pregnancy was very low because I closely monitor my cycle, we could take the risk because most risk appears to be associated with use in the second and third trimesters – because we were having such a devil of a time controlling my blood pressure any other way, that’s what we decided. Thanks.
Because I might conceive, he couldn’t prescribe that particular medication for me again. I’d have to go elsewhere or he’d have to write a different prescription. So, we’re back to experimenting with medications that are at best ineffective and at worst awful. (anyone remember the grotesquely swollen feet of 2013?)
(*might* Hope breathes)
Then we moved on to the question of Clomid. I’ve lost some weight; i’s possible that it’s enough. It would be a good idea to think about another round of Clomid.
Punch. In. The. Gut.
I HATED taking Clomid. It made me crazy. And angry. And sad. And it didn’t work. And it devastated me. I’m not ready. I’m too far from home on a regular basis to go through that right this minute. I’m going to need a bit to process that and psych myself up for it because that’s what it’s going to take. I can’t handle that kind of emotional trauma right now. So I asked if we could wait until the first of the year.
My wonderful, kind, compassionate gentle doctor said, “Of course! You’re in charge of this. We’re doing what you want and what you feel comfortable with.” Then he looked down at my chart, looked up and said, “You’re 38. In January, you’ll be much closer to 39. That window is closing.”
Yup. Yup. Yessir. Yes it is.
When I get upset, I often look at the floor. It keeps me from crying, and it doesn’t allow others to see how much I’m hurting. All wins in my book.
So I was looking at the floor when he charged ahead and talked about a referral to a fertility specialist and how they can give me injections and there’s so much more they can do besides invitro fertilization – there are procedures that can be done in the office.
On top of the pain and shame of infertility, there then came the embarrassment of needing to say something along the lines of, “Thank you but I don’t believe that will be an option for us. None of that – visits, procedures, lab work – will be covered under our insurance, and on teachers’ salaries…because SH is a teacher too, with fewer years experience and less education, working for a private company which means he makes less to start…that kind of money is hard to come by, particularly for things like Intrauterine insemination which has a very low likelihood of success.”
With an agreement that we would revisit the idea of Clomid in January at my annual, the visit was blessedly over. Probably none of the above was helped by the fact that at the time, my period was a week late (now two) and we all agreed that it was probably very unnecessary to go to the expense of an in-office pregnancy test (a home test was, of course, negative).
Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster
All of that work at creating a sense of acceptance, getting to OK with where I am and my body’s inability to do the thing that it was supposedly built to do, torn to hell. Even more than that, I’m getting ready to get back on the ride. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy roller coasters. A lot. But this is one that I hate.
The thought of it and everything that goes along with it – the well-meaning platitudes, the anxiety, the questions, the hope, the sincere well-wishes – makes me ill. There is nothing that makes this better except the desired end result. Nothing that makes it easier. If you’ve not gone through it you don’t know how crushingly inadequate and inferior it makes you feel minute after minute.
I’m getting ready. Continue to work on general over-all health – eat right, exercise, take my vitamins, take my medicine, order new bottles of the herbs that have “gotten women pregnant all over the world.” Meditate. Write. Affirm. Whatever. Because if I’m going to do it – if SH is going to have to hold my hand through the craziness that ensues – then it’s going to take all this time and then some to make ready.
Infertility isn’t the fun roller coaster at the amusement park. It’s not the one that smoothly swishes you through the air, twisting you and turning you – like the ones pictured above. Infertility is like that awful one I rode one year at Great America. They way it knocked me around, I would have sworn it was a wooden coaster, but it wasn’t. Smooth blue and yellow tracks. One big drop, one big loop that they ran you up and back through several times. When I got off, my ears were bleeding – I’d been slammed into the head restraints so hard my ears had been cut and I was bleeding.
That’s the kind of roller coaster infertility is. I’d prefer not to ride that one at all, but since I am, I’ve got to get ready.