Thursday, July 28, 2005

Adventures in gynecology

Last week I had my annual gynecologist appointment.

When I was there a year ago I told my doctor that I was ready to start clomid and she was very excited for me and sent me home with a semen collection kit. It is their policy to always check on the sperm before beginning any treatment - no point in interventions that might turn out to be pointless if both partners have problems, and I have to say I like that policy. Then I was supposed to call and ask for a prescription to be called in when I was ready to start clomid. I never followed through. I was leaving a very high-stress, long-hours office job to start teaching kindergarten – much less stress, a more physically active job, and because of the stress reduction more sleep and more sex, yay! – and I was convinced that the drastic change in lifestyle was going to enable me to finally ovulate spontaneously. But, obviously, that never happened. I check my basal body temperature religiously. It’s good to know (if there is anything good about not ovulating when you are trying to get pregnant) that I am having long, erratic, weird cycles full of spotting because I haven’t ovulated and not drive myself crazy believing that maybe, just maybe I’m pregnant (was that ovulatory spotting??? was that implantation spotting??? can’t you be pregnant and still get your period???) and wasting tons of money on pregnancy tests. That was what I did for the first year or so off the pill, before I discovered charting.

Anyway, I was not looking forward to going back this year. (To be honest, I don’t think I am ever looking forward to going to the gynecologist. Does anyone ever look forward to that?) It was a clear reminder that another entire year had gone by and I still wasn’t pregnant. Plus, I felt . . . I don’t know, kind of silly . . . after how excited and ready to move forward with fertility drugs I was last year to come back and not be ready now. I felt like I seemed flaky and timid and scattered. These are not the impressions that I usually like to convey. I prefer to seem pulled-together, smart, confident. (Whether I am or not is a different story.) To add to the discomfort, I always arrive flustered from the maze of the parking garage and bizarre system of pedestrian bridges, elevators, and hallways I have to navigate to get to my doctor’s office. Then of course I get to sit and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. Surrounded by pregnant women. Immensely pregnant. Smiling, chatting with the receptionists and each other. I used to read the pregnancy / baby magazines while I waited in this office and daydream about what it would be like when I was one of the smiling, chatty, immensely pregnant women. This year I couldn’t muster the optimism. I flipped through an In Style and tried not to let myself be completely consumed by jealousy and self-pity. Worse than waiting in the reception area is waiting in the lab area. The nurse calls you back, weighs you, collects the urine sample you are dutiful enough to leave in the bathroom labeled with your name and your doctor’s name, and then leaves you in one of the chairs between the blood-drawing station and the check-out windows. I was surrounded by women receiving the news that their pregnancy tests were positive (“Congratulations!”) and then receiving gifts as they paid their copays and left. That’s right . . . the pregnant women receive beaming smiles, hearty congratulations, and gift bags on their way out. The infertile women receive . . . nothing.

Then the dreaded confrontation with my doctor. In the nude. That’s always a confidence builder. Actually, I don’t have anything bad to say about my doctor. I really like her. She was very highly recommended by friends who used her as an obstetrician. We chatted a bit, it’s not like she didn’t remember who I was, but she made no mention of my decision not to go ahead with the clomid. At the end she made some offhand comment about how it would be a miracle if I got pregnant naturally. It made me feel even more hopeless, like she had given up on me. I got dressed, put the copay on my Visa, and left the office.

On my way to the first elevator I realized I had no cash. This is not unusual as I never carry cash, but it mattered because I needed a couple of dollars to get out of the parking deck. This had happened to me a few years ago and I had walked all over the medical center trying to find a place I could write a check for a parking token. It was impossible. You could buy 20 tokens, but not one. I ask you, is it too much to ask that doctors’ offices be able to validate parking in a medical center parking deck? Come on, pad the bill by $2 and don’t make us all pay to park. It’s annoying. I had a moment of panic. There was a woman already waiting for the elevator and I recognized her from the waiting area of the doctor’s office. She was one of the immensely pregnant, smiling women. I asked her if she knew if there was an ATM in the medical center. She turned around to answer and I saw that she was crying. Huge tears were rolling slowly down her face. It was alarming. I asked her if she was okay and she said she had not received the news she wanted, or something like that, but that she was okay. She didn’t know of any ATMs but there was a bank downstairs in the lobby. I asked her if there was anything I could do and she said no, she was just pregnant and therefore very emotional. We took the elevator to the lobby and she kept going toward the second elevator while I stopped in the bank. Of course, it was not a branch of my bank. They would not cash a check for me and could not tell me of any ATMs nearby. At that point I realized the point was moot because I didn’t have my ATM card with me either. I decided I would just turn my car inside out looking for change and pay my way out of the garage with pennies, if necessary. I caught up with the same woman at the next elevator. She asked if I had any luck and I told her no, that I was just going to scrounge around in my car looking for enough change. She said, “I can give you the money.” I told her I could not take her money but she was insistent. Her exact words were, “Please take it. At least I can do something for someone today.” I thanked her and took her money. I felt awkward about it. I don’t think I have ever taken money from a stranger before. Drinks, sure, but money, no. Since then I have not been able to stop thinking about her. I hope she was just emotional and that there was nothing seriously wrong. I have said prayers for her, that everything will be alright. I guess I should stop being jealous of all pregnant women. They have troubles of their own, after all.

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