Monday, November 10, 2014

In which I learn doctors aren't magicians (part 2 of my infertility story)

If you missed part one, you can find it here.

When I first went to see a specialist about why I wasn't getting pregnant I hardly told anyone. It was taboo. It was inappropriate. It was nobody's business. It was embarrassing. It was unprofessional. And there were also a million other reasons for why I was sure I couldn't tell anyone. Friends who were pregnant were right out. People at work were mostly out. Extended family was out.

I know many other women who have had difficulty or have not been able to conceive. But everyone I knew who had trouble seemed to have had a diagnosis. Either blocked Fallopian tubes or endometriosis or ovarian cysts or something along those lines. My diagnosis was: for some reason the few eggs I have aren't growing. As it turns out, there are many mysterious reasons why some women can't get pregnant.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The first step was to get an OBGyn. The gyno I had always seen didn't do pregnancies. I stalled on finding one. Needing the OBGyn before I was knocked up isn't the way it's supposed to go. Finally my friend Beth took charge, did some research for me, and found a good one in Hoboken. I did like him, the one time I saw him.

I had kept careful notes of when my periods had or hadn't occurred and I showed him the list. Surely there was a drug he could just prescribe me to fix this. But there is no such a drug. He told me this was beyond his area of expertise and to see a reproductive endocrinologist. A who's-a-whatnow? I had a vague understanding of what the endocrine system is, but what it has to do with my wonky periods, I had no clue.

I was not in the habit of visiting the gynecologist with Jeff in tow, so it honestly did not occur to me to bring him with me to my initial meeting with the RE. This doctor performed an ultrasound on me, which is a scene everyone is familiar with from watching movies. Well, with the minor difference that checking for eggs involves a rather large lubed-up dildo wearing a condom and acting as a vaginal submarine. That monitor on which the pregnant woman sees her developing fetus is the same monitor that is used at the RE's office to look for eggs. And one more difference: that instantly recognizable trapezoid image of the fetus-filled uterus on the monitor is now a uterus filled with a big fat nothing.

Want to know something crazy? These reproductive specialist doctors, they can't actually see the eggs. They can see the egg follicles, which are the rather small sacs the eggs develop in. But being only a single cell when they are released into the ovary, eggs are not visible via ultrasound nor by blood test nor waving of magic wand. And so the doctors look for the follicle that the egg lives in. Oh but sometimes what looks to the doctor like a follicle is maybe just a cyst. No big deal. Cysts apparently come and go all the time in the mysterious place that is a woman's womb. But cysts were not the main issue with my uterus at that time.

I remember vividly being told by that doctor that my egg count was extremely low for a 36-year-old woman and that I should probably move on to adoption. I looked at him aghast and he said he would leave me alone -- in his office -- to take in this information.

Sitting alone in a doctor's office, while processing bad news is not, how shall I say, helpful. I am pretty sure that all I processed during that 5 minutes was anger. Anger at my stupid, deficient body for messing up like this behind the scenes and never once letting me know that I was a ticking time bomb of eggs being depleted before their time.

To be continued...

Ladies, if you wouldn't mind, please take this short survey on infertility. And then there is one more question here, too. Please feel free to take the survey no matter your age or whether or not you have experienced infertility or have kids or even want kids. Thanks! 

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