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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What We Talk About When We Talk About Blood

What are the chances, after exiting your first fertility-related appointment in two years (with the exception of dumping out all of my fears at last year's pap smear), that you would stop to get a sandwich at a random cafe 45 minutes from home and bump into one of the women who got you through your first round of infertity?

This is the point where I tell you that I believe G-d puts people in your path when you need them.

I went to my hematology appointment today. My friend, L, who recommend the doctor warned me that since he treats all blood disorders, the waiting room is comprised of people with various illnesses and conditions: leukemia, sickle cell anemia, clotting disorders. Sitting amongst other people around my age with varying degrees of baldness from chemotherapy put everything into perspective. And then took it out of perspective. And then put it into perspective. And then made me carry a strange weight of guilt into the examination room.

Infertility isn't life threatening--at least not in the same way leukemia is life threatening. So there was an enormous guilt over the idea that I was taking up appointment time with an infertility-related problem. But (and this is where the wave of serious navel-gazing and reasoning begins--it won't crest for a while. And then be prepared for the crash) infertility is certainly life threatening to children I try to carry in my womb. It's hard to make an argument for unborn children because I let a potential child go unborn each cycle when I don't even make an attempt to fertilize the egg. But still.

The doctor and his medical student were so kind, so understanding, and took me so seriously, that I went into my normal fight or flight reaction with doctors in reverse. I'm so used to a doctor blowing off my concerns until the situation reaches a crisis that I didn't know what to do with a doctor who came in the room, listened to my history, and told me that he wanted to run a full panel of tests because it sounded very likely that I had a clotting disorder and it could be the key to getting me pregnant quickly this go-around.

I started back-pedaling. I thought I would have to bring up my points over and over again. I thought I would have to convince him to do something. Instead, he was telling me that he was willing to do something and I was telling him, "but my losses were all so early." I didn't feel legitimate. I felt like an infertile fraud. I just wanted him to be sure that he understood that my losses were not as huge as other women's losses. That mine were not worth his time.

Truthfully, there was a part of me that felt that we never gave those cycles the attention they deserved. We never focused on the loss. We didn't process it or honour the babies. I couldn't even tell you the exact dates--just the month. Because I was so focused on the next cycle, it was like shedding clothing while you're drowning. You're not thinking about the sweater or shoes you're kicking towards the bottom of the ocean--you're only thinking about getting up to the surface and breathing again. Reading everyone else's loss interviews for the book, I started to realize that we never mourned. We never honoured. I read so many beautiful things that other families did for their unborn children. And all I did was call my OB or RE and ask what we were trying next.

I felt like it wasn't my right to ask for that problem to be treated now when I had never focused on the problem in the first place.

Does that even make sense?

Speaking with this doctor gave me a lot of hope that we may be able to conceive naturally--or semi-naturally. As natural as one can be with Prometrium and Lovenox. We could conceive in our bedroom. With the door closed. And no one watching. And when I say "no one watching" I'm comparing it to seven doctors and nurses looking at my hoo-haa while they all marvelled that they just couldn't get that catheter in. Because this doctor pointed out that the three chemical pregnancies all occurred before I started treatments. Which means that I can get pregnant on my own. I just can't stay pregnant and get that embryo to implant. Though his explanation of my fertility didn't take into account the high FSH or the non-existant progesterone, or the fact that some of the intervention built a better egg, it still sounded so good. I would be willing to try on my own for a bit without intervention if someone told me there was a chance.

After they took 22 vials of blood. And after I fainted when we were 4 vials to the end. And after I staggered out of the office feeling completely embarrassed (I guess I just wanted to be the nonchalant blood giver who could squeeze out 22 vials while still making small talk about Halloween), I decided to stop by my favourite bookstore/coffee house for a sandwich to eat in the car. My husband calls this store my safe space. We went a lot during infertility treatments and we went a few times when the kids were in the NICU. It's always the place I want to go if we get a date night. It just makes me feel good to walk inside. Everyone needs a safe space.

They didn't have a sandwich I wanted and I was about to walk out when I heard a tentative, "Melissa?" It was J, who I had exchanged emails with recently, but hadn't seen much in the last two years. Not only do I have two ladies-when-waiting, but J is my Infertility STAR. My bright, twinkling Says-Things-Amazingly-Right (STAR) that guided me to my clinic, that got me through my first treatment, and yanked me far from the edge of the baby blues after the kids were born. I don't see her often, but when I do, she always knows the right thing to say that makes me see a situation in an entirely new light. She is currently working towards her PhD in clinical psychology and anyone who receives her counsel is extremely lucky. Her words have changed my outlook and acceptance of the situation numerous times during infertility. She truly has a gift and I'm not only lucky to have her in my life, but I'm lucky that she chose to study in the same cafe this afternoon.

Somehow, when I walked back to my car and drove home (still sandwichless), I had found peace with the entire day. Had stopped thinking of myself as a waste of valuable appointment time. Had a good cry and moved on.


TeamWinks said...

Oh, did I ever faint too when they stole my blood! Look at the bright side, you got a well deserved nap! :-)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing when others treat you with more respect than you have given yourself? Or maybe we just get used to not being treated with respect and care after being an infertility patient for a while.

I'm glad the doc and student were so helpful and encouraging.

And I'm glad your day ended with that bit of magic.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you gave yourself permission to process things as and when and at the level you needed to. And I'm really glad you have a STAR in your life.

Good luck with the results.


Lisa P. said...

Comparing your hematology appointment to mine sounds like you have a WONDERFUL new doctor. I really hope this works for you!!

KatieMc said...

This was a BEAUTIFUL entry. Thank you for capturing it. And I'm stealing your STAR acronym for use in my own life. Bless you!!!!

Anonymous said...

I go through that my-infertility-isn't-as-bad-as-her-infertility thing all the time. What we need to remind ourselves is that the experience is unique for everyone, no matter the lengths we have to go to. One woman cries just as hard when her IUI fails as another woman does after IVF. The emotional aspect of this experience isn't any easier because one woman is on pills and someone else is on injectibles. We just need to support each other as much as we can and recognize that the differences in infertility treatment are just as diverse as we are as human beings, but just as much of an emotional roller coaster.

Unknown said...

I second what kd said (well put!). It's good to have some perspective - I'd certainly rather be dealing with IF than cancer, as you noted. But your feelings and needs are valid and important, even if there are bigger problems in the world. (I'm sure your STAR put it more eloquently.)

I'm thrilled to hear that you had such a good meeting with a doc and ended the day with a sense of peace.

Tara said...

I'm really glad you found a Dr. who is on your side and taking you seriously. :)

Anonymous said...

I love this part, "Infertility isn't life threatening--at least not in the same way leukemia is life threatening. ... infertility is certainly life threatening to children I try to carry in my womb. It's hard to make an argument for unborn children because I let a potential child go unborn each cycle when I don't even make an attempt to fertilize the egg. But still."

I think it should be nominated for a prize.

The toughest part of all this diagnosis for me certainly has been the part where I had to face the life-long health consequences of infertility. I won't die from POF, but I will have other problems, like osteoporosis. And clotting problems like mine lead to other issues someday. No, not leukemia, but important enough anyway. Seriously, treasure this Doctor for listening to you and caring. Good doctors are rare.

Kir said...

sounds like a magical day in more ways than one. So glad you had a day like that!!!

DC Nemeths said...

Good heavens, Melissa, I am so honored and touched by your words. Let me say that it is the example of women like YOU, and the others whose stories I have been privileged to hear, that inspire me everyday in my studies. Looking forward to talking to you more soon.