Saturday, January 3, 2009

You Are the Patient

This is such a good movie. It's highly entertaining, the smarties* in the group won't think it's an idiot movie, and it's clean, so you can watch it with your parents without being embarassed! This is a rare category of movies these days.

I just typed my little footnote. I'm procrastinating. Yesterday I started a blog to tell the internet fearlessly (OK, anonymously, whatever) about infertility, and I do not want to write about something obviously necessary. (I procrastinated for weeks after deciding I would start a blog, though.) Anyway. Anyway. So my timeline is pretty straightforward. Married summer 2005. No bc or anything. Intentionally "trying" to have a baby for maybe the first month or two (we know so many honeymoon babies. Even honeymoon twins). Then trying again after about six months and continuously thereafter - though, I as I think I explain elsewhere, not really thinking about it these days.

I thought I was a candidate for clomid and I was OK with that. (It's pills, right? I can do pills. If I had a vitamin deficiency, I would take pills. Whatever.) My OB said I had to wait six months rather than the usual twelve because I had really bad endo and I was expected to be infertile. This is another story, but I had a rollicking night at the tender age of 22 in which I came into the ER and left about 30 hours later having had a triple-header of surgery: appendectomy, cystectomy for an endometrial cyst the size of an orange, and removal of all the other adhesions they could get. Because I had the most precocious case of endo ever, they couldn't get them all. Anyway, after TTC the first month of marriage and then taking a few months off, we maybe started again in February. So a year after that, I had my regular exam. By then it had been a long time. Next, I did two batches of blood tests for FSH levels. Around 10, so, she said, no clomid for me. When the second test (confirmatory) came back, she referred me to a really successful fertility specialist in the university town we lived in. OK.

The (second) results and the referral were via voicemail. It was a little hard to hear, but not really a shock. As luck would have it, that weekend the local paper happened to do a profile on Mr. Fertility Specialist. And he does everything. IUI (of course), IVF, donors, surrogacy. My OB knows I'm not interested in any of those treatments (there are others, you say? Well, so I've been told), but she said he did other things too that wouldn't cause problems with Catholic social teaching (I'm going to have to go into that more later). But after I read the article I had visions of chimpanzee surrogates (possibly he doesn't actually do that). I did not call Mr. Fertility Specialist and I decided I was mad at my OB and I sulked for...nine months. I did not return her call; finally I got a letter from her office suggesting I schedule an annual exam, so I did that. This post is really about what I was doing in the interim.

I was angry. Obviously, of course, I was angry about being infertile. It wasn't fair. (Still isn't.) But I was mostly angry about the wretched treatments. I view motherhood as a vocation. It's supposed to be spiritual. It was supposed to demand everything of my life. And it was supposed to be natural. Already, with just the pathetic amount I had done, I felt I was at the doctor constantly. And my doctor was 65 miles from my work, so I had to schedule Monday morning or Friday afternoon appointments. And it was my first year at the job and heaven forbid I try to explain any of this to my coworkers, because nobody talks about infertility (yet another future post...). I had visions of marching in to the office of my very cantankerous 60yo boss and explaining, "I'm sorry, I know I owe you a memo on this and you wanted it today. But I have to leave work RIGHT NOW because I just started my period and they have to test my hormone levels." And I was angry. Why did I have to be stuck with needles and dragged in for the superlative indignity of transvaginal ultrasounds at least once a year when I wasn't even pregnant and have my schedule constantly taken over by yet more doctors? Referred to more specialists? Lectured by a moron doctor, who should just be set afloat on an iceberg, about how a disease with no known cause (the story of the endo, again) must, OBVIOUSLY, somehow be my fault? Forced to hear about my cycle and my cervical mucous and my hormone levels and my scarred ovary and my cysts and my adhesions and my elevated FSH levels and my risks of uterine cancer? That's not motherhood. That's some sort of existentialist irony hell version of motherhood (including the part where I don't have a baby). I was really angry.

My poor husband did not understand why I was angry. I told him about having to drop everything like some kind of trained monkey and run whenever doctors could find a moment to test or medicate me for something. He was sympathetic to the inconvenience, but he didn't understand the anger. And I couldn't explain it.

Most of it - maybe all of it, or maybe not - was pretty simple. I was angry with God. I had embraced my faith seriously some time in college. Before that, I was independent. I knew I was brilliant and I was going to make a lot of money and have a totally independent life. Shoes. Travel. A child someday (husband or no husband) if I wanted one as an accessory. A cool home. A dog I liked. A super-exciting job. Over a year or two I let that all go (this is still me in college, remember. I'm not married yet) and realized I had found something bigger: giving myself away entirely to do something generous. (Although the obsession with unattainable babies can turn a lovely woman into a screaming banshee, motherhood at its core is generosity. I believe this.) I wasn't sure it would be marriage and motherhood yet. Later on, I was sure. And I know God thinks being a parent is part of the nature He created, and part of the spiritual wholeness of His creatures. I was willing to have the babies even if I was poor. And I was learning that in order to have the babies, I was going to have to become a human science experiment. I DID NOT WANT TO BE A HUMAN SCIENCE EXPERIMENT. So I was angry.

After that call from my OB/GYN, I decided that if God wanted me to have babies, it was going to be His Problem. This problem was within His competence to fix (especially since nobody seemed to know the cause) and I thought it was morally and spiritually unsound to throw my spiritual vocation at the mercy of science and pursue a gratuitous gift with white-knuckle determination and all the cash and time I had. Clearly, this was a good bargain, one God would take. (I am of the Making Successful Bargains with God strain of religious believer. When I do the bargains right, they work. Email me if this doesn't make sense to you and I will try to explain.) Maybe He did, but I didn't get any babies out of it.

During this period I entered the phase of the Suggestions of the Helpful. (I'm going to do another post on this soon.) The more things I heard - from meddlesome friends and "helpful" acquaintances and sometimes genuinely helpful sources - about treatment centers and options, the more set against them I became. I became immediately and irrationally angry whenever they were even mentioned. Being very straight-laced (I did not say repressed), I managed to smile sweetly through my homicidal tendencies and accept (most) suggestions graciously, especially after I learned that they suggest more forcefully if you show signs of resistance. But my poor husband heard ALL about how angry I was. Usually I targeted the complaint at something totally unrelated and irrelevant. Since he had nothing better to do, of course, he could devote all his time and attention to figuring out why, exactly, I was acting like a lunatic.

OK, this post is pretty long. I think I'm going to do a two-part series on this phenomenon so I can just get it over with and move on to something else. I guess there's a lot to type.

*I think I'm pretty intelligent, but I pretty much do not like intelligent movies. It won five Oscars in 1975? That's nice. Do you have the copy of Airplane 2 I watched four times last week? Awesome. I'll just watch it again.
Unfortunately, my husband likes documentaries. This is a chasm in our marriage that I do not expect ever to bridge. That's OK. He can watch those movies with somebody else.

1 comment:

  1. I was very angry and resisted treatment for a long time, too, because I had several HORRIBLE experiences with doctors (who also offhandedly declared I was defective). I'm sorry you've had to deal with all this, and that it has even led to a crisis of faith of sorts. I wish there were more options for you, in terms of keeping your faith and getting caring, thoughtful medical assistance for your endo/IF.

    One thing I'll recommend--and like any assvice, please ignore if it annoys--is acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Judging by your doctor commute, I don't know if there's anyone in your area who does it, but it does help with cycles, pain, and might help with the FSH. At the very least it's incredibly relaxing. :) Like a massage, but from the inside.

    I hope God responds to your prayers, and keeps his (her?) end of the bargain. (I've always felt that God has no gender, but "it" just doesn't sound right, does it? :) )