Thursday, 29 May 2014

Waste Another Year Flies By,

He walked in just before the elevator doors shut. Tall, dark hair, handsome, wire-rimmed glasses and a nice smile. The attraction was instant.  He introduced himself; a first year intern working in the primary care clinic. I was still a student gaining clinical hours in the women's health department. "Hopefully, I'll see you around" he said as we walked in our separate directions. As the clinics shared the same break and lounge area, we bumped into each other a few days later and started chatting again. Soon I found myself accidentally on purpose trying to run into him. Then one day I discovered he was waiting for me after work. He asked me to join him for a cup of coffee, which led to dinner, which led to making out in his car. (Classy, I know...)    

I was due to return to my campus for a didactic session in a few days. When I said goodbye to him, he asked for my phone number (sadly this was in the days before everyone had a mobile phone). I figured it was an empty gesture and I didn't expect he would bother with a girl living two hours away. Much to my surprise, he did ring me a few times and eventually invited me to attend a local tennis tournament with him. As I was driving along the interstate, I wasn't sure if this was a 'let's hang out as friends' weekend or if there would be a possibility for intimacy. Good thing I shaved my legs just in case.

He greeted me with a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. As we spent the day together, I remembered how comfortable we were with each other and the conversations flowed effortlessly. We returned to his flat in the evening and opened a bottle of wine. Half-way into the bottle, he seemed to check his watch and then leaned into to kiss me. This led to consummating the relationship on his sofa. Before I left the next morning, we scheduled another weekend where I would visit. I don't think we left the flat at all, and if memory serves, I think I spent most of the weekend looking at the ceiling.

A week went by without a phone call. I didn't think much of it, but then one week became two weeks. Two weeks became three, and then three weeks became a month. I decided to break The Rules and I rang him. Twice. The second time, he answered. He had a million reasons why he had been too busy to call, but reported that he had been thinking about me. After updating him with the things that I had been doing that should have made me too busy to notice that he hadn't called, he asked a question, "so, how's your love life?" It seemed like an odd inquiry from the man who had been inside me just a little over a month ago, but it was clear to me that if he had expectations that I could be seeing someone else, then he was probably involved with others as well. I don't remember much of what we said during the rest of the conversation, but it would become the last words we shared with each other.

For the record, I wasn't so much upset about discovering that he wasn't exclusive, but it was the fact that I hadn't been informed that there was an option not to be exclusive. Okay, maybe I was also a little bitter as I really didn't have any opportunities to break my exclusivity. Although I always put safety first and never let him within a 12 inch radius without a latex shield, I was paranoid about the possibilities of infections. Like Hannah Horvath, I was obsessing about the stuff around the sides of condoms, and this was in the days before Google! I did the walk of shame back to Planned Parenthood for testing. I don't think it was the same Clinician who saw me during my pregnancy scare, but for story-telling purposes, let's say it was. I lied and told her that I was in a new relationship, but we both wanted to be tested before having sex as we're super uber responsible people. She raised her eyebrow as she filled out my lab slip and I telepathically read her mind. Jane, you ignorant slut. When are you going to get enough self-respect to become involved with someone who respects you for a change? Stop giving it up to anyone with an Australian accent!  

I survived the STI roulette, but the lessons stayed with me. I declined an invitation from an irresistible Kiwi for a one night stand, and the next person I dated...became my husband.

This post reflects two anniversaries. I spent another year on this planet and it marks the first meeting with my RE. Two years ago the month of May brought a heartbreaking BFN, my 36th birthday and a six month milestone of trying to conceive without success. I decided to start the REI Open House tour. I'm chronically late for pretty much everything, but I was the first to arrive for this information session. I explained to the office manager that I couldn't write my name on the sign-in sheet and handed my details to her on a sticky note. The clinic's senior doctor gave the presentation, and I spent the time pushing back my cuticles so that everyone would know how bored I was. When I looked up I saw that someone else had entered the room.

He was tall, with thick dark hair and wire rimmed glasses. Memories of my ex flashed through my mind for the first time in over a decade. (I've referred to him as an ex-boyfriend, but 'Fuck Buddy' is probably a more apt description) His eyes met mine and he smiled at me. My heart was pounding and I had to focus on my breathing. He looked to be in his early forties, which was about the right age for my Fuck Buddy. What were the odds that this could be the same person? I recalled that he was interested in neurosurgery, but his mother was an Ob/Gyn, so maybe he had decided to follow in her field. I started looking around the office for anything with this other doctor's name, but at the same time I realised that I couldn't remember FB's last name. Is it really bad that I can't remember his full name? More so, is it bad that I don't know if I'm embarrassed or proud of this fact?

The older doctor concluded his spiel and offered that he and his associate would individually meet in private with anyone who wanted to discuss her specific situation. I just wanted to get the fuck out of the clinic as quick as possible. However, my bladder was about to burst and it would be an uncomfortable drive home, especially with a manual transmission. As I was walking back from the bathroom, the doppelgÀnger met me in the hall. "Hi, I'm Doctor ___________. Would you like to step into my office?" I exhaled a deep sigh of relief. I still couldn't remember the other guy's surname, but I knew that wasn't it. I checked out the dates on the diplomas hanging on his wall. He was not my former liaison. In fact, he was actually younger than me and just missed being one of my students. Actually, after teaching students from this prestigious medical school, I had vowed that I would never go to any doctor who had graduated from that establishment.

I started the brief consultation by informing him of who I was and what I did and I pronounced that I was too cool for school and already knew everything that had been covered in their presentation.  As I was sitting across from someone who conjured these repressed memories, it was at that moment that I realised I was never really heartbroken over the Fuck Buddy. I wasn't in love with him; it was a relationship of convenience that fit into our lives for that time and that time only. In particular, I was more annoyed at myself for sacrificing so much study time during those weekends, which had led to a 'B' on an exam. It was my ego that was bruised and my pride that had been damaged.
Especially as Myrtle conceived so quickly and seemingly easily, I really took it to heart that our inability to conceive was a failure of my professional abilities. I felt like such a fraud; I've counseled thousands of patients, lectured other health care providers, but I didn't possess the know-how to knock myself up. I decided to succumb to the humiliation. I shared our full story including the Plan B incident, my inability to interpret the cheap OPK test strips, my experimentation with Clomid, and I described how a failure to launch incident and issues with irritated foreskin had led us to doing at home artificial inseminations. I admitted that we needed help. I was hoping that he would reassure me that it wasn't a lack of knowledge preventing us from conceiving and I was hoping he would say that we could get pregnant without doing IVF, but he didn't. Instead he wrapped up the consult with the probably standard line of "schedule an appointment so we can complete your work-up and evaluate your options."

I've wondered if the staff at REI clinics wager on who will return after an open house or initial consult, as it's probably something that I would do. I would have been doubtful about myself, but I came back six weeks later for my formal consultation and I'm still here almost two years later.  It has taken two years, two miscarriages, a corrected uterine septum, five failed IUIs and two failed embryos transfers to achieve my Good Will Hunting "it's not your fault" moment. I am infertile. I am not incompetent. This isn't something I can outwit, outlast and outplay.

A few months ago, I discovered that I have been at my current job for five years when a patient returned to have her expired Mirena IUD removed and to have a new one inserted. She had moved to Southern California, but wanted to have me do her procedure again. It gave me pause to reflect on the relationships I've built with so many patients during this time. Recently, I was touched when I overheard my medical assistant say "it's amazing, she knows her patients so well..." It occurred to me that most REIs probably hope that their patients will be a one treatment one night stand. Send them away pregnant; wham, bam, you're welcome Ma'am. Only return for baby #2. You're not supposed to have a long term relationship with your RE. One way or another, I will break things off before the three year mark.


  1. You really have such an interesting take on this whole process. Especially being a HCP in a related field.

    And don't feel bad about not remembering FB's last name, he obviously wasn't important enough for that! :P

  2. Ugh, I totally agree- we should not have to have long term relationships with our REI's! Somehow though, it becomes so hard to leave someone who ends up knowing you and your IF history so well. Hang in there, friend. I really enjoyed this post. XOXO

  3. When I first trying to conceive, I swore it was my lack of scientific knowledge that was preventing pregnancy. I seriously considered going back to school to get a nursing degree or something that would help me figure out what was going on. I was sure I was being punished for not paying attention in freshman biology or failing my college fetal pig dissection. I really thought I was too stupid to figure out how to get pregnant.

    Honestly, my "It's not your fault" moment came from reading your blog. You're brilliant and sciency and obviously your infertility has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge. We're not stupid or incompetent. Understanding the science doesn't necessarily mean we can control it.

    I'll end this novel of a comment by saying I'm not at all surprised you have former patients return to you that have moved on. I think you're the kind of practitioner we all wish we had. Good luck this year, Jane!

  4. First of all, happy birthday this month! I hope you have celebrated YOU with a sweet treat or something. And secondly, I concur with're what many/most of us wish for in a practitioner. The fact that you refer to 'relationships' when you speak of former and current patients speaks for itself.

    Thirdly, I really do hope you get to break up with your RE soon and have your baby on the way. I have my fingers crossed for you guys all the time!

  5. Happy belated birthday! I think it must be hard for REs sometimes when they have patients that they see over and over again after multiple failures. I know I've seen my RE tear up a few times when I've lost my composure, and I appreciate that they see me as a human being and not just a uterus and a pair of ovaries with problems to solve. I have a feeling that if I was a patient of yours I'd be coming back to you too. You always seem to go the extra mile and really care about them, even the dopey "I didn't know I was pregnant" ones.

  6. I want nothing more than for you to be able to break up with your RE. (ME TOO!) I hope that day is coming so very soon. You're a eloquent, strong gal and I hope you celebrated you fiercely for your birthday!

  7. Happy belated birthday my friend. I hope this is your last one with empty arms.