Come along, friends, walk with me the magical journey that is infertility tests. Several weeks ago, I had an ultrasound by a male doctor (that was a first, but surely not the last). The ovaries look good! I was just happy that he didn’t get in there and see ovaries shriveled to the size of prunes and cobwebs where my other parts should be. It feels like it sometimes, man. The womb can feel like a wasteland with tumbleweeds and coyotes when you’re struggling to conceive. It’s the wild wild west minus the catchy beat and Will Smith swagger.
Anyways, last week brings the amount of fairly invasive procedures to my lady regions to 4. At least as far as this infertility journey is concerned. Last week, I got to go to the bottom floor of our reproductive endocrinologist which houses the operating room and the IVF lab. Husbands can’t go with you to this part of the center. I was scheduled for my HSG, and I couldn’t tell you what that stands for. (A hysterosalpingogram or HSG is an x-ray procedure used to see whether the fallopian tubes are patent (open) and if the inside of the uterus (uterine cavity) is normal. HSG is an outpatient procedure that usually takes less than 5 minutes to perform.- thank you reproductivefacts.com). My doctor described it as a quick little thing where they inject dye into your fallopian tubes to see if they are open because the dye will drip out if they are.
So I walk back to the room, not exactly excited for what was going to happen but pleased that I would get some immediate results which never seems to happen in this baby-making world. I walk into the room and see a table with stirrups that are literally straight up in the air, at a 90 degree angle (as pictured above, for your viewing pleasure). They also have these velcro things that strap around your foot (think straightjacket for your feet) and this big x-ray machine that sits above you. I have some mild claustrophobia so that didn’t look inviting. Immediately, I just stare at the angle of the stirrups and realize that perhaps we haven’t conceived yet because we are just inherently not limber enough. I didn’t realize that I would have to be so flexible for an HSG. The nurse laughs and tells me they adjust but to you know, go ahead and strip down to nothing and she’ll give me something that is basically the equivalent size of a washcloth to cover up with. Delightful.
Now, this is where it gets really really good, friends. Come into the doctors office with me, I promise, I won’t be too graphic.
So, Chrissy, the nurse steps out as I somehow maneuver between the scary stirrups and manage to not give myself a concussion on the x-ray machine above me, all while my butt is hanging out, catching the breeze. I get settled, cover up with my tissue, and Chrissy comes back in. I tend to be quite uncomfortable with silence. It has been something that I have worked at in my career, to allow there to be silence in the counseling room. My un-comfortability with silence reaches new proportions when my legs are now velcroed into stirrups, I am spread eagle in front of a woman whom I just met.
I start shooting the breeze, asking her about herself, praying she isn’t as aware and I am of the fact that my cooter is 100% exposed and thats a part that is supposed to stay on lockdown for us good Christian girls. She asks how we heard about Reach and I told her that 4 different people referred us and she proceeds to tell me that she is somewhat new but has huge respect for Reach and their reputation in Charlotte. Oh good, my vulnerable nether-regions are in good, respectable hands.
The doctor comes in and the awkward conversation kind of stops. The doctor, all business, asks me if I know what procedure I am having and I sensed, probably correctly, that a gender reassignment joke would be in bad taste. She critiques how Chrissy has set up my spread eagle position and pushes the manacled feet further apart.
Ok, so, after being asked if I am allergic to betadyne or iodine about 4 times, we begin. Speculum goes in, my empty womb appears on the screen with a large metal object invading it. From that angle, speculums look just as uncomfortable as they feel. Doctor critique number two, the speculum isn’t long enough. So Chrissy fumbles a bit for a new one. Wait for it! The doctor (never met her before, mind you) looks at Chrissy, the nurse, and asks her WHO TRAINED HER. Chrissy makes a comment that she shadowed someone yesterday but was alone today. At the doctors question as to why she was by herself today, she looks to the doctor and asks if they can discuss this after the procedure is over. Great idea, Chrissy, absolutely on board and a fan of that plan! Let my pause here for a second to say that some people approach the world with their senses (sight, smell, hearing, etc.) and some people use their intuition to discern about their outside world. Its best explained in a test called the Myer’s Briggs Personality Indicator, try it, it’s great but pay for the real one and get your correct type. I am intuitive to a fault. I don’t care if you are telling me that the sky is blue if I feel like it’s grey. I believe that both approaches should be appreciated. I hate doctors office lobbies because I just sit there and analyze why people are there. I suck as an addictions counselor because I don’t care if you are telling me you haven’t relapsed, if I feel you did, I won’t believe you. As a matter of fact, I don’t work with addicts. But, all this to say that for a person who feels emotional currents as the main way I perceive the world and make my living, it was like a 5.0 on the Uncomfortable Richter Scale.
It was kind of this moment where things went a little fuzzy and I was strapped in thinking, “is this really happening??” It’s not possible. I am a person who has strange things happen to them. Strange people confess to me. Doctors and lawyers tell me too much information. People talk to me when I go to the bathroom in a public place, etc. This could not be happening to me, nobody would believe it.
So, the doctor responds to Chrissy’s question if they can talk about it later with a snide comment that it won’t be any better if they talk about it her office later. I can’t see the doctor as she is attending a part of my body that is obstructed by large black velcro like boot stirrups but I can see Chrissy, the nurse. I kind of make a “is this really happening?” look and she rolls her eyes. I look away to focus on my fallopian tubes but when I look back, she is crying. Not little tears running down her face tears. Big, gulping sobs with black eyeliner and mascara running down her face. The doctor asks for a different size catheter to inject dye and Chrissy is now crying so hard that she says she has to leave. The doctor tells her to find the right tool first, Chrissy does, and then crawls around screens and x ray machines, all of which shift from the right position, and leaves the room on a great, big, breaking sob.
So, I’m there, legs bent, catheter in place, and the doctor is silent. No, “sorry that happened”. No “another nurse will be right in”. No nothing. About a minute goes by and then Carol, new nurse walks in. She’s chipper and explaining things to me about the procedure but no one has addressed the gigantic, sobbing elephant that just left the room. So, Carol adjusts the screens and x ray and then they inject the dye into my tubes. Great news, the dye drips out. It creates a rorschach like looking pattern that to me looks a lot like a nurse in fetal position, moaning about the wrong size of catheters. Dude, seeing that my tubes were open was great, but it was entirely anti-climatic after the emotional Gettysburg that just went down in exam room 3.
The doctor pats my strapped in shin and says she’ll send the results to my primary doctor and Carol comes to free my legs from the stirrup boots. My legs were almost dripping with sweat and it wasn’t because I was hot flash. I cannot tell you how uncomfortable I was! Carol helps me scoot awkwardly back up under the x ray machine and proceeds to make sure I am ok because any procedure on your cervix can make you unsteady on your feet. Right, because my unsteadiness should be attributed to iodine and not the emotional train wreck that just down.
I get dressed and come out of the room, all the while looking for the nurse Chrissy to see if she’s ok. They tell me I can go home and I walk out to try and tell my husband about what had just happened. There were other women in the waiting room and I wanted to tell them to brace themselves but I also very much wanted to get out of there.
That night I called my mom and my mother-in-law and neither could believe it. I told my best friends and they all thought it was hysterical and typical. They also thought that perhaps I should leave some of my business cards at the Reach office.
So, many days hence, and I don’t really have a lot of wise parting words about this hsg. My internal plumbing is good. Great news is sometimes hard to come by in this world of infertility. And my one thing of immediate results was somewhat tainted as I felt that I might have to mediate a fight between my nurse and my doctor while having an extra long speculum in my whoo-ha. The box got checked off but left lingering doubts about the professionalism and procedures of the most reputable fertility clinic in Charlotte. Crap happens. Infertility happens. Now I have the task before me of trying to figure out how to tell this story as an ice-breaker, get to know me, kind of story and where in the world a story like that might be appropriate. Perhaps the former nurses at Reach who have been verbally insulted by their doctors support group?