One Treatment to Rule Them All

As an Atheist, I am fortunate in that I can belly up to the Religion Buffet, and sample each one, without offending my upbringing or current religion.  I can taste a little Buddhism, sample a bite of Catholicism, sniff at the evangelical spread.  I can compare them and decide which, if any, I would like to try.  And, being an American, I can walk away from the buffet with nothing on my plate, if I want to, and go find a nice tasty soft-serve ice cream machine.  You know, that whole freedom of and from religion thing. 

sunface13What inevitably scares off my appetite, though, are the statements that one religion is superior above all others, and that’s the one I should believe in.  Or, that there is One Truth (which usually happens to be espoused by that particular religion that is claiming there is only One Truth), and if you don’t believe in it, all manner of terrible things are going to happen to you.  It all seems so arbitrary to me.  How can so many people say different things and each think that they are right and everyone else is wrong?  Why can’t we all accept that we each have different ideas and leave it at that? Why does there have to be one right answer?

I was pondering this theme the other day when I realized that infertility treatment is a lot like religion in this concept of One Truth.  Think about it: REs are our prophets, spiritual leaders, rabbis, priests and ministers.  We take their word on what we should do to be gospel.  I certainly took what Dr. Uterus told me to be the One Truth.   He was so confident, so assured of his method that I didn’t question it. Who was I to know what was right? I didn’t have his training, his knowledge, his experience.  And, he seemed so damn sure of himself. You can only get mature eggs with an intramuscular HCG trigger for IVF?  Ok. I don’t need a Clomid Challenge to test my egg reserves? No problem.  Menopur is the best drug out there? Fine. Sign me up.  Lining measurements? Pah! I can eyeball it.  I don’t need to do Lupron through the whole cycle? Whatevs.

drinksmachineBut, I became disillusioned with Dr. Uterus, or more specifically, with his staff.  I began to question why bad luck was the only explanation he could give us.  I began to resent that he didn’t feel the need to change things up to at least give an illusion that this time there would be something different in the mix that could make that subtle yet crucial difference.  I began to question his judgment in continuing to work with his crazy-ass embryologist.  In short, I began to lose faith in him and his truth.  

So, I sought out new guidance.  Enter Dr. Salsa: he is just as confident at Dr. Uterus in his abilities, but has a much different method.  This time, I’m using Follistim and I get to do a subcutaneous HCG injection to mature the eggs for retrieval.  He does a lining check at every visit during the IVF.  His first test that he ordered for me was a Clomid Challenge.  I’ve been on Lupron the entire time I’ve been stimming. 

And yet, I get the same impression that he is just as certain that his way is The Way to baby.  Again, it all seems so arbitrary to me, this emphasis on My Way is the Right Way and no other way will do, particularly when it comes to seemingly trifling stuff like which medication to use and how much.  There are lots of medicines on the market, so why does just one have to be the right one?

Perhaps the real answer is that doctors really do like to play God, or more specifically, play minister, prophet, etc.  If that’s the case, then even if this works and we actually do get a baby out of it, I will still have to deal with the medical professionals who see their way as being the only way.  And, thank goodness that I get to live in a world that allows for second, third, even fourth opinions.  I’ll just now take those opinions as one piece in a larger puzzle. 

image: top right: sunface13, bottom left: drinksmachine

My Path

I’ve never been one for the idea that each person has a destiny set out before them. How can someone be destined to be a prostitute or serial killer when someone else is destined to be a nun or social worker? It belies a certain amount of short-straw syndrome where some people are “destined” to have crappy luck while others get to live idyllic lives, and apparently the person with the crap luck has no say in it. At the same time, I don’t buy into the idea that we make our own destiny. I had no hand in being born into an incredibly stable house with lots of opportunities for education, advancement and overall growth complete with loving and well-adjusted parents.
image: maverickapollo
I prefer to think of my life as a series of paths. I may follow the one tread by those before me, or I may veer off into other directions. I may have company on parts of the journey and others I go by myself. I may choose the direction sometimes and sometimes the direction may choose me, but there is always motion.

I’ve had to remind myself of this a lot lately, though, because I’ve been having a hard time with the fact that there are those who got pregnant around the same time that I did and they are still pregnant. I feel angry that I can’t continue that journey, I feel embarrassed that I somehow failed the test, and I’m annoyed at that sneaking little voice that asks, “Why her and not me?”

I’ve answered this question before, but apparently I have forgotten the lesson because I still seem to be asking it. So, I’m trying a different tactic this time around. Whenever I feel that question coming on, I just remember that her path is not my path. I may not know where my path will take me, but I do know which one is mine.

And for better or worse, my path right now doesn’t include being pregnant. It does include having a Diet Coke, eating bleu cheese at lunch, gardening this morning and looking forward to a glass of wine this evening. And, I’m getting better at enjoying these things for themselves and not dwelling on what being able to have them means. Because, dwelling on it doesn’t change it and never will.

It also feels so good to give myself permission not to dwell on it either. It frees me up to think about other things, dream about other things, and actually enjoy life. And you know what I did today? I laughed, out loud. It seems like it’s been so long since I did that – a genuine, joyful laugh.

And it felt really, really good.

Me Thinks You Doth Protest Too Much

As I poured my (large) glass of wine for the evening and headed to the bathroom for some good old-fashioned tub soaking, I pondered why I was so upset that we are now on the hook for our medication. Other than the obvious reason that it is not an insubstantial sum of money to fork over, I thought of the two real reasons that explained why I was being an Ungrateful Bitch.

Reason 1: I am a terrible gambler.

This is not based on my win/lose record, but because I am the cheapest gambler known to man. I went to Vegas and put exactly $4 in the slots (and I had difficulty parting with that much). I do better with lottery tickets if only because part of the money you spend is to really have a legitimate reason to fantasize about everything that you are going to buy when you (of course) win the big pot. But, I am just a cheap-ass gambler which means I don’t gamble.

Square that with infertility, however, and you have what is known in fancy words as a paradox. Infertility treatments are the ultimate gamble. Every month you are gambling on hope, money, eggs, sperm, uteruses, and a whole host of other factors to achieve that jackpot of a smiling pregnancy test. It’s one thing to gamble all of that with the cushion of knowing that some of it is being paid for with someone else’s money. But now, we are gambling with our own money. Money that should be saved toward a college fund or donated to an animal shelter. I’m afraid that this is going to make it that much more difficult to accept if we have a bad outcome.

Reason 2: I have to pay for that which should be free.

I have a rather well-developed, and frankly probably over developed, sense of the unfair. For example, it is not fair that one person gets paid more than another person simply based upon their gender. That’s a no-brainer. It’s also not fair that animals are treated cruelly every day while others are pampered and given caviar. As for my situation, I think that it is unfair that I have to pay for the pleasure of medical intervention to get pregnant when most people can just do it in the back of a car for free (ok, maybe someone has to shell out money for dinner, but we’re not talking the thousands of dollars that any given procedure might cost you).

The response that most people want to give to this particular complaint is “life is unfair” or “you got dealt a bad hand”. I’m sorry – that’s just not good enough for me. I think I, and all of the women dealing with infertility out there, deserve a better answer than that. Unfortunately, I know that a better answer doesn’t exist. And that is totally unfair.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My HSG

As you may have guessed from the title, I went in for my HSG today. Dr. Uterus always does these at the hospital to which his office is attached because his office doesn’t have the facilities to do x-rays. The hospital, which is religious, requires you to check in even if you are having a simple procedure, like an HSG. This is why I had to show up a half an hour before my procedure (not that that in any way guaranteed that it started on time).

The last time I had my HSG here, you still had to check in, but you checked in at the older part of the hospital. It reminded me a lot of when you would go to the bank to open a new checking account. You put your name on the list and waited (and waited and waited) for your name to be called. Once it was called, you went up to a large counter that was partitioned off into small cubicles. You met the person who called your name and they discussed the intimate details of your insurance, the procedure you were having and other sordid details such as your religious affiliation (just in case you croak in the middle of your HSG and the have to perform the final rites?). In addition to the decor being seriously outdated, the cubicles were separated from each other by a flimsy little cardboard partition which let the person in the next one know your business and you know theirs. In the age of HIPAA, it’s not surprising that this has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Probably recognizing that there was a much better way of doing this, the hospital now has you check in at the snazzy new reception desk, which is tastefully appointed in granite countertops and terrazzo tile. It also happens to be right across the way from the lactation center. Thanks for that Insensitive Hospital Administrators (not to mention the maternity tour schedule right there where you check in. Double argh!). Anywho, the greatest improvement is that they now have little individual offices where you check-in. You still put your name down on the little sheet and wait for them call your name. In the category of bad planning, the reception area opens up into a huge atrium that is covered in stone and of course echoes everywhere. So, when my name was called – and thoroughly butchered – everyone got to hear it.

The person doing the calling was a perky woman in her mid-30s. She directed me to walk down a hall and meet her at the third door. I went in and she came in through another door (it reminded me a lot of the booths you see in the red light district in Amsterdam where the glass door in front showed the ‘goods’ and the door in the back allowed the ‘goods’ to leave). She took my ID and insurance card while verifying that certain information is still valid.

Then she asks the $10,000 question: what is my religious affiliation? I’m sure it stated no preference or something to that effect, which is probably what I had said in the past when there was just that little cardboard between you and someone else. But, the privacy and security of that little room made throw caution to the wind and rather than tow the party line of “no preference”, I confessed the truth: “I’m an atheist”, I said. At the mention of that one little word, she snapped her head up, then tilted it to the side while she asked in a very serious tone of voice with a hint of derision and accusation, “Why?” It was as if I told her I was going to move to the third world and give up all of my worldly possessions to live as one with the land.

Why indeed, my dear. Why do you believe in a deity that allows so many couples to be childless while ignorant 16-year olds give birth everyday? Why do believe in a God that allows child and animal abuse and that people kill in the name of? Why not instead put my faith in myself and hold myself accountable for my faults rather than chalk it all up to the divine? Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to be able to appreciate this depth of reasoning, so I just said, “I’ve always been that way.”

Who knows, maybe I was the first person who ever confessed to actually be an atheist. Maybe she was wowed by my manners and the fact that I wasn’t carrying around a hatchet, hell bent on destruction. Maybe she was just puzzled that I chose to go to a religious hospital. I do know that it amused me greatly and made me smile as I walked the long hallway to radiology for my date with Dr. Uterus and some dye.