Scene 1: Outside the Infertility Specialist's Office. Three days before I leave for the BlogHer Business conference.
Newbie Nurse: Please step on the scale.
Newbie Nurse says the number aloud and writes it down. I try not to grimmace.
Newbie Nurse: I need to take your blood pressure.
We go through the process. I worry that my blood pressure will be high because sometimes it seems to spike up, and I was in pre-conference craziness. And also I'm getting tested to find out if I'm fertile, which isn't exactly a stress-free process.
She takes the band off me and starts scrutinizing the numbers on the high-tech screen. She writes stuff down. Then, with my numbers flashing for any passers-by to see, some other nurse passes by.
Newbie Nurse to Other Nurse while pointing at the machine: Hey -- um, this is her pulse and this is her blood pressure, right?
Other Nurse, not stopping: Yeah.
Newbie Nurse, still to Other Nurse: Aren't these numbers kind of high?
Other Nurse kind of nods, kind of shrugs dismissively as she continues walking down the hall with some other patient. I am kind or horrified but do not say anything.
Newbie Nurse: Just go straight down here and into the Consulting Room. Dr. F will be with you in a minute.
I go down the hallway to the Consulting Room and open the door, only to find a couple already in there, seated and looking at pamphlets. We all apologize and I run back out of the room to try and find Newbie Nurse, but she is nowhere to be seen. I don't know what to do, so I just stand there. Eventually, Some Other Nurse comes by.
Me: Um, I was told to go in there to wait for Dr. F, but there's a couple in there.
Some Other Nurse: There is? Who told-- Please just wait in the hallway a moment.
A few minutes later an entirely different nurse goes to the Consulting Room and escorts the couple out, and tells me I can go in. I am not feeling as positive as I had been.
Scene 2: In the Consulting Room With Dr. F, The Infertility Specialist
Dr. F: So, tell me a little bit about why you're here.
Me, with a lot more stammering than this: My sister has a baby. At about a year-and-a-half, he was diagnosed with Fragile-X. I made an appointment with the Geneticist, KB -- the one who I believe you spoke with, who recommended you? Anyway, I got myself tested, and I am a carrier. And I know that one of the risks of being a carrier is premature ovarian failure. And um, I'm worried about that.
Dr. F: Yes, KB said that she had some concerns about that, too.
Me: Right. So I guess I'm here because I want to know if I am fertile now. And how to monitor it going forward. And um, what the procedure will be when I do want to have a baby.
And I guess I said some magic words, because all of a sudden he was off to the races! A diagram came out and he was drawing all over it and telling me all about the procedures one takes if one seems to be infertile. It was a spiel he'd given probably hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. I could tell when he was on auto-pilot. He'd been an infertility specialist for something like 25 years. But I had to interrupt him.
Me: But, um, I don't think that I am infertile. I mean, I don't know, but I am having normal cycles. And...well, I had trouble ovulating before, years ago when I was married. But I got some bloodwork done at the beginning of my cycle last week -- do you have those results?
Dr. F: Yes. Here --
And then there were more drawings and all sorts of numbers, that boiled down to: my hormone levels are all pretty normal.
Me: And I am supposed to go back in another couple weeks and get tested for something else?
Dr. F: Yes. They will test your progesterone level. You will want that to be at 8 or above. 8 or above and you're probably okay.
But he seemed skeptical and went back to explaining what to do if I wasn't okay. If I wasn't ovulating.
Dr. F: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome...
Dr. F: ...is fairly common and reversible. It's good that you have regular cycles. Generally the symptoms of PCOS include irregular cycles [and then he rubbed his chin to remind me where my breakouts were] and some acne.
Again, I tried not to grimmace.
Dr. F: For now -- and I know how this will sound, but -- the best thing you can do is lose weight...
By the end of my visit, I'd gotten the information I needed, but felt utterly defeated.
It took lots of redirecting to get the information I needed from the doctor, which was tiring in and of itself. (Like, we did eventually get to discussing what to do when I DO want to conceive, and how to test for Fragile-X early on, but that was not his area of expertise. I know this because at one point in the session, he got up and went to the computer to look up whether you could test for Fragile-X in vitro. And you can. And you know how he found that out? By looking it up on GOOGLE.)
My problem was that I went into the session thinking that I was basically healthy. Yes, I am overweight and yes, I am a carrier of some crazy genetic thing, but I thought I was otherwise fine. I thought I was just gathering information so I could know how to best plan for the future.
Instead, I left wondering if maybe I have some other kind of Syndrome, and how I'd even know. And realizing weight loss is no longer a cosmetic thing. And feeling horrible and dumpy and acne-laden and high-blood-pressured and gross.
Scene 1: At Home, Trying to Get My End-of-Cycle Test Results
Answer Nurse: How may I help you?
Me, after asking about my ear being clogged and maybe mentioning the hydrogen peroxide and ear cigarettes thing: I, um, also had some bloodwork done related to fertility. I am wondering if those results are in? I haven't heard anything.
Answer Nurse: Oh, let me look...is...was that for the prednisone?
Answer Nurse: Well, I don't know anything about that. I can't tell you what it means, but it says 4.6.
Me: Oh, okay. I will follow up with my doctor.
Answer Nurse: I will pass it on to his office, too. Someone from there should call you soon.
And I got off the phone and looked at the diagram with all my doctor's scribbles and saw what I already knew. That 4.6 is not 8 or above.
I wanted to cry, but not before getting a second opinion. I figured if the ditzy answer nurse thought it was prednisone, maybe she'd read everything wrong.
So I called back.
Second Answer Nurse: Oh, I can't give you that information. I am not qualified to interpret the results.
Me: But you can't just tell me what the results are?
Second Answer Nurse: No, we aren't allowed to do that. Because I could tell you, and the first question you'll ask is, "What does that mean," and I can't give you a good answer. Someone from that doctor's office will give you a call about it.
A couple days later, I had to go in to see a different nurse for my sinus/ear/congestion issue. She was wonderful. She also used a larger arm band for the blood pressure reading, and discovered my pressure is pretty normal.
On a whim, I decided to ask her about my test results, in case she knew anything. She showed them to me. She also didn't know how to interpret the number, but I saw on the screen: "Progesterone" and "4.6."
Scene 2: At Home, On The Phone With Yvette, Dr. F's Nurse a few days later
Yvette: So we got your results back.
Me: Uh huh?
Yvette: And your progesterone level was at 4.6, which means you did not ovulate.
There it was.
Me: Okay. So what are my steps now? How do I monitor this?
Yvette: Given that you aren't actively trying to get pregnant, I would just recommend that you start on a weight loss program. We offer a whole bunch of classes, and I will mail you some of that information.
Me: Is there anything else I can do?
Yvette: You can use an at-home ovulation predictor kit, that's about it.
It took me until then to cry.
It's not the end of the world. It can be reversed. I can lose weight. I have time, I think. I hope. I'm only 31. A lot can happen in a couple of years, and who knows. Who knows?
I'm not sorry I know this. I'm glad I found out. I just wish...
I had to go to Walgreens to pick up my steroid-enriched nasal spray (woohoo!) and while I was there, I decided to buy an ovulation predictor kit. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment, but I prefer to think of myself as an eternal optimist.
Besides, it wasn't that expensive, and who DOESN'T love peeing on a stick every morning, huh? Awesome!
Scenes 3, 4, 5 and 6: My Bathroom, Around 8 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, Monday, and Yesterday
I pee in a cup. I pop open the tube full of predictor sticks. I place the predictor stick in the cup for 5 seconds. Then I lay it flat. I see the Control line form in full, rich darkness. I see the Test line form, faint. I clean everything up, grouse, and go about my day.
Scene 7: My Bathroom, This Morning
So what am I supposed to do with this, then? Because that test line right there? That is definitely darker than the control line.
Maybe I ovulate every other month?
Maybe the test results were wrong?
Maybe my pee stick is lying?
Or maybe I should be done, now, with testing and worrying and trying to control things that aren't even happening right now. Maybe I back away, and work on getting healthy, and feeling good, and enjoying my time and life and right-now-ness.
Maybe I take this as a good, hopeful sign, and leave it at that.