Thank god I took the day off work. Today was the first step in a horrifyingly undignified process of conception that will culminate in the most degrading act of all: birth. Most people think that having sex is the beginning, but no. I’ve learned – and perhaps I’ve come full circle to grasp hands with the desperate womenfolk desiring pregnancy (except I’m not doing this out of desperation) – that sex is simply a quick, painless tool to achieve the end result.

Somewhere in that process is a whole lot of cold steel, catheters, ultrasound wands and vomiting. If sex isn’t effective, as is our case, we need to find out why. And in this fast-paced world of medicine, my doctor has scheduled all the tests very close together. She’s not waiting to find out about the husband’s sperm motility; she’s having my insides evaluated pronto. I was leery of this at first because, well, it’s an invasive procedure and I’m pretty queasy about these things. After today all I can say is, the husband’s sperm had damn well better be swimming like Olympic medallists for me to have gone through this.

Everyone tells me not to worry, it’s not a big deal, it just seems that way. Well, they are wrong. First of all, I’m in the medical imaging center for hours. The initial ultrasound isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s like sticking a vibrator up there and waving it around for a few good uterine close-ups. But then we get to the tubal patency test, which means a lot of instruments and poking about in a region that generally doesn’t like that kind of interference. Perhaps it’s different for each woman. For me, it takes the doctor five tries to insert the catheter after so much prodding and poking that my cervix is bleeding. At the fifth attempt, I am honestly thinking of telling the two doctors and one tech to just forget the whole thing because I can’t even hold my legs up in those stirrups for another minute (it has been 40 minutes at this point). My legs are aching. And then, the catheter slips in and stays in; but the balloon is inflated, my insides completely revolt and I yell bloody murder. Not intentionally, of course. It’s a bit embarrassing, but it hurts like hell. I can only imagine what birth feels like, and I am not interested in feeling it. What are they thinking, telling me this feels like a mosquito bite? Apparently they’ve never had the procedure, otherwise they’d know that it’s worse than a thousand mosquito bites. It feels more like the worst day of my PMS cramping times a hundred. Of course, my blood pressure plummets, I’m sweating buckets, and my legs are shaking. After the whole thing is over, I’m so faint I vomit. The technician doesn’t even allow me to get up; she makes me lie down for a half hour. She brings me cookies and ginger ale – what an angel – and hails a cab to take me home.

Bottom line: reproductive medicine is barbaric. I can hardly believe that a nose puff has been developed to help men with erectile dysfunction, but no one has thought of a way to anesthetize a woman’s uterus during an invasive, painful procedure.

Hysterosonogram Tug-of-War

September 3, 2009

This whole field is so muddy and murky that it’s hard to trust yourself to make decisions. When I started this process about five years ago, I turned myself over to the infertility specialists. It’s made me realize that they will throw every test, every procedure, every drug at you to see if something sticks. By last year, I was starting to feel like a lab rat. And nothing was working.

When I met with the first fertility specialist, she quite forcefully stated that we’d better get on the IVF wagon, and quickly. We were alarmed. Surely if I didn’t feel old or look old at 35 then my eggs couldn’t be old or stale! But perhaps I should have jumped on that wagon and done 3-4 IVF cycles in one year, my feelings about it be damned. At the time, however, I still could not grasp what she was saying. It was inconceivable. I still believed it would work through IUI. Fast forward five or six years and two clinics and we are now onto a third clinic and a donor egg. Wow!

So, onto the title of my post. Donor clinic wants me to have a hysterosonogram or hysterosalpingogram. I really don’t. I am taking my fertility journey into my own hands and am relentlessly questioning the necessity of all and any tests and drugs. I’m looking into what would I do given various results. The low-down is that I had a normal HSG when I first waded into this morass. I had several IVFs where they scan the uterus. I’ve had numerous pelvic scans. One of my friends, an OBGYN, told me that the type of fibroid and size of polyp that would harm implantation would definitely be picked up by a proper pelvic ultrasound. Maybe you’d need an HSG for a more detailed look. He also said that there is quite a bit of debate in the field about whether removing polyps or fibroids assists in implantation. Apparently there are studies that are on the fence about this. And yet, we’re told to not question our doctors and just do it! It makes me very angry. The truth is, women with fibroids get pregnant all the time.  Actually, two good friends of mine did so at 40. Not that anecdotes tell us all that much. And yet.

I’ve just fired back a response to donor clinic. We’ll see what they say.