August 23, 2018
A knee-length, cloth hospital gown. Here I stood, staring at the Holy Grail in gynecological offices, a knee-length cloth hospital gown with little pink roses all a’bloom, just perched there on the edge of the exam table waiting for me to slip into its full-body, cozy cotton coverage after disrobing.
*Cue the angels singing, white light from above, harps, etc.,* I had found my FOREVER GYNECOLOGIST.
If you’re not in the gynecological know, that’s totally cool…I’ll tell you why the thought of a gynecologist with actual hospital gowns was like a spiritual experience. I went to Catholic school for 12 years and felt closer to God in that moment slipping into that pink rose-adorned gown than I ever did attending weekly mass (plus, I was Episcopalian and thus never allowed to have Communion at school masses, but this isn’t a “Jessica’s Issues with Organized Religion” forum so back to it!). Since my first gyno appointment in my late teens, there has been a steady decline and almost complete disappearance of garments to cover a woman’s private parts during this already *very* personal exam. My first ever gynecologist had full hospital gowns which seemed like the most appropriate choice when one is hoisting both feet up in the air into cold, metal stirrups. During my college years, the hospital gown turned into a cloth, vest-like garment that tied in the front but had HUGE arm holes which, I think, ultimately lead to the trend of women showing side boob. What about your undercarriage, you ask? At that point, you received the side boob vest and a large white sheet to cover your lower half. The vest-and-sheet look stuck around for most of the 2000s, but the cloth ones disappeared and were replaced by a sheer paper product that ripped if you moved one single muscle. At this point in the 2010s, you get an off-brand paper towel and two squares of single-ply toilet paper. A full hospital gown is a gynecological game changer!
I slipped into the gown and sat on the exam table waiting to meet my new FOREVER GYNECOLOGIST for the first time. My former L.A. gynecologist retired via a letter I received in the mail right before my next scheduled appointment with him. He was nice enough, but looking back, he told me to not worry about having problems getting or staying pregnant until I was 40. Probably not the best advice and I wish he had been a bit more concerned because I took that advice and ran with it. After he retired, I decided I wanted a female gynecologist so I started the long process of trying to find a woman lady parts doc that wasn’t across town and who was accepting new patients. This is no easy feat in L.A. I called about five or five-thousand offices until I found one accepting new patients and her next available appointment wasn’t until August…this was May so I had a 3-month wait ahead of me. I read some online reviews about her and everything seemed cool. Now, her name has become a bit of a joke in our apartment when one of us says something negative to the other, but I won’t name her here so we’ll just call her “Reproductive Reaper.” You may have an idea of where this is going, but it’s actually much worse (well, in my opinion because I lived it).
Right before Reproductive Reaper (hmmm, backtracking already…actually, let’s go with “RR” for the rest of this post because Reproductive Reaper is a lot to type over and over) walked into my exam room, I noticed a big sign asking all her patients to please not wear perfume because RR was extremely allergic. “Oops,” I thought, “I wonder if Bath & Body Works lotion counts too?” I wanted to smell nice for my new gyno so I had slathered on some “A Thousand Wishes” body lotion before my appointment, but now I worried I was already off on the wrong amber-scented-with-notes-of-vanilla foot. RR knocked on the door, walked in, shook my hand, and introduced herself. And, thus concludes the nicest part of this appointment.
RR looked at the forms I had filled out in the waiting room and asked me to assume the good ol’ stirrup position. Before I get into all this, I’m sure RR is a very nice woman and I read that many of her patients love her. It took a few weeks of recovering from this appointment for me to get on board with what my mom told me when I called her crying right after I left RR’s office, “Jessica, think of this appointment with RR as a kick in the pants to get the pregnancy process going. Look at her as a wake-up call.” Ok, those weren’t my mom’s exact words, but it was definitely something like that and she certainly agreed with me that RR’s bedside manner needed *a lot* of work. Here’s a pic of me, Scott, my mom, and my dad doing some sightseeing at Point Loma in San Diego…I have my mom’s chin & smile and I have my dad’s eyes and nose and ears and pretty much his whole face.
Hospital gown, legs spread eagle, stirrups, instruments being inserted into places to hold things open…that’s where your mental picture should be now. Wait…but like, picture it for yourself and not me. Ew. Just painting the scene here, folks! As most gynos do, RR started talking to me while she got ready to invade my body with metal sticks. From my forms, she already knew I didn’t have children so she asked me if I wanted to have kids. I said yes and that I was here to make sure everything looked good Pap smear-wise before we began another round of TTC. On the little bit of blogs I’ve read, “TTC” is the abbreviation for “trying to conceive” so I may use that here or I may not. I’m trying it out to see how it feels. Those pregnancy and fertility forums/blogs sorta make me crazy so I’m not ready to sign up for their lingo just yet. Anyway, RR is still down there doing her thing, but the tone of the room changed entirely in that moment. She popped her head up over my knees and immediately said I needed to go home tonight and have a conversation with my husband about whether or not we truly want to have children. I will present the rest in conversation form. I didn’t record this word-for-word, obviously, but you’ll get the gist.
RR: You and your husband need to have a serious conversation about whether you want a child or not. And, it will probably only be ONE child because you are *38-AND-A-HALF*.
Again, not word-for-word, but the ONE child and 38-AND-A-HALF were definitely in there. She said my age, including “and a half,” a lot in this convo, and every time, she said it with such venom that it felt like I should be ashamed of myself for coming into her office wanting to have a child at my clearly advanced age. I swear her voice turned demon-like and her eyes lit up red with each *38-AND-A-HALF*! Or, maybe I’ve been watching too much Buffy and too many horror movies lately. Either one.
ME: (Mind you, there’s still a direct path to my insides by way of a speculum at this point.) Well, we definitely want to have a child and my former gynecologist just retired. Plus, I wanted to make sure everything looked good on my Pap smear since I haven’t had one in a while and we are going to start trying again.
Scott and I TTC (eh? Am I feeling TTC?) and I got frustrated by all the things so I quit tracking my cycle completely plus probably slipped into some mild-to-moderate depression which I vague-posted about on social media and I *hate* vague-posting so I know my brain was off. And then, we moved two weeks before Christmas 2017, work got crazy, and everything in me just felt off for the first part of 2018. Now, here we are in RR’s office in August 2018.
RR: More than likely, you’re looking at fertility treatments because you’re *38-AND-A-HALF*. You can start with insemination and then, if that doesn’t work, IVF. But, IVF is really hard and very expensive. You have to be completely sure you want a child if you choose the IVF route.
ME: Well, we would probably try insemination, but we probably wouldn’t pursue IVF and opt for adoption instead.
RR: Oh, adoption is very hard too.
ME: ………… (internal rage building..this hospital gown is getting really hot and, I swear, I think it’s starting to choke me.)
She finally releases me from the stirrups, but now it’s breast exam time! Without too much back story, because that’s not what I’m writing about here, my breasts have caused me plenty of stress and worry since my early 20s. 12 years of stress and worry to be exact. I was finally released from having to have them routinely ultrasound’d like 2 months before I moved to L.A. I gave RR the CD with videos of my ultrasound and all the boob maps/paperwork my adorable/lovely/caring/awesome St. Pete doctor lovingly sent me off to the West Coast with, but RR didn’t seem to care. I know why now, but at that moment I wanted to punch her in the face (violent, right? But truthful!) every time she smushed around or pointed out one of the many marbles I store in my breasts for safe keeping. I HAD BOOBS MAPS SHOWING HER WHERE THEY ALL WERE!!! USE THE BOOB MAPS, WOMAN! (*applies for “Boob Map” trademark immediately*)
RR: I’ve personally gone through insemination, IVF, and adoption. All are very hard, expensive, and not always successful…often, insemination and IVF aren’t successful at all. IVF is also very, very pricey. And, the daughter I adopted…well, sometimes I don’t understand where her anxiety and depression comes from…since there isn’t a history of that in my family then it must come from her birth parents. It’s hard to relate to her sometimes because I do not have that in my family.
Camel, straw, back…I AM DONE. Stream of consciousness time: Well, lady…you DO have anxiety and depression in YOUR family because SHE’S YOUR DAUGHTER!!! AND, WHERE DOES HER ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION COME FROM?! Oh, I don’t know…I’ve only been talking to you for about 15 minutes now and I pretty much want to curl up in this lovely hospital gown and sob. Like, ugly sob…snot running down my nose sob where I wipe that snot all over these freaking pink roses.
To this day, I have no idea how many children RR actually parents. Was the anxiety-ridden, depressed adopted daughter an only child? Did RR have more children through insemination or IVF? I didn’t ask her in the moment because I wanted out of that room and her office as quickly as possible.
My insides were a mix of molten lava and kicked puppy at this point. This woman, who had done all three options herself and should know the emotions involved with each, has now told me every possible path to having a child at *38-AND-A-HALF* (outside of stealing one, I guess, or black market babies) is going to be awful and she did it all with either metal sticks inside me or her cold, non-perfumed hands on my dirty pillows (Google: Carrie, Stephen King, dirty pillows, The Sissy Spacek one, not the Chloe Grace Moretz one. Or, there’s the book.) I don’t even know what I said to her at this point, but I finally got to sit up and I wrapped that hospital gown around every inch of me that it would cover. I wanted to disappear into that gown. Then…then…THEN, SHE BROKE UP WITH ME!!! Like I was ever stepping one foot back into her office again…hospital gown be damned, but then SHE BROKE UP WITH ME. I WAS GOING TO BREAK UP WITH HER! Well, I was going to for sure ghost her. No need to formally break up with her right there and cause a whole scene.
RR: Due to you being *38-AND-A-HALF* and wanting to conceive, I don’t think I’m the right doctor for you. I do not specialize in geriatric conception or pregnancies, but I will give you the name of a OBGYN who does.
Of course, I now understand why she broke up with me and I’m appreciative of her saying she wasn’t the right doctor and giving me the name of a potentially right doctor. In the moment, it felt like a nasty break-up though. It’s not me, it’s her. She needs to be free to see younger patients with younger ovaries and not so much geriatric reproductive baggage. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if ex-boyfriends gave you future boyfriend options when they broke up with you? Ha. Reproductive Reaper threw a lot of negativity into a 20-minute exam and I had not yet gained the perspective I have now about this appointment. I just wanted out of her stupid gown and her stupid perfume-free office. I wanted her to have an allergic reaction to my smelly lotion (but like, just a mild one…a mere inconvenient congested nose or something). And, I was taking ALL my boob maps with me! She didn’t even care about navigating through my boob maps because she never planned on exploring a future with these 38-and-a-half-old lumpy boobs! I was holding back the tears until I could get to the car and call my mom. Not even call Scott…I wanted my mommy immediately. I got to the car, called my mom, listened to her sage advice that I would soon agree with, and cried the whole drive home. I texted Scott and asked if he could leave work a bit early and he did so I told him the story over sushi. Sushi will be a common theme here. Most stories will end with “and then, we/I got sushi.”
A week or so later, RR’s nurse called to give me my Pap smear results. All was good with my cervix. Before the nurse hung up though, she reiterated that Reproductive Reaper felt she wasn’t the right doctor for me and made sure I had the contact information for the doctor she recommended. I had already scheduled an appointment with the new recommended doctor for a few weeks from then. I didn’t need RR anymore. I was already moving on. I had gained the perspective that RR had given me the doctorly advice I needed, although not in a supportive or remotely positive or hopeful or nice or human way, but advice that did kick my booty into high gear to find out why we weren’t enjoying sleepless nights with a newborn already.
Have any of you ever played the super fun game of “Do I Have Endometriosis Or Is It Just A Cyst?” No worries, if not! We’ll play it together in my next post. But, we’ll have to wear off-brand paper towels and tiny squares of single-ply toilet paper while playing…