If you ever wanted to feel really dumb — and you don’t happen to be a nurse or medical expert — try to have a baby via modern-day science. I consider myself to be fairly smart, but the past two days at the fertility center have left me feeling dumber than ever.
When I hear “ultrasound,” I think of grainy grey images of babies, cold jelly, and big pregnant bellies. So naturally, when I went for my ultrasound this morning, I thought it would be just like that — minus the baby and pregnant belly. I was expecting a latex-gloved nurse smearing bluish gel on my lower belly and then pressing on me with that flat microphone-looking thing (not what’s pictured here) in order to check out my ovaries. Not only was that my assumption, but it was my wife’s too. Why? Well for one, we’re both clearly dumb. And two, because no one from the day before told us this was going to be a transvaginal ultrasound.
Ignorant doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt when the ultrasound technician came in and there I was, still with my underwear on. You’d think the stirrups and white-paper coverup, and the fact that she left me for a minute while I “undressed,” would have clued me in some. But no. So when she returned and I still had my underwear on (Why wouldn’t I? It’s the third day of my period for crying out loud! And I’m only here to get my belly rubbed.), I could tell she tried to hold back a giggle as she sweetly said, “Oops, those are going to have to come off.”
She leaves the room again so I can fully undress this time. I look at Sara. Sara looks at me. I hop down from the table-bed and take my underwear off. Regular gynecological exams are one thing, not the worst experience in the world, but certainly not a day at the spa. But a transvaginal ultrasound while you have your period? My first and only thought was: gross. Now, as I write this, I’m glad I didn’t know what I was getting into and that I only had seconds to get used to the idea and process what was going on, because I think otherwise, I would have had much more anxiety. That being said, the fact that neither Sara nor I were told the day before at our first visit exactly what this procedure was going to entail — not by the RPA, our fertility case manager, or in the pages of information that were sent home with us — is the first bad mark on our Fertility Center 1 Vs. Fertility Center 2 scorecard.
So after the 5-inch wand finds its way into my vagina, we’re told I have intramural fibroids on my uterine muscle. The ultrasound tech says something about “ideally, we wouldn’t see those…” and I immediately panic and squeeze my wife’s hand tighter. And wish — again! — that I was recording what was being said. How can anyone think straight and register all these terms when all that’s really heard is that something’s not right? The tech immediately proceeds to tell me, “You also have a 12 (some measurement) cyst on your right ovary and another smaller one on your left ovary.” WTF does that mean? Cysts? Fibroids? Am I dying?
I look at Sara with worry. She reassures me with her eyes that it’s OK and again squeezes the hand she hasn’t let go of. The tech is still talking, and Sara now asks the questions I’m suddenly incapable of. I hear the tech say that they’ll take a further look with the doctor next week and if they (did she mean the fibroids? the cysts? both?) need to be removed, he’s the best in the region to do it. Or they’ll put me on the pill to reduce their size. The pill?? I came here to get pregnant! Why the heck is she talking to us about going on birth control?
And she slides the wand out of me.
I lie there as she turns her back to clean the wand. I watch her toss the condom-looking casing that was over the wand — now covered in blood — into the garbage. I think I should sit up. But I’m waiting to be told we’re done or given permission to take my feet out of the stirrups, even though now I realize how obvious it was that this was over. The tech turns back to me, spread-eagle and bloody. And I ask if we’re finished. I pull myself up, suddenly heavy, and thank her.
Sara reminds me in the car ride home that my follicle count was good. “Eight and seven!” she exclaims with a great big grin on her face. “We’re fertile!!” And that’s my wife. Always bringing me back to the good. Always there to comfort. So “8 and 7” is what I’ll focus on. And no matter how tempted I get, I will not Google intramural fibroids or ovarian cysts. I will breathe through this next week and sing the 8-and-7 song.
Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make A Right