The Great Big Fertility Ride begins the day I am talking with my GP about how my partner and I can’t seem to fall pregnant. He seems casual about this, we haven’t been trying consistently, my partner goes away a fair bit blah blah. But then I mention that we have been together for ten years and that our chief form of contraception in all that time has been the withdrawal method. And that I’m 35. His face clouds, over he sucks in oxygen, great big red lights start flashing around the room, an alarm goes off and a large neon clock descends from the ceiling and begins to monster me with its incessant tick. Ah, says Dr GP. In that case I think you better see someone and have some….Tests.
Before I even make the appointment, I ring a nursing friend and ask about the actual pronunciation of my test. I do this because I know from experience that if you display any weakness or uncertainty you get messed around right from the get go.
Hysterosalpingogram I say over and over about fifty times before I ring a hospital which shall remain nameless. Ok so it probably makes doodlysquat difference but it does makes me feel all ‘I know what I’m doing, don’t blow me off and book me in 6 months bitch’ and she doesn’t, she books me in three which is, just by the way, a week after my 36th birthday.
So three months later I’m in the ward and I’m legs up and laughing. The hysterosalpingogram(now one of my favourite words the way it trips lightly off the tongue and up your fallopian tubes) involves pumping dye up your lala and seeing if there are any blocks. One of my friends recently described it to me as the most painful thing she had ever experienced. When I pointed out that I was going for the exact same test she tried to explain that her periods were so erratic she never had normal period pains and thus if I experienced normal period pain I would not feel anywhere near the level of pain that she did. Yeah, right. Whatever.
Having swapped my responsible would-be-parent clothes for backless gown and no knickers I begin my new experience by having my genitals swabbed. This is done by a dour nurse with a lump of wet gauze clutched in plastic tweezers. As she dabs away around my clitoris it occurs to me that it’s almost pleasurable. Yes, almost. Like those weird pervy guys who play babies and mummies and get their bottoms powdered and big nappies wrapped round them. Oddly as soon as this thought enters my brain it’s as if a warning light has gone off in hers because I swear in one lightning fast move she drops the gauze and picks up the brillo pad and gives all my bits a good hard scrub. And that’s not pleasurable at all.
Next, freshly lathered I am introduced to my doctor. His name is a perfectly reasonable Dr (*coughs* to ensure anonymity) Ahem but the nurses all press me to refer to him by his casual nickname Dicky. I’m sorry. That’s not going to do. Bad enough Dr Ahem is going to introduce all manner of appliances to my cervix, I’m not also going to call him Dicky like he’s got some right to be rooting around in there. I make a point of only referring to him by his professional name.
Dr Ahem then calmly explains to me the procedure. It will take only a few minutes (good) some women (like my tactful friend) experience excruciating pain(bad) others experience only “period like cramping” (sort of good). Afterwards I may experience cramping for a week(bad) and bleeding for a week(bad) and if the pain becomes unbearable or if the blood is excessive I should go straight to my GP (very very bad). As Dr Ahem gets the speculum ready he delivers the kicker…if at any time the pain is so bad I need to stop the procedure I should just call out. They’ll stop immediately and then I can simply reschedule for another time WITH SEDATION. Wtf? Dear God, I think to myself. What kind of scary ass procedure is this that I may have to beg Dr Ahem to let me come back and be knocked out. I’m a total wuss let me say. It’s taken a lot of positive thinking and biological clock ticking to get me here. I reflect on the length of time required to even get this appointment today and I decide that short of having my uterus torn out I will grit my teeth and take the pain because I don’t want to come back here again.
Anyway, in goes the speculum and being plastic it feels like it’s ripping the inside of your vagina out. Why this is so I don’t know but it’s always the way. I’ve experienced the plastic speculum many a time so I’m familiar with that Velcro Vagina feeling. Next, a thin tube is fed through my cervix. At this point I start to take long controlled deep breaths. These sound like I am already in labour and I make loud woooo hooooo noises. This is meant to dull any pain and also drown out any nasty noises. Next the dye begins to wend its way in. I know this because Dr Ahem is giving me frequent updates. He tells me he is “introducing the dye with a tiny catheter” but this is just medical mumbo jumbo for “grab your ankles girly I’m pumping in the juice.”
I wooo hooo and begin to feel like my uterus is blowing up like a balloon. It’s not pain, but I can sense pain is there, waiting to impinge. I think at this point Dr Ahem is worrying a little about my breathing. He senses that I am probably going to hyperventilate and pass out so he asks if I am ok. Yes, I think to myself, I’m just concentrating on my breathing, but because I don’t want to interrupt the flow it simply comes out as a barked “yup.”
Dr Ahem then cranks up the xray machine and it starts taking photos of my repro bits full of dye. Even in my state of near hyperventilated unconsciousness I note that the head of the xray machine is protected from any of my foul female discharges by what appears to be a shower cap. Tee hee.
Dr Ahem calls out again… “are you in pain.” No I think, not really but I certainly am feeling those period cramps. Again I don’t want to interrupt the breathing and I also don’t want any more fart-arsing around so I grunt “yup.”
Perhaps it’s my alarming breathing, perhaps it’s the natural speed and efficiency of Dr Ahem but soon it all stops and I am allowed to relax my legs which interestingly have begun to wobble like silicon implants on a plate. I feel like crying and vomiting all at once. I get up and go and put on my underwear complete with large wad of cotton padding to soak up leaking dye (no sanitary napkins available here, it being a public hospital and all) to have a few more happy snaps taken for the family album and then it’s done. I’m free to go and I’ll get my results back in about ooh four months. Well the actual results are available that afternoon but of course I can’t get into see the specialist until then.
Apparantly the best case scenario will be that my plumbing is blocked and a further procedure will be required to drill out my tubes. That’s right, drill. Any child I might possibly bear had better be a fucking angel. I’m talking breathtaking physical beauty and slavish obedience.
A few weeks later I get called up by an old friend (male) who is also having fertility issues. He starts to tell me about the horrors of having his sperm tested. I can’t get a word in edgewise let alone ‘hysterosalpingagram’. Instead I have to listen to him whining about the humiliation of being put in a room (a private room let me add) and told to wank in a jar and then have to…get this…hand the jar to a nurse who knows full well that you’ve just had a wank. Into said jar. I mean call the fucking UN because some kind of human rights violation has obviously taken place here. Boo fucking hoo, you had to jerk off in a jar, in a room full of pornography and comfy seats with no other bastard round. I felt like punching him very hard in the face. Even when I tried to point out that his wife would have to go through a lot worse he could only partly agree because the “humiliation” of his experience was so intense.
In the end I give up trying.
And he was drunk and ringing me from a wedding reception at around midnight. So…loser also.
When the nightmares were the best bits
6 days ago