Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son


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Last Night

I dreamed last night I was in my garden, in back of a house I don’t own. I was quite covered in dirt when I noticed a long curve of something coming up from my left hip. I pulled it up and, as I was surprised to discover, out of my groin, which hurt but also felt satisfying. “Ah,” I thought, “an old vein. Must have gone bad. Forgot I’m supposed to be pulling those out.” But when I shook the dirt off and looked again, it was a tough runner of grass, which had evidently grown into me and rooted.

All of which is to say that I woke up with cramps.

I don’t mean to complain about that. For one thing, I wasn’t thinking I might be pregnant this time, since I ovulated on the weekend of our wedding, which was beautiful timing for poetry but lousy for a trip to the Baby Factory, with all the scheduling and defrosting and spiking of my cervix that entails. For another, the cramps aren’t that bad. In fact, the five periods since my horrible HSG have been the five least painful I can remember. I used to spend three days or so every month nearly incapacitated, popping Aleve until my stomach hurt, often swearing, sometimes writhing, rarely passing out. Now the pain almost goes away with Advil. My theory is that much of my pain was because my cervices — despite having, in principle, twice the potential to admit blood — were so circuitous and given to clenching that the blood couldn’t get out, leaving my uterus Very.Angry. Now one entrance has been, to quote the note on my chart that I read over a nurse’s shoulder, “perforated,” and it’s not so dramatic. (Unfortunately, even that side is still tough for the catheter to negotiate, which is why the new note in my chart says I’m to have Valium the next time we try to knock me up*.)

At the HSG, Dr. Baby Factory told me that my tubes were open, though the cysts on my ovaries still left him calling my endometriosis “significant.” I could have surgery for it, if it was bothering me, or just try to get knocked up and hope for the best, if it wasn’t so bad. I am, as previously noted, generally opposed to knives wielded at my person, so I politely declined. And then my cramps all but stopped!

Except. Now that I’m keeping better track of my cycles, I’m wondering if this insane GI awfulness I’ve been having occasionally for the past few years isn’t secretly some kind of endo. It doesn’t happen every month or usually during my period, but it has happened the past two months, both times a few days before my period started. Remember when I thought I might have super-early morning sickness but them decided it was the stomach flu? That. It happened again this month, on Thanksgiving (so I couldn’t eat anything)**. Basically, what seems to happen is that my colon stops advancing (uh, TMI, sorry, but you are reading this because of my hoo-has, so only kind of sorry), I fill up with gas, and I lie on the floor writhing and screaming for 12-24 hours until things move along again. I went to the GI doc some time ago, pooped in lots of cups, and got told that probably I had injured myself getting food poisoning, that things were out of whack, that I should take pro-biotics and hope it got better, which it sort of seemed to, but only sort of. Now I’m wondering if the real issue could be that I have endometrial nodules on or near my bowel that get inflamed and mess everything up. I have a call in to Dr. Baby Factory to see what he thinks of this theory, but I know that the answer is likely to be that there’s no way to tell without surgery.

Did I mention how I don’t like the cutting? Oh, and how I’d like to get one with this TTC business already and stop having to hurry up and wait?

Did I also mention that the weather has turned cold? How about that this is my last night of 30, and that when my mother was my age, she was about 3 days from going into labor with me, after two endo surgeries and several more years of TTC?


*Which — and believe me, baby-watchers, I am as impatient about this as you — won’t be until mid-January, at the earliest. Not only am I most likely to ovulate on the day we set off on our annual Middle-Western Odyssey, making timing a clinic visit stressful, but I would also, on balance, like to be drinking at New Years and also not weeping over getting my period while snowed-in at Sugar’s parents’.

**but still had a nice time, because my super-awesome cousin was visiting. She was the most compassionate 18-year-old EVER about how sick I was, sadly because she was been so very much sicker with endo herself for the past couple years.


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Totally Tubular

What did that mean, exactly, anyway? I remember that the connotation was positive, so I can only assume it had nothing to do with yesterday’s “totally tubular” HSG adventure.

An HSG, for the blessedly uninitiated, is an X-ray of your more internal lady-parts, in particular your uterus and (if you’re lucky) your fallopian tubes. Only if you’re really lucky, you won’t have to do this at all because let me tell you, it pretty much sucks.

Listen, before I go into my story: If you’re reading this because you have to have one and you’re scared about it, do be aware that your experience will NOT be like mine. The part of my procedure that hurt was the part concerned with getting through my cervix, and that was because of the double-vag action. If you have the ordinary number of vaginas and cervices, then the speculum part might be ouchy and the dye might give you cramps, but that’s it. And if your set-up is irregular, take heart: I survived. The anxiety was way worse than the pain. DO take a bunch of Advil beforehand, DO BYO maxi pad, and DO get someone to come with you, if you can.

Now back to our whiny story, already in progress:

It goes like this, in principle: You take a whopping amount of Advil and maybe some antibiotics and then report to Radiology, where you strip down and hop up on a table, all pap-smear style, except there are no stirrups. I have it on authority from several other victims patients that there are never stirrups. You didn’t think the stirrups mattered, but you find yourself annoyed at holding your legs in place without them. Then the doctor gives you something to be annoyed about, and by “be annoyed” I mean “cry”.

The next step is a yawning speculum, followed by a catheter through your cervix. Dye through the catheter into your ute and hopefully your tubes — the idea is to see if the tubes are open — quick X-ray shot of all that business, everybody out of the pool vag, and you’re on your way, sorer but wiser, and leaking dye into the pad you brought with you or else one of those throw-pillow-sized hospital ones.


Aren’t bones pretty? This is not me, by the way, but the internet says it is normal.

The speculum is not a picnic — it has to be open more than for a pap — and some people get some cramping from the dye. I didn’t. Instead, I got endless horrible pinchingburning from the many attempts to get through cervix number one, followed by more stretchingaching from cranking open vag number two, followed by more digging around on that cervix. Holy crap, that sucked, not least because it was so damn demoralizing listening to the X-ray go off again and again and again and again, only to see no uterus onscreen, only the end of the speculum and a sad little pool of dye stuck outside.


Me, after watching nothing happen for the third time:
I promise you I have a uterus.

Dr. BF: I know you do. I’ve seen it on ultrasound.

Me: I’ve seen it on the MRI.

Dr. BF: Yes, I know you have a uterus.

More burrowing around in my nether regions. More nothing happening on the X-ray.

Me: I further swear that I do get my period, every month, and that it comes out of my cervix.


Dr. BF:
I like your logic.

My Cervices, after tries 1-5 (or 6? I lost count):
NOBODY HOME.
THERE IS. NOBODY. AT HOME.

Eventually, door number two yielded. Not without some burning pain, though, and I wish I hadn’t glanced at the instrument tray later, because there was rather more of me on it than a girl would hope. And the news is good: though Dr. Baby Factory describes my endometriosis as “significant” and brings up IVF every time we talk, he says the tubes are open enough to give it a go on our own first.

Thank you, Nice Nurse, for patting my shoulder while Dr. Baby Factory cranked the speculum in my bigger vag up to 11 or so. I know you were right to stop me massaging my poor tum when he went for door number two, so I hope I didn’t give you a very dirty look. Sorry I dissed your pad when it was all over, but seriously, by the time those things take two hands to carry, they are too big. Please tell the hospital to enter this century (or even the final decade of the last one).


When Hospital Pads Attack

Thank you Dr. Baby Factory for telling me when things would hurt, for apologizing repeatedly, for not sounding panicked or annoyed when nothing would get through cervix number one. It’s a real pity the catheter would never go through. Thank both of you for not calling the extra clamps, pinchers, pipe-wrenches, and jaws-of-life required to get a catheter syringe into cervix number two by their names, instead saying things like, “Could you get me…one of the green things? Do we have one of those?” I bet this whole thing took much longer than you had scheduled, so thank you for sticking around to talk with me. If I’d known going into this that my procedure would be “what makes it interesting to keep doing these, even after 20 years,” I would have run for the hills, but it was still nice of you to say something like that instead of acting like I was bad for having a difficult anatomy.

So sperm! We’re gonna buy some! …in August or September, finances permitting, because, frankly, I want to enjoy my week at the beach in July, not run around peeing on things and not getting to drink.

Right now, it’s hard to think about putting anything in my hoo-has, though, because everything is still pretty ouchy. I’m on Cipro for the weekend, on account of all the digging around, and my poor old left ovary, the one that aches for days after dildo-cam-ings, is talking about moving out and getting its own place.


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At The Baby Factory

Last week, Sugar Mama and I made our way over to the Kips Bay Baby Mill…and I’m a little in love. Our doctor is The Right Sort. He listens well, seems genuinely interested to know us, and Sugar Mama was particularly impressed by how naturally he treated her as my partner, not just as a more-or-less invisible friend. (In fact, the more I think about Dr. Baby Factory, the less I like the gyn who couldn’t find my second hoo-ha.)

I was a little worried about the transvaginal ultrasound they do as a regular part of new patient intake, though it was inevitable that I would have one this month, since the gyn wanted one as follow-up on the ovarian cysts found on my MRI and I was glad enough not to have his hand on the dildocam, considering how uncomfortable I found his pelvic exam. Dr. Baby Factory was very gentle — even the double-pap (the first pap of the rest of my life…) wasn’t bad. Sugar Mama stayed with me the whole time, as did some new PhD who I took to be a med-student sort but turned out to have studied Zebra Fish embryology? (Why was he there? Oh well. It’s getting so I don’t care that much who sees my hoo-has.)

The bad news is that the cysts haven’t moved — or maybe that’s good news, since I was a little convinced I had the Big C — so I had another u/s this week. This one was with Dr. Demure, who managed the whole thing without even seeing my uncovered legs. He passed me the wand under the paper sheet and had me insert it, then daintily reached his hand underneath to maneuver it, eyes always on the u/s screen. It was a little reminiscent of the scene in Kandahar when the doctor can only advise female patients through a sheet, since he’s not allowed to see their bodies.

The other bad news doesn’t really count as a surprise: I, like every other woman in my family, have endometriosis. (Screw spell-check for not knowing that word, by the way.) I was hoping that if I just kept my complaints about my excruciating periods sub-medical, I avoid my fate, so chalk up another loss for magical thinking. Sigh. This will make conception harder, but I keep telling myself it’s not impossible. My mother has endo badly enough that she had a laparotomy years before I was born, after which the doctor said her ovaries so badly messed up from intrusions that “we scraped together all the ovarian tissue we could find and pushed it into a roughly ovarian shape”. And yet, here I sit.

So now it’s an HSG to discover how messy my tubes are. I am terrified at the thought of this — not only does the set-up sound bad (catheter through the cervix?? CLAMP if the cervix is shy????), but getting pumped full of X-rayable dye apparently hurts quite a bit if the tubes aren’t open. Plus, Sugar Mama will be out of town for the only day the procedure can be done this month, and I’m scheduled to teach that night. Friend With Baby will probably come with me. Apologies in advance for any infertiles in the Bad Place who have to see the cute baby, but I’ve decided I’m looking out for number one this time, and Friend With Baby is the best choice for company.

Enh, sorry for the lack of funny pictures. I’m not feeling it.