A Claire-esque meltdown, with stirrups

DH and I have been watching Six Feet Under—first time for him, second time for me—and loving it, of course. I love the way Claire  Fisher will sometimes burst into very messy, very loud sobs, replete with ungraceful snorts and hiccups, at the most inopportune times—like when she’s being interviewed for admission to art school or during her mother’s wedding ceremony.

I had a Claire-esque meltdown at my Obgyn yesterday. I won’t bore you with every tedious detail—you know how it goes when something goes wrong at the doctor’s—but suffice to say, my Obgyn, who had talked to my doctor at RBA about this scratch biopsy thing, was called away on emergency, twice, today, totally screwing with my appointment (twice) and leaving me exhausted and confused and with a doctor who had never spoken to my Atlanta doctor about the procedure. All I wanted was for the doctor who was going to stick something up my uterus to have discussed what was to be done with Dr. Shapiro. But no, the Universe says: You are asking too much. So the new Obgyn did figure out what was to be done by talking to my regular Obgyn and she reassured me that it was all clear to her. But by the time my feet were in the stirrups and we were having this conversation, I was spent from communication breakdowns and adjusting to emergencies and arrangements with work for today’s (ever-changing) appointment.

I started crying, sucked it up. “Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry,” I said. I looked at the improbably long thing she was about to snake up inside me. “Oh god,” I said. “Is this going to hurt?”

“Well,” she said. “Yes. It will hurt.”

“No one told me it would hurt. Should I have taken pain medication?”

“Well–it will feel like a really bad menstrual cramp.”

“Oh?” I tried to keep the tears in, but my voice was shaking. “I haven’t been properly prepared. I didn’t know…”

She said reassuring words, but when she slipped the speculum in, I burst into tears and my whole body shook. I was making Claire Fisher snorts and hiccups. I threw my hands over my face.

The lovely doctor, she tried to calm me. She told me to breathe. She tried to chat with me about my being a social worker. But I kept erupting. “You have to become like a bowl of jello for this,” she said soothingly. “Everything goes loose. Let go. Keep breathing…”

The stress of the day and the knowledge that this was going to hurt were compounded by the fact that my feet were in stirrups. When my feet are in stirrups, a thousand hard memories surface. I feel vulnerable. I feel like an insect on its back with my soft white underbelly exposed. I have flashes of D & Cs and blighted ovums, images  of empty black circles in my uterus up on a screen. I am not good in stirrups. Some days I can take it, but yesterday was not one of them.

When she snaked that crazy-long thing up inside me (ah, god, it goes through that tiny hole right up into your womb), I broke out in sweat from the pain. “That’s not right,” I said. “That hurts too much!”

“That was the first swipe,” she said. “We have two more. You’re doing great.”

“Two more?”

I was so angry. Why hadn’t someone told me how painful this was going to be? Why hadn’t someone told me to take pain medication beforehand? I’ve since heard that some women are instructed to not even drive themselves home afterward. I not only drove afterward, I went back to work.

The second swipe was so painful it was almost absurd. “Okay!” I said. “We’re done now. We’re done. We’re not doing the third swipe.”

The doctor said, “Okay, honey. That’s okay. You did fine.”

This was an optional procedure, something I did only because my nurse had said that it couldn’t hurt, and “you never know.” But I’ve been pregnant five times. I don’t have implantation problems. I will not be doing this procedure again, if I should have to cycle again.

The sobs really came on full-force after all of the equipment was out of me and I was on the table in vulnerable-bug position.

“I don’t know what you’ve been through,” the doctor said softly, tilting her head to one side. “But I’m so sorry for whatever it is.”

“Five pregnancy losses,” I managed to say. “Just being on a table is triggering for me. I’m sorry.”

She squeezed my hand, pulled me into a sitting position. “No beating yourself up allowed. No embarrassment.” Then she did the kindest thing a doctor has ever done for me. She put her arms around me and squeezed me with everything in her and said, “That’s one of the most painful fucking things. I’m so sorry, sweetie. It’s over now.” Intentionally or not, she was referring to both the pregnancy losses and the scratch biopsy.

I could have stayed in her arms forever! Guardian angel #…well I’ve lost track at this point, there have been so many.


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  1. Awww. This totally made me cry. I am so sorry you had to go through this. Life is so, so unfair. As if what you have already been through isn’t bad enough, then there is this experience on top of it all. Most people have no idea how painful infertility is- emotionally AND physically.

    Now that it’s done, just remember the studies that really do indicate this makes a huge difference in helping with implantation. You made it through. And in about six weeks, I hope to be sending you big congratulations.

    • Thank you so much! Now I’m having silly thoughts that the procedure injured me too much because I was upset and scared and clenching everything—oh how I wish I could just relax and stop worrying about every little thing. I think maybe the Lupron is making me a little more sensitive than usual, too. thank you for your kind words.

  2. Tess

     /  August 2, 2013

    I’m so so sorry. I did one of these but took pain medicine and a sedative before. You’ve been too much to do optional procedures. At some point we all get PTSD/ IVF. Hold on & baby yourself.

    • Wow—a sedative! That would have definitely been helpful! I couldn’t stop clenching and seizing up. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t have suggested this. You are right—no more optional procedures, lesson learned. Thank you for writing!

      • Tess

         /  August 6, 2013

        I’m so sorry it was painful. :( My clinic had given me pain medication, but I suggested the sedative. My Dad worked R&D in pharmacology. He was proactive in asking for medicine and it rubbed off. I can’t understand why docs don’t just routinely recommend a dose of a sedative for this biopsy. Even a dose of over-the-counter dramamine would help a lot, because the non-sleepy version is a mild sedative. I think they forget how traumatic these sorts of treatments can get for us with the cramping & pain.
        I hope all is going well!!! -Tess

  3. Oh god, so sorry you’ve had such a hard time, am pleased that for once there was a lovely doctor when you needed one xx

  4. I love that she is a guardian angel. What a special doctor, to be so nurturing and to drop a completely appropriate f-bomb in consoling you. Shame on the clinic as a whole for not preparing you properly for this procedure–my clinic does not do it but I know people at other clinics who have had it done and have never labeled it “uncomfortable.” It’s more “excruciating, painful, traumatic.” But, hopefully it’s worth it, even if implantation has not been your issue. It seems maybe they wouldn’t make it a one-size-fits-all thing, but hopefully it’s all with the end result in mind. I am always so grateful when a medical person allows themselves to be vulnerable and truly offer you sympathy and nurturing that is too often held in. She sounded like a fabulous doctor. I am so sorry that the stirrups are traumatic, I can totally understand that gutpunch reaction. Hopefully in a few weeks you will have good experiences to start fading those awful memories behind the beautiful beginning to come. You’re getting closer! :)

    • I honestly don’t know why this seems to happen so often—this lack of preparation, which also happened when I took Cytotec to an induce an mc (zero preparation for the barbaric pain that was going to occur). I try not to do a ton of internet research looking for anecdotes before these procedures because there is so much false information out there—I try to get info first-hand from my health care providers.
      I’m finding that in general with RBA you have to ask many questions—but sometimes you don’t know what questions to ask!—or the information will not be provided to you.

      Anyway, I went to a spa and spent more money that God today, and I definitely feel a lot better. (:
      Thank you for your comment!

      • Glad you’re feeling better! You deserve pampering after such a miserable experience.

  5. I believe a meltdown was completely appropriate in that situation. How awful of them not to have prepared you for the pain of it. Shame on that nurse. But how wonderful of the doctor to empathize.
    I hope that very soon stirrups start to remind you of the day you bring a healthy baby into the world.

  6. In case you haven’t seen it, a fellow blogger’s experience of the endo biopsy here: http://nogoodeggs.wordpress.com/
    I actually get quite upset at all this. You go in for a root canal and they are SO CAREFUL not to make you feel any pain. Discomfort, sure. But I have never experienced pain, and I’ve had like three. So why is it ok to inflict such pain on infertility patients and not even offer an anesthetic or sedative? I think it’s pretty messed up.

    • Yeah, no kidding—what’s that about? I mean, why NOT mention something about the possible pain? Mystifying. Now it’s looking like my period will come a week later than expected so I didn’t even have the biopsy done at the right time in the cycle. Gararararah.

  7. Kali

     /  November 3, 2013

    I had two very painful biopsies, passed out on the one before the last donor cycle. This time, just a few days ago, it didn’t even really hurt much but I broke down for the same reason as you, the stirrups are no longer a route to a baby for me, but just a reminder of bad news. I relive the trauma of “I can’t find the heartbeat” every single time. I’m sorry we have to go through this, I’m sorry anyone has to go through this.

    • Yes, it really is one of the most absurd-cruel things this life has served up for us, isn’t it. I’m so sorry you broke down, too, and have to relive trauma. All of those scenes from movies, the woman on the table, the couple holding hands and crying tears of joy—and we get a horror show. No words, after a while. Just stunned that this is the way it is.

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  • About Me

    Me: 41
    DH: 38

    Fertility issue:
    Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
    6 pregnancy losses
    All early
    5 with my own eggs
    1 with donor egg

    Abnormal embryos

    Factor V Leiden heterozygous
    MTHFR heterozygous

    AFC: 2 - 12
    AMH: 0.2
    FSH: 6.8
    E2: 40
    LH: 2.8


    April 2011 -
    Natural conception, first try. Blighted ovum (gestational sac only). D&C to remove products of conception at 9 weeks.

    Oct 2011 -
    Natural conception, first try. Blighted ovum (gestational sac & yolk sac). Took Cytotec to induce miscarriage at 9 weeks. PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, night terrors followed.

    Winter 2012 -
    Two rounds of Femara/Clomid + IUIs at Columbia and RS of NY. The idea: to produce more eggs and increase chances of catching a good one. BFNs.

    April 2012 -
    Natural conception, first try. Ultrasound showed activity in the uterus, but no complete sac. Diagnosed with "missed abortion." Natural miscarriage at 5 weeks.

    June 2012 -
    Conception after 7 mg Femara for 5 days + IUI. Diagnosed with chemical pregnancy. Natural miscarriage at 4.5 weeks.

    August 2012 -
    Natural conception, without trying. Chemical pregnancy and natural miscarriage at 5 weeks.

    October 2012 -
    ODWU at Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM).

    January 2013 -
    IVF with Dr. Schoolcraft.
    Straight Antagonist protocol

    What he predicted:
    I will produce 11 eggs
    Good chance 1 will be normal
    30% chance 2 will be normal
    Transfer 1, then a 45% chance of success
    Transfer 2, then a 65% chance of success

    What happened:
    7 follicles stimulated
    6 mature eggs retrieved
    2 died during ICSI
    4 fertilized
    3 out of 4 embryos CCS-tested
    All abnormal

    Aug/Sept 2013-
    Frozen Donor Egg IVF at Reproductive Biology Associates (RBA)
    What Dr. Shapiro predicted:
    6 or 7 will fertilize
    1 we will transfer
    1 - 3 we will freeze

    Protocol: Lupron, Vivelle patches, Crinone

    8 frozen eggs from donor thawed
    6 fertilized
    1 Day-5 Grade A XBbb blastocyst transferred
    1 Day-5 Grade A EBbb blastocyst frozen
    1 Day-6 Grade A XBbb blastocyst frozen

    September 13, 2013: Pregnant

    Prenatal vitamins & baby aspirin,
    Vivelle patches & Crinone

    Beta #1: 171
    Beta #2: 706
    Beta #3: 7,437

    6 w 3 d: measured 6 w 1 d
    FHR: 80 bpm
    Fetus did not grow
    7 w: FHR 121 bpm
    8 w: heart stopped
    9 w: D and C

    Test results: We lost a normal karyotype male for unexplained reasons

    Quit stressful job
    Anti-inflammation diet
    Gluten-free diet
    Vit D, DHA/EPA
    Therapy/energy work
    Creative Visualization
    Art Therapy

    March 14, 2014:
    Double FET at RBA
    1 Day-5 Grade A EBbb blastocyst
    1 Day-6 Grade A XBbb blastocyst

    March 24, 2014:

    Prenatals, baby aspirin, Folgard, Vivelle, Crinone, Lovenox

    Beta #1: 295
    Beta #2: 942
    Beta #3: 12,153

    1 fetus implanted

    Measured on track

    Fetal heart rate:
    7 wk: 127 bpm, 8wk:159 bpm, 9wk: 172 bpm

    Due date: Dec, 4 2014!

    NatureMade (USP Seal) Prenatals and 4000 Vit D3
    Baby aspirin
    40 mg Lovenox
    DHA and EPA
    Folgard 2.2

    Born: One perfect baby boy 12.4.14

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