PAP, mammogram, hysteroscopy, therapy

I feel like it has been ages since I’ve written but it looks like it has been only 5 days. How can that be? The days are moving slowly as city buses, and I’m inside the bus, getting off at various doctors’ offices, pretty damn depressed.

Right now, though, am sitting snug on the couch while it snows outside and enjoying a little reprieve from bad brain chemistry, listening to Stephan Grappelli while DH makes us some salads.

Had to do some housekeeping of the body before going forward with RBA and am realizing that I basically have table/stirrup PTSD that is not ameliorating as time passes. Or maybe it is PTSD associated with medical procedures in general. I broke out in a sweat and cried during my routine PAP (my cervix has always been tricky and getting that shoehorn in has always been painful, but not this painful). The nurse practitioner doing my PAP told me of a study which found that women undergoing IF treatments experience more stress, anxiety, and depression than women receiving treatment for ovarian cancer—and then she took out the shoe-horn and gave me a hug. When I got the mammogram (that RBA requires) yesterday, I actually passed out—broke out in cold sweat, saw stars, and collapsed. That boob-smooshing—I had one last year, and yes, it was painful, but this was one was off-the-charts. Soooo of course there’s something else going on here, a little thing called trauma, yay, exacerbating any and all sensations. At the end of that experience, the radiologist, who was a kind and mindful boob-smoosher, a sister on the trail, gave me a candy bar and a hug. Good people.

And then today, I lay covered in multiple sheets on yet another table, trying not to look at the equipment or the bizarre black u-shaped things my legs were going to get slung into. The anesthesiologist was so kind but I couldn’t chat because was busy swallowing the sobs that wanted to come out. And they did. Shaky sobs. Vulnerable well-spring. Took the tissue from him and pressed it to my eyes, sucking in deep breaths and trying to calm the hell down. “Honey, are you scared?” the nurse asked me, and I managed to say, “No. Been through a lot lately,” and then proceeded to do deep breathing, closing my eyes and trying to imagine myself on Culebra. Dr. McKenna came in and told me they were about to give me some “top shelf whiskey” (which sounded absolutely wonderful in that moment, I imagined downing a shot and smiled) and the next thing I knew, I was awake, crying, and saying: “I had a lot of dreams!”

“You what?” voices asked—whose, I don’t know.

“Had a lot of dreams!”

Oh, anesthesia. DH was there by my side, and the cramps were bad. I couldn’t remember much of the dreams except…something about good people trying to protect me with white light…which sounds pretty awesome to me, now, but coming off the tropophyl, for some reason, made me cry.

Dr. McKenna came back in an hour and said that they went in there with a camera and found not one thing wrong with my good uterus. There were still some little bits of tissue inside from the pregnancy, which he suctioned out, but other than that, I’m structurally normal, no fibroids, no cysts, no nothing that would cause a miscarriage.


I must get back to vegetating on the couch, now. Next up on the bus tour: Therapy. Seeing a therapist this Thursday who has a psychodynamic/CBT approach—and who takes our insurance. Our plan, amazingly, has a $0 copay for psychotherapy (!!). She sounds fine, if a little bit wholesome for my taste (choosing a therapist really is like dating, isn’t it). But as I told a friend recently, I’m not even sure it matters if she’s not the perfect match for me; sometimes I think all I need right now is a place to go and ramble on, a place where I can make the silent thoughts tangible in words on the air.

Even though I’ve been super-depressed, I’m glad that I’ve had ample time to feel whatever I want to feel in a given moment. That I haven’t had to be Sally Social Worker right during a point at which, for example, I would have rather curled into a ball on the bathroom floor. So much has been trapped inside.

In between the bleak spells when the bottom has truly dropped out, I’ve had a few experiences that give me hope. I’ll write about them soon.

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  1. I am so sorry you are having to go through all of this. This seems like a lot to deal with all at once. I’m not sure if it’s better to space that out or just get it all over with in one quick swoop. I’m saying lots of prayers for you and sending hugs your way.

    “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29

    • Thank you! Unfortunately they had to squeeze the PAP in before the hysteroscopy (and the hysteroscopy had to be in a particular window) so I had to do them back to back. But I’m very glad to have gotten all that over with so I can move forward now without appts lingering on the horizon. Thank you for the prayers!

  2. I am glad that you have the time and space to feel your feelings now. A 0$ copay for therapy is great and I agree that the match does not have to be perfect – all I really need is someone is paid to sit there and listen to me for an hour! I hope it is helpful!

    • Thank you! Actually I recall your writing about going on Zoloft for this last (successful) try and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind disclosing how many mg you were on? I am considering it. I was on it a couple of years ago, 5 – 10 mg for a few months, and it was helpful.

      • Kali

         /  December 11, 2013

        Most of the girls in my support group have gone on Zoloft and it has helped them immensely. They took between 12.5 and 25 mg daily. The only two successes we have out of 7 of us so far, were on the Zoloft during their successful cycles.

        It didn’t work for me–I think based on my reactions to various medications, serotonin is not my problem.

        • Oh! That’s helpful Kali. But I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. ): I know that all of the studies have shown that anxiety/stress/depression have nothing to do with pregnancy loss—and I tend to believe it, considering the incredibly stressful situations (war, concentration camps, natural disasters) women stay pregnant through. But I think giving myself a little bit of a step back up to baseline can’t be anything but good for me. And if it helps with pregnancy, well that’s great too.

  3. Hang in there sweetheart! Don’t be ashamed of your tears–you are strong and brave to push forward through fear, doubt, and pain. If I was a coach I’d want YOU on my team! Not being afraid doesn’t mean you have Courage–Courage is being afraid but continuing despite it. I admire your courage and I hope you see that in yourself. XO

    • Ahhhhhhh YOU! You made me so happy! I just checked my mail! Do you know I was seriously on my way to a Starbucks when I got the mail out of the box and your gift? I’m writing you an email…big loopy smiles over here….xoxoxoxoxo

  4. Hugs… :( I hate that you have to go through such heartache and then so many appointments. Thinking about you.

  5. Oh hun, you have been through SO much recently. You have some real cajones for going through with all those procedures when feeling so fragile. There’s no way I could have done that. It takes amazing strength. No wonder you cried on that table, anyone who’s been through what you have would be too. Interestingly I have a huge phobia of paps as well. The shoehorn has never worked for me. I’ve thrown myself off the table multiple times, or begged them to fit me with a smaller one. And I always cry. Every single time. And it certainly hasn’t got any easier since I was diagnosed with a severe abnormality in 2009 that required emergency removal. I nearly passed out during one a few weeks ago. Anyway I’m rambling. I am so encouraged though that after all that you are still able to be mindful of some of the more hopeful experiences. I look forward to hearing about those. Sending love always xxx

    • Aiyee! Honey that sucks! Wait—severe abnormality? I didn’t know–what happened? ): Well in any case thank you of normalizing tears during PAPs! Shoehorns be damned. They seems so enormous and pointy and like they just should not be in there. Yeah, unfortunately I had to have these things done now (windows, timing, etc.), but now that I’m sitting here in the sun, with no scary appointments looming on the horizon, I’m glad it’s over. I’ll write about those hopeful experiences soon. I’m feeling better today. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe that remaining pregnancy tissue was causing hormonal wonderfulness in me and now it’s out of me. XO

  6. Ps so glad you’re able to talk it out with someone now. Therapy has really changed the way I handle things now. Such a valuable resource xx

  7. Kali

     /  December 11, 2013

    Hey hon, welcome back! You really provide an outlet for me here. 5 days isn’t that long, don’t worry. You do what you need.

    I have stirrup PTSD too, my dear. I cried EVERY TIME I was in them this cycle. It didn’t matter which procedure. The scraping, the lining checks, even the good ones, and OH at the transfer! Yesterday at my transfer, they had thawed the WRONG EMBRYO!! I can’t even imagine if I hadn’t caught it, and I think a woman who asks less questions (most, from what I can tell, I’m a pain in the ass patient, but they can NEVER again tell me to stop micro-managing my cycle). . . I’m still sort of shocked at how close I came to putting in an embryo from the first donor who’s only got history of miscarriage (3 so far, different couples, different sperm, different uteruses–all miscarried AT THE SAME TIME, 9 weeks) with the eggs she’s donated. So I got dressed and they thawed the right one and it did survive and was transferred without further incident and lots of ass-kissing by the staff, but no apology until this morning from the doctor, the one doing the transfer said “this is why we clarify when we have you sign”, um NO, there was NOTHING identifying the donor from which my embryo came, I asked because the form said I had 6 embryos and I knew were were working from a batch of only 1 . . . . Apparently this is the kind of care that $25K (thus far) will buy.

    I was already well into PTSD, but this has added another layer. You’re not just an advocate with fertility treatments, in my experience, I have to WATCH MY BACK constantly. I would have been in line for another D&C in February with the first donor’s embryos (they love to stick, all three recipients got pregnant, but also miscarried, as I said, around the same time), and I was within minutes of having one irretrievably transferred.

    You are not alone in this particular form of PTSD that comes from infertility treatments. And while knowing you are not alone helps to not feel like a freak, with all my heart I am sad that there are so many of us in this club.

    It is traumatic for me to even go to the clinic, as it is for several girls in my support group who are at the clinic–we relive past failures there.

    • Oh Kali, I am simply shocked and appalled. What the HELL? That is nothing you should have to be dealing with right now! You need to be able to rely on your health care professionals to know what they are doing. It is not your job to be hyper-vigilant. Obviously, I’m glad that you are hyper-vigilant and you’ve managed to rescue the situation, but I’m just saying that it is outrageous that you are in that position in the first place. Reeling from this news…so angry on your behalf…

      Okay. What’s done is done. And now you are *safely* on the other side. Bullet dodged. Good for you!!

      How are you feeling about the transfer of this one—hopeful, neutral, pessimistic? I’d love to be here for you whatever feeling it is.

      Ach, our sad but wise tribe—I wish you and others had no idea what table-trauma is. But thank you, as ever, for normalizing what can seem freaktown when yer living it.

      Love you, girl. Keep me posted. I’m hoping your little embryo is thriving. xxoo

      • Kali

         /  December 12, 2013

        Hi there. You asked how I’m feeling, optimistic or not–I’m not sure. It hasn’t been an easy cycle–the fresh transfer was cancelled because my lining didn’t build up, for the FIRST time ever, then when we cancelled that cycle and started the FET, it took much longer than usual (an extra week, and adding in Viagra), but I did get to 9.5 mm. On the other hand, if I put aside the difficulties, it becomes a transfer of a DE embryo to an adequate uterus, and my chances of success are somewhere between 50-60% (at my clinic).

        Then if I think again, I realize I have already been on the wrong side of the odds (as were you) last time by miscarrying, and relatively late. . . so I’m as hopeful as the numbers allow me to be, not because of any inner or gut feelings–those are notoriously unreliable when you’re this invested in something.

        I want it to work, so much. But I know now that DE is not as easy as I thought it would be,and having to fight the people who are supposed to be on my side, the medical professionals, at every turn, is not making this easy. I do plan to switch to RBA if this one doesn’t work.

        Thank you so much for your support!

        • I hear you. It’s very tricky. We so want to believe and trust, but our experiences have taught us not to. A lot of people in my life hold out hope for me and I’m glad that they do—I let that be their job, when I can’t manage it. I’ll hope for you if you hope for me. (: Keep me posted on how things go.

  8. I’m so relieved for you that you don’t have to go to that job anymore. It sounds like it’s leaving you with the emotional energy to deal with the massive things you’ve been through, and that is so important. Hooray for kind doctors who give hugs and candy bars.

    • I KNOW—hooray for them. People can be so kind! I’m relieved, too, about the job—especially right now, because I am sitting in a sun-drenched corner of a Starbucks, doing annoying tasks but happily because of sunbeams…and I think: I could be sitting in a windowless room right now in a hyper-stressful office, at a facility where people are quitting left and right. I miss the residents but it’s going to be incredible to go visit them as a “civilian” and friend (plans on that front soon).

  9. Tess

     /  December 11, 2013

    I’m so sorry you are going through this. It sounds like trauma. Feeling that one’s life is out-of-control can trigger trauma, and infertility, medical treatment, and miscarriage are all huge out-of-control experiences about a high-stakes goal (children!).

    “The nurse practitioner doing my PAP told me of a study which found that women undergoing IF treatments experience more stress, anxiety, and depression than women receiving treatment for ovarian cancer—and then she took out the shoe-horn and gave me a hug.”

    This makes SO much sense. I did 3 rounds of IVF almost back to back, and by the end of it I was completely loosing it.

    CBT sounds like a great idea. I need to really click with a therapist. I can get a bit of help from people who are solid therapists, but I’ve noticed tangible differences between adequate, good, and excellent. I found an infertility therapist who is very talented, and it’s helped immensely.

    • Yeah, CBT can be a real life-saver for me, especially when combined with psychodynamic/interpersonal exploration. I’m glad you found someone you jibe with! Our last therapist was incredible (I wrote about her on here; we did “the Work” of Byron Katie). I’ll try to find someone great (but whoever it is has to take GHI).
      I’d like to ask that nurse practitioner to point me to that study so I can post it on here. I’m so sorry you can relate. ):

  10. Really sorry to sense your deep suffering and struggles, but grateful that you are not working and can take time for you right now. Thinking of you, warmly.


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