two days after we got back from England, i had my second visit to my new gynecologist. our previous gyneco (as they call them here) was neither kind nor caring, and though she did quite possibly save my life and/or fertility several years ago, Froggy and did not like having to deal with her on our route to ttc. i think she wasn’t going out of her way to help us for fear of being found out. since it’s illegal to help lesbians conceive, many gynecologists won’t even take us on as patients, so after months and months of looking for one, we took what we could get. once we became patients at the clinic in Belgium, she prescribed us the drugs and ultrasounds we needed, but there was always and undertone of “you should just be happy i’m helping you at all” in our exchanges. she even made Froggy cry once on the phone.
in the hospital right after little sun died, we asked a particularly lovely midwife if she could recommend a lesbian-friendly gyneco, and six weeks later, i had my first appointment with this doctor. we told her that, given our ages, we wanted to start trying again as soon as we could. she told me she figured we could start again in two to three months, but that i should try to lose more of pregnancy weight. my bp was particularly high at that appointment, but i chalked that up to the fact that i was in a situation full of highly emotional triggers. my legs spread and in stirrups, the ultrasound machine that would have once made me eager for a peek at my little guy, having to recount, yet again, the story of little sun’s life and death. we left the appointment thinking that I could just go back in two months with the instructions from my REs in Belgium and get the required drugs and tests prescribed.
everything else was lining up… my cycles had started back exactly a month to the day after little sun died and they were regular. the clinic in Belgium agreed to take me back as a patient with very little paperwork to fill out and no new fees. and then when i was in Brighton, we got the brilliant news that little sun’s donor is still available. all we needed was the gynecologist to write those damn prescriptions, and we would be off again on a much sadder ttc journey. it was all Froggy and i were living for, i think.
the day of the second appointment, Froggy couldn’t come with me. as we talked about what i should ask and say, i felt sure that i would be able to counter any objections she might raise. “i’ll make her understand how important it is to us. i’ll convince her,” i told Froggy. such bravado, such naive hope.
the woman with what looked to be a four month old baby in the waiting room set the tone for the appointment, and the anti-anxiety tablets i’d popped beforehand might as well have been sugar pills. as i sat before the doctor, trying to explain in my still ineloquent and often ungrammatical French, that our Belgian doctors had told us we could start as soon as we wanted, my confidence ebbed. “what did the nephrologist say,” she asked, and instead of explaining that we were too traumatized to return for the appointment to the hospital where we lost our son, i just said that we didn’t go. that elicited a look of disapproval. i stammered that doctor’s offices are very traumatic and stressful for me, and she responded that she couldn’t agree to let me start until i had a 24-hour bp monitoring with a cardiologist. with my period starting in just a few days, i knew that i’d never be cleared in time for that cycle. four months of holding it together crumpled, and in that ugly moment i had a complete and utter emotional breakdown. so much for those anti-anxiety pills and their “calming” effects. i sobbed and gulped and shook, and said, “but i’m 40, we don’t have time for this.”
the doctor was obviously disturbed by seeing me in that state, and she tried to explain that she had to make sure i was healthy enough to be stimulated…that my pre-eclampsia and postpartum blood pressure issues were serious things and she just couldn’t allow me to go unchecked. in my madness i replied, “why, because i could die?? yeah, and?” that’s when she first mentioned that perhaps i should see a psychologist. “madame, je suis en deuil,” (“i’m in mourning”), i croaked, my throat tight and tears drenching my cheeks and dripping from my jaw. she wouldn’t let me pay for the visit, and i left her office still sobbing and clutching a referral to a cardiologist in my hand.
once i reached the street, i ranted and cried to Froggy on the phone. “fuck that fucking doctor. fuck this fucking country. fuck life….fuck this fucking bullshit life.” as you can see, i am particularly articulate and rational in moments of extreme emotional distress. to calm down, i walked all the way home, stopping from time to time to sit and cover my face with a soaked tissue and cry some more. when i got home, Froggy was rushing across the street towards me, her face tight with worry. it had taken me an hour and a half to get back…to me it had been five minutes. later she told me she’d be terrified that i was going to do something “stupid” as she called it. in the end, though, i calmed down, and while talking to Froggy, i realized that i needed to make sure that my heart was okay before i tried to hold another heart within me.
before my first cardiologist appointment, Froggy advised me to avoid mentioning that my partner was a woman. she was worried that the doctor might be against lesbians having children and might therefore refuse to clear me…or even worse, report my gynecologist. i went out of my way to avoid gendered language (no small feat in French, trust me), and when she asked if my “husband” was French, i just nodded. i think my fears were unfounded, though, because unlike my gyneco, this doctor showed compassion when i cried. she told me that i had to go through the mourning process and get it all out. she also promised me that she would do her best to get me cleared before my next cycle began. the 24-hour bp test; however, was not good. i had already begun expecting more bad news…that i’d have to go on medication (something i try to avoid whenever possible but *especially* during ttc and pregnancy) and that it could be months before she’d agree to clear me. worse still, the extra tests she ordered for me (an electrocardiogram and a stress test) made me worry that something was wrong with my heart.
after the initial test, i decided to be proactive in trying to reduce my blood pressure. since the doctor thought it was stress-related, i began doing yoga every night for an hour, and afterwards, i would meditate for another 20 minutes. each time i took my bp before and after, and the results were incredible… my blood pressure dropped 20 points nearly every time. even more astounding, the effects seemed to continue long afterwards. i also felt more relaxed and slept better than i had in months. and every day, i walked for at least 90 minutes. i wandered the small streets of my arrondissement with music playing in my ears…. sounds to drown out the chatter of children, the happy intimacy of families out spending the day together.
for five days i walked and breathed and stretched and meditated. when i went to cardiologist’s office on Tuesday morning for the echocardiogram, i spent 10 minutes in her waiting room doing yogic breathing. the first thing she told me was that she was most likely going to put me on bp medication that very day. a few minutes later, while i lay on the table with the slippery wand digging into my ribs, my gynecologist said, “it looks perfect. you have the heart of a twenty year old.” ( i didn’t tell her that it’s more likely that of a six year old, but then again, i’m quite certain that she and i have different definitions of heart.) when she took my blood pressure at the end, it was, in her words, “completely acceptable.”
today was the final deciding factor. it was what we back home call a “stress test” and what the natives here call an “effort test”. it involved me in my bra with electrodes on my chest and back riding an exercycle for what felt like a million years. it was harder than i expected and my cardiologist laughed and said, “i had a 65 year old in here earlier who could do better than that.” i think it was her version of encouragement. once i’d finished cycling and was in the period of repose, she told me that my blood pressure was at 120/80. a magic number, that, for sure. now she’s basically cleared me to start with the caveat that my blood pressure has to be watched closely.
finally, a good, tear free medical experience. a week from now we meet again with the gynecologist whom i most likely won’t be able to look in the eye), and this time Froggy’s coming with me. i will not get my hopes up (too much), but if all goes well and she’s satisfied with my cardiologists very detailed and favorable evaluation, we could be driving to Belgium again in a few short weeks.
so, it would seem that i have the heart to try again. i only wish we were taking little sun with us on the road to finding him a little brother or sister….