I started doing inseminations at my OB’s office when I turned 41. After a few unsuccessful IUIs (Intrauterine Insemination,) my OB suggested I go to a fertility clinic to make sure there were no issues.
I made an appointment at a posh, high-profile place in Beverly Hills that I will refer to as The Fancy Clinic (not the real name.) This place was definitely one of the top clinics in LA and even the country. This clinic had a lab on its premises and so this is where Dan had come to give his sperm. He had been having some conflicts with the guy who worked at the lab, Rolf.
Clearly, I was hoping I didn’t have any fertility issue so I could continue doing IUI, which is a simple process of just shooting the semen up into the uterus with a catheter. At my OB’s office, it was under $300 a pop; compared to $15-20 K for IVF (in vetro fertilization) it was a bargain – almost as cheap as sex (you know, a dinner, wine etc.)
Insurance companies do not cover ‘fertility,’ so I was on my own for anything that was about to happen here.
IUI similar to the turkey baster method – the doctor shoots the sperm into the uterus via catheter. Not too expensive – like between $200-$400, in my experience. There may be an additional fee for the sperm wash, pre insemenation, of around $150.
IVF is much more involved and complicated; eggs are removed, fertilized outside of the body and then the fertilized egg or eggs are implanted. Very expensive, like between $15,000 – $20,000
The day of my consult at TFC, I wanted to look nice, for some reason. I wanted everyone to think I was pretty. I wanted the random people at The Fancy Clinic not to feel sorry for me for being single. I wanted them to think I could have a partner if I wanted, because I was so pretty, but I was choosing to go alone. If I looked pretty, that’s what they would think.
I sat in the waiting room, in my nice outfit and blown out hair and played with the Xanax bottle in my purse. Should I take one? Could I get through this without one? I try not to take pills if I can help it. My shoulders were so tense, all I could think about was getting home, taking off my super tight jeans and climbing into bed.
There were no other singles in the waiting room. I watched the couples and made up romantic fantasies about how happy they all were and how these husbands were supportive, loving, great cooks, who gave massages all the time and constantly told their wives how beautiful they were. Oh yeah, and they all made a lot of money. Of course, what I didn’t think about was how all the couples were at TFC for a reason and probably in their personal versions of Hell.
By now, the doctor was an hour late, which gave me more time to beat myself up with more daydreams about happy families and fight the urge to medicate.
Finally, a nurse with lots of makeup, including colorful eyeshadow, came over to me.
Her name was Linda. “You will love Dr. X,” she told me. “He is so nice. Everyone loves him.”
While I was waiting for Dr. X, Linda brought me in to meet with the financial woman. I didn’t know why I was meeting with her. I hadn’t even had any tests yet.
“So, if you do IVF, we have payment options,” the financial woman said. She handed me a folder. I saw numbers in columns adding up to $20,000.
Was I doing IVF? I hadn’t even seen the doctor yet! Was something wrong with me?! Did my OB know something she wasn’t telling me? What was I getting myself into?
I should just go have lots of unprotected sex. I could afford that.
The financial lady continued, “Your insurance won’t cover any of this but we can work out payment plans with you.”
I cried, of course. Jesus. I hadn’t even seen the doctor yet.
The financial lady freaked out. “Oh my God. What? What’s wrong?” she asked.
Really? You work in the financial department of a fertility clinic and you don’t know why a patient might be crying? Seriously, was I the only woman who ever sat there and got emotional? “I’m fine.” I slapped on a smile as I took the folder with the IVF payment plans and went back to the waiting room.
After another half hour went by before I got to meet the doctor.
Dr. X was a good-looking guy, but he wasn’t warm as I had been promised. He was brisk, dismissive and I instantly felt like I had a number on my face. He rattled off statistics and how amazing his reputation was. Linda sat at his side, still and quiet, looking down at a file, every once in a while blinking to show off her perfect purple and blue mottled eye shadow.
Dr. X’s statistics made no sense to me. How was I supposed to know if a 30% chance was good? It didn’t sound good and yet it was like he wanted me to applaud for it. I needed all these numbers to stop. I wanted to talk about, well, me.
“I’m doing this on my own, as a single mom,” I said when there was a pause in the conversation… I mean lecture.
I guess I had interrupted his flow because Dr. X shot me a dirty look. He held up a hand to show that he wasn’t finished with his bragging and then he continued his blabbing, totally ignoring what I had said. I tried to feel reassured by his confidence, but what I really felt was squelched. I didn’t like him. He was rude and cold and I certainly didn’t want him sticking his fingers in my vagina.
Dr. X continued, “We are one of the top 10 fertility clinics in the country. Go ahead, look it up.”
I totally wasn’t going to look it up and while I was quietly waiting for him to finish his dry, impersonal homily, I was thinking that I was never going to see him again.
Then, Dr. X looked into my eyes and said loudly, “If you come here, you WILL get pregnant.”
It was as if he knew he had lost my attention. I couldn’t believe I had heard him correctly. Did he just make me a promise? Without an exam?
“Really?” I asked, tears filling my eyes.
Dr. X acted like it’s no big deal, “I recommend IVF, because of your age. We can get you started on everything you need to do, right away.” He was very smug.
Wait. IVF? He just wants me to throw $20k into this without tests and promises it will work? Does he think something is wrong with me? Is IVF the only way I can get pregnant? How can he say this to me without even doing tests?
Dr. X must have expected a ticker tape parade, because he was fully enraged by my reaction. “What’s wrong? I just said you WILL get pregnant!!!!” He almost shouted.
I felt ashamed and judged. Apparently, my getting pregnant was all about him. He is the best. This place is the best, I told myself. I should be at the best place.
“I’m just emotional,” I whispered, afraid that more volume would open the door for sobs.
“Good emotional, I hope,” Dr. X said, almost threatening.
I looked over to Linda for some comfort, maybe a warm smile or something. Nope. She didn’t even give me eye contact.
I was afraid to speak for fear he’d snap at me again, but I had to tell him what I was thinking. “I don’t want to jump into IVF,” I finally said, “Could you tell me my other options?”
Dr. X was incredulous, “WHY? You are 41! IVF is really your best chance.” He squinted at me, “Weren’t you listening to the statistics?”
I bit my lip because I was about to let out a heaving, ugly sob. “Is there something wrong with me? Is there a reason I can’t do IUI again?” I asked. It was potentially a $20,000 question.
He looked at me like I was an idiot. “You are 41!”
I certainly knew I was 41. I wished he would give me another answer or explain other options, like I had asked or at least not just repeat you’re 41.
“But it’s so expensive,” I said quietly, afraid he would judge me for not saying that getting pregnant was priceless.
“Mmm hmmm,” he heard me. “But if you keep trying IUI, it’s going to add up anyway.”
I had to stick up for myself. I found a little strength, “I don’t want to jump into IVF,” I said. I wasn’t the doctor here and yet, I felt that he wasn’t guiding me. “Is there something else I can do?”
He shrugged, “You can do IUI again. But I don’t want you to just keep doing IUI over and over. If you don’t get pregnant in the next try, you really can’t afford to waste time. You are 41. All the statistics change when you reach 42.”
I nodded. It would work. It would just have to work.
“I’m single,” I said again. “I’m doing this on my own.” I wasn’t thinking about looking pretty anymore.
Dr. X made a note in my file and said, “If you’d like, you can talk to some other single moms. Some of my past patients have made themselves available.”
“Yes, please.” If I found a single mom to talk to, that would make everything better. I was going to stay at TFC. I’d find a single mom role model and she’d give me so much confidence that I’d actually end up feeling fine about Dr. X.
I’d gotten things off to a bad start with Dr. X. We were going to get along great. I wanted him to know me, remember me and like me, so I needed to say something endearing and quirky. “Funny story,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t snap at me for speaking out of turn. “I thought I was pregnant, a few months ago, when I tried with my OB. I had all these symptoms; I was craving root beer, I felt extra tired and I even got a hemorrhoid! I guess I wanted to be pregnant so badly that I gave myself a hemorrhoid.”
I laughed at my delightfully charming story.
Dr. X didn’t smile. He made another note in the file and looked at me very seriously, “Have you ever seen a psychologist?”
“Yes, I have a therapist,” I told him.
Holy shit! He thought I was crazy! Because I gave myself a psychosomatic hemorrhoid! He questioned me about my history with therapy for the next five minutes.
“Is your therapist good?” he asked. “Is your therapist helping?”
What kind of a dumbass question is that? Who’s gonna say no, my therapist is doesn’t help me?
“Yes. She’s amazing and supportive and she’s really helped me get to this place.” How has this turned into an interrogation of my emotional state? A psychosomatic hemorrhoid! It’s funny, Dr. X. Laugh! I felt misunderstood, diminished, humiliated and angry. I should have left that office and never come back… But I stayed, because I believed the hype that I was in the best place.
Dr. X wouldn’t let me speak again until he had finished telling me a few more wonderful things about his reputation. Then when he was done, he leaned back in his chair and said, “I don’t give out my phone number or email. I used to give out my email, but I was bombarded with questions. So that had to stop.”
Communicating with him felt like the last thing I wanted to do. Unable to stomach or process any of this, I reminded him, “I’d really like to meet other single moms.”
“Linda will get those names for you,” he said.
Linda nodded, though she didn’t write anything down.
I left The Fancy Clinic feeling horrible.
Is it a doctor’s job to make you feel comforted and cared for beyond medical needs? If this guy could deliver the science, even though he was (I hate to make a snap judgment) an arrogant prick, shouldn’t I stick with him? Besides, I couldn’t bear going through another meeting with another doctor.
Everything hit me again when I got home: anger, excitement, fear, comfort, joy, loneliness, realizing that I was really partnerless and wanting to be a mother and have a baby. Being 41. How did that happen already? All the incredible disbelief – I cried as I took off my tight clothes, popped that Xanax and got into bed.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/pumpkincat210/3839250839/”>theinvisiblewombat</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>