I’m shuffling my feet and chewing on my lower lip like it’s a piece of Hubba Bubba.
My heart is pounding.
I’ve just called my OB for an appointment so I can learn about my childbearing options. I’m separated, I have a beautiful daughter and a dynamic business, but I’m just… not done yet.
I still don’t know if having more kids is a sustainable reality for me, but at thirty-six, with a history of fertility issues and loss, I’m curious to know from a professional standpoint if even ‘maybe’ is a viable answer.
And I’d like it to be.
And that’s okay.
To be honest, I feel weird.
Even though, apparently, this isn’t weird. It’s actually getting to be more and more normal. Because more and more women—regardless of their marital statuses or situations—seem to be taking their fertility into their own hands.
And I’m not talking drastic ‘put a baby in me’ measures here. I’m talking about simple fact gathering and education; something so important and so often overlooked.
That’s what I’m trying to do now too—get a lay of the land, and get a fertility snapshot so I can understand (really understand) what the next few years could look like regardless of how I choose to move ahead.
There are answers to questions like ‘are my eggs still okay?’ or ‘how many do I have left?’ and even ‘how long do I have left?’ that I want to know—that are part of making an informed decision toward family planning—and to get those answers, I need to be referred back to a fertility specialist, which is why I’ve reached out to my OB in the first place.
When I finally get to the appointment I am an anxious mess. That squeaking nose? I’m pretty sure it’s my bladder threatening to explode. My hands are sweating and I’m swallowing hard.
Cap, my boyfriend, is giving me some bemused side-eye. “Just. Relax.”
I shoot him a withering glare and scrunch my face up into what I think is my most stern ‘do not go there’ expression.
He laughs and puts his arm around me. “It will be just fine. You’ll see. Just go in there, and ask your questions. You’re awesome.”
My OB comes out and motions me in with a smile.
“Are you coming in?” He asks Cap, in a very welcoming way.
There’s a very brief, almost slapstick pause, as I shoot Cap a mixed look of mortified excitement which serves as an apologetic afterthought of an invitation, as he shrugs with a helpless but encouraging smile.
“He’s not coming in.” My voice booms and then I instantly rethink what I’ve said. ”Um…not…not yet?” I’ve got Cap locked in my tractor beams. Or he’s got me locked in his. I can’t move. “Um…not this time? But maybe…I mean...maybe next time?”
Oh god. This just got weird. It’s weird. I didn’t think this whole ‘sure you can drive me to my appointment’ thing through. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t thought about having kids with him. I mean… Wait. Woah. What?! I what? Oh my God. I’m pretty sure he could hear me think that last thought. Oh no. That squeaking… My bladder… I’m going to pee my pants.
“Ok. No prob. I’ll talk to mom this round, and then you guys can take it from there.” Apparently that huge, long, gaping pause was nothing more than a split second, and my OB is acting like this happens all the time.
I tell him as much as we go into his office and he laughs.
“It’s totally fine. I get husbands who get relegated to the hallway, too, you know. Besides, I thought you might want to talk alone with me; this is the first time you’ve been back in almost two years.”
Since my last loss.
It’s what he doesn’t say. But our eyes meet and he gives me a bolstering smile.
“To be honest, I’m really glad to see you back here,” he says, and that gives me a spark of strength.
I tell him my predicament. How I’m really interested in staying open to grow my family, but want to learn more, and also wonder if I should be doing anything—like freezing my eggs or embryos—if that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for a few years.
What I love about Dr. W. is that he doesn't bat an eyelash.
“First of all, there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there, but freezing your eggs has a substantially lower success rate than freezing an embryo. I wouldn’t suggest that you personally pursue freezing your eggs. If you’re interested in freezing embryos, that’s different, and it’s something you should definitely talk to a fertility doctor about. But before you jump there, you should get an idea of how long you have to conceive naturally, and how many years of trying you have left which also means you’ll want your partner to participate in these conversations. Presuming that you want to have kids with your partner… That nice guy out there with the big smile for you is your partner, right?”
“Well. Yes. We’re really… He’s my best friend. We’ve been together for a while but you know. We’re still technically a newer ‘couple’ and we’ve kind of but not really talked about it, you know...about kids...and I’m still just separated…still tying up the divorce…and he is practically a stepdad to Vee now, so I mean…”
“I get it. And it’s not going to stop me from giving you a referral to a new fertility specialist. But here’s the thing. At the end of your monitoring, you’ll be able to know about your eggs, about your reproductive environment. You’ll know what your chances are to conceive in the next year, and what they’ll be in the year after that, and even if you wait beyond that. You’ll know what your chances are at conceiving naturally. You’ll know if you have to move to assisted technologies like you did before, and how quickly you have to move if you want to increase your chances. You’ll know all this about you. And you’ll know nothing about him. And you’ll want to know about him for a few reasons.
"First, so that if he has any issues with his sperm, they can be worked into your planning as a team—whatever decision you guys come to.
"But most importantly, you need to have that conversation, because if he doesn’t want kids, or isn’t sure about the relationship in that context—or even if you guys decide that he’s a great sperm donor candidate—well, then you still have some really big decisions to make together, or maybe alone about your next steps as a couple. Whatever the path is—even if you’re on it alone—you guys both have to be 100% with it.”
When I said I came here to learn about my options. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. I am sure he’ll be open to at least talking about it.” My voice seems detached and muffled. I feel a creeping heat working its way into my face and a strange weakness grasp at my heart.
For a moment I feel anger at the incredibly nice, supportive doctor across from me. I feel anger at the amazing man—my best friend—sitting outside in the hallway. Actually, I am angry at every man everywhere who thinks they have a bearing in my decision to have kids and I am totally giving in to a nostril-flaring surge of Amazonian “HOW DARE YOU! I DON’T NEED A MAN TO PROCREATE” rage coursing through me. But it falls short. Extinguished by a short, brief, and powerful pinch of the most innocent and gentle truth:
“One day I want to have kids with the man that I love. And that man is currently sitting outside in that hallway, reading a waiting room copy of Auto Trader from two years ago, with all the patience, encouragement, and support for me in the world.”
I blink back the bittersweet mist of tears and nod as Dr. W. tells me they’ll be in touch with a specialist appointment for me.
“So did you get all the info you wanted? Did you find out what you have to do next?” says Cap, his lovely face looking up at me.
Oh crap. I’m going to make a mess. A relationship mess. I can feel it.
“Well what? Do we need to get you blood work or anything?”
“Um...nope. I just need to go over some stuff. Maybe talk about a couple things.”
It’s what I don’t say. But our eyes meet and I give him a bolstering smile.
“Well that seems easy enough,” he says happily.
“I hope so,” I say.
I hope so.