Monday, November 29, 2010

False Alarm Every Ten Minutes

They call it the "TWW" or "two week wait" at the fertility clinic and on the online fertility sites. I'm not a very patient person, but this is really trying whatever patience I do have. Because of the progesterone vaginal inserts that I have to take, I'm a little oozy . . . that ooziness feels like I'm getting my period. So every ten minutes or so, I have the feeling that I've gotten my period, and so far, it's just been progesterone ooze.

I guess I could cut down on this false alarm phenomenon by taking the progesterone at night like I'm supposed to, but I find it unappealing to have sex with the progesterone insert in for an hour (precisely because of ooziness), which is what the blogsters out there suggest. My doctor said to insert the progesterone pill AFTER having sex -- this was his answer, after receiving an anxious text from me asking if we could have sex at all for the 21 days I am using the inserts -- but I like to fall blissfully asleep after sex, so the idea of having to go in and put the insert in after sex was not appealing.

At any rate, my period should have come yesterday, today, or tomorrow (depending on what online calendar you use). I have a doctor's appointment Wednesday morning for a pregnancy test, so all I can do until then is try to resist running to the bathroom every ten minutes to check.

My heart sinks, and then it's happy . . . but no matter, I have to keep reminding myself that this was the first month of this type of intervention and it isn't necessarily going to be successful.

What's funny is how similar this "false alarm" feeling is to a "false alarm" feeling when you DON'T want to be pregnant . . . the waiting for the period to come.

New York Magazine had a really interesting story this month called "Waking Up From the Pill: Fifty years ago, birth-control pills gave women control of their bodies, while making it easy to forget their basic biology—until in some cases, it’s too late." I found the article to be perfectly relevant to what I'm dealing with now. Like this passage:

Now many New York women have shifted their attempts at conception back about ten years. And the experience of trying to get pregnant at that age amounts to a new stage in women’s lives, a kind of second adolescence. For many, this passage into childbearing—a Gail Sheehy–esque one, with its own secrets and rituals—is as fraught a time as the one before was carefree.

Suddenly, one anxiety—Am I pregnant?—is replaced by another: Can I get pregnant? The days of gobbling down the Pill and running out to CVS at 3 a.m. for a pregnancy test recede in the distance, replaced by a new set of obsessions. The Pill didn’t create the field of infertility medicine, but it turned it into an enormous industry. Inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect.
One of my colleagues in the women's rights/reproductive rights field thought that the article blamed the pill too much for women postponing childbearing, but I don't think that was the point of the article at all. What the pill did, I think the article argues, is relieve women of having to think so much about their reproductive capabilities. Like the author explains:

. . . [W]omen are half-consciously rebelling against the artificiality of the Pill’s regime. Removal from one’s true biological processes was more appealing in the Mad Men era, when machines were going to save the world and pills could fix everything, even the ennui of housewives. But for the wheatgrass-and-yoga generation, there’s something about taking a pill every day that’s insulting to one’s sense of self, as an accomplished, adult woman. “I feel like I’ve gotten a message over the years that the less I have to do with the nitty-gritty biological stuff of being a woman, the better, and that’s a weird message,” says Sophia, 35, who was on the Pill for fourteen years. “In my ninth-grade health class, I remember the teacher saying, ‘You can get pregnant any day of the month, so always use protection,’ and I kind of knew that wasn’t true, but because I was on the Pill, I never really cared about finding out the right answer. The Pill takes a certain knowledge away from you, and that knowledge is empowering.”

And, in fact, what I think the article argues for, although I think it could have done so more thoughtfully, is that women should be made aware of ALL of the risks and implications of taking the pill. I am constantly surprised at how much I don't know about my own body: blame it on inadequate sex education in school or at home, whatever. The fact is, before taking a drug that prevents conception, we should really understand conception altogether, and at least for me, I know I didn't. Of course I knew that waiting too long would make it more difficult to get pregnant, but I like the fact that the author talks about how easy it is to hit the "off switch" on fertility for a while with the pill, and not have to think about your body so much.

To arrive at the stage when one stops taking the Pill and starts timing one’s ovulations is to enter a new and anxious universe. After that, if you’re unlucky, you may enter a kind of medical and bureaucratic purgatory of doctors’ waiting rooms and insurance companies and worries that’s very far indeed from the freedom you enjoyed before.

On the Pill, it’s easy to forget the truths about biology. Specifically, that as much as athleticism or taut cheekbones are, fertility is a gift of youth. The body that you wake up with after fifteen or more years on the Pill is, in significant ways, not the one you started out with.

The notion of "choice" and "sexual freedom" in this discussion of the pill was also fascinating. The author talks about how NARAL and Planned Parenthood and other "choice" groups don't want there to be any public discussion about the relationship between the pill and infertility. It may be true that, as my colleague suggests, that the article overdoes it by actually insinuating that a "side effect" of the Pill is infertility ("Inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect."), I do believe that choice groups don't want to talk about how these issues intersect. As the author explains:

[I]ronically, this most basic of women’s issues is one that traditional feminism has a very hard time processing—the notion that this freedom might have a cost is thought to be so dangerous it shouldn’t be mentioned.

. . .

Sexual freedom is a fantastic thing, worth paying a lot for. But it’s not anti-feminist to want to be clearer about exactly what is being paid. Anger, regret, repeated miscarriages, the financial strain of assisted reproductive technologies, and the inevitable damage to careers and relationships in one’s thirties and forties that all this involve deserve to be weighed and discussed. The next stage in feminism, in fact, may be to come to terms, without guilt trips or defensiveness, with issues like this.

Choice is a more accurate word when the chooser—us—is aware of all the possible consequences of taking different possible paths. But reality has a hard time getting into these areas, let alone the Brave New World of infertility medicine.

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