Frozen (Eggs): My Repressed Ovaries
I’ve been resistant to asking for help my whole life. The fear of asking for help and not receiving it is so acute that I’ve created a whole narrative around why I shouldn’t ask. My last article was in a strange way, asking for help. Quite literally by asking if anyone wanted to go through this process with me, but also just by saying, ‘Hey! I’m doing this and I’m scared.’
In the last few days, I’ve had old friends, new friends, family, colleagues, and total strangers, offer me support, advice, knowledge, and hugs. And a few women also want to do this at the same time! Wrapped in this support as armor, I went to my first appointment this week.
Here is what transpired.
Facing the Muzak
I arrive on time to a very nice medical building. I zoom up the virtually abandoned building to a similarly nice lobby where I make jokes about Instagram cat accounts with the woman who is checking me in. There is confusion about my insurance, in that it appears to be non-existent. In actuality, it simply doesn’t cover any of this (swallow lump in throat).
I’m directed to a lobby waiting area. The chairs are an inoffensive color of green, and it is clean. That is the last nice thing I have to say about the lobby. I sit alone while the saxophone muzak weasels its way into my brain.
I quickly start to question the wisdom of my decision. I feel like I’m being sucked into the brochure I’ve just been given in which everyone has a weird smile on their face even though nothing happy appears to be happening in the photo. It’s like the equivalent of women laughing with salad. Women laughing about eggs.
I started to make a playlist in my mind. What songs would I play in the fertility lobby of my dreams?
- David Bowie — Under Pressure
- Talking Heads — Once in a Lifetime
- Flock Of Seagulls — I Ran
- Brahms — Ein Deutsches Requiem
- Madonna — Like a Prayer
- Paul Simon — Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes
- Lauryn Hill — Everything is Everything
- Claude Debussy — The Sunken Cathedral
- The xx — Heart Skipped a Beat
- Sylvan Esso — Coffee
If this list seems eclectic, then you have correctly surmised that I have mixed emotions about this all. That has never once stopped me from doing something, so let’s proceed with fortitude.
Sexual Education: Redux
After what felt like an eon, my name was called. Ok, remember when sex ed was about not getting pregnant? Well, I may not be trying to get pregnant right now, but the tables have turned and there is whole other level of education required.
Upon meeting my doctor, it became immediately clear that I would have to harness my most convincing nod and smile technique. Re-learning about your biology in this new frame of reference is basically like taking a cold shower while someone quizzes you on the acronyms for hormones you didn’t know you had.
This is the chart he painstakingly drew for me. In case you are wondering it does not get easier to understand after a glass of wine. The gist is the following. With the assistance of multiple drugs and hormones, my body will be tricked into shaking loose a few more eggs than usual. But the real and cruel nature of this process is that it is about probabilities. The older you are, the life choices you’ve made, good luck, bad luck, it all comes into play. Every step of the process is quantifiable in terms of the number of viable eggs, then embryos, then pregnancies.
That was it. The quiet collision of hopes and dreams and deep emotions with sterile, scientific, statistics. It is a weird feeling to lose that absolute feeling of ownership over your body. My body might not do what I want it to.
Fertility: The Customer Experience
So now we come to the sneak attack portion of the appointment. Remember how I said that the initial email didn’t prepare me for what would happen during the appointment? The big headline should have said, YOU WILL HAVE AN ULTRASOUND. Sub-heading: We are going to tell you how many follicles we think you have. Meaning: This is roughly equivalent to how many eggs you are capable of producing at one time (right now).
Here is a diagram that you never thought you’d see again. I was informed that it is also anatomically incorrect with regard to the location of the ovaries. I have made editorial adjustments to reflect reality. Now I can generally understand how an ultrasound allows you to see what’s happening in ovary land.
So you get to watch this happen on a screen (just like in the movies!). But instead of a small future human, all I saw was gray blobs of varying sizes, two of which were my ovaries surrounded by a couple of dark shadows, which are my follicles, apparently.
What we discovered was that my ovaries are oppressed — I mean repressed. Either way, this terminology is troubling. It sounds like they have been sublimating their true desires and have almost lost hope. In reality, I’ve been on the birth control pill for a while, and it’s more like my ovaries have gone to sleep like Rip Van Winkle. Medically speaking, my ovaries are smaller than normal and I have only 4–6 visible follicles for releasing eggs.
The plan is to give my ovaries a few months to get back into egg-making shape sans birth control pill. When I go back in I should have more follicles, so that when I do start a cycle of injections I will be able to release more eggs. The odds are in my favor, and that’s the hard thing about this. It’s just odds, but it is really personal.
So what does this all mean? I won’t be able to binge watch television shows throughout February using hormone side effects as an excuse for my reclusiveness. I thought I would have more gripping moment-by-moment action to share in the coming weeks, but instead, I’ll be in a holding pattern for a few months literally waiting for my follicles to grow.
I haven’t totally decided what to do with this time in terms of writing. Maybe I’ll write a letter to my eggs because I’m a romantic and I’m hoping they’ll be listening. Another idea is cataloguing my conversations with men on this topic — pure comedy. Suggestions are welcome, what should I write about?