The first time a medical professional asked me that question, it was jarring. It was also in the Emergency Room while I was having my gallbladder attack from hell. So for something to sway my attention from OH MY FUCKING GOD THE PAIN OF IT ALL at that moment in time was significant. I believe my response at that time was, “Jesus yes I’m FINE at home what the hell GIVE ME SOME DELAUDID YOU BITCH.”
Ahem. I was a little out of it.
Anyway, I went to my consultation appointment today for the Essure procedure. Now, in order to tell you that story, I have to tell you this story. Today’s appointment was the second consultation. Same office, different doctor. Because the first doctor? Was a stark raving bitch. Here’s how it went down. I drove to the OBGYN’s office, found the suite, checked in, sat for a minute, got called in, did the weigh/temp/blood pressure dance, and was shown to a room. I cooled my heels for a minute, then the tech came in holding the Paper Gown of Doom, asked me a few questions (“Do you feel safe at home?”), and told me to defrock. Since I didn’t realize that stirrups were going to be part of the appointment, I was all “meh”, but I complied.
In walks the doctor, who stood there with the door open to anyone who might be in the hallway, and said, “Why are you undressed?” To which I replied, “Uh, because the lady told me to?” So the doctor rolled her eyes, came in, sat down on the rolley stool thing, and said, “Well, I suppose we can just talk like this.” (Inflection HERS.) I said, “Hey, I’d be MORE THAN HAPPY to get dressed again if you want me to…” And she said, “No, let’s just have a discussion. So. Why are you here?”
I told her I wanted to have the Essure procedure. She looked at me, looked at my chart, looked at me again. “How old are you?” she said. “Thirty-five,” I replied. She looked at my chart again. “And you have had no children? No pregnancies?” To which I responded, “Nope.” “And you want PERMANENT STERILIZATION?” She glared at me. GLARED.
“Yes,” I said, keeping my cool. “I’ve done the research and talked to friends who have had the procedure done, and this is what I want to do.”
“You do know,” she said VERY condescendingly, “that there are non-permanent measures you could take?” I said, “Yes, I know. But most of them involve hormones, or if not hormones, then weird STRINGS that hang out of you, and I don’t want that.” She says, “What’s wrong with the pill?” So I again, CALMLY, told her, “I’ve been trying over the past few years to stop taking any kinds of medications or chemicals. I’m down to my birth control pill, and my inhaler. I’ve been on the pill since I was fifteen. I feel like it’s having adverse effects on my health, and my mood. I know that I don’t want to have any more children…”
To which she interrupts, “Any MORE children? You have never given birth!” So I said (and I’M REALLY TIRED of this refrain), “I have two step-children whom I have raised since they were young. And my step-son gave us three grandchildren. We were a big part of their lives throughout their infancy. At this point my husband and I have different goals, now that the kids are grown up and have moved out. Having a baby doesn’t fit in with those goals.”
This whole time the woman is glaring at me, and when I stopped speaking she said, “What if your husband leaves you in the next year, and the next man you’re with will let you have children?”
I kid you not, guys, I just sat there and blinked at her for a good ten seconds. It took me that long to process the fact that she ACTUALLY SAID WHAT SHE SAID. I stammered, “I beg your pardon?”
“You’re only thirty-five,” she said (as IF I need a reminder of that fact, JAYSUS). “Your husband could leave you, and you could want to start a family with someone else.”
Holy crap on a cracker, I got PISSED. I said, “Look, my husband isn’t going to leave me. I’m not going to leave him. He’s not forcing me to not have kids, he said this was entirely up to me and he would support any decision I would make. I have MADE. MY. DECISION.”
“Well, why can’t he get a vasectomy, then?”
“That’s private,” I shot back. “There’s reasons why it’s not a good idea for him to do so. We have discussed this at length and the Essure procedure is what is best for ME and for MY GOALS and for MY FAMILY.”
Mind you, all the time we’re having this argument I am dressed in fucking PAPER. And sitting up on the exam table like I’m on stage or something. The doctor glared at me, glared at her file, then left the room and came back with some papers. She handed them to me.
“This is information on the Mirena procedure. I want you to read this…”
I interrupted her, “I’ve already read about Mirena. It has hormones. AND strings. AND there has been plenty of feedback about undesirable side-effects. I don’t want the Mirena procedure. I want the Essure procedure.”
Then she looks at me like she’s got this trick up her sleeve that she’s just been waiting until now to reveal. “You know,” she says oh-so-casually, “there is a much greater risk of complications performing this procedure on a woman who has never given birth. I mean, at best we’d just have to stop the procedure, at worst you could end up having to have an entire hysterectomy! The bladder could be punctured, or the uterus.”
Now, in everything I’ve read, I’ve never heard of this. So I said, “Thank you for letting me know of the possible complications. I’ve made up my mind.”
“Well,” she huffed, “Either way we have to get cultures, so lie back on the table and we’ll get that taken care of.” So I complied, sat back up, waited for her to finish her notes and whatnot, she mumbled something about having to get insurance authorization, and she left. No handshake, no “nice to meet you”, no pleasantries of any kind. The technician told me I could get dressed, I grabbed my paperwork and headed to the front desk.
The girl at the front desk took my paperwork and told me I’d be called within a week about the insurance authorization. I kind of had a bad feeling, a sneaking suspicion, so the next day I called the office and asked for the insurance claims department. I got in contact with a nice lady and I asked her if she would clarify which procedure it said on my paperwork that I was requesting. She found my information, and said…
“It says here you’re requesting the Mirena procedure.”
I practically went into orbit. On the inside. One, I was sitting at my desk at work, and two this lady didn’t deserve to receive the brunt of my wrath (no Hello Kitty comments, Heather!). So I corrected her, “No, it was supposed to be for the Essure procedure.” “Oh!” she said. “I’m so sorry! I’m glad you called, it would have added a couple of more weeks to get things all straightened around.”
So, what, the doctor figured if I had that slight of a delay, I’d change my mind? I’d say, “Oh, well, since you already have the Mirena authorization, we’ll just go ahead and do that instead.” WHAT a bitch.
A week later I got the call that I’d been approved. For the Essure procedure. I called the OBGYN and asked to speak to a manager. I told the manager how ill-treated I was by the first doctor, and that if they didn’t have someone else in the office who could treat me better, I was going to go elsewhere. She apologized profusely, gave me some twaddle about how the doctor I’d seen had been on call the night before and probably had been working at the hospital all night. I said, “That’s fine, but it’s no reason to make someone feel like they’re stupid, or that they’re making a mistake, or that they’re less of a woman just because they don’t want to have babies.” I got another apology, and she set me up with the new doctor, who I saw today.
You guys, it was like NIGHT AND DAY. This lady was great. She was warm. And cheerful. And shook my hand. She did the obligatory question run-down (“Do you feel safe at home?”), and said, “Well, I’m sure you’ve already thought hard about this and have done all the research, but I just want to remind you that there are non-permanent options at your disposal.” I was ready to get defensive, and responded that I had, in fact, done all the research. She said, “Well, if you’ve decided on Essure, then I can certainly help you with that!” And that was IT. No judging, no guilt, no inferred disparagement about the status of my relationship with my husband.
I asked her about possible complications since I’d never had a pregnancy, and she just kind of blinked at me. “No, there would be no reason for a former pregnancy to make this procedure any more or less complicated. I’ve never heard anything related to that at all.” I asked her about how long I’d had to hold off on working out or being active, and she said five to seven days. She said I might feel cramping or see some spotting, but nothing really much worse than what happens when I have my period. She said the anesthesia would be “a breeze”, and I’d be in and out in less than two hours – most of that would be occupied with anesthesia recovery.
The entire time she was warm, smiling, friendly, and treated me like an intelligent human being. I left the office this morning feeling a hundred and fifty percent more positive than the last meeting with the first doctor – that time, I sat in the truck in the parking lot and felt like I wanted to cry. I told my new doctor how much more of a positive experience I had with her, compared with the first doctor I saw. She flipped back through my chart, saw who my original doctor was, and sort of winced. Then, kind of conspiratorially, she said, “Well, your first doctor is a very devout Mormon. That might have been the cause of some of the trouble you experienced.”
Oh, well, gee. I’m sorry MY decisions about MY body and MY life offend YOUR moral sensibilities. Christ on a cracker. Or a wafer. Or whatever the heck they use. If anything. Saltines?
So. Anyway. Yeah. I wanted to share my experience (and will continue to do so, after the procedure) and let you ladies (and heck, you gents too, if you made it down this far) know that YOU OWN YOUR BODY. Be your own advocate! You own your life, and you are the only person qualified to make decisions about what you do or have done to your own body. So don’t let ANYONE tell you that you’re making the wrong decision – whether it’s to become pregnant, to NOT become pregnant, or hell, to change your entire fucking GENDER. If you’re having a bad experience with your doctor, then don’t be afraid to tell someone. Don’t be afraid to get another doctor. Don’t be afraid to cause a little mayhem, if it comes to that. You’ll probably be helping out someone else down the line who doesn’t feel equipped to defend themselves.
After all, no matter how “qualified” a medical professional says they are to make a call on what is to be done with your body and your life, they don’t know you like YOU know you.
Oh, and yes, in case you were wondering. I DO feel safe at home.