Saturday, August 30, 2008

The "Calm" Before the Storm

Just a quick update today on our plans for Hurricane Gustav. We have booked some hotel rooms a couple of hours away just in case we need a place to go. We probably won't make the final decision until tomorrow. Tonight my sister's family is coming from Louisiana to stay with us, and then we will evacuate together if we need to. Most of the weather reports today show the hurricane hitting some part of Louisiana, but it is still a possibility it could move into Texas. Either way we are hoping and praying for everyone's safety!

It's funny how we talk about the calm before the storm. It's true in a way. If I were outside right now things would appear pretty normal. It's a hot, humid August day with no rain clouds in sight. I'm about to bake some brownies to take to a cookout we're going to this afternoon with some friends. Last night we went to a high school football game. Pretty normal activity for a Labor Day weekend, but I wouldn't quite call it calm. It's a mixture of regular life and preparing for a disaster all at the same time.

By tonight our house will be a shelter. By tomorrow night the windows may be boarded up and we may be driving west. We're glad we will be with family in the coming days.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Watching and Waiting (For Something Other Than a Baby)

Watching and waiting... and worrying.

Some of you don't know that I've lived my whole life near the Gulf of Mexico. I grew up in Southern Louisiana and now I live in Southeast Texas. Right now we are in the middle of hurricane season and the tension is palpable. I never lived near New Orleans and my family for the most part was not affected by the much-heard-about Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. The very next month, however, it was Hurricane Rita that caused us to evacuate. Our area turned out fine, but we housed my sister's family for a while after a tree landed on their home in Louisiana. It took months for them to get their house repaired and many towns in that area still don't quite look the same three years later.

My mom always told the story of watching Hurricane Audrey from her window in 1957 when she was a girl. My in-laws had to wrap up their wedding reception pretty quickly in 1969 to flee from Hurricane Camille. I personally remember my high school being used as a shelter in 1992 for Hurricane Andrew. These stories have been told in our family for years and years.

Hurricanes here are a part of life. We don't like them, but they aren't going to drive us away from the places we've always called home. I realize that many parts of the United States and other countries are susceptible to some form of natural disaster. I try to tell myself that at least with a hurricane we usually have enough warning to protect ourselves.

So far this year we have only dealt with Tropical Storm Edouard, which fortunately did not turn out to be a big deal for us. Our newest possible threat is Gustav. For the next few days we'll be keeping a close eye on him out there in the tropics. Each year during hurricane season people around here get a little nervous, but when there's a storm forming out there the anxiety increases.

At my house in the next few days you'll find us watching the Weather Channel and consulting with family and friends about what might develop. Please remember us down here in the Gulf Coast area and pray that we don't have another disaster on our hands.

"He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:29-30 (NIV)

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Other News

Today I'm going to try something new. Since I started this blog a few months back, I've mostly written about some pretty broad topics like feelings associated with infertility and pregnancy loss, friendship, and the head-spinning speed at which time passes. All of these subjects are discussed here under the umbrella of infertility. Whether I like it or not (and I don't), infertility is a part of my life. It's the reason I started blogging in the first place. I don't, however, want to be associated with just this one thing.

Do you know anyone who talks about just one thing every time you see them? If so, does it bug you? I know there are certain friends of mine who also follow the NBA, so when I see them we talk about it some. It's something we have in common, so that's understandable. Certainly we can also have conversations with friends about things we don't have in common. That's what makes life interesting. But let's just say, for example, that I love pizza (which is true!). Let's say I love it so much that it's all I can talk about. I don't care if you hate it and the very idea of it makes you want to run for the hills. I'm going to talk about its cheesy goodness every time I see you. Sometimes I like thick crust, sometimes thin. I like pepperoni. But oh, the mushrooms. I love mushrooms! I know we talked about pizza for 5 hours the last time I saw you, but let's spend some more time talking about how yummy it is. That would get kinda old, right?

I don't want to be this person, about infertility or pizza or anything else! So I've decided to add a new feature to this blog called In Other News. I still write this blog because of infertility, and it is helping me sort out my feelings in a major way. Your comments encourage me beyond words! But of course there's much more to me (and you) besides the problems we face. Every so often, let's chat about something that's not infertility. I love movies, TV, books, and music, so I'm sure those topics will be popping up here and there. Life isn't always exciting here in my bubble, but I'll try to find some interesting things to talk about that are just a part of everyday life.

So, here's what's going on in my life In Other News at the end of August:
  • I just got shipping confirmation on my copy of Prison Break, Season 3. That means soon I can clear off about 11 hours from my DVR and get ready to start watching the new season. On September 1, I'll be on the couch catching up with Michael Scofield and company. I can't wait! I'm also excited about the new season of The Office, starting September 25.
  • My husband and I just joined Netflix earlier this month and are enjoying having a steady stream of DVDs to watch. I'm sure I'll log way too many hours of couch potato time but I'm not too concerned about it. As long as my house is clean and I have some semblance of a social life, I'm ok with that.
  • I haven't had a haircut in over 5 months. I don't know why the only times I remember to call and schedule one it's always on a Monday when they're closed. My hair has grown quite long, which doesn't go well with summertime in Texas. Hopefully soon I'll lose about 3-4 inches.
  • I am currently addicted to the Veggie Sammies from Quizno's. Lettuce, tomato, mushrooms (yeah!), cheese, black olives, guacamole, and red wine vinaigrette on toasted flatbread. I like to hold the onions and add pickles. Make it a combo with two of these, chips, and a Dr Pepper and now you've got something. Yum.
  • Last night I started reading the book Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I'm not usually all about vampire books but I do like a good young adult series now and again. After reading some good reviews lately about this series and hearing a few friends recommend it, I've decided to give it a try. Thanks, Emily for your own thoughts on this!

One more thing in other news: if you wouldn't mind, please pray for my friend John. He's going through a hard time right now as a newly-single father with two young daughters. They need lots of prayer and support. Thanks!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Where Does the Time Go?

Sometimes I get very overwhelmed about getting older. It feels like I am running out of time and it is just passing by too quickly. I think I would be able to handle it (a little) better if not for the delay in having children. I know 31 really isn't all that "old," considering the fact that this week my grandma is turning 91! The older I get, though, the more hurried I feel.

I don't blame my mom for this since she had no way of knowing what my future held, but she always told me to have my children while I was still young and had the energy. Mom had my sister and me when she was in her early-to-mid-twenties. After she and my dad divorced and she married my step-dad, she had my little brother at the age of 35. She was always very honest about how difficult it was. Part of that was the feeling of starting over again with a little one, and I can see how that would be hard. I think it was a whole new ball game for her then, not to mention the difference between raising girls and raising a boy. Needless to say, after getting married at age 21 I never thought that by this time I would still have no children.

The other day I was meditating on how much times have changed since we started trying to have a baby. We made the decision in 2001, but didn't really start trying until 2002. Here are some of the ways my life has changed between 2002 and 2008:
  • We bought our first home in the summer of 2002.
  • In December of 2002 our second nephew was born. Both of our nephews, as of this month, are in school.
  • The hubby and I have been on an airplane 5 times, which is pretty good considering we hadn't really traveled at all since our honeymoon in 1998.
  • Before 2002 I rarely went to the doctor, had never been in the hospital, had never had blood drawn, and had never had any kind of surgery.
  • In 2007, I said goodbye to my twenties.
  • After LASIK eye surgery a few months ago, I no longer wear glasses or contacts!
  • This summer my husband and I had our 10th wedding anniversary.
  • I weigh about 30 pounds more than I did back in 2002.
Some of those are great things and some are not so great. Our lives are bound to change over time. To put it in perspective, though, consider how much has happened in our country and the world in the past 7 years:
  • In 2002 Enron was in the news, and everyone's favorite new TV show was American Idol.
  • In 2003 Martha Stewart was indicted, the Space Shuttle Columbia was lost, and the Invasion of Iraq began.
  • In 2004 George W. Bush began his second term as president, and the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918.
  • In 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
  • In 2006 astronomers decided that Pluto was no longer a planet.
  • In 2007 the iPhone hit stores.
  • In 2008 the U.S. will elect a new president, and although it didn't make national news, I started blogging.

All of these things have happened since the time we decided to have a child! It's crazy how things change. We have even changed our minds several times about what we would name our baby boy or girl. Names that we thought were perfect back then are now not so trendy or have been used over and over by our friends and relatives.

It's pretty sobering to think about life passing us by. I know it probably wouldn't seem any slower if we did have children, but maybe then I wouldn't feel like I'm running to catch up with everyone else.

Friday, August 22, 2008

True Strength

People often tell me that they can't imagine how I've gotten through all that I've been through. To tell you the truth, I'm pretty amazed myself. If someone had told the innocent 24-year-old me back in 2001 that the road I was about to take was going to be like this I probably wouldn't have believed them. I really would've had my doubts if the same messenger said that 7 years into it I'd still be hanging on and sticking with it with most of my sanity intact.

I want you to know that most days I don't feel like I've done such a great job of coping. Even at 24 I had seen enough hard times to know that life wasn't easy. Coming from a broken home and then a blended family, and with barely two nickels to rub together, I'd experienced some trials. It's not easy being a kid when there are problems at home. Then again, it's a whole different story when you grow up and the problems are yours instead of your parents'. I definitely believe that experiencing some of those trials made me a stronger person. But the question is, "How do we acquire strength?"

Last night while I was up late reading I came across this quote by William Barclay:
"The effect of testing rightly borne is strength to bear still more and to conquer in still harder battles."

The Bible also has much to say on the topic of trials and testing, especially in the book of James. My favorite verses on the subject though, come from the Apostle Paul. When writing about the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says that he pleaded with the Lord to take it away. The Lord's response in verse 9 is, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I love how Paul then applies this to his life and his circumstances: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (vv. 9-10, NIV)

It is a strange thing to delight in weakness. It's even stranger to think that it could be through weakness that we are made stronger. "The effect of testing rightly borne is strength to bear still more and to conquer in still harder battles." We are tried and tested, and through that we gain the strength to overcome the next trial. It usually seems like more than we can handle, but we come out on the other side and look back over what we've been through, utterly amazed that we handled it.

Earlier this summer I was in a ladies' Bible class with three other women. As we were sharing about our lives one day I listened as each one described her biggest trial. They were my three biggest fears. One had lost her mother at an early age. One had lost a child. One had lost her husband. These are amazing women of faith. It didn't mean those trials weren't horrible or difficult. I sat there and wondered how I could ever overcome such painful circumstances. Somehow, though, what I saw was their strength. God's strength was at work in them, carrying them through, being made perfect in their weakness.

This year my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yesterday was her fourth (of six) treatment of chemotherapy. I'm sure she couldn't have imagined going through something like this. A few weeks ago she had her head shaved after she started losing clumps of hair. The emotional and physical pain that comes along with a diagnosis of cancer is something just unimaginable to me, but she has been amazingly strong even on bad days. She has a good prognosis, and we're so thankful for that.

I'm sure you all know people in situations that seem impossible to overcome. Maybe you're going through a trial right now that you never thought you would be able to survive. I am. But by the grace of God I am making it through, and it is making me stronger.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New Problem

This blogging thing is still pretty new to me. As a person who doesn't necessarily share every detail about my life with everyone I meet, I'm finding it pretty hard to reveal things I'm going through right now. It's easier to talk about things that happened in the past but not so easy to disclose how I feel today. I think I'm worried that people who know me will look at me differently.

My Granny used to say that you shouldn't tell everything you know because then the other person will know what they know AND what you know, and they'll know more than you. (Sounds confusing at first, but it makes sense when you think about it. For a woman with virtually no formal education, she was very wise.) So, know that full disclosure is difficult for me.

The last thing in the world that I need right now is another complication or another hurdle to get over on my way to the finish line (and by "finish line" I mean a successful pregnancy, not my ultimate demise). You can imagine my frustration when last month I was faced with amenorrhea. I know, words that end in "rrhea" are usually bad news! If you don't already know, amenorrhea is defined as "abnormal suppression or absence of menstruation." In other words, last month I totally skipped my period. No explanations. It just didn't show up. For a person who is trying to get pregnant, this poses a real problem.

At first I thought it meant great news. I was on vacation with family, so I was away from home. A week had already passed and by the time we got home it had been two weeks. I finally took a home pregnancy test. Negative. Ok, this has happened to me before. I've gotten a negative result, waited a few days, and then a positive. But the problem was I didn't "feel pregnant." I did what my doctor said to do and gave the office a call because I'd missed my period. If you regularly read my blog you know what's coming. You guessed it, another run-in with Rhonda. She told me that I could come in for a blood test. When she called me back, these were her exact words, "We got your results back. Your pregnancy test was, of course, negative." Ouch. Gee, Rhonda, you really know how to make a person feel good. Anyway, she told me I could either wait it out another week or take some drug she didn't bother to identify that would induce a period. I couldn't collect my thoughts fast enough, so I told her I'd wait.

Another week passed and still nothing changed. Of course, the other frustrating thing is that now I feel like my cycles are all messed up. Maybe some of you have had a similar experience. Does it mean I didn't ovulate last month? I'm so angry that my only contact at the doctor's office is Rhonda the Grump and I absolutely hate calling her with questions. I went ahead and got the medication called out (it's Prometrium, 200 mg for 5 days) and started taking it with hopes of becoming regular again soon. I hate feeling ignorant about what's going on with my body. I hate turning to Google for questions that should be answered by my doctor. I'm so aggravated!

Seriously though, if you see me in real life at the grocery store or at church in the next few weeks, please don't say, "Hey did you ever get your period?" or I will turn and run in the opposite direction! Really.

Note: I finished taking all 5 days of the medication on Saturday (8/23), and by last night (Monday, 8/25) I had started bleeding. I hope things return to a normal schedule. My best answer is that last month was pretty stressful. (?)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Saying Hello and Goodbye

This week has been incredibly busy for us, but it has been wonderful to get to spend some time with good friends. I've been doing a lot of thinking about friendship over the past several days. A couple of weeks ago I found out that a dear friend is moving to another state, and that my best friend since kindergarten is moving much closer to me (that's a photo of us at our kindergarten graduation; I'm on the left). I was sad and happy all at the same time.

I've noticed over the past few years how much I enjoy the comfort of old friends. There's something special about being able to reconnect with someone who knows your past, your family, and all your old stories (the good and the bad, and yes, the ugly). For me it is so important for people to know that I am somebody outside of the problem of infertility. I want them to remember what I was like ten years ago before this nightmare entered my life. I'm scared that the people who only know the present-day Stacey might think that I'm reclusive, depressed, or unfriendly.

I grew up in a very small town where some wonderful friendships were made. I still keep in touch with several elementary and junior high school friends. It is so much fun when we get together and reminisce! Just last night my husband and I stayed out later than usual (for a Monday night) because we were catching up with an old friend and her parents. Before long the conversation turned to the unique experience of living in that small town. I felt kind of sorry for my husband and my friend's husband. They listened and laughed with us but both said they hardly keep up with anyone from their hometowns or huge high schools.

Without a doubt it's comforting to be with old friends. New friends, however, offer a fresh start. They never saw what you looked like when you got your hair cut way too short in the third grade or when you got braces in the tenth grade. They don't know your past or your family, and it's fun sharing those stories you've been telling for years with someone hearing them for the first time. You can discover that you're both still crazy about 80s rock music, have a crush on the same celebrity, or think Happy Hour at Sonic is the best thing ever.

Another sad "side effect" of infertility is that I feel like in some ways my ability to make new friends or maintain old ones gets complicated. I know that sometimes people go in different directions and lose touch because life just gets busy. It's not that we decide to terminate the friendship, it's just that it isn't being nurtured. I have had some friendships grow cold where I really do believe it's because parenthood has made their life so completely different from mine. I'm not shifting the blame entirely away from myself. I know that I've declined a few invitations to go to story hour at the library, the new Disney movie at the theater, or even a play date or two with a group of moms. But these aren't the kinds of things I really enjoy doing at this time in my life. I love the times when I can still get together with my friends who are moms and we can do "grown-up" things. I love their kids too, but I don't want to spend our whole time together watching Dora the Explorer.

More than once in my married life I have been a part of a great group of friends with so much in common and at the same stages of life. Before long, though, everyone moves on and their families grow and change but mine looks exactly the same. No more hanging out past the kids' bedtime. No more spur-of-the-moment trip to see the new movie that might not be "family friendly." More often than not, I now find myself looking for a way out of a conversation that has turned to the subject of labor and delivery or how to find the best nursing bra. It is so hard to be the one left behind. I feel like the only one whose life isn't moving forward.

It is a rare thing to find a friend who strikes the perfect balance. I treasure the ones I have. These are the ones who don't seem awkward when they want to announce their pregnancy. They don't wait until they are 8 months along to finally decide to tell me they're expecting. They know that as much as I'm hurting in my own situation, I still want to share in their joy and have a part in their wonderful news! These friends somehow know that it's ok to show that they care. They realize that I don't always want to talk about my hurts, but they're there when I need to let it out. They know I love hearing updates about their sweet children, but it's not the only topic in the world that we can talk about from now on. They appreciate that sometimes I want to sit on the floor and play with their toddler and his or her cool kid toys, but sometimes I just want to sit on the couch and chat with my friend. There are a few special friends who can make finding this balance seem effortless.

In the next week I'll help an old friend move to a neighboring town and I'll watch a new friend head off to a different state. Both have touched my life in different ways and both have reminded me of the beauty of real friendship.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I like organization. I've been known to go around the house with my label maker putting tags on just about everything. Labels aren't always a good thing though, and they can sometimes be misleading or confusing (or hurtful, when applied to people).

I was reminded of this when I was setting up the various labels over in the right-hand column on this blog. In the world of "Infertility," I'm not quite sure where I belong. To a certain extent I've come to terms with the label even though I'm not technically infertile. It's such a broad title, and that could be why I've become a little more comfortable using it. Maybe it's because I don't have to get real specific with people if I don't want to. Maybe it's a tad bit easier to say than "recurrent miscarriage." It's definitely easier than launching into the history of my six miscarriages.

My ability to become pregnant, however, has done me absolutely no good so far. Therefore, I think it's kind of silly that sometimes I want to distance myself from the word "infertile." What's the point in considering myself fertile if it doesn't result in producing a baby?

As a person whose struggle is with recurrent miscarriage, I don't really know what it's like for those who are having trouble achieving conception. I think I can imagine how frustrating that must be. A couple of times when we have been given the go-ahead to try again, it has taken about a year for us to conceive. Looking back, those were very trying times for us! Most of the time, though, we can't really celebrate when the pregnancy finally does happen. In fact, that's when things get really scary and the roller coaster begins. I slip into a fog for the next 6-12 weeks. It's a blur of doctor visits, ultrasounds, fervent prayer, sleepless nights, and lots of questions. During those times it's hard to even be around people because I can barely hide my anxiety and I'm so distracted. Part of me still desires to keep the pregnancy secret until I know for sure that there's reason to celebrate. I know this is difficult for some to understand if they've never experienced a pregnancy loss.

It's hard to articulate how horrible the pain is, being stuck in this situation. Staying positive and hopeful is a daily struggle, and sometimes I fail miserably. Every day it's on my mind. Every day that passes is a day where I'm painfully aware of getting older and making no progress. It's a constant state of unrest. The best description I have found is in the Bible. Proverbs 30: 15-16 identifies three things that "are never satisfied" and four that never say "Enough!" They are: the grave, the barren womb, land (never satisfied with water), and fire. I've never heard a better description, for no matter how long we've waited and how much we've been through, my desire to be a mother is unwavering and unquenchable, and never satisfied.

I know this is a "heavy" post today, but it's been on my mind. Thanks for sticking around to read it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Calling All SAHWs

Is it possible to be totally sure you are doing the right thing and yet somehow unsure? I don't know but I have feelings like that all the time.

I made a choice (along with my husband) about 7 years ago to be a homemaker. It was an exciting time for us. We were moving to a new state, he had just accepted an unbelievable new job, and we were going to try to have a baby. Part of me says that I've never regretted my decision to become a homemaker. I absolutely love it! When the decision was made, however, we both thought I would soon be joining the SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) club. Now that it hasn't happened that way I have had some doubts. I still love the job of homemaker even though it isn't always rewarding. My biggest reward is feeling content in a clean house. Now, I'm not underestimating that reward. It's huge for me and I know my husband digs it too. It actually felt pretty great today because I got some house cleaning done to the tune of the Olympics on TV. It was pretty inspirational. I think I turned in at least a silver medal performance. But it doesn't feel great day in and day out. It's wonderful when all the laundry is done but that feeling fades pretty fast the next time we take showers and change clothes. Like my mom always says, "A woman's work is never done."

I'm sure lots of women feel discouraged sometimes when it comes to keeping up with housework. I do even though it's my number one job. We also have lots of company and I often feel like I'm running a bed and breakfast (although I like to joke that breakfast isn't always included). As soon as our guests leave it's like a whirlwind of changing sheets, washing towels, and cleaning the bathroom. These are chores. They're not really meant to be fun, just things we must do. Most of the time I really don't mind them too much. Another wonderful thing about being a homemaker is that I can get my work done and allow time for hobbies without feeling guilty about using my time on things I enjoy. Of course many women have figured out how to do that and work outside the home at the same time, which I find amazing. I'm strictly speaking from my own experience. I did at one time have a job outside the home. When I look back on that time in my life I remember spending just about every weekend catching up on chores and not having a whole lot of time to do fun things.

These days the trouble comes when I feel like I haven't contributed much to the world. I wonder if my life has a whole lot of meaning outside of my bubble. It doesn't help that I feel like the only SAHW (Stay At Home Wife) my age in the entire world. Are there any others out there? Thirty-somethings who have chosen to be homemakers and who don't have any children? I don't think I know any but I would be delighted to meet some. Even just one. I want to ask them if they ever feel insignificant. I need to know if they ever feel like just becoming a full-fledged, board-up-the-windows hermit. Sometimes I feel like I'm just one flick of the Swiffer Duster away from being a total recluse.

It is easy to feel insignificant when your social circle becomes smaller and smaller. I don't have any co-workers or any real groups other than church where I interact with others. Most of my relationships these days are maintained through phone calls, e-mail, and Facebook. It can get pretty lonely here.

Some of these feelings and attitudes are in opposition to what I know I really feel about homemaking. I admire homemakers. I want to be as good at homemaking as my mom, my Grandma Mary, and my Granny. The photo on this blog looks like an ad for Ivory soap, but it is an actual picture that I recently found of my great-aunt. I love it because she is a wonderful woman and the picture evokes feelings of a warm, clean, and orderly home. That's what I want people to feel when they come into my home.

Whether I feel like it or not I know I really love what I do. I don't get paid for it but the rewards can be pretty great.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Doctor's Office Etiquette

As a follow-up to my post earlier this week, I thought I'd stay on topic and write some more about going to the doctor. We all have to do it, so maybe we can all relate to each other in one way or another.

I try really hard to be a good patient. I'm a rule follower by nature. Even though doctor's offices don't give you a list of appropriate behavior (although people like me would actually love it if they would) I just choose to follow the rules I've made up in my head. I absolutely hate walking into any place and not knowing what to do. Those are the kinds of situations that give me nightmares! My poor husband is an introvert but I make him go in ahead of me whenever possible so I won't embarrass myself. Fortunately he's a good sport.

So here are some of my rules. Perhaps you follow them too. The most important thing for me when going to the doctor is that I am clean. I never, ever want to be in those conversations that I know doctors have when they are off-duty with their friends! If they have to get right up in my face or see me unclothed, you can bet my body will be nearly scrubbed raw.

Also, when I go to the eye doctor I don't wear eye makeup. Likewise, when I go to the dentist I refrain from putting on lipstick. Of course, I'll admit that's not just out of courtesy to the dentist or hygienist, but mainly because I don't want to leave there looking like The Joker from Batman. And I know I'm going in there for a cleaning but I always brush before they have to look directly into my mouth. I guess that's a little bit like cleaning your house before the maid comes, now that I think about it.

I also think about my feet when I go to the doctor. Let's face it, if I'm at the Gynecologist my feet are going in the stirrups and I don't want the doc to see my dry, flaky heels. I try to work on them before I go, or put on a pair of socks. I'm pretty sure all women have thought of having their legs nice and smooth but I'll mention it just in case. For the Gynie and for my Dermatologist I always shave my legs (and I mean every inch of them - I don't understand leaving the thighs all hairy and just shaving the bottom part. That's cheating!). Maybe doctors don't notice hairy legs but I try to be prepared anyway. There's nothing worse than going to the doctor totally unprepared for an exam. That has happened to me before. I thought it was just a meet-and-greet. I didn't know one of us would be getting undressed today!

About the Dermatologist: if I thought too long about my experiences there I might crack up laughing. You see, my husband and I are fair skinned and both of us have our share of freckles and moles. We go have our moles checked every year and we share our appointment. That means that once a year we are sitting in a little exam room together in paper clothes. It's the silliest feeling, but I realized it was all worth it last October when the doctor biopsied a mole on his back and found that it was an early stage melanoma. He has a pretty big scar on his back now that reminds us that as funny as it seems, it could save our lives.

This is all just silly stuff that I think about at the doctor's office. Maybe you have your own set of rules. Probably if you told them to me I'd want to follow yours too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Help Me Rhonda

I had an idea of what my next post would be about, and this is not it. Doctor visits moved up to the top of the list because I had to call my doctor's office today and it's fresh on my mind.

My husband and I have had lots and lots of experiences with doctors and nurses over the years. Fortunately, for every "bad" experience we've had, there have been many good ones to outweigh them. In a perfect world, we'd pay nurses and teachers and all public servants way more than they even deserve, but I digress. Now that I've made it clear that I'm not a doctor or nurse hater (or even an "Anti-Dentite," to quote Seinfeld), allow me to share some of my recent frustrations from visits or calls to the doctor's office.

In general, I've found that it is becoming increasingly harder to find a doctor's office where I am perfectly content with both the doctor and the staff. I really like my current Fertility Specialist, even though he has a very dry wit. He's definitely a straight-shooter, which is actually one of the things I like about him. He's not the friendliest person I've ever met, but that's ok. I mean, no, I don't exactly like to hear my uterus compared to a sidewalk or a fruitcake, but I can take it if he knows what he's doing. The problem I'm having right now is with his nurse. To protect her identity, I'll call her Rhonda (which is ironic, since she very rarely "helps me"). She's not the nurse I see when I get to the office who shows me to my room and checks my blood pressure, thank goodness. When I have a question or problem or need to call the office for anything other than an appointment, "Rhonda" is the person I have to talk to. In fact, I've only seen her in person once. Rhonda is grumpy. I have tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe things aren't great for her at home. Maybe she has a rough commute every morning. Maybe her underwear is too tight. I don't know what it is, but she is very difficult.

Here's something I really don't understand. I'll admit, I've never worked in a doctor's office before. I have no idea how I would run the place or handle all the phone calls they must receive. But every time I call this office I have to identify myself by name and date of birth (not too strange so far) and then I have to explain why I'm calling. At this point I never know what is too much or too little information! Usually I start off cautiously, "Um, hi. Dr. G said I should call if such-and-such happens and um, well, I don't know what I should do next." Here's the part I don't understand: Rhonda always tells me that she has to go pull my chart and call me back. If I called her and asked her what time it was I swear she would pull my chart and call me back before she answered. Of course, I appreciate the fact that she wants to have my information in front of her before she answers my question, but don't we live in 2008 where offices are equipped with computers? Most of the time my questions don't require a team of researchers poring through medical journals to find the answers. I am completely confused by this.

It's even worse if I call and get the answering service. I have to leave a message for Rhonda, and I always include my name, date of birth, phone number, and reason for calling. You'd think that Rhonda would go get my chart and then call me back. Nope. She calls me back, has me repeat the reason why I'm calling, and then tells me she needs to pull my chart and call me back. While I'm thinking Seinfeld today, this is where I have my "Serenity Now" moment. All I need is this simple question answered or a basic piece of advice on what to do next! Should I come in and see the doctor? Should I just come in for blood work? How is my chart going to help you? Why didn't you look it over before you called me back in the first place, Rhonda?

Perhaps it sounds like I have anger issues. Actually, I just appreciate common courtesy. Rhonda is always very curt on the phone. I'm sure she is quite busy, but the other nurse at the office that I rarely have the joy of catching on the phone is really quite friendly. Rhonda also sometimes calls me "Honey" when she's really annoyed by my questions. I live in the South and I love it here, but I don't like a condescending pet name. If you're calling me "Honey" or "Sweetie" I'd rather if you were my husband, parent, or a nice elderly person who actually thought I was as sweet as honey.

As I've mentioned, I've never worked at a doctor's office. I really don't know the protocol. I'm not very good with directions either. If a nurse is taking me back to the room, she better just walk in front of me and let me follow. If she says, "Go down this hallway and turn left, then through the double doors and it's the third room on the right," chances are I'll end up in the men's room. Oh, and don't expect me to be able to find my way back to the waiting room either! I didn't leave any breadcrumbs, so I'll definitely be needing some help.

I know, I've been hard on one particular nurse today. Sorry, "Rhonda." I haven't even written about some of my receptionist stories yet. That must be a really awkward job to have at a doctor's office. Especially when I call and tell you way more than you needed to know to schedule my appointment for next Thursday at 1:20. 1:20? I must not be talking about my general practitioner's office. Nope - they take a 2-hour lunch break every day and close early on Fridays. Why 2 hours for lunch? I have no idea. But I've learned to be very specific when I go there. I went to have blood drawn to check my thyroid once and was seconds away from receiving either a flu or tetanus shot.

Probably everybody has strange doctor's office stories, but one of my favorites happened last month. I had a large hemorrhage in my eye and was really only concerned about it because I recently had LASIK surgery. I just wanted to make sure nothing weird was happening so I called the eye doctor's office. After I told the doc my problem she explained to me that the iris is the colored part of the eye and the pupil is the little black dot in the center. That was really helpful since I had never heard those terms before and am a complete idiot. Boy, some doctors talk way over our heads but some really must question our intelligence!

Does anyone have a funny doctor's office story to tell? I'd love to hear it but I have to go now. I'm waiting for Rhonda to call me back.