Two weeks ago I found myself wandering the aisles of a medical clinic holding a small cup of pee.
The Perpetually Cheerful Doctor
The medical clinic is home to our own doctor, a perpetually cheerful woman about our age. A couple of years ago when we first met her and came out to her, she had enthusiastically explained that her sister-in-law was a lesbian and had gotten pregnant using a known donor, a mason jar and a turkey baster. I had hoped then that, when the time came for Sea and me to attempt reproduction, she would have developed an understanding of some slightly more medically-sanctioned techniques. Luckily, by the time I visited her for a pre-conception visit this summer, she had. It turned out that her sister-in-law had contracted some harmful bacteria in the process, and our perpetually cheerful doctor was perfectly happy to refer us to a fertility clinic or three. About a month ago we e-mailed her to let her know that she was about eight months away from having a young new patient. She quickly responded, her e-mail written in a bright purple font that bore a suspicious resemblance to Comic Sans Serif. The e-mail was three sentences long and contained fourteen exclamation points. The final sentence instructed, “Come see me later this week or next week and we can review next steps!!!!!!!”
So Sea and I went to see her, though a bit later than requested. We were greeted by a medical assistant, who looked like he would also be well-suited to a job as a security guard. He measured my height and weight, took my blood pressure, then sent me to the bathroom with a small plastic cup. He assured me that he would be waiting outside the bathroom to take the cup back when I was done, but this turned out to be a lie. I exited the bathroom to find him nowhere in sight. I wandered up and down the hallways, pee cup in hand, trying to find him. Twice I walked by the clinic room where Sea was still sitting, patiently waiting. She encouraged me to keep looking, politely stifling any laughter. Finally I found another medical assistant, handed over the pee cup, and went to wait for our perpetually cheerful doctor.
She arrived, ponytail bouncing as she skipped into the room. “So, babies!”, she said, sitting down. “Baby. ONE baby.”, Sea and I corrected her, in unison. She asked when my last period had been, and I stared blankly. When had it been? February? March? The bodily obsession cultivated by fertility clinics was no match for my own gnat-like attention span. Luckily the much more organized Sea could, without pause, provide all relevant dates and numbers. Our perpetually cheerful doctor’s tone didn’t change as she ran through the prenatal screening options and their accompanying miscarriage rates. (We’ll be doing the sequential screen blood tests and NT scan through Clinic One. Unless anything is identified as a red flag, that’ll be it.)
We then moved on to the topic of doctors versus midwives. Our perpetually cheerful doctor was actually the one who had introduced the topic of midwives, at my pre-conception visit several months prior. She had told me then that midwives tend to provide more attention and care, and recommended that we choose a midwifery clinic. Knowing little about either OB/GYNs or midwives, Sea and I had decided to follow this advice. If nothing else, we’re tired of doctors. I’ve had over 30 ultrasounds, I’ve taken three prescription medications, and this blog has referenced six or seven doctors. Considering the fact that we have no known medical issues, this feels like a lot. So midwifery it is. With the decision made and the referral written, our perpetually cheerful doctor sent us on our way and told us not to come back until we had a baby.
Apparently eight weeks is late in the game to be calling a midwife. As soon as we left our perpetually cheerful doctor I called the recommended clinic. Within 24 hours they had called back and, after only a small amount of hemming and hawing about whether they could fit us into their busy schedule, accepted us as clients and booked an appointment for the following Friday.
So last Friday I went to visit the clinic. Sea hadn’t been able to get out of work, so I was there alone (well, technically with Bingo). In the pouring rain the yellow light shining from the clinic’s large glass windows was inviting. I stepped into the clinic and found a conglomeration of mismatched furniture and children’s toys scattered around the waiting room. Two very pregnant women sat in two of the mismatched chairs, as a small child in a hand knit sweater ran in small circles around them. It was the least medical waiting room that I had been in for a while. It began to feel a little more familiar as I sat, filling out the requisite forms. From the reception desk behind me, I heard two midwives complaining about schedules and vacations. They commented on the numbers of “Junes and Julys” that they had seen that week, and it occurred to me that to them I was just another November.
Eventually the midwife who I was going to be seeing appeared. She was middle-aged, thin, and casually dressed. Her curly red hair was held back by a bandanna There wasn’t a lab coat to be seen. She called me into a small cluttered office. I noticed the rainbow mouse pad on the desk, the scattered paper, the half-drunk can of Diet Coke. This surprised me: I had imagined that midwives only drank herbal tea. I had also imagined that midwives spoke in hushed, reverent tones. This midwife did not. I had become accustomed to Dr. Text’s breakneck speed, but this midwife was giving him a run for his money. She spoke so quickly that my head was soon whirling with dates, procedures and midwives schedules. From what I gathered:
-They do hospital or home births. They don’t push for either, and don’t care when we decide. We can decide tomorrow or when the baby is half way out. Whatever.
-The midwives at this clinic work on a rotating schedule. This midwife might be the midwife at our birth, she might not. There’s a good chance that it will be either her or one other midwife, but it could be a third. We’ll meet the other two at the next appointment.
-Two midwives will be present at the birth, wherever it happens: one for the full labor, one who appears later to take care of the baby.
-They have student midwives at the clinic, though new ones won’t be starting until May. The student midwife will likely be there through a lot of our care, but we have veto power.
-This first visit was non-clinical, strictly pants on. After the first visit appointments are monthly until the third trimester, biweekly until the last month, then weekly. Appointments will include weight checks, blood tests, Doppler scans, general physicals. They’ll also test me for a bunch of STIs that I know I don’t have. They take their own pee and draw their own blood: ultrasounds will happen off-site.
-They do one prenatal home visit and three postnatal ones.
Slightly taken aback by the quickfire delivery of information, I really couldn’t think of any questions beyond the couple that I had slipped in as she took breaths. I tried to decide whether I liked her or not, and decided that I did. In any event, the number of clinics that we can choose from are significantly narrowed by where we live and our refusal to consider delivery at a Catholic hospital and eight weeks in is late to be searching for midwives, I’m told. Diet Coke the midwife it is. The next appointment is at the beginning of May, when Sea and I will see who will be joining Diet Coke as part of our midwifery team.
The Ultrasound Technician
The next day was our third pregnancy ultrasound. Two weeks had felt like a very long time to go without a visit to Clinic One, and I was excited to see Bingo.
After a quick sip of Holy Water, Sea and I were called in. The ultrasound technician looked at my file then, fiddling with a due date calendar, told us that I was 9 weeks and 2 days pregnant. “Actually,” Sea, expert of dates, corrected, “She’s 9 days and 5 days pregnant.” The ultrasound technician laughed, “No, no! 9 weeks and 3 days! Maybe 4 days. Do you know what you’re doing wrong? March actually has 31 days! This often confuses patients.” This certainly did confuse me: we’re counting in weeks… it wouldn’t matter if March had 2 days or 2000, the number of weeks would still be the same. Unwilling to argue with such convoluted logic, Sea sat down quietly and I pulled off my pants.
The screen of the ultrasound machine was pointed away from me, facing Sea. As she would later tell me, she had a perfect view of the screen and my bum. As the wand was inserted and Bingo appeared on the screen, the ultrasound technician said “Ohhhh”, in a drawn out way. You would think that they would offer some training to the people looking at your insides, talking about appropriate facial expressions and noises, but it seems that they don’t. Luckily the “Ohhhh” turned out to be an admiring or at least a positive one: Bingo is growing right on target and still has a strong (fast) heartbeat. Sea watched, smiling, as Bingo was measured and evaluated and I waited jealously. Finally the screen was turned to face me and I saw Bingo: looking more human than before, though more like Casper the Ghost than a full-fledged person.
The ultrasound technician printed out two pictures of Bingo, “One for you, one for the grandparents”. As Sea and I joked about telling our parents about Bingo, the ultrasound technician launched into a rant about her Communist father and his opinion on capitalism, her job, and working Saturdays. Slightly confused by what had prompted this Sea and I just nodded, still holding the pictures of Bingo.
Back in the waiting room, we soon began to wish that more people worked Saturdays. All but two of Clinic One’s five doctors were off that day, and we were near the bottom of the long list of people assigned to see Dr. Mean. Slowly the waiting room emptied, as every name except mine was called. Eventually we were the only people left. The receptionists who occasionally walked by looked surprised to see us still sitting there. Once, Dr. Mean walked by– the iPhone in her hand clearly indicating that she was channeling the spirit of Dr. Text. Other than that, nothing. I knit and watched the time tick by, as Sea took advantage of the empty waiting room and took photos on my phone.
“Are you sure you signed the right form?”, Sea asked. “I thought so,” I replied, “but maybe I accidentally signed a lease for the waiting area, instead.”
Two hours into our wait a new couple appeared in the waiting room: “At least we’re ahead of them!”, we thought. Oh, how silly we were. Dr. Mean appeared and called my name, followed quickly by, “Eureka!” “Eureka?” we thought, “That’s a lot of enthusiasm for calling me in.” It turned out, however, that Eureka was the newly arrived patient. Sea and I were shuffled into one room, and Eureka and her partner were shuffled into another. Any thought that this would bring an end to our long wait at Clinic One was quickly dispelled, as Dr. Mean disappeared again. Eventually we heard her voice, coming from Eureka’s room. As we sat and waited, I read my entire file again and we watched Eureka come and go.
Finally Dr. Mean appeared. Always abrupt, she quickly told us that the ultrasound technician had been wrong. She recalculated our due date, vindicating Sea, and answered our questions about screening, Progesterone and graduation from Clinic One. Looking at Bingo’s measurements, she told us that everything looked good and that we didn’t need to come back until our NT scan in two and a half weeks. The scan will also mark our graduation from Clinic One. Having spent two and a half hours of my Saturday morning in Clinic One, I’m looking forward to “graduating”. Still, I’ve grown fond of Clinic One and its quirky cast of characters and, strangely, will miss them when we go.
I hope we get graduation caps at the very least.
Total Ultrasound Count: 32