Monday, April 19, 2010
The other night I dreamt I was seven months pregnant. All sorts of things were going through my slumbering head. Who was the father? Did I care really? Mostly I was worried that I had had NO prenatal care at seven months gestation and I was trying desperately to get in touch with one of my three Ob/Gyns (in real life I only have two), but it was Friday and no one could call me back and something seemed wrong. I can't remember now what. Just before I woke up, I remembered that I had been on coumadin (or warfarin--the rat poison I actually do take to keep the clots in my brain from growing) during the entire pregnancy. And that it is a teratogen, which means that it causes severe damage to fetuses--in the case of coumadin, usually bony deformities.
I awoke feeling anxious and strangely happy to at least be pregnant. I reached down to my abdomen but there was no swell of a seven month pregnancy. Just the disguised 6-pack from those sit-ups I've started doing again.
That dream lingered all day. I was in neurology clinic and a woman brought her five-week old and her husband. The baby was their third.
It was not the first such dream I'd had. I had a dream a few months ago that I'd given birth to a litter--literally five babies and that I hadn't expected that many and that my family kept trying to put them in the back of the pick-up truck to help get them home and I was unmarried and had no partner and beside myself trying to tell them that we at least needed to get car seats to strap in the back of the truck for the babies.
Another was about being pregnant also--two months that time.
A father to these nighttime deliveries never surfaces.
These next few weeks I'm on Ob/Gyn. Today was my first clinic back in reproductive-endocrinology-infertility clinic since med school when I rotated through one. This time I'm older, though. "You can't cure birthdays," my attending jokes. Very funny. "The female residents who rotate through here always get freaked out and get their FSH checked." How did he know? Anything above 12 three days before your menstrual cycles and your chances of conception are 3% per cycle, and half of those will have birth defects. Or something like that. I told him I didn't want to know anyway.
I lament this my age-related fertility and the coumadin and lupus and singleness occasionally. Today to my friend Karen, whom I have known since kindergarten, who has a husband and an adorable little boy of her own. She says sometime she wishes her life were different, too. Rarely, but sometimes.
Yes, we all have different challenges and goals and paths we take and have taken.
Now that I finally have my life somewhat back with a regular schedule, no more overnight calls unless I moonlight, a job contract signed, nebulous thoughts of training for a triathlon again (flat on the bike this morning and walked home barefoot), a puppy, new music to explore, time for more travel, I have thoughts of a family of my own more often.
I find myself wanting to say to the universe, "Hello Life! I barely recognized you. Oh how I have missed you. Welcome back."
The last patient of the day in infertility clinic was 35 years old. She was the only one there with her husband that day--some of the others having spouses overseas and there to try to get pregnant with their frozen sperm. The attending briefed me on the situation before we entered the room, "She has breast cancer. She's had her surgery and is ready to undergo chemotherapy. She's here to have her eggs harvested since she's not sure what will be possible after the chemo." I find out also that her tumor is estrogen receptor positive--or was--they'd told her they got it all out.
There is a question of whether or not to fertilize the oocytes (eggs) before preservation. There exists more successful experience with freezing them this way, but it raises the question of creating a form of life when the mother may not survive to grow them into reality. The couple doesn't hesitate to choose to freeze fertilized eggs instead of the unfertilized eggs. They seem confident that she will come through it well. Despite this her eyes start to well up a little when she asserted, "I want these embryos." Military families don't cry often in public in my experience. I watched her concerned husband and thought I could see fear in his eyes--fear of losing his wife, fear of no child in their future, fear of having to change his expectations. Fears--or perhaps those were some of my own fears shadowed onto him. I won't know.
On the way home from clinic, feeling distant and thinking dark uterine thoughts, I glanced up in time to see a bookstore to which my aunt and uncle had given me a gift card for Christmas. I like books. "Maybe this will undo my mini-funk." I pulled in and got out of the car by a tai bo studio with a homeless person rifling through bags on the back step and a barefooted man with boxing gloves blowing his nose in the bushes in front. I pretended I didn't see either.
The bookstore was new to me--and enormous as it wound its way back through the converted movie theater with the beautifully painted ceiling. I meandered by the gift cards--Mother's Day approaches, but mom likes the cards I make from my pictures best anyway. She needs a new address book since her ancient avocado green one continues to disintegrate but it makes more sense to just enter things into her new Droid for her. Easter stuffed bunnies are on sale and Sophie loves the one I got her last week--loves to destroy it that is. The kids' section is at the back and I move in that direction, recognizing authors and titles along the way, pausing at the pet section and noticing a title, "In Dogs we Trust." Really? I move on. The kids section has beautiful books from my youth. "Where the Wild Things Are." "The Giving Tree." But nothing that catches my eye now.
I decide to leave and walk slowly back toward the door, looking left I see maps. I like maps. They take you places. They provide guidance but don't insist that you end up anywhere in particular.
I like maps. So I turn left. The maps are accompanied by travel books; the Eyewitness DK books are my favorite. I look at the familiar format and see the ones I've carried with me overseas to their namesakes: "Italy," "London," "Spain," "Barcelona," "New Zealand," "Thailand," and the ones I've purchased but not yet delivered: "Greece," "Turkey." And so many more. None of the European or Asian destinations feel right this time around. I go to the other side of the bookshelf and see South American titles. "Peru" catches my eye. I want it. I remember the Mayan ruins we visited during my high school years when my parents were together and our family friend who was the only doctor I really knew was still alive and our families traveled together to the beautiful Yucatan peninsula. He died suddenly when I was in college. His only daughter is getting married this weekend.
I barely look at the "Peru" book in the store. It feels right. I'll devour it with dreams over the next weeks or months. Maybe I'll go. Maybe I won't. Either way, it will be fun to know I might--and that I can. Being without child does have its advantages.
Maps have all sorts of paths--and all sorts of destinations.