Blood tests are rather innocuous. The pin prick is just slightly annoying, and the ordeal usually only takes a few moments. The clues that the collected blood contain and the impact they may have on your life are much more serious. Waiting on the vital information from blood tests is a regular occurrence in the medical world, and those results can mean so much.
My wife and I always tell the story about how just days before we were to get engaged, we found out that her earlier genetic testing results had been corrupted, and we could not get any definitive answers as to our compatibility.
We rode the train together for her to be retested, and then spent an agonizing week waiting for results that were delayed because of the holidays. The rest of our lives was dependent on those results, and we literally spent days sitting by the phone waiting for the eventual good news.
Waiting for blood results in an era before caller id was yet another challenging experience, and it began on the very first day of our infertility journey, as we were both tested to see if there were any obvious clues to the problems.
Unlike our experience before our engagement, we were both working at the time. In some ways that made things easier because we were preoccupied and didn’t spend hours on end near the phone. On the other hand, it was difficult to concentrate at work with such important results pending and even more difficult to try to focus on bills and other normal things that usually preoccupy couples.
Thankfully, the results were productive and our doctor had a treatment protocol that he was ready to begin. He prescribed a medication called Clomid and outlined the protocol for the next month.
For the sake of tznius, I will not go into too many of the details, but before he would write the prescription the doctor wanted to give us two warnings. First, he told my wife that the use of these medications is correlated with a higher incidence of ovarian cancer, and he wanted to make sure she was willing to accept that risk.
Second, he warned that multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) were not infrequent with this kind of medication and that we should be aware that this was a real possibility. At the time, not fully realizing the ramifications, my thought was how nice multiples would be so that we get this over with and not have to go through the ordeal again.
Infertility treatments are a transformative experience for a couple. Monthly hope and prayers are joined by medication regimens, counting days, ovulation predictions and timed intimacy. It is also important to note that no medications are without side effects, and Clomid has mood changing properties that added to an already tense situation.
The doctor had warned us that these things take time and we needed to find the right doses. I think it is almost natural for couples to hope for the best each treatment cycle, even though failure is such a devastating blow. In the early months of treatment, we really didn’t have to wait that long, as we could gauge failure through the size of follicles in ultrasound results.
Those painful months were all the same, measured only by an increase in dose or the addition of other medications, the anticipation and hope of the ultrasound and the devastation of yet another unsuccessful attempt. It is important to note that we usually had those ultrasound results before the scheduled day for the mikvah and you can only imagine the impact such bad news had on the marital relationship.
As I mentioned once before, I was fortunate to have some flexibility in my work schedule even though I worked quite far away from home. I was there for every appointment. I was there to offer a silent prayer before every ultrasound that this would be a month when we at least had a chance.
Those months were interminable. Looking back, it seems like a series of doctors appointments and ultrasounds and frustration. It literally took over our lives and was foremost in our thoughts day in and day out.
Fortunately, we could tell that we were on the right path. As the months went by and we adjusted medications, the follicles grew ever closer to the necessary size. We just needed the right formula.
One month the doctor was excited when he walked in. He said that he had just come back from a conference in which a new treatment protocol was introduced. He wanted us to give this new protocol a shot.
I was more than a bit wary. We were getting closer every month. Why take a gamble on something different even if it had some real potential? Doctors do have a way of being convincing, especially when they are dealing with exasperated patients, and he talked us into it.
In retrospect, his excitement should have been a dead giveaway. He wasn’t excited for us, he was excited because he was going to be able to try and see if he could duplicate the results he saw at his conference.
Unfortunately, that month was a total bust. In the long term scheme of things, one month isn’t that much time, but it was a step back for us and the first month with no progress. It was an important lesson. Doctors may pay close attention to their patients, but they are not living their lives. It would always be our job to advocate for what was best for us, irrespective of what the doctors may want.
And then, finally, one month it happened. It’s almost humorous how lay people going through medical ordeals start to understand much of what they are seeing. As soon as the ultrasound started, I could see that there was a follicle that looked like it might be the right size.
I didn’t mention that to my wife, as I was waiting to get the official report. The few seconds it took to measure felt like an eternity before the doctor turned to us and told us that at last one of the follicles appeared to be of the correct size (he also mentioned that a second follicle was also close, but I wasn’t paying attention to that). Our chance had finally arrived.
The emotions are hard to describe. This was what we had been waiting and praying for, but nothing had been done yet. The follicle still needed to be fertilized, and there were never any guarantees that fertilization would occur.
I don’t remember saying much about it to my wife. It was very clinical, as we discussed optimum ovulation times and the actual method, which was about as far away from natural as you can get.
There were issues to discuss with our Rav. Interestingly, we had never asked these kinds of practical questions, never being sure that it would be relevant and not wanting to get our hopes up.
The whole thing is a rather humiliating experience. Without getting into detail, for the first time I started to see what my wife had been going through on a monthly basis. Humiliating or not, there was no choice. All we could do was follow the doctor’s orders and then sit back and pray.
Unfortunately there are no quick answers either. Even with ultrasound and advanced medical technology, it still takes weeks to get the results. Those were weeks of knowing that for the first time there was really a chance, that the potential for the realization of all of our dreams and prayers could be a reality, or we could receive the devastating news that it had all been for naught.
It was out of our hands. All we could do was pray and wait until we could schedule a blood test three weeks later and then wait by the phone once again for the new, most important results of our lives: a positive or negative pregnancy test.Chaim Shapiro
About the Author: Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a freelance writer, public speaker and social media consultant. He is currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/
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