Monday, May 16, 2011

You're Supposed to Ask

She didn't even ask if I had any questions...

My close friends know that for years (since college), I've been suffering from undiagnosed, vague, ill-defined but very intensely-experienced medical problems of a, um, girlish nature.  There's all sorts of details and qualifications that sort of come and go, but the bottom line is: PAIN, basically 3 weeks a month.  In the past, I've pretty much just tolerated it, or self-medicated with Tylenol and Motrin.  For a brief time in college, a doc prescribed Vioxx for me, which I absolutely loved, but shortly thereafter it was recalled and permanently pulled from the shelves.  Since then, I've had several doctors whose approach to my problems were one of the three things: 1) Yes, well, these things happen.  2) Well, all the tests are negative, here, have some birth control pills.  3) It's probably some intestinal bug, go home and rest.

In September, I had an appointment with a new doctor when I moved out here for internship.  She came highly recommended (from the local pro-life pregnancy center, who I asked because I wanted someone awesome, not someone who would just blow me off again.), and she is amazing.  A very faithful Catholic woman with three kids of her own, she listens well, and genuinely wants to figure out what's going on and help me feel better.  In the last few weeks, we've redone all the ultrasounds and lab work, rehashed all the history, and still come up empty.  She's a primary care doc, and so today she referred me to a GYN (appointments being scheduled 2 months out!).  And she suggested that until then, I take birth control, just so that we can see what happens, and add another data point to the mystery.  If it helps, that tells us something; if it doesn't, that tells us something too. 

I wasn't thrilled with the suggestion, but scientifically, I understand the point.  She asked what I thought, and I told her that although I've never taken birth control at all, I was willing to take a leap of faith.  I've never really needed to, either from a therapeutic or contraceptive perspective, and then sometime over the course of the last few years, almost without even realizing it, my moral, philosophical, and theological take has shifted, and I've become wholly opposed to artificial birth control as a matter of principle.  I explained that, which of course she understood, and asked again if I was okay with it.  I told her I was, and she wrote the prescription.  I've taken plenty of medication in my life; this is no different than anything else, right?

It wasn't until later in the day that I was able to get to the pharmacy to pick it up.  Waiting in line, all of a sudden I started to hate the whole thing - myself, the drugs, the incompetent woman manning the register, the world.  I hate myself for doing something I'm morally opposed to.  I hate the drugs because (I don't know where I got this idea, and objectively, I understand that it's wrong) I'm convinced that taking them is going to prevent me from ever having children.  I hated the lady because she didn't even ask if I had any questions about the medication.  You're supposed to ask.  She just handed them over to me in a plain white paper bag, like she probably does a hundred times a day, probably assuming that I've been taking this medication for 15 years.  I wanted to sit down right there on the floor and start crying, and tell her that I want to have babies, but I'm sick, that there's something wrong with my body and I'm not taking this because I want sex-without-consequences.  I hated the world because this is what we've come to, that to take artificial birth control is "normal" and to be 29 years old and never have taken it is "abnormal," and what the hell kind of world is that? 

I've come to the conviction, lately, that the advent of The Pill is pretty much what accounts for most of the downfall of Western civilization.  That the separation of sex from babies has devalued sex, and babies, and men, and women, and relationships, and parenthood, and childhood, and humans in general.  I just didn't realize how strongly I felt about it until I had this stupid white bag, crammed down deep in my purse, so I could try to forget about it.  This isn't who I am.  Ever since I've come this moral conclusion, I've been proud of myself for resisting attempts to just treat my symptoms by stocking my body with synthetic hormones.  Even though I know it's a positive step to try to figure out what's going on, it feels like a step backward in my dreams; what I want is babies, and right now, even if Prince Charming showed up at my door tonight and we flew to Vegas and eloped, I couldn't have them.

Which isn't technically true, I suppose.  I have to wait another two weeks to start taking them.  But I'm scared that I'll never have babies, I'm scared that there's something really wrong with me, I'm scared that this is morally wrong and I'm just going along with it, I'm scared that I'm going to get fat, I'm scared that I'm going to become a crazy hormonal nutjob, I'm scared that there will be a big scarlet BC on my forehead and everyone I meet will know that I take birth control and assume that I'm just out there having sex with every random guy I meet at a bar.  I'm scared that I will go through all this work and money and time and stress to figure out what's wrong with me, and in the end, it won't matter because we'll never really figure it out, and there won't be anyone to care, anyway. 

She didn't even ask if I had any questions. 

You're supposed to ask.


Kevin Haug said...

Are you o.k.?

Elizabeth of Hungary said...

I'm sad, but I'll be ok. Physically, I'm ok. Whatever it is, it isn't deadly, so at least there's that.

Kevin Haug said...

I personally hope your sadness will be turned to joy quickly. Life does indeed suck sometimes as we are forced to do things we wouldn't normally do on our own accord, but in the (in)famous words of Tony Campolo as he quotes that Baptist preacher, "It's only Friday, but Sunday...Sunday's a comin'."

Peace and prayers be with you as you struggle.


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