The Annual Conversation I Hate

Some of you (hi Mom!) may well consider this entire post TMI, but I don’t care. I think we should talk about this stuff more, and just because the story starts with my having ladybits doesn’t mean it should be swept under the rug.

Once a year, those of us with ladybits are supposed to go to a doctor to have those bits examined. This can be more or less unpleasant depending on the exact kinds of examination that have to occur, and some of us would love to avoid it. But for some of us,  the involvement of health insurance means we don’t have a choice: if we want the birth control, we have to have a lunch date with the speculum (go ahead and look that up, male-people; I’ll wait).

Several years ago I decided to pick a nice ladydoctor practice, preferably one with actual lady-doctors, and try to have a long-term relationship with them, instead of my prior fly-by-night relationships with anybody who would write me a prescription for 12 months of The Pill. So I found a well-reputed place here in Atlanta. I freaked out a little at my first visit because Well-Reputed Ladydoctor means babies — lots and lots of babies, pregnant women, women who want to be pregnant, posters of babies and pregnant women, brochures about what to do with your placenta after birth, etc. It’s a little intimidating, especially if the Should I Have Babies OMG Am I Missing Out thing is an issue in your life. But I tried to cultivate both self-love and other-love and see the women there as just other women, doing their thing, even if the thing they’re doing is different from what I’m doing, which is also okay.

The doctor I saw that year was very nice. When, at the end of the exam, she asked me if I’d given any thought to having children, and then gently suggested that I was getting older and needed to go ahead and do it already if I was going to do it, I was a little flustered, but I let it go. I know doctors need to ask these questions, because some patients won’t bring stuff up on their own. I have enough wonderful doctor friends to really, really get that.

But it got weird the next year, when the same doctor asked me the same question, and gave me the same lecture, verbatim. I remembered it with searing clarity, so I am 100% sure she was working off a script. I understand why that might be, and so I deflected the conversation with noncommittal answers, and we moved on.

Year three? I almost said something. I thought about reciting the lecture along with her. I wondered when I get to the next level of the script, the “Well, you’re really too old now, TOO BAD, LOSER” level. I made a lot of jokes in my head. And then, when I got to my car, I started crying, and I cried all the way home, and I wasn’t even sure exactly why I was crying.

So this year I decided to be a little proactive, and although I went to the same practice, I asked for a different doctor. And I rehearsed the conversation. When she asked if I’d given any thought to having children (seriously? Are there 37-year-old women in the USA who haven’t? I cannot be the only one who has noticed that most women have kids by my age, right?), I was prepared. Thanks, I said, but we had given thought to it, and for now we’d decided it wasn’t going to happen. And it might happen later on, but if it did, I understood that it probably wasn’t going to happen with my own ladybits, or at least not without some assistance, and we were aware of other options and would be just fine.

I guess I hoped, on some level, that there’s a box on the forms the doctors have, and that she could check “Well-informed; does not need to have this particular stick shoved in her eye every 12 months.”

Instead? This doctor — who was also very nice! and doing her job! and I get that! — set her clipboard down and removed her glasses and looked at me thoughtfully.

“You mean adoption?” she asked. “I have several friends who have gone that route. It’s a wonderful option and I fully support it in theory. But if you’re going to do that, honestly? you should think about starting that process soon too. It can take years, and it’s really stressful and exhausting, and if you don’t start pretty soon, you’ll find yourself… well, you might even have more difficulty adopting, and either way, you could end up being older than you’d wish you had been.”

I will tell you that instead of crying on the way home yesterday I just tried to honor the feelings of SHEER RAGE. I can’t even articulate all of it. Maybe I’ll try over several days, but for right now, I thought maybe I’d see if anybody else has had similar experiences, and thoughts about it.

I want my doctors to be proactively involved in my health care. I don’t want them to tiptoe around me. But there has to be a way to say to grown women — especially grown women who have come to your office specifically asking for birth control prescriptions — that you are open to being a resource for them, without implying that they idiotically haven’t thought through their decisions, and that somehow this is a decision they really need to think through above all others.

I know motherhood is special and awesome. It’s something I might enjoy someday — but maybe not. Sort of like skydiving. If I do it, I’ll do it on my own schedule. In the meantime, there has to be some way for me to opt out of this conversation.

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