Dear Doctor Who Told Me I’d Probably Never Have a Child,
I’ll never forget you, both for how you introduced yourself to me and for how you didn’t let me get dressed before telling me I’d probably never be a mother. I sat naked on an exam table, wearing only a paper gown, with a thick wad of paper towels underneath me to catch the blood from my miscarriage. I was clutching the front of that gown to me as if it was my dignity, but we both knew my dignity was draining out of me faster than the blood. And there was nothing to staunch the flow.
“Three to five percent,” you said. These were the odds you gave me of carrying a pregnancy to term and delivering a child. You based these odds on the facts in my file: that I was 41 years old and experiencing my third miscarriage in 18 years, that I had never had a full-term pregnancy, and that I had uterine fibroids.
You did not know me. Had never seen me before that day. I came in after two trips to the ER. The first trip showed a heartbeat on the ultrasound, and I was told the odds were “90 percent” everything would be OK. Two days later, there was no heartbeat. Ironically, my appointment with you had been scheduled before either ER visit, an appointment I had to fight to get because your receptionist said you didn’t see patients until after 10 weeks.
“But I’m 41 years old,” I said. “And I’ve had miscarriages.” I used these facts to get an appointment with you at a little over eight weeks pregnant. But it was too late. Sitting there on your exam table, bleeding so heavily that the paper towels would be saturated when I finally stood up to get dressed, you used those facts against me. Not cruelly, oh no. Professionally. Coldly. I didn’t see pity in your eyes. I didn’t see much of anything at all.
I don’t remember everything you said. You talked about having surgery to remove the fibroids. I asked if it would increase my chances of carrying a pregnancy to term. You shrugged. “At your age, who knows? Maybe a little.” You said you wanted to check my egg reserve. To this day, I don’t know what’s involved in that procedure, as I tuned out. I couldn’t listen anymore. I just wanted you gone so I could get dressed and go home.
I made a follow-up appointment with you, at your request. I never kept it. I got dressed, I walked out, and I didn’t break down until I got to my car. Three to five percent. I knew those numbers already, had read them myself in more articles than I could remember. You saw me as a statistic, a number, an advanced maternal age patient who was deluding herself. You saw someone who needed surgery and tests and a hard dose of reality. I looked in my rearview mirror and I saw puffy eyes and flushed cheeks. I saw someone who wouldn’t give up. Not yet.
I found another doctor. His name has no association with any state, nor did he quote me the statistics like you did. I went to him when I was six weeks pregnant and asked him about taking a progesterone supplement, something I’d read older women often need in pregnancy. He said it couldn’t hurt and wrote the prescription. He didn’t tell me to expect another miscarriage. He didn’t act like I was deluding myself by thinking this time it would be OK. I don’t know if the progesterone helped, or if it was simply my time, but I beat the odds. Twice. My three-to-five percent babies are now 3- and 5-year-old children.
I don’t blame you, Dr. Who Told Me I’d Probably Never Have a Child. I came to you too late for you to do anything except summarize my loss. You probably thought you were helping me, by giving me facts I already knew, by not giving me any false hope — or any hope at all. I know I wasn’t very articulate that day in your exam room. But you were. You were brutally clear.
Another woman might have stopped hoping, stopped trying. Another woman might have thanked you and then moved on with her life. Your statistics, those numbers on a page, may be true for many women, but they weren’t true for me. And I want you to know that and remember that, Dr. Who Told Me I’d Probably Never Have a Child. The next time a crying, broken, bleeding woman is sitting on your exam table, looking to you for a little bit of hope, let her get dressed first before you give her the grim speech about statistics. And then, when you’re done, please tell her about me.