Hi, I’m Christina. I have been pregnant three times. I’ve given birth once at 26 weeks to a micro-premie. I have gone through IVF 10 plus times. I have twin boys born via a gestational carrier.
We have battled infertility and multiple pregnancy losses. Our journey to create our family is complete. Yet, a reminder that I am incomplete comes every year when I go to my annual OB-GYN appointment. From the paperwork to the check out counter, I am forced to take stock of the trails and traumas that I have endured on my path to motherhood. The appointments are necessary for my health, but wreak havoc on my emotions.
After my family was complete, I selected a new OB. In fact, my OB isn’t even an OB. He is just a GYN at this point in his career as he does not deliver babies anymore.
It was an intentional choice to switch to such a provider. I thought I would experience faster appointments, which I do, but more importantly, this doctor wouldn’t be part of my pregnancy history. I thought I would avoid more pregnant ladies, yet, I still have to go to the general waiting room. I still have to hear the “congratulations!” at check out with couples holding happy pictures of sonograms. Instantly reminding me of finding out our baby had lost his/her heartbeat at an ultrasound. I still have to watch uncomfortable super pregnant ladies with swollen ankles rub their bellies with joy as they wait for their appointment. I never was really part of this club, having given birth at 26 weeks to my daughter. I still have to witness the newborn babies come back to OB appointments with their new moms. My daughter was still in the NICU for all my follow-up appointments.
I am so jealous.
I am so sad.
I am so resentful.
I am so many things that I hate.
I don’t want to feel this way… And, yet, I do. Even as I am filled with gratitude for my three healthy, beautiful children.
So, what do I do…..
I acknowledge that those are my complex, contradictory feelings.
I try to reflect on why they have come up and respect the struggles and hardships I’ve been through. I try to live my value of being a kind person. I try to act opposite to how I feel and get dressed up for the next appointment like I’m excited to be there. I try to perspective-take and remind myself that no one has a perfect life and we all have struggles. I try to self-soothe with a hot chai latte afterwards.
Does any of this work? Not fully. Not completely. But, as I tell many of my clients in my counseling practice, it keeps us going to acknowledge our feelings, accept them for what they are, and remain focused on living a value-directed life.
Not all women find a routine annual doctor’s appointment traumatic or triggering. We all have different triggers that outsiders may not understand. Can’t understand, because they haven’t been through our experiences. Whether they are related to pregnancy loss, infertility, or a host of other traumatic experiences.
Perhaps, these annual doctor’s appointments won’t always be as difficult for me to experience. Over time, the emotional charge may lessen. The memories that are still so vivid and sharp may fade. The conditioned response in me to feel such a mix of feelings may become reorganized into a more neutral one. Perhaps, I won’t have to steel myself just so I can enter the lobby of my provider’s office. Perhaps this simple action and experience won’t always be so hard.
I believe in hope and have seen the other side of pregnancy loss and infertility. I have seen individuals transform their pain into something meaningful. So I believe it is possible to continue healing from difficult experiences.
But, what I want to impart to you is that, even if these simple things are still hard for you---going to an annual checkup, attending your friend’s baby shower, learning your sister became pregnant the very first time she tried, getting through Mother’s Day---you can do hard things. You’ve already done plenty. I’m sending you HOPE that these things won’t always be so hard AND STRENGTH to do them, even when they still are.
For your next OBGYN appointment, consider these 6 tips:
1. Schedule the appointment on a day you don't have other stressful events or have to make big decisions.
2. Make sure your phone is fully charged and a new book or podcast is downloaded.
3. Have a planned response ready for when you are asked about birth control or the number of children you have.
4. Plan to do something afterwards--get a latte, call a friend, jam out to your favorite music.
5. Think of all the 4-letter words you can repeat in your head when someone says something ignorant or hurtful. I'll let you imagine what my favorite one is.....
6. Remind yourself: You can do hard things.