I don’t like going to the doctor. In fact, I’m pretty terrified of going to the doctor. I hate needles and hospitals and doctor offices. Since I hardly ever go to the doctor, when I do go it’s because I’m really sick. Consequently, the doctor always tells me I’m really sick. So then I don’t like going to the doctor because they always tell me I’m sick… I’m terrified that I am going to get cancer because my mom had cancer and I’ve just always thought that I would get it too. I do not have the most healthy way of looking at doctors or getting sick but it is something I have been working on improving. My husband knew about my loathing of all things medical before we got married. After we tied the knot we sat down and I really explained to him that I was terrified of getting cancer, rational or not it has been a fear that has governed every medical interaction I have had since I was 16 at least… He pointed out that not all cancer is hereditary and that I have lived a very different lifestyle then my mom. Also, no one else in my family has cancer so the situation might not have the odds I’ve always feared. After that talk I realized that whether I end up getting cancer or not is actually not the main issue. The main issue is whether I am going to take care of myself or not. I want to be a strong, healthy partner just as I expect my husband to be a strong, healthy partner. That means we both needed to reevaluate our feelings about doctors.
I started with the dentist. I’ve had a cracked tooth (rear molar) for a couple of years and have never gone to the dentist to get it fixed. I’ve literally just chewed on the other side of my mouth. For years. So I scheduled myself a dentist appointment and even showed up. I found the dentist by doing lots of online research. I found a place that specializes in “gentle dentistry” aka people with dental phobias or who have really sensitive teeth. After finding that place I compared online reviews with lots of other places who specialized in the same thing. I found the one that was ranked the highest and made an appointment. It ended up being really great! The dentist and dental assistants, even the lady at the front desk, all listened to me and explained things when I told them if I knew what was coming I wouldn’t jump. It was a really positive experience. That turned out to be good because I’ve seen a lot of them since then and I will continue to do so. When you don’t go to the dentist for 5 years or so except for that one root canal you couldn’t avoid… your teeth will probably need some work. My cracked tooth needed a root canal. I knew that going in. Turns out the tooth cracked because of the way my teeth connect and I also need another root canal on the same tooth on the other side of my mouth! That one doesn’t look cracked but actually is down between the teeth. Oh good… I finally decide to take care of business and now I need $4400 dollars in dental work. My husband still says it was the right choice. I’m not so sure. Meanwhile, I’ve completed the one root canal on the cracked tooth. It was my third and it was the best root canal I’ve experienced! When my husband gets a job I will schedule the other one. Right now we just can’t afford it.
So I dealt with my teeth. The next step is going to a regular physical check up. I don’t feel quite up for that so I scheduled a lady doctor appointment. I was only marginally less terrified of this doctor visit then of a normal physical. I have only seen an OBGYN once and that was eight years ago. I conducted research to find the best doctor covered by my insurance. Then I needed to decide if I wanted a doctor that was just a GYN or one that was also an OB. I decided on the OB because if we decide to have kids and I like the doctor then I don’t want to have to get a new one. So, I went to that appointment today. It was not nearly as awful as I was afraid. I cried twice when I asked the Big Questions that have scared me for years:
1) Do I have the breast cancer gene?
2) Can I have children?
These questions have plagued me for years and I have been too scared of the answers to ever ask them. The good news is that I can have children! The other good news is that it seems unlikely that I have the breast cancer gene because of our family history. The bad news is that to really be sure I will need to ask my mom to get a genetic screening and then get a screening myself for comparison. That doesn’t seem likely because of her own relationship with doctors. The other questions I had the doctor answered as well. In fact she took the time to go through each question on my list I brought and patiently answered everything. In my experience doctors seem more apt to prescribe a pill, let the pharmacist go over it with you, and move on then they are to sit down and talk with you about what’s going on and what to expect. Key take away from my visit:
Condoms are only 85% effective!
WTF?!?!?!?! I told the doctor that I thought they were 99% effective and she smiled and asked if I liked the show Friends and learned that from Ross and Rachel’s experience. (I DID! AND I NEVER KNEW THAT FRIENDS WAS WHERE I HAD GOTTEN MY CERTAINTY THAT CONDOMS WERE 99% EFFECTIVE!!!!) So, turns out we’re REALLY lucky that we haven’t had a pregnancy “scare” because, you know, we use condoms. Speaking of babies…
My husband almost caused me to crash my car when we were driving back from our honeymoon last November because he said he could picture us having kids “next year.” For the record, that “next year” is five months away! With that comment he had moved from how we had been talking about kids: “someday, maybe if we have kids” to the concrete near future certainty about kids: “I can see us making a baby at this time next year.” That was a big startling revelation in our relationship and we have been having an ongoing conversation about kids since then. It’s like suddenly with that one conversation he gave me Baby Fever! I had never been partial to babies, not that interested, babies were still hypothetical in my future. Suddenly I see babies and I’m like “AAAAAWWWWWWWWWW! LOOK AT THE WIDDLE TOES!” It’s been a struggle to keep my anxiety and fear at bay because they are so wrapped up in my thoughts about having kids.
Since I’ve always believed I would get cancer, I haven’t wanted to have any children because I don’t want to put them through what I had to go through and I don’t want to put my husband through what my dad had to go through. Also I’m terrified about how the world is a dark and scary place and how can I bring an innocent child into that? And what about if the child has a birth defect or a disability or grows up to become a serial killer?!?!?! And what if I go crazy and then everyone has to deal with crazy me? And what if something bad happens? Or what if the baby gets cancer?
I’ve been carrying around all these worries and what ifs for years and I’ve never let myself really consider having a child because all these dark thought were between me and the thought of me having kids being possible. My husband has dutifully talked through all these fears and more with me and even brought up some of his own… what if our parents try to move in with us to “help,” what if our puppy doesn’t like the baby, what if we lose our jobs and have a baby, what if we want to travel or move across the country? So we talked about those things as well… and we’ve been talking about these things for the past 7 months. Finally today I let all the fear and anxiety out at the doctor’s office and shared them with the doctor. She explained what she could and then patted my hand and told me “you can’t live in the world of what if. You can’t live in a world governed by fear. You’ve had some bad things happen in your life. Some really sad things you’ve had to deal with. You could use some joy in your life. Babies bring lots of joy. It’s ok. You are a healthy, young, responsible adult in a healthy relationship: go make babies.” And then we smiled at each other. And I felt this dark creeping cloud that’s been hovering for years just raise up off me while I can still feel it hovering, waiting for me to descend into the dark pit of worries and what ifs, for the rest of today I’ve just been smiling. I was waiting to make a decision about “the whole baby thing” until I had a sign from the universe. I don’t know how much more clear the universe can be then having a doctor tell me to “walk thirty minutes a day, take a multivitamin, and make babies.”
I talked with my husband as soon as I got home and told him everything. We both just smiled at each other and decided: it’s time to invite more joy into our lives and stop letting worries and fear make our decisions for us. We’ve decided we are going to have a child and now it’s a matter of when, not if.