Listening, the underappreciated skill

A couple of days ago, H sent me an email to let me know my mother had phoned him to tell him all about a private obstetrician a friend of hers she goes skiing with had recommended.

I completely lost my temper.

Eventually, H and I reconvened face to face and I said, dearheart, an obstetrician? What the fucking fuck? Is my mother on crack? Are you on crack? I repeat, what the fucking fuck?

And H said, well, aren’t you seeing an obstetrician already?

So my head exploded.

After a while, when I’d found the dust-pan and brush and swept up the shards of my skull, and H had dressed his shrapnel-wounds, we discussed the important technical differences between obstetrics and gynaecology. Then we googled this ‘obstetrician’ and discovered she was actually also a gynaecologist who specialised in PCOS and recurrent miscarriage, and therefore at least my mother is not on crack (H, well, after five-and-a-half al-bloody-mighty years of this shit, H has a moral duty to know the difference between obstetrics and gynaecology, is all).

However, I am by no means enchanted by the fact that my mother is now discussing the parlous state of my uterus and associated hangers-on with some middle-aged man I’ve only met the once while sharing canapés at the Après-ski. For fuck’s sake.

*Interlude with distant gong-like noise, actually caused by May banging her head on the side of the bath*

I was feeling decidedly ‘dear everyone who is not me, please butt out of my medical care’, with a side-order of ‘why the hell would I need to see yet another medical practitioner? Eh? Isn’t The Professor the official Best In Show round here? Eh? Eh?’. But then Miss Consultant, my NHS medico, who specialises in the bleedin’ obvious and not listening to her patients, and who is allegedly treating me for PCOS, finally sent me a letter (well, her staff finally sent me a letter) detailing the visit we had with her in November (more than two months ago! And they can’t even blame the postal service, because the letter is dated LAST WEEK!), going on and on about ovarian drilling and IUIs with, and I quote, ‘ovarian hyperstimulation’. Because, according to this letter, I don’t ovulate. She also sent a copy of this document (passive-aggressively, I thought) to The Professor, who had recommended no aggressive treatment at all (i.e., if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) as I get pregnant all the time flying solo (duo. Actually. For biological reasons). There was not a word in this letter anywhere about recurrent functional ovarian cysts (which was my diagnosis of why I didn’t ovulate for two months, then suffered pain and bleeding, then ovulated three weeks after that, last Autumn), or possible teratomas, or endometriomas (which I also ‘mentioned’ at length), or the quite astonishingly massive amounts of pain I am in, or fibroids, or adenomyosis, or anything else that actually is wrong with me.

Of course, to be fair (let’s be fair. It’s good for the smugness muscles), Miss Consultant doesn’t know I’ve been pregnant (haha) since I last saw her, i.e. I do too ovulate, thanks for listening. I get to drop that bombshell on her next Wednesday. When I shall also thoroughly nix drilling anything at all. And when, hopefully, the results of my day 3 bloodwork, H’s latest semen analysis, and my scan will all be on the desk before her. I shall demand copies. And I shall remind her that Clomid doesn’t work for me, so what exactly was she planning on ‘hyperstimulating’ me with?

Suddenly, my mother’s suggestion of going 100% private really does appeal to me. If only because it’d be nice to have a doctor who actually pays the words I am actually saying to them the slightest attention. Even if no doctor has a clue what to do with me any more, and science has no more to offer, the least they could all do is offer me the basic minimum courtesy of listening to a word I say.


15 responses to “Listening, the underappreciated skill

  • a

    Well, much as your mother cannot say the right thing, I must give her credit for advocating on your behalf.

    So, at this point, I must ask…you’re pretty eloquent here – do you have a debilitating speech impediment or white coat disease or something else that makes people completely miss the point of what you’re saying? Or is Miss Consultant talking to someone else entirely thinking it’s you? Because she’s pretty far off the road I thought you were travelling on…

    Sounds like there’s some merit in your mother’s idea.

  • Amy P

    Ouch, H. *shakes head (in an affectionate way, not in a negative-type-emotion way)*

    May, maybe you could print out your medical synopsis thingy from this blog and take it with you to give to Miss Consultant? Or at least have it with you as notes. I did the same with Faith’s birth story when I was pregnant with Grace, which made my midwife leave her home as soon as the hospital called her. Not M’s fault Grace was in such a hurry (nor that M got caught behind a log truck on a road that no sane person would ever try to pass on–heck, even an insane person wouldn’t, as there’s a mountain a few feet from one side, and a long sheer drop to a river a few feet from the other, and it’s twisty)–at least she got there as Tom was cutting the cord, and she arrived a few minutes before the anesthesiologist did (no epidural that time, either)…

  • May

    Well, as an American I am not thoroughly aware on the intricacies of the NHS, private, etc, but as someone with PCOS and other assorted reproductive difficulties I was all-too-aware of the issues of time, tick tick tick, what-have-you. I was NOT patient when it came to issues of reproduction. It seems to me, from reading various lovely British blogs, that the NHS takes ages, and private is faster. Combine that with Miss Consultant’s apparent obliviousness to everything you say, I would throw money at the problem (assuming said money is available) and go private.

    • Laurel

      What she said.

      I can forgive confusing OB/GYN because they are so often attached like that and, unless you are prone to think about Latin/Greek roots of words, you might think of them as sort of interchangeable.

      Also, as far as your mother, I think her action–though she should have asked you first about asking around–shows her heart is in the right place; she’s reaching out and trying to help, in a pretty productive way.

      Looking forward to hearing how next Wednesday’s meeting goes. It does seem like anything meriting the word “drilling” should not be inflicted upon any part of one’s body if at all avoidable.

  • AMH

    I know you’re understandably gun-shy about the idea of ovarian hyperstimulation. But I really would consider a private injectable cycle, or even a “mini IVF” designed to harvest only a half dozen eggs. Because it seems like rigidly controlling your entire cycle, including assuring a timely and mature egg, could be beneficial to you. IMO, it seems like closely monitoring and controlling your hormone levels at all stages of your cycle would be key, thus ovarian stimulation.

  • wombattwo

    Poor H has learnt the difference NOW, hasn’t he?
    I suspect what was going on with Miss Consultant was an extreme case of Not Listening. She knows you have PCOS, and has therefore got it stuck in her head that women with PCOS Do Not Ovulate, and so she seems to be going through the old proforma (for want of a better word) of “what to do with PCOS” despite the fact that it doesn’t necessarily apply to you personally.
    I mean, yes, you have PCOS, which is no doubt part of the problem, but you do ovulate, demonstrated spectacularly by satsuma over the last however many years. And you know that your and H’s genetic material is OK, as demonstrated by karyotyping. You also know that H’s sperm must be OK, as demonstrated not only by semen analysis but by the fact that the little tadpoles actually reach the egg and make contact with it.
    I am going to agree with you on the fact that you should not let anybody with a drill anywhere near you. Unless they’re hanging a picture. It can cause more problems (scar tissue etc) than it solves, (let alone the destruction of precious ovarian tissue).
    So I think when you enter Miss Consultant’s room, she is thinking “Ah yes, PCOS, we do THIS for that.” Unfortunately this seems to be a recurring theme with some doctors. I think that if they’re not listening to you, when you’re talking sense (which you are) it’s time to jump ship and seek another opinion, and don’t worry about their feelings. If they were that worried, they should have listened in the first place.

  • Korechronicles

    Make the appointment. It’s inexcusable that you are not being heard. I’m finding it really difficult to read the merry dance you are being led on because nothing makes me crosser than professionals (in any sphere, not picking on medicos here) who do their jobs on autopilot and fail to realise that an individual with all the individual quirks and differences, sits before them. Man up, people, and do the work to get to bottom of the problem. It’s so satisfying when you break through with a solution.

    I hope the Big-MouthMother’s ski-pal referred specialist has his listening ears on. Because I’m just itching to get my Curse Hat on.

  • Korechronicles

    And H? You at least knew the word obstetrician. Life Partner has absolutely no awareness of the existence of either specialist. Despite the three children and wife with spectacularly quirky reproductive systems. Hope you’ve reached the point where May is kissing the shrapnel wounds better.

  • carole

    My dear girl, what can you be thinking? OF COURSE the doctor doesn’t listen: you only live in your body, what do you know? He/she on the other hand has had an expensive education, with certificates , and they know what’s best. If A, do B. Even if A is just your best guess and something doesn’t quite fit, those are merely distractions…..

    I ended up doing IUIs even though I also ovulated perfectly well on my own, also seemed to get slightly pregnant every now and again, and everything else checked out. But my doctors were at least pretty honest about it: we don’t know what the problem is, but we don’t want to wait around doing nothing, what with 40 approaching and all. And I have to say, I was pretty much on that page myself.

    However the fact that my ovaries were really quite sprightly meant that although they behaved quite nicely for the first cycle with the injecting pen, all hell broke out in the next one. Bloody ovums everywhere. And I wasn’t quite desperate enough to say “Hey, octoplets can’t be THAT bad”, even if the doctors would have been willing to be all american about it. So that cycle was cancelled. And then the next one because of cysts. And the one after that and by the end of 7 months I’d cycled precisely twice meaning I’d reduced my chances by about 70% within the timeframe. Not good…..

    So I guess I’m saying proceed with caution, but perhaps don’t rule out IUIs. Because even though they didn’t work, I’ve always wondered if the fact that I got pregnant myself 2 months after we stopped had something to do with my ovaries and hormones getting a bit of a jolting and consequently coming up with a top grade eggie that jumped through all the correct hoops and made it to fetus-hood, where those before it had failed. We’ll never know. But it might be worth a go?

  • The Sheila

    You have very little to lose by talking to a couple of private consultants and seeing what they have to say. I’ve been through both the NHS and private ringer with it all too and private doesn’t equate to perfect. I’m now on my third private specialist and at last feel I have someone who “gets it” and who also listens to me and lets me make suggestions about my treatment, which he actually listens to and takes on board. I would strongly encourage you to try the private route, but try out a few doctors for an initial consultation – just because they have the private tag on their name doesn’t mean they will be the best for you. You are about to spend an awful lot of money and if this were any other professional you were dealing with (e.g. accountant or whatever), you would rightfully be demanding your money’s worth. You should do the same with these professionals.

    I have to share Koreschronicles views on the consultants you’ve had so far – you have clearly thought everything through about your history and have valuable contributions to make about your treatment plan, that are simply not being taken on board or even tried. I’m still cross with the Professor for not putting you on clexane and cyclogest the moment you found out you were pregnant. Anywho, rant over. Best of luck with whatever you choose to do.

  • BigP's Heather

    As much as I adore H, I am quite saddened by this. It is a BIG difference and after five years…sigh. My head would have exploded at BigP too.

    It is a fine line. Not wanting your family and friends discussing your bits but also that they care enough to want to do whatever it takes to help you achieve your dreams.

    Worth a shot. What have you got to lose?

  • twangy

    Oh dear. That would make your head explode. It reminds me of the JB offering me water every time I say I have a headache. I MEAN REALLY, it’s not from dehydration, I WOULD BE ABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT ON MY OWN.

    They Mean Well.

    I have an urge to shake Miss Consultant. Would that be bad? For goodness sake, you told her you ovulate, why doesn’t she know?

  • H

    To be fair to May’s mum, I think she did say obstetric gynaecologist on the phone. However, as I was work(!) I just jotted on my notepad the name and ‘obstr…’, then later dashing out the email thought I was merely abbreviating to obstetrician. So, my fault. Apologies all round.

    I’m not defending May’s mum for discussing May’s insides with ski buddies though – that’s completely on her. Also, I’m really not sure why I got a phone call at work(!)(again), rather than an email to May with proper context… there was definitely a hint of ‘you do what you think is best’ and perhaps ‘just set it up’. I was very clear in return that I would be discussing with May before doing anything!

    I was vaguely under the impression that obstetricians covered all aspects of pregnancy, including infertility… I now know better.

    • Cathy

      Perhaps May’s mum is aware she manages to say the wrong thing fairly freqently and thought that giving the info to H was a better option.
      I now freely offer you my coping mechanism for insensitive remarks.
      Expect that whenever you see person X they will say someting horrible. Time how long it takes them when you meet – ‘gee an hour and a half today – that’s nowhere near your usual’. Then you rate said remark on a scale of 1-10.
      It saved me from killing my mother-in-law more than once. So instead of a festing wound from the stupid things she said I would just think ‘oh only a five after half an hour – not too bad’. (She still made me cry and curse my H sometimes but it was better)

  • Betty M

    Coming to this late but glory be talking to random acquaintances about your insides when skiing?? However well meaning this really is not on.

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