Pete Ashdown and Six Tablespoons of Blood

Pete Ashdown

The other day a friend of ours noticed the Pete Ashdown sign in our yard. (Pete Ashdown is running against Orrin Hatch here in Utah in this year’s race for the US Senate, by the way).

Ashdown doesn’t stand a chance in hell of winning? You know that all these silly Democrats are really fooling themselves if they really think that he does.

Whether he does or he doesn’t stand a chance in hell, don’t you think it is important for someone out there to at least try to break the Orrin Hatch Dynasty? Wouldn’t it suck if everyone just sat on their asses and complacently accepted the status quo? Don’t you think it is important to at least have hope, hope that someday, someone, like Pete Ashdown, may actually defeat Orrin Hatch?

Thankfully, our friend is not someone who takes things sitting down. Instead, he is a person who actually knows how to make change and knows how to get my goat. Nevertheless, his Pete Ashdown vs. Orrin Hatch comments got me thinking. . .

And thinking is all l I have been doing since I saw the empty embryonic sac on my ultra-sound.

Just yesterday, there I was, sitting quietly at the University of Utah Phlebotomy lab and thinking again. I was holding a folder filled with research information and consent forms and my new University of Utah Hospital Red I.D. Card. As I sat there in the slippery purple vinyl chair, I watched as people registered, then turned in their paperwork to the next station and found their seat. I watched the many people walk in using walkers, accompanied by their mobile oxygen tanks. I watched as people repeatedly turned their prescriptions in to the “PICK-UP” window and listened as the red-haired lady told them that the “DROP-OFF” window was around the corner. Do they make things so hard to find on purpose?

I watched as the lab techs debated about where to send all of my blood-work,

There is so much. Do we keep it? Do they want it back in the department? What do we do?

I watched them scratch their heads as the hiccup my lab work was causing nearly halted the lab. I literally thought these young lab guys were going to blow a synapse. As one lab guy walked up to me, I answered their confusion,

You can just send my lab work back to the department. They will know what to do.

My words knocked them right back on track and the young man asked me to follow him. Usually I am all for watching the needle go into my giant veins, but it was lunchtime and I was starving. I was not sure how my empty stomach would handle watching the lab tech fill eight vials (equivalent to six tablespoons) with the blood that was surging out of my arm.

The first two vials were glass, which I didn’t think made a difference until that lab tech apologized because they were taking so long to fill.

I don’t know why glass vials takes longer, but they do. Can you feel the rattling?

I could. I could feel the vibration and for the first time in years, drawing blood really hurt. It hurt until he began filling the six remaining plastic vials.

As I looked away from my needle-pierced arm, I explained,

See, all these extra vials are for research. My doctor has entered me into a Miscarriage study. And maybe, hopefully, they can find something that will help someone else not have to go through this.

And this?

This is what has me all a-jumble. Since my miscarriage I have had days filled with great determination. I have had days where I want to get pregnant NOW! I have had days where I am understanding and realize that this is just another part of the process and on those days it is easy for me to be patient. I remind myself that I am really not that old and that I can still get pregnant. I have days where I feel extremely guilty for spending so much time on infertility and I have days where I wonder why the hell I didn’t push harder years ago. For the last few days, however, I think I have hit a low. Consequently, I am not feeling a lot of hope.

Yesterday, as I sat with my new doctor, who happens to be world-renowned for his miscarriage work (whoop-de-doo), I probably felt the lowest. It was early, he had a cute resident by his side and he promised me that I would get pregnant and that we would make it work.

Beth, its not just me telling you what to do. It is you and me. We are a team. We are going to make these decisions and we are going to make them together.

And I swear as he was telling me this, he was making that two fingered gesture, you know the one where he points two fingers at his eyes and then at your eyes and then back at his eyes. I think I have seen Tom Cruise make that same gesture. And now that I say it, my doctor is kind of the Tom Cruise of Miscarriage, (except my doctor actually believes in medicine).

I have done my homework and I know this man is an excellent doctor. I know he knows his stuff. I know between him and my other fertility doctor that here in the state of Utah I am truly in the most capable hands. But then as I sat in that tiny room and listened to him tell me our plan, I had a flash, or better, a sad moment where I let my guard down. I opened my mouth. And the learned, internationally famous doctor, super-star man that he is, paused, took a deep breath and said,

Do you have something to say?

Yes. You see, when I woke up this morning, I didn’t even know if I wanted to have any more children. [exasperated] The journey has just been so long.

He recommended that I talk to my partner (yes, he said partner, doesn’t want to get sued I guess — [wink]). He admonished that I not be afraid and that I be really bold as I speak with my partner, asking him what he thinks so that we can reach this decision together. Wow! In five minutes the doctor had assessed that I am timid and that I may not know how to talk to my husband. If anything, what he was reading in the entire five minutes we had spent together is how completely overwhelmed I was feeling and mostly, because it was so damn early, that I probably needed more caffeine.

Well, if you don’t get pregnant, you can always go and volunteer in Africa.

Because I sincerely think people have my best interest in mind, the moment he said that I could go to Africa, I thought he was being funny or trying to help me through a difficult situation. And then hours later I realized that this doctor was reading me for who he thought I was. He simply had placed me into some preconceived demographic. You see, I am over thirty-five (not much, but still am), I am a stay-at-home-mom (who can afford to stay at home) and of course I shop at Whole Foods. And maybe he was guessing that with the rest of the Oprah watchers out there [sarcasm], having another baby is just my personal vanity project. And surely if I can’t get myself pregnant than I most definitely can hop on a plane with Oprah and Gayle and we could have our book club while helping starving children and simultaneously publicly patting ourselves one the back. And if Oprah and Gayle are not available, surely Brad, Angelina and I can hop on a UN plane to Namibia. (Of course I would have to let the world know how great I am and blog because I went to Africa to help starving children).

I know that I am rambling and I hope someone out there is following.

My new doctor is confident that I can get pregnant, but my new doctor and any doctor for that matter simply sees me and everyone as a researchable, possibly treatable, living organisms. For them, I am cash in the bank — their job. When I walk into their office do they even remember who I am or simply wether I got pregnant with or without Insemination. The answer: without.

I am cynical. I am sad. I feel as though I have wasted my time. My boys still ask me if and when they can or will have a little sibling. I do not know if I should try anymore. My doctor was right: there are people who need my help in this world. There are less selfish ways I can spend my money. I wonder, however, if there are less selfish ways he can spend his time. Maybe my doctor can actually ask me a question about myself. Maybe instead of watching his Roles while asking me to tell him my birth stories, he can actually give me a second to catch my breath. For me, my birth stories are deeply personal and pretty traumatic. I don’t know how to solve my infertility. I don’t know how to help doctors raise the standards of their care. I know they are people too. I don’t even know if what I have already done has made things worse or better.

What I do know is that if I don’t have hope that things can and will be better, then I might as well crawl back in bed and give up.

Thank God for people like Pete Ashdown. Thank God for people out there, who actually still believe that they can make a difference. Right now, theirs are the spirits I am holding on to.

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21 thoughts on “Pete Ashdown and Six Tablespoons of Blood

  1. Beth, I read everything you write, and just have such admiration for your gifts.

    Hang in there, there are bound to be lousy days. I know you will figure out the right path.

  2. Carol, we all hope that you get your baby soon. Maybe this is the man that can truly help you get pregnant and stay that way for a long time!

    Fingers crossed & chickens sacrificed,

  3. Oh Beth, I am so sorry you are so down-hearted. I’ve had two miscarriages myself. You will never get over the loss but it does get easier to deal with. Just know that you are in the thoughts of lots of people who are touched by your beautiful writing.

  4. As someone who’s had two miscarriages, I can totally relate to everything you’re saying.
    Having a child(whether it’s your fist or third)is a very personal decision. I don’t think it’s a vanity project. Who knows- the child you may have one day may become someone who does great things and makes an impact on this world.

  5. I wish I had something profound and helpful to say but I’m at a loss for words. Your spirit and how well you express yourself simply amaze me. I hope you feel my support, friendship and admiration, Beth.

  6. Melanie – Holy Schmidt. I love you and now you successfully have me laughing. I love that you called me, Carol.

    I know my friend Carol (the only Carol I know) has offered to have a baby for me, but I think she is done.

  7. Beth, I know how overwhelming all of this can be. I am so sorry that this is a journey you ever have to endure. I went to the same RE for years before I realized that I was cash in his pocket, a mortgage payment, or a Mercedes payment to him. Thats when I realized it was time for me to find someone who would know exactly who I was without looking up my chart. It wasnt as easy as it was for me to type that out. I know you didnt ask for advice, but when I left me previous RE’s practice, he asked me why I was leaving, and I told him that I was finished being a statistic on his unsuccessful infertile belt, and that I needed to find a doctor who cared about his patients, and not his patients money. I hope that your doctor becomes more personable with you during this journey. My thoughts & prayers are still with you.

  8. I love you. ((((HUGS)))
    I’m feeling similarly hopeless whether or not to try for another baby. For different reasons than you, but I understand a lot of what you are feeling. You’re in my thoughts daily.

  9. Yikes. Thank God not all doctors see patients that way.
    Read Andrea’s latest post at I bet it will give you a boost. (Specifically on the issue of infertility + others’ attitudes.)
    And one more unsolicited piece of advice–take care of *yourself* too. Have a cupcake.

  10. Things will get better. When hope leaves you, remember that love never leaves you, and eventually hope will be back to join forces with love, and you and Dave will make your decisions and whatever you decide will be the right choice. And volunteering in Africa is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard a doctor say.

  11. The Africa comment was insensitive, unnecessary, and judgmental. I am related to several doctors, and the term “God complex” comes to mind often when I hear them talk. I guess they think if they can heal you, they can judge you. But I really shouldn’t generalize, there are some good ones out there, too.

  12. Ma-mo, I tend to agree with you about the “God Complex.” I don’t think most doctors intend to or realize they come off this way, but we live in a culture that gives doctors a lot of power. Just the fact that so many of us go in with the expectation to “be healed” and the expectation that the doctor has all the answers, enable this whole “God Complex,” scenario. (I am not saying you are this way, by the way).

    Obviously as I muddle through the medical system I will have days when I feel hopeful and days when I feel hopeless. If anything I have learned to cut to the chase and try to cut through all the bullshit. I am accepting the fact that it will take a lot more energy to help my doctor see me as more than his 9:30 A.M. appointment.

    Thankfully I see two fertility doctors. My original doctor, who is an R.E., is great or at least I feel as though I have connected with him. This next doctor technically does not work with me again until I get pregnant.

    (Jamie I wasn’t offended by your comments, by the way) As far as my new doctor, the miscarriage specialist, goes, that was our initial visit. Yes, I do think this man is full of himself, but I also think he can help. Of course he held the upper hand. He was practiced, rehearsed and on his game. He does this all day long, every day. This was my first visit. Before yesterday, I really didn’t know much about this man. Now that I know his style, I know how to respond. In fact as I was telling Dave about my appointment, I even came up with a come back to my doctor’s Africa comment:

    “[making two finger eye gesture to the doctor] Hey as long as we are a team, when I don’t get pregnant, why don’t we go to Africa together. I am sure you can help more people than me.”

    The more doctors I see and the more I deal with infertility, I see the problems and I see why it takes so much time and costs so much money. I also realize that when I am doing my best and have asked all the right questions and am seeing the best doctor and something actually works, reality sets in and I know that there also was a lot of luck involved.

    What I wish is that hopefully someone out there will learn something through my experience so when they see their doctor they will not only know the questions to ask, but feel empowered to know how to ask them.

  13. I’m 40 and have been ttc my first for over a year after a miscarriage last summer. My OBGYN actually said….now, I live in the South so people are more ‘open’ about their religion…she said:

    “Melissa, ultimately God has a plan for when you will get pregnant.”

    I thought I was going to throw up. She’s not my doc anymore. I’m going to an RE and after all the test it ends up I’m normal and my husband is normal. Still, they wanted to sell us their packages. At this point we aren’t willing to go into debt for only a 10-15% increase in our chances. Those odds are too low. At least with adoption if we spend thousands of dollars we will at least go into debt and have a child too.

  14. If it’s important to you, then do it. Make no apologies, and hold no prisoners. You are NOT to feel guilty about wanting another child.

    NOTHING is more important than family – something you already know. You’re a wonderful mother, and that has nothing to do with the number of children that you have, may have, or plan on having in the future.

    Thinking of you, and wishing you well.

  15. Wow. I think he was way out of line with the Africa comment.

    You guys hit the nail on the head about the “God complex.” We treat them like rock stars, hang on to every word and do absolutely anything they say because they are the doctor who can help get us pregnant. I wonder if we should be looking at it as they are someone we hire to help us achieve pregnancy?

    When I read this post my immediate thought was that it sounded like taking some time off from trying to conceive for you to rest and relax could be a good thing.

    Sending positive thoughts, crossed fingers and prayers your way.

  16. Beth,

    I’m sorry that your doctor made that insensitive, ignorant comment about Africa. When my doctor called me last month to confirm that I had a miscarriage (with the blood test results) she said, “I know. It’s a bummer.” “BUMMER?” I thought to myself? I can’t believe she just used the word “bummer” to refer to my miscarriage. I guess that’s one word to describe it.

    Anyway, stay strong and hopeful. If it’s any kind of comfort to you(it is to me in a strange way): my husband often says to me, “Doctors…they’re PRACTICING medicine.”

  17. Beth, I’m finding myself looking forward to reading your blog. I was on a very similar fertility journey and just found out today my baby’s heartbeat has stopped at 10 weeks. I go in tomorrow for a D&C. I admire you for your continued attempts at getting pregnant as it is truly exhausting. Too bad about the arrogant Doctor, but hopefully he’s that way for a reason (positive results). Although his offhanded comment had me laughing for some strange reason. Maybe at some point all you can do is laugh, afterall how much can one cry? Take care and try not to let this all drive you crazy!

  18. I don’t see this as a selfish way to spend your money. Creating and raising good people is one of your gifts. Maybe this is to happen to prepare you for something bigger. I just hope that whatever you decide, that you are happy in the end.

    And I was following your thoughts along that part there. Completely.

    Best wishes, in whatever you do.
    Love Karen

  19. Oh Beth, please make your “right back at you” Africa comment at Tom Cruise doctor as soon as you get a chance! That’s too funny!

    Now for the serious bit. I’m not sure what to say. You’re asking if you should give up. No, why? But at the same time, it does seem as though you’re investing such an awful lot of time, self-worth, money and anxiety into this. And the money is the least important! I’m not sure if the stress is worth it. I may have missed some information here, but you have two sons. So unless they were the product of infertility treatment (in which case scrap this reasoning), you’re not infertile. You’re just less fertile, because you’re past 30. As are we all.

    I don’t know how to explain what I mean… okay, take my own example. I’m 30 now. I had a daughter at 19, and another at 21. We always intended to have more kids “later”, i.e. when I had finished law school, gotten my career started and we lived in a bigger flat.

    This hasn’t happened. I haven’t finished school. I never got that great, well-paid job, so we’re still living in a 70 sq.m., one-bathroom flat. Instead of “later” being say 28, “later” might be 38. We’ve both had to come to terms with the simple biological fact that even if we find ourself in the financial position of being able to have another kid, I just might be too old. So I can see ourselves ditching the BC yet never getting that third baby. And I sort of feel like, hey, that’s life. It’s a sorrow, but it’s more important to rejoice in the things you do have than mourn for the things you don’t.

    Now, I’m not calling you selfish – I don’t think you are. But judging only from what you write, I wonder if you’re getting too close to that point where the grief is overshadowing the joy, IYSWIM. Only you can decide if it’s worth it. I can’t help you – I’ve never had a miscarriage, I get pregnant easily,I give birth easily too, and my mother had a child at 39 with no problems at all. So I’m in a totally different situation genetically and emotionally, I’m aware of that. Maybe I just don’t get it. I just wish you all the best, and more peace of mind.

  20. Beth,
    I feel for you and can’t believe what that doctor said!

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for a little over a year now. I always felt in some way I could relate since I also have 2 boys around the ages of your boys. My husband and I tried to get pregnant with our first for almost 4 years. I went through two miscarriages in that time and just when I thought I wasn’t meant to have kids, we got pregnant with Ethan. We will be married 10 years in November and we have two boys and I’ve never been on any kind of BC. Ken and I have joked that we don’t want anymore cause, Josh is such a handful. But, watching your journey really hits close to home. I know that I would love to have a 3rd. But,I don’t really wanna face the reality of people knowing how much I want a 3rd and the disappointment that’s caused with failing at what is thought to come so natural to women. I will continue to watch your journey and keep you in my thoughts. I just know that this will happen for you and can’t wait for the day when you hold your little one in your arms!

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