This time, when my OB asked me if I wanted to try Clomid, I said yes.
The faintly positive negatives, the wasted months of no ovulation, the miscarriages, the hours spent reading, the money spent on pregnancy tests and ovulation tests, the time spent in lab waiting rooms, the needle sticks from all the blood work, were all hanging over me.
I said yes.
I started taking Clomid on day 5 of my cycle. I was dizzy and nauseous within a couple hours of that first pill.
The second day I was dizzy and nauseous all day. The third day was fine. The fourth day… Oh the fourth day.
Turns out, Clomid is not to be trifled with.
On the fourth day, I was uncontrollably moody. Josh was being a tad prickish that day – probably in reaction to my general hostility – but his behavior wasn’t worthy of the scathing things I said, the fury I felt. At one point I became aware that if I was near him I would injure him, so most of my raging was done from across the room.
Finally, I called a friend and had her talk to Josh about how the hormones were affecting me. I needed someone else to tell him what I needed: for him to be calm and not react to me at all. I needed him to be a warm, breathing Ken doll just until I wasn’t possessed by these hormones. I felt out of control for the first time since I was a teenager on drugs. It was not liberating. I was scaring myself.
The next day was better, except I completely dried up. Everywhere. My skin was itchy and sloughing off. My eyeballs were dry. (Clomid can cause visual disturbances, like floaters, and they can be permanent. Nearly four years later, mine have finally mostly disappeared.) I had really bad cotton-mouth.
Oh, and I started barely spotting light brown blood.
On day 11, I took an ovulation test, the next step in this process. It was negative. The ovulation tests were negative on day 12 and 13, too.
Frustrated, I got in the shower and cranked it as hot as I could handle it. I was tense and I needed to relax. I stood still under the water, closed my eyes, and slowed my breathing until the water started to lose its heat. Then, my hands started to itch. Figuring the Clomid had dried the skin, I gently rubbed a pumice stone on my palms. It felt fantastic. But the relief halted as soon as the scrubbing stopped. I looked at my palms; they were lobster red and looked a little puffy.
I jumped out of the shower, wrapped myself in a towel and dug around the medicine chest for Benedryl. It seemed obvious that I was having an allergic reaction to… something. While I waited for the Benedryl to kick in, I held my hands under cold running water, the only thing keeping me from wanting to remove my skin.
At a certain point, the cold water wasn’t helping either.
I went to the living room, opened my laptop and Googled “itchy red hands.” One of the top posts was concerning pregnancy.
But I just had a negative pregnancy test, I thought. Unless the faint shadow line was really a positive this* time.
(*This had happened at least two other times. The first time I completely wrote it off as a negative. When it happened a second time, my OB sent me to the lab for blood work that came back negative.)
I ran to the bathroom and ripped open a pregnancy test. It took a long time to pee under the pressure, but I finally did. I set the test on top of the toilet tank and stared at it. I didn’t have to wait long.
It was positive.
“Oh, fuck,” I sighed.
The next day, a Monday, I put in a call to my OB as soon as her office opened. When she called me back, she was flustered.
“I must have forgotten to tell you to take a pregnancy test before starting the Clomid. I’m so sorry.”
“You didn’t tell me, but I took one. It was negative.”
“This is very strange. I’m going to try to get you in for an ultrasound today. Wait – can you come in today?”
“Okay, I’ll call you back.”
She called back. They couldn’t get me in.
“If you’re alright with it, I scheduled you an appointment with a colleague. My ultrasound tech is out of the office tomorrow, and the office I’m sending you to has better equipment anyway.”
“That’s fine,” I said.
“The doctor there will confer with me later in the day and I’ll get back to you hopefully tomorrow afternoon, early evening. Just hang in there.”
Josh went with me to the other OB’s office. I filled out paperwork and looked around the waiting room. Everyone there was pregnant, including me. Technically.
When we went into the ultrasound room, I got nervous. I so desperately wanted to see something on that screen, but I suspected I wouldn’t.
An external ultrasound again revealed nothing. So, transvaginal ultrasound it was.
“Have you ever had a transvaginal ultrasound?” the OB asked.
“Yes,” I said.
She directed Josh to stand at my shoulders and warned him that I might become uncomfortable. He nodded and we got started.
“I’m very sorry, but I don’t see anything to indicate pregnancy,” she said.
The room was very quiet. I thought about all the disappointment they’d been a party to.
“There’s a small cyst on your right ovary here,” she said, selecting the area with her computer mouse. “It’s possible your right ovary is preparing to ovulate, but I’m not sure.”
She twisted the ultrasound wand to my left side.
On the screen, I saw a floating empty sac at the end of my fallopian tube. I remember being amazed that my fallopian tube looked exactly like they do in sex-ed illustrations.
“Again, I’m sorry. I don’t see signs of pregnancy.”
“What is that sac thing?” I asked.
“It looks like an empty fluid sac. Perhaps a small cyst burst.” She removed the transvaginal ultrasound wand. I sat up.
“Why am I having positive pregnancy tests if I’m not pregnant?” I asked.
“I don’t know much of your history, so it’s hard to say. But it could be a chemical pregnancy,” she said.
“I’m very sorry, and I’m sorry to have met you under these conditions. I wish you luck.”
She shook my hand, then Josh’s hand, and left the room.
“Sorry, baby,” Josh said.
I got dressed and we went home.
My doctor called that afternoon and we talked about all of my spreadsheet notes about my last cycle. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about the days leading up to that period. When I knew I’d be taking Clomid during the next cycle, I took the pregnancy test. I told her that the test was so faintly positive that there wasn’t even color to the line; it was a clear positive line. Considering my history, she understood why I’d thought little of the vague positive/negative.
She asked about all of my previous pregnancies and whether I’d ever had any sharp abdominal pain. I told her that I recalled having some cramping, especially during the miscarriages, but nothing like…
Suddenly I remembered the heating pad incident from back in April.
“I think you cleared an ectopic pregnancy with that first miscarriage.”
“Really? I didn’t know that was possible.”
“They’re fairly common,” she said. “The only time you know you have one is if the fallopian tube ruptures.”
“So the fluid sac at the end of my fallopian tube…”
“You’re probably having an ectopic pregnancy. We just caught it very early.”
(To be continued…)