Twice a day, during my typical 5am - 7pm style day, I sneak away to the bathroom with a little sealed packet. In that little packet is a small white test strip. I have a small plastic cup in my hand. You can buy these little packets online -- 50 of them for about $10. I pee in the little cup and dip the stick, waiting to see what lines develop. One dark line and one lighter line; nope, no LH surge. Still not ovulating. Then I wonder, for the hundredth time: is it my irregular schedule? Is it the q3 call, even though it's home call, still tends to extend my work hours to the 80/week boundary? Is it the stress of running an Orthopaedic Surgery trauma service? Is it my complete lack of sleep? I bury the little stick in the trash, hoping nobody notices it, and I rinse out the cup, dry it off and palm it, heading back to clinic.
I'm disappointed again today. I do this twice a day -- looking for my LH surge, looking for a sign that I'm ovulating. On my OR days, it's harder to test in that daytime window. I usually manage at least one pee-in-a-cup time a day, though. My cycles aren't regular enough for me to just count calendar days. My basal body temperature pattern isn't consistent enough just to test around "expected ovulation" time.
When the two lines are the same color, I'll get home at around 7 or 8pm and try to coax some energy into my body in order to get some lovin' from my husband and work on this conception business. Small windows in time where gettin' busy really matters. Small windows of time in my life where I want to catch up on sleep. In the 6 months we've been trying, there have only been one or two cycles where I was pretty sure I had an LH surge and I ovulated. After those cycles, it was hard not to get hopes up. Each time, blood in the underwear heralding menstruation left me disappointed.
Each morning, around 5am, I take my basal body temperature before getting out of bed. All the temperature/charting folks say 3 hours minimum of uninterrupted, good sleep are necessary for a reliable basal body temperature measurement. HA! Have they ever met a surgery resident before? My chart looks like a saw blade ... up down up down up down ... it's no wonder I can't figure out whether or not I've ovulated. My OB/Gyn doesn't really know what to make of my temperature charts. He tells me: "Sure, I'd love to say 'get more regular sleep,' or 'try for a more normal schedule,' or 'work on your stress levels,' but I was a resident once, too, and I know how ridiculous that sounds to you. He's right - if I had a "normal" job, or a "normal" life, those would be reasonable suggestions. I do what I can with the life I've chosen.
All of this is difficult, even though I've been off hormonal birth control and we've only been officially "trying" for about six months. What compounds the difficulty, though, is that all this has to be kept under wraps. Most women who start down the path of trying to conceive are, understandably, quiet about their journey, unless they have a kindred soul (who may also be trying) with whom to share their experiences. Being a surgical resident just adds another level to the need for secrecy.
In my program right now, there are several male residents whose wives are pregnant. All of those announcements were met with a lot of "way to go, man!" "Congratulations! When's she due?" "Not much longer until she'll want #2, eh? Too bad we've got residents' salaries!" In my program, we average one woman for every 5 or 6 men -- and that's actually a good number, for an Ortho program. There have been two women before me who had children during residency, and one woman in the class below me. When they got pregnant, there were significantly fewer "YEAH! Way to go! Congrats"-type responses. Instead, it was a whole helluva lot of "how much time are you taking off?" "Wait, you're due during a rotation where you're q3 call -- who is going to cover your call?" "We're going to have to book down that clinic for a month, aren't we?" And while they were away on maternity leave - most of them took 4-6 weeks - there was definitely a fair amount of grumbling. I found myself defensive for them: "If this were YOUR WIFE, I'll bet you'd be fighting for every single day of her leave," I'd tell the complainers. The double standard still gets me.
And so I continue to sneak away to pee in my cup and look for signs that I might be ovulating, despite this ridiculous schedule and stress I put on my body, my mind and my spirit. I'll deal with the double standard when I get to that point; right now, I'd just like to see two lines of the same color, and my husband and I will keep hoping.
-I'm an orthopaedic surgery resident on the west coast. No children yet.