Ah, yes, the annual “well woman” exam with the OB/GYN. Not many women look forward to this day but, honestly, I don’t mind the opportunity to check in with the man who successfully delivered three of my children and has monitored my reproductive health for more than twenty years.
After I checked in with the receptionist on my most recent visit, I sat down in one of the burgundy leather arm chairs in the waiting room and listened to the music that was piped through the speakers. Initially I tuned the music out as the be-bop sounds of “Walk Like a Man” threatened to overtake my subconscious mind, but when Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” filled the room I gladly sang along in my head and reluctantly refrained from playing a set of air drums during the song’s crescendo. Once the song ended I wondered, “Who the heck mixed this tape?” and then allowed my thoughts to drift to memories about the man who has helped keep me healthy for the past twenty years.
When we decided to start our family, my husband worked for the only local attorney who handled medical malpractice cases. As a result, no OB/GYN physicians wanted to take me on as a patient. A friend of my husband’s boss, however, knew a doctor who recently moved into the area whom she thought might be willing to monitor my pregnancy. This doctor was married to an attorney and thus possessed a different opinion about the legal profession than some of his colleagues. He agreed to see me and a little less than a year later successfully delivered my first child, a beautiful baby girl.
Shortly after my daughter’s first birthday, I returned for my annual check-up. During my exam the doctor found a uterine fibroid which he promised to monitor in case it grew large enough to interfere with future pregnancies. We decided to go ahead and try to get pregnant right away – just in case a future surgery led to infertility. Fortunately, I found myself pregnant in no time. Unfortunately, the fibroid caused a few more complications than we anticipated. At twenty-four weeks, on a weekend trip to Kansas City, I went into pre-term labor. By this time our relationship with the good doctor had grown into a true friendship and he graciously directed my treatment via a telephone call from his home as the Kansas City ER physicians struggled to get my contractions under control. As soon as I stabilized, we drove back home and Doc monitored my pregnancy on a bi-weekly basis for the next fourteen weeks. Finally, at thirty-eight weeks, I was taken off all medications and within twenty-four hours our second child made his way into the world.
At my six week postpartum appointment Doc told me it was time to take care of the fibroid. My uterus was still the size of a twelve-week pregnancy, and there was no sign the fibroid was shrinking. I needed to realize, though, that this procedure might result in a hysterectomy. We set the date for surgery, and I mentally prepared for a major alteration to my internal plumbing.
For reasons still a mystery to me, I scheduled the surgery on my birthday. The doctor’s nurse advised me that my two anesthesia options were general anesthesia or a spinal block. I chose the spinal block mixed with some other feel good meds like Versed (it was my birthday, remember?) so the only thing I remember from the operating room was the doctor finishing the fibroid removal and exclaiming, “I saved the uterus!” Little did we know that his determination to keep my lady parts intact would be greatly appreciated….
Tragedy struck our family a year later when my son died in an accident. My dear friend, the doctor, was the last person to leave the funeral.
Over time we healed, and Doc encouraged us in our efforts to give our daughter another sibling. Finally, after two years and a miscarriage, we decided to pursue adoption. Two-thirds of the way into the adoption process, I started feeling a little under the weather. Sure enough, a pregnancy test revealed what my husband suspected and we prepared to welcome not just one but TWO children into our family. Against his better judgment, Doc granted me permission to travel to Russia under the condition that I returned in less than two weeks. He also sent me with an adequate supply of Terbutaline in case I went into pre-term labor while I was so far away from his care. Three months later my oldest daughter and her new little brother welcomed their baby sister into the world. In honor of his efforts a few years earlier, we chose Doc’s last name as our new daughter’s middle name.
We women enjoy a unique relationship with our OB/GYNs. Sure, they may prod around in our Netherlands and push our bladders up into our throats as they check for abnormalities in our ovaries, but they also bring our angels into this world and teach us how to take control of our own health. They share our most euphoric moments as well as help us heal from our greatest calamities. And often times they even save our lives. Sometimes we even share a joke or two. But always I am grateful for the advice and care I have received from this person who has played such an important role in my life over the past twenty-plus years. Thanks, Dr. Hugh Lacey, for being my physician, ally, and confidant. And thanks for letting your nurses decorate my exam room that one time with pictures of Brad Pitt when People magazine named him “Sexiest Man of the Year”. Some things a girl can never forget….
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