Missing Dr. Stein

It’s almost three weeks since I’ve seen my RE (reproductive endocrinologist). It’s my longest break since I started in February. Thinking about those first visits, those frigid winter mornings when I was still hopeful that a single tablet of Clomid would make my ovaries spray eggs like gunfire, I feel almost nostalgic. It’s hard to believe there was time when I didn’t know the names of all the nurses’ pets.

No doubt I’ve been enjoying my break. Waking up at 6:00 for a yoga class instead of a vaginal ultrasound is great. But this morning, as I yawned with the pleasure of a (relatively) late weekday sleep, an alarm went off in my head: has Dr. Stein forgotten about me?

Freud wrote about transference, the phenomenon in which patients transfer deep feelings for a parent or significant other to their therapist. I googled “psychological transference and reproductive endocrinology” and got an article about chukars, a type of partridge. (There was also an article called “The Psychology of Gynecology,” but it didn’t fit the bill.)

In fact, I’ve often fantasized that my doctors, at least the ones I saw regularly, found me to be unique. No doctor has ever set my heart racing more than Dr. Bye, a burly pediatric pulmonologist who indicated to my 18-year-old self that he might mention my titanic lung collapse in a journal article.

Other times I’ve wanted to switch doctors but hesitated. I reasoned that the current doctor clearly liked me and I didn’t want to reject her. I discussed this with my friend Karen, a commenter on this blog, who has experienced the same delusion. How could we allow ourselves to believe that our doctors saw us as more than objects of their work?

Clearly, plenty of medical professionals care about their patients. And the predatory nature of the insurance industry, not individual doctors themselves, has done the most to dehumanize the profession.  But the reality for patients — infertility patients and others –is often nasty: interminable wait times, emotionally insensitive medical personnel and doctors who don’t have time or patience to answer questions.

Being a patient in an RE clinic is like being a product in an assembly line. This is the drill for morning monitoring: you sit down in a packed waiting room, get called to pay your bill, sit down again, get called for bloodwork, sit down again, get called for the ultrasound. This whole process can take up to an hour and a half, but 95 percent of it is waiting.  No one interacts with you for more than 30 seconds.

Often I wonder about the other patients.  For a while there was an Hasidic couple. Whenever the wife was called for her ultrasound, the husband would stand outside the examining room with his ear pressed up against the door. There was a lesbian couple that conceived — I know because one day there were happy screams from their examining room. And then there are the ubiquitous professional women who spend every available second typing frantically on their blackberries, the occasional parent picking up her daughter from her egg retrieval, men waiting awkwardly to give samples.  But I almost never talk to any of them.

Maybe this is why I want Dr. Stein to love me. I know it’s irrational, but it’s hard not to look for real connection in a place that so desperately lacks it.

Seriously, though, the guy has grown on me. I appreciate the predictability of his enormous early morning yawns and his expert one-handed wielding of the ultrasound wand.  I’ve even started to find his liberal use of rhetorical questions comforting, in a quirky, great-uncle sort of way.

But I don’t love him. Still, in my worst moments, I can’t help but wonder if he’s somewhere out there, blogging about me.

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4 Responses to “Missing Dr. Stein”

  1. Karen M. Says:

    have you checked out doctor blogs? i wonder if any therapists blog anonymously. about their counter transference.

    when i was 17 a dentist told me that my jaw continued to grow after puberty and suggested jaw surgery. he also said that it would have cosmetic benefits. i was so insulted. but of course imagined he was telling me i was a freak of nature, and that he was duly impressed by my weirdness.

  2. It’s weird how something so physically and emotionally personal (in this case conversations and the mechanics of fertility) can be occurring in such an impersonal space such as Dr Stein’s office. It seems like it almost forces you to be removed from it – is that good or bad? I suppose both.

  3. Yes, I can relate to wanting some kind of connection with dr. stein beyond his yawn and rhetorical, often insensitive questions. I spent over a year of my life with him- time that i will never be able to recover. In the end, I realized that he was just a cog in the wheel of my life and that I would be better off with in an office that actually managed my insurance properly.

    • Thanks for the comment — I checked out your blog and read your post about the insurance screw-up. That is such an infuriating double standard. Has there been any mainstream media coverage about differential IVF coverage standards for hetero and queer or gay people? And I have a hell of a time getting the insurance person at the office to return my calls so I’m not surprised the office wasn’t better about the issue.

      Re: insensitive comments, when I first went to see Stein he told me I might be able to use genetic testing to isolate the gene for my hearing loss and then select the “good” embryos so any future kids wouldn’t inherit my problem. I was kind of surprised, because he hadn’t asked what my feelings were about this issue. I mean, at least he could have tried to understand my position before proposing something pretty drastic.

      I said, “I like who I am” — because although I certainly understand the difficulties of raising disabled kids (my sister is profoundly retarded) and I understand why some people abort fetuses with down syndrome and other serious problems –I don’t think that hearing problems are that life-compromising. He said something like “well even so, wouldn’t you prefer yadda yadda ” But then he never mentioned it again.

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