Adventures in bloodwork

October 14, 2009

I apologize for my blogsilence since my last blood test results a month ago. Words left me for a while after my grandmother died. I may write more about that later.

For now, I am back for another very special edition of ADVENTURES IN BLOODWORK.

When we last left our heroine, she had just learned of her hormone levels on a clomid cycle. Lovely though they were, they did not lead to a pregnancy. So she was back at it again this month — this time for P7, P9 and P11 estradiol and progesterone. A simple enough task … and yet will it be? Nothing is truly simple on the infertility rollercoaster. Stay tuned for a very long post …


Last Friday was P7-ish. Perhaps P6 — I am not exactly sure.  But I wanted to get my bloodwork, because I was going to be out town that weekend to visit my granddad in South Carolina. My plan was to ride my bike from work to one of the labs downtown during the day. Simple, yes? No. Work got in the way, as it is wont to do, and I  was too busy to leave my desk before 4, when all the labs downtown closed.

So, I send a desperate email to my husband, who discovers a new lab that stays open until 6. Problem solved! Kind of. Now I just have to get there.

It is a new lab on U Street — an area famous for jazz, late-night chili and vibrant night life. Not so famous for its medical labs. At least not yet! Due to another work-related delay, I had to get a cab there. So, I open my wallet and hope for the best.
The best does not come.

Several blocks from my office I realized my insurance card was still sitting on my desk, where I had taken it out so I could call and ask about getting bloodwork from SC (verdict: forget it, too complicated). So the cab driver turns around, I run back to my office, get insurance card, get back in the cab, get stuck in traffic and watch the clock tick down to 6 pm.

I start to wonder if God really wants me to get this bloodwork.

But then, glory be, traffic clears. The cab arrives at U Street. It’s 5:57 pm. There is a glimmer of hope! Me and my suitcase (for weekend trip, not for bloodwork) run down the block. No lab. I run the other direction. Still can’t find it. Frantically call husband. The address is wrong. Frantically call lab. I look up and see a banner across the street advertising the lab. LO AND BEHOLD!

The previous labs I have utilized were either in big office buildings or in a hospital. This one is not. This is your inner-city lab. It is in a row house in a part of the city known as “Little Ethiopia.” It is between restaurants and shops, across the street from a large gay sports bar. There were guys out front selling hacked copies of movies from China.

I live in the District in part because I love an urban adventure, so frankly, this was right up my alley. But I was just a little bit nervous about ringing a dirty doorbell for a place that would eventually be sticking me with a needle. I go for it anyway, and am rewarded by meeting the extremely friendly man (African immigrant, I think) who runs the place,  He stayed open even though it was time for him to close. He’s already one up on LabCorp.

The lab is on one floor of a rowhouse, and it feels kind of like walking into some sort of little government agency in a small town. There is a desk, a computer, a printer.  I sit next to the desk, help them enter my information in the computer and watch as he reads the requirements for estradiol and progesterone tests. I notice that most of the paraphenalia in the office has to do with urine drug tests. It appears that is their specialty — I assume that many of their neighboring restaurants send people over.

When it’s time for the blood test, I  head to the corner, where there is a chair with an armrest . The Very Nice Man is giving me a pep talk and asking me to pump my arms like I am lifting weights.It’s a little different than my experiences at LabCorp.  He chants: “OK. We’re going to do this! It’s going to be easy!” Pretty soon I figure out the pep talk is really for him.

It is possible I am the first person ever to get a blood test there.

Very Nice Lab Man gets ready, inserts a needle. “I got you!” It hurts. There is no blood coming out. I have done this enough times that I know it’s not right. I tell him it’s not working. I point to the other tiny holes in my arms, marked by so many previous blood tests. He sticks a new needle in one of those. This time it works. Thank you, Jesus.

After a bit more help with paperwork, I dash out of the office onto the metro and am off to the airport.

Four days later, my arm still hurts from the incorrect stab. But a glutton for punishment, I return for my next vial of blood, because I just love the friendly, quirky local business. He does a better job with my next two blood draws.

Today was the last blood test (P+11 or 12) and Very Nice Lab Man greeted me with a “Hey! I just called your doctor’s office! I got your results!” (Again, this would not happen at LabCorp.) He prints out a copy of the results for me, tells me they look good.

One glance and I can see they don’t look good, at least not to me. First progesterone is 18.78. Second one is 9.64. I am not pregnant. I manage to hold it together in the office, but as soon as I leave, I burst into tears on the sidewalk. I’m a big weeper, to be honest, but this crying episode is the real deal: scrunched up face, waterworks, crying noises.

I pull myself together — kind of — and start to run to work. Two people (also African immigrants?) stop on the street and ask me if I am OK. I am touched by their kindness. This is in DC, where you can be lying on the sidewalk with a severed limb and people will just cruise right by, eyes glued to their blackberries. But these two kind souls stop for me. I tell them I am fine. They clearly do not believe me. They do not move. I say, “No really, I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m fine.”

I’m fine. I am used to being Not Pregnant, after all. Right? I gave up on monthly mourning a long time ago.

But I’m not fine. I am crying. I am bursting into tears at work — which is generally not a cool thing to do in my office. I had been so hopeful this cycle. I had a new treatment, and everything seemed to come into place. I even imagined all sorts of (phantom) pregnancy symptoms the past few weeks … so now in addition to being infertile, I am also crazy. I guess I have “hysterical pregnancy” like the  wife on Glee.

I was so hopeful. I guess I didn’t realize just how hopeful until today.



  1. Sorry that your levels went down after P+7. It sounds like a very friendly lab though.

  2. I’m so, so sorry. What you said about not knowing how hopeful you were until realizing it wasn’t going to work really hit home for me.

  3. I’m so sorry about the disappointing results. I know how difficult it is to be hit over the head with that reality over and over again. 😦

    You are a great writer! I loved your adventure story and felt like I was along the journey with you. I giggled out loud at the part about the severed limb! You are so right about DC. 😉

  4. Your adventure story was hilarious!

    Well, I think your results are fantastic, because that menas there is something to fix. And progesterone is so easy to fix!!!!!! 🙂

  5. Dr. S is a napro doctor in PA. He isn’t but 3-4 hours from you! I say get on him! 🙂 I hear great things about him! He gives you a plan and it’s a good plan, and he isn’t afraid to use low dose injections (like all the IVFers use) in the event you need them! 🙂 That is always a bonus! 🙂

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