Gum Surgery Is Easier Than Infertility
A few weeks ago I had my first significant medical procedure since stopping fertility treatments nine months prior. Unexplained excessive gum recession forces me into the dentist’s chair every now and then for a session of numbing, cutting, and stitching. Being that I spent the vast majority of my 2013 in the arena of reproductive medicine, my jaunt with the periodontist was a year and a half overdue.
Pre – surgery, I was having a hard time remembering. My first graft had been 4.5 years ago, coinciding with the time we started trying to conceive. With the brain fog of someone who has been recently traumatically altered, I tried to think back. Did they knock me out? Was there post op pain? Can I eat afterwards? And then there was my very “MEH” response. I really didn’t need answers to these questions. I had been through worse, I’d go have the surgery and then we’d deal with it. No biggy.
Of course sitting in the chair for an hour and a half was not great. Nor was the fact that whatever numbing agent they gave me was wearing off as the doctor finished stitching. And I’ll admit it was nice to have my husband drive me to and from and take care of my prescriptions afterwards. Not 100% necessary, but nice. Always finding oral surgery tiring, I of course took my snuggle time on the couch afterwards. But really, after that life went on as almost normal.
For me, that is. In the days following, I noticed other people were a lot more into this than I was.
Mom: So, what are you up to?
S: Oh, I had my gum surgery yesterday.
Mom: (practically shrieking) What??!! Why didn’t you tell me??
S: I thought I told you.
Mom: No, and I really would have liked to have known.
S: It’s not that important. I feel fine.
She asked all about it and I proceeded to tell her the details.
S: They gave me some codeine for the pain. I’ve taken two. I don’t think I need to take anymore though.
And then my husband, engulfed in the tornado of opening his fifth restaurant in just days would come home. Starting the day after surgery, things would go something like this:
J: How are you feeling?
S: Pretty good.
J: Did you rest today?
S: No, I painted (I was painting one of our empty bedrooms).
J: Really? Why did you do that? You should be resting.
S: What am I, dead? I felt good enough to do it, so I did it.
J: Let me see your swelling.
S: It’s still there. It’s not getting worse. I’m sure it’ll go away soon.
J: Did you ice it?
S: Yeah. Whatever.
I really don’t want to be an A-hole. I know I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who pay attention out of concern for me. And I was very grateful to be under the care of a thorough and thoughtful periodontist and his staff. It’s just that the only thing resounding with me regarding this gum surgery was boredom. And that’s when I could get it to register on my radar screen, as by two days after surgery I had trouble even remembering it had happened. I had just torpedoed through five IUI’s, one laparoscopy surgery, and five rounds of IVF over the course of three years, 37 months to be precise. Relative to that, I was finding stitches covered by packs in three locations in my mouth, limiting chewing to my left side only, taking an antibiotic and using prescription mouthwash twice a day BEYOND underwhelming.
Golly, which is easier? Ponder hard, my fellow citizens of the world. And for those who can’t figure it out because they are in a coma, I offer the following:
#10 UNEXPLAINED GUM RECESSION A MUCH LESS DREADED CATEGORY THAN UNEXPLAINED INFERTILTIY
Before I was able to even begin to coax a diagnosis from reproductive medicine, our unexplained infertility forced me on a two year long why? safari from hell, exploring and questioning everything from western to eastern medicine to God himself. My unexplained gum recession resulted in only a few shoulder shrugs and an “oh, well, that sucks” or two.
#9 NO WAITING FOR LIFE ALTERING (AND LIKELY SHATTERING) NEWS
All I had to wait for was a phone call from the doctor to see how I was doing, which was not a problem since I was actually excited someone was asking me for a change.
#8 NO WONDERING HOW IN THE HELL I’M GOING TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE NEXT TWO WEEKS
Resting on my couch after surgery, I felt as though something had slipped my mind. Shouldn’t I be preoccupied with something? Such as, oh, my SURVIVAL?? Nope, not necessary this time. Strange.
#7 WHEN IT’S DONE IT’S ACTUALLY KIND OF OVER
We infertiles are used to a constant grind of doctors, injections, vaginal sonograms, more invasive procedures, things not working, decision making, reevaluating, grief, and recovery. Yeah, gum surgery gave me two weeks of stitches and an antibiotic to get through, and I will likely be back in the chair in a couple of years. So in other words, in the world of an infertile, that pretty much equals over.
#6 NO SOCIAL BACKLASH
Unlike kids, healthy gums are not a never ending topic of discussion amongst friends and strangers alike, nor are they a harsh measuring stick by which the fortunate judge the unfortunate on that over which no human being has any control. Unlike wading into social situations post fertility treatment, I had to deal with none of the following: Do you have (kids) healthy gums? Why don’t you have (kids) healthy gums? When are you going to have (kids) healthy gums? Oh, you have to have (kids) healthy gums! Don’t you WANT (kids) healthy gums? Or even better yet, You can have a great life without (kids) healthy gums. You can have my (kids) healthy gums! (as I, apparently have no shame in expressing my lack of gratitude for them). I’ve heard it’s easy to just adopt (kids) healthy gums!
#5 RELATIVE TO INFERTILITY, GUM SURGERY NOT EMBARRASSING
My husband’s restaurant opening cocktail party happened six days after my surgery. In a moment of steak tar tare rapture, I too hastily bit into a hard piece of toast that shattered one of my packs. In front of one of our regular customers, I spit it out, a gorgeous mess of saliva soaked biscuit, slightly chewed steak tar tare (already not the most attractive food in the world in its pre-chewed form) and my gum cover broken into three pieces. “Shit, I think I popped my stitches!” I declared as I unabashedly examined and poked the contents in the palm of my hand before excusing myself. Much easier, really, than hoping you don’t fart (or worse) as you are anesthetized while your private parts are open inches from some strange man’s face. Or having to tell your yoga teacher that your ovaries exploded from the size of walnuts to oranges over the course of the past forty eight hours so no one better touch you, or else, Namaste. Or having to obviously exit a baby situation because you are afraid you’ll pass out from your panic attack. I’m not typically easily shamed, but infertility can push that boundary in all of us. Gum surgery…..not so much.
#4 GUM SURGERY IS OK TO TALK ABOUT, AND PEOPLE ACTUALLY CARE
I got plenty of well wishes and concern from others regarding my gum surgery, and not one dismissive “oh that’s not so bad” or “everything happens for a reason” or “just relax and your healthy gums will happen” comment of any kind. And I’m glad this protocol exists in society, as it should. However, it’s high time we extend this caring to those enduring the hardships of infertility. I often didn’t share the failure of our four IVF cycles done in nine months, and didn’t express the heartache of losing our children again and again and again in such quick succession, for fear of being re-traumatized by the indifference of my fellow humans. The best I got from my outer circle when I did talk about it was “I don’t know what that means.”
#3 GUM SURGERY DOESN’T PUSH YOU TO THE POINT OF IMMOBILE EXHAUSTION
The day after surgery I painted our nursery that never was……rolled out the primer and trimmed and rolled the first green wall if I remember correctly. It felt fine, and if I was tired it didn’t register. The procedures, emotions, and grief of infertility pushed me to the physical point of I. CAN’T. MOVE. hundreds of times. Painting after gum surgery? Relatively effortless.
#2 GUM SURGERY, UNLIKE THE MAJORITY OF FERTILITY TREATMENTS, WORKS
My post-surgery state of confusion was also provoked by the fact my mind had nothing to worry about. “So, like, it (the surgery) just happened….and that’s all” I flailed to assimilate as my mind grappled with the absence of any crap shoot, odds, risk, and emotional trauma all to which I’d become so accustomed.
#1 GUM SURGERY NUMBERS CREATE WINNING ODDS
I had to pay about $1,000 for my gum surgery ride, which may very well end up saving two of my teeth. Counting my first graft, possibly saving four of my teeth has cost $2,000 so far. Even if I have to spend in the long run $8,000 more dollars to save 16 more teeth, that’s still $67,000 LESS than what we spent on not getting to have a baby. And even if the worst happens, if I lose most of my teeth in twenty years and need dental implants, that will cost around $20,000 or so. So as I see it, the beauty of it is, teeth can be replaced. One’s children cannot. I say relative to spending $77,000 to lose our children, spending $20,000 to regain my teeth ain’t such a bad worst case scenario.
It often feels like I stumble through life lately, teetering in the dark as my arms grope for anything steadying while my feet shuffle, only able to produce baby steps (yeah, wouldn’t you know?). The eye brow raising discovery that infertility actually made me more nimble in some respects has been welcome. This mysterious unforeseen potential provokes intrigue. Opportunist that I am, I will continue to sniff around. What else has infertility BLATANTLY over qualified me for in life? With a capacity to be less sidelined by life’s mundanities, what other experiences might be mine for the taking?