Sheela Na Gig

If you want to make a med student disappear, especially a male one, try the following:

  • Stand in the center of an exam room, fully clothed, having put your pants back on after a half hour of pants-free waiting. Clutch fists loosely at sides as if prepared to make a run for it.
  • Wait until female doctor and male med student appear at door. The doctor will no doubt look confused about why you’re clothed. Face her with a crazy look in your eye.
  • Shout, “I am a sexual assault survivor and I am not spending even one more minute waiting on that table with no pants on. I HAVE BEEN WAITING IN THIS ROOM WITH NO PANTS ON FOR HALF AN HOUR.”
  • Observe as the male med student spins on his heel like a pop-up duck at a carnival shooting gallery and leaves the room, and possibly the building, county, and state.
  • Wait for the Ativan prescription that will soon be yours.

To be fair, the Ativan prescription doesn’t come from yelling. I don’t want to mislead you. It comes from the sobbing that you’ll do when the female doctor, now on her own after the male med student left the room to go Google alternative careers, tells you that the transabdominal ultrasound isn’t providing a clear enough image, and that she’s going to have to do a transvaginal ultrasound.

“OK,” you say, as your husband clutches your hand. “Get it over with.”

“Do you want to put the wand in?” she asks.

“No,” you explain through gritted teeth. “I want to go to Paris in my mind. You do whatever you need to do down there. I’m leaving, essentially.”

“Is it better if I don’t talk?” she asks, and you’re grateful, because someone gets it. You work out parameters: she’ll tell you when you’re going to be touched, and then she’ll spare you the blow-by-blow. After, she’ll tell you what she saw on the screen, and that everything looks healthy and sound—uterus, ovaries, follicles, all present and accounted for, all as they should be, in order to conceive the baby you’re not conceiving.

Later, popping an Ativan before the first of a series of injections, you wonder about that. Your official diagnosis is Unexplained Infertility, but most of the doctors you’ve seen are pretty sure the issue is egg quality. It’s the only thing they can’t measure, without more invasive means, for one thing, and for another, you’re getting up there, late 30s when all this started. But there’s a lot they can’t see, even if they did exploratory surgery, even if they did a whole-body scan.

For example, they can’t see if you’re damaged in ways science can’t measure right now. They might be able to, someday—measure your cortisol levels and whether those suppress hormone function, see if your telomeres are hopelessly shrunken, making you years older than your actual age.

For now, though, you just have to wait and endure. You don’t have much hope that this will work. In the blood lab, a tech says brightly, “This is the cycle.”

“We’ll see,” you tell her, thinking about how tired you are of talking to anyone about any of this.

She reaches up behind a sheaf of papers stapled to a bulletin board and pulls out a ceramic figure. “It’s a fertility god. We have them all over.”

“Probably no Irish ones,” you say. “They’re not safe for work.”

She laughs and you think of the bright blue Sheela Na Gig you bought years ago in Ireland. The goddess (or gargoyle, depending on whom you ask) squats and holds her vagina open. Probably she’s just showing off her fecundity, but to you, it always looks like she’s saying one thing: Take a good goddamned look.

sheela-na-gig
She’s doing what you think she’s doing.

Scared of ultrasounds? She’d swallow the wand.

Picture that, then, and forget Paris. Think about a woman, any woman real or imaginary, so strong she levels buildings and streets, city centers and town squares. A woman with every past and future, who doesn’t so much recover from what’s been done to her as she consumes it, uses it like fuel to create and destroy. A woman who is angry and terrified and powerful and insistent.

Look at me, you think. Take a good goddamned look.

Image Credit: fhwrdh/Flickr

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