The fertility fable

The fertility fable

I was in no position to ask questions.

Legs sprawled, bum scooted. Just a little closer. A little closer please.

It was my very first cervix scraping. And you could smell my fear – or if you didn’t, you should have.

Though this investigation of my vagina was routine for you, it was not for me. I was just 16. I was so scared. I didn’t even really know what all this pap smear’ing business was for.

You should have been gentle with me. You should have been slow.

But maybe it was the end of your day. Maybe you had had a long one. Maybe your doctor husband was taking you out for supper or maybe you were meeting a friend.

Whatever it was, your head wasn’t with me. You weren’t present.

Because if you had been, you wouldn’t have said what you did next.

You wouldn’t have chosen those words.

Not as a working professional, and not as a woman. Certainly not as a mother.

As I lay, hands sweating and toes gripping the stirrups, you let my world come crashing down- and you didn’t even know it.

“You won’t have to worry about getting pregnant like the rest of your girlfriends your age,” you said as you removed the speculum from between my quivering legs. After that you explained something about my irregular cervix – its malposition- as you removed your gloves and placed them in the trashcan at the side, then jotting words in your notebook.

“You can get dressed now.”

You said a lot more medical jargon too, but I was no longer listening, my hands reaching for my underwear and pants, struggling to perform the simple task you’d asked of me. It was all too much to be processing- to be insulted, to be glossed over, and to be devastated, all in one go.

You said it like you had done me a favour. You said it as if it would be welcome news. You said it as if I was never wanting children.

Never getting children.

You told me I was never going to be pregnant.

And you did it as if it were routine news to deliver. Because for you, maybe it was, but for me, the course of my life changed that day. For me, at 16 years old, things had taken a horrible, dark turn.

I didn’t ask questions, like I should have. I didn’t follow up. Not with you. Never again with you, I said to myself.

Because you’re the one who robbed me.

Who told me I couldn’t fulfill my womanhood, at just 16.

And for the next seven years I dragged the weight of that day along with me like a dead horse. For seven years I kept that secret.

It was my curse.

But I didn’t talk about it with anyone – not my friends, my mother, or my boyfriends.

Not until I had to. Not until I’d met the man I loved. Not until I had to tell him what you’d told me, except in different words, and with hot tears streaming down my face.

I told him. But I told him like it mattered, and I told him like he would care. Because he did, and because I did. And because the sentencing you’d delivered me that day was now our collective imprisonment.

So I told it like it should have been told to me- with compassion. With sympathy. With empathy, because I knew all too well what this felt like.

To be told you were destined for a lifetime of emptiness.

At 16, I didn’t know for sure what my future would look like. But at 16, I knew there was more to life than just the present. But you didn’t give me that courtesy. You didn’t see the greater picture.

You didn’t treat me that day like a girl who could matter. To you, I was one less teen pregnancy. One less teen tramp.

So when I came back out of the blue at 24 years old with a screaming babe in arms, breasts leaking and belly still bulging, it was not, as you had imagined, for your consult.

I cried then for the compassion you hadn’t shared with me eight years ago. I cried then for the tears I wanted to cry when you told me on that leather rectangle of a bed the news that had shattered me when I was just a young girl.

Because your words had hurt me.

And the way you said it was worse still.

You boxed me in. You told me I was impossible. You told me I wouldn’t be there in that way.

But I was there to prove you wrong. I made that appointment that day just to show up- for myself. Because you hadn’t.

And I’m sure you didn’t even remember the appointment I was referencing when I was blubbering and spewing wet stuff all over your chair, and surely you hadn’t meant to affect me so much.

But you did, and you needed to know that for the next girl.

For the next routine appointment for you that is anything but routine for her.

For the next time you would have made assumptions about someone. For the next time you tried to close her door.

Because what you said and how you said it was bullshit – I got pregnant the very first time we went unprotected, at 23 years old.

And because that mattered, I took the time to let you know.

8 Responses to The fertility fable

  1. Painful memory, some “professionals” are not worthy of this label…that was brave of you to bring back to its source.

  2. What a powerful reminder of how much impact our words can have on others – for better or worse. This is especially true for people already in a position of power and trust. Thank you so much for sharing this – it’s an important reminder for anyone in the health care community.

    Everybody wants and deserves empathy. I’m so sorry you carried that with you for so long but so happy how it all turned out in the end. 🙂

    • totally.
      it really taught me a great deal in the end.
      all thing can be teachable moments, once digested, i suppose.

  3. Good for you! I’m glad you went back. This should be used I Df. Training! Love to all the women who are trembling with uncertainty about their bodies and a doctor slaps the down with their powerful words. Mj

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