Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Hear My Cry
This morning I underwent one of the most uncomfortable medical procedures I have ever endured. I have been having pain associated with my pelvic region, and my doctor, who believes in not leaving any stones unturned, ordered that I have a pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound. The tech was unable to do the pelvic exam (they said my bladder wasn't full, and that all the water I had consumed probably went elsewhere in my body). So, we skipped ahead to the transvaginal exam.
I would place this experience right up there with the oral surgery I had as a teenager that required an injection of Novocaine to the roof of my mouth. I remembered thinking that it was strange that there were such heavy oak wood doors in this surgeon's office that led to the operating room. But when that needle pierced into my upper palate causing me to grip the arm rests and choke on my scream, I understood why those doors were so necessary to protect the innocent still out in the waiting room.
There were no heavy doors involved in this procedure. Just a dimly-lit room with medical equipment and a table with stirrups. The tech gave me the simple instructions to place my things on the chair in the room and then lie down on the table. When we figured out that I wasn't sufficiently full in the bladder to do the pelvic ultrasound, she asked me to put my feet in the stirrups. Here begins the pain.
"This is going to feel cold and goopy," the tech warned me. Then she slipped what felt like a very hard super-plus-sized tampon into me.
"Aiiii! Lord, have mercy!"
"I'm sorry," she apologized as she pressed on with inserting the transducer deeper inside. Everything in my body tensed at the shock of this moment, and I realized this wasn't going to help my situation, so I started breathing in an effort to relax my muscles. She kept moving and pushing this device, first to my right, then to my left.
"Fuck!" I breathed out. This was the area that had been giving me such pain recently and this camera-on-a-stick was touching every inch of my tender areas. More breathing, and holding back tears, and wondering when this was going to be over?
Owww! She moved the wand and was now taking pictures of my uterus. And while my bladder wasn't full enough for a pelvic ultrasound, it certainly did have some pee in there. The more she pressed, the more I worried I was going to let go and piss all over her hand, which, in that moment, I believed she rightly deserved. In my head, my pleas continued, "Please, God, when is this going to end?!"
It finally did. The tech nicely and calmly explained to me that the results of the exam would be known in approximately three to five business days and that I would hear from my doctor about them. There is a bathroom in the waiting area where I had been that I could use.
"Did you see anything?" I asked.
"I'm not the radiologist..."
"And so you just take the pictures, you don't interpret the results." I knew this would be the answer, but I thought I'd ask. She was done with her job. Time for me to get out of the room and go back to get my shorts on. Welcome to the world of clinical procedures.
I am a fortunate woman in America in that I am not in that statistic of women who has been raped. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, approximately one out of every six women has been either assaulted or had someone attempt to assault her sexually. And while I would not equate or want to put myself in the place of a woman who has been raped by a boyfriend, husband, father, brother or even a stranger, my experience of a transvaginal ultrasound gave me a keen understanding of that feeling of being violated. Mine was for medical purposes, scheduled and known ahead of time. Still, I felt powerless. I felt pain. And the clinical nature of the whole event made it feel "cold and goopy" in more ways than one.
I cried. Not for me. Not for my own experience. I cried because this is the procedure that state legislatures and the United States Congress, dominated by men, want to require for a woman seeking an abortion. I know how uncomfortable and unpleasant this had been for me in fulfilling my doctor's desire to rule out ovarian cancer. But to require this for an abortion? What if the woman was with an unwanted child because of rape? We want her, and this fetus, to experience a medical form of penetration and violation, so we can make her feel that sense of loss of power all over again? Is there no level of cruelty we don't know?
My tears came even more readily as I thought of the men who are so insistent on this procedure. I thought of how many of them go to church on Sunday, so they can be seen by their constituents and held in high regard as they profess a belief in Jesus Christ as their "personal" Lord and Savior, the pocket-sized God they can carry around with them, and claim as "their God," not "your God." No God in my understanding and imagining would take pleasure in putting a woman's body through this type of procedure. When I let out that cry of "Lord, have mercy!" I believe that Jesus was with me in my every breath. And in so doing, opened my mind to see the wrongness of making a pregnant woman undergo an unnecessary and uncomfortable procedure to satisfy a sadistic human impulse to control other humans.
It is not right. It is not just. It should not be required.