I am in an abusive relationship with my uterus.
I love what it means to have my uterus be a part of me. My identity and worth is closely connected to my relationship with it. My uterus behaves in a way that does not serve me. It hurts me. I am too scared to let it go. What will it mean about me if we broke up? The devil you know…
I am an advocate. I support birthing people in finding their voice. I believe that you have complete agency over your body and what happens to it. Only you. I believe these things with every cell of my body. Yet when I am the patient, I lose my voice. Completely.
These were my major realizations over the last 10 days as I am grieving my 10 years in the making medical diagnosis and prognosis.
I have had ‘abnormal results’ with my paps for the last 11 years. In fact, said test result is the reason I decided to have a baby 10 years earlier than planned. Because of this I have a transvaginal ultrasound every 6 months. I hate these tests. I put off my last one for an additional 4 months because I did not want to do it. Oh ya, and I have a breast lump that they are also monitoring.
I feel like I am going to be fine, I really feel like I am just a lumpy person. My doctor has a different opinion. I sense his mild urgency and I agree to go get my breast, uterus and ovaries ultrasounded a couple times a year. Conveniently there is a medical imaging centre relatively close to my house and once again I find myself in the busy waiting room full of sick people and tired moms and the elderly and some that fall into all of the above. Alana lovingly comes with me and holds my hand until the warm and lovely gal in the pink scrubs comes and takes me behind the locked door that leads to the changerooms.
I know the drill – everything off, gown on, open to the back. If you do not like your tush hanging out for all to see, you can put another gown on the other way. Only smiling pink scrubs gal says, ‘if you think you may get cold, you can put on more gowns.’ She explains that they will need access to everywhere, only she says ‘everywhere’ with a secret tone that is reserved for things that you should not talk about in public. My dad used to jokingly call them unmentionables. She leaves me in my cubicle, my bladder bursting (it is a requirement for my test) with my shower curtain that doesn’t close at the last 2 inches of each side.
I hear my name called and the same tech I have had for the last 15 or so ultrasounds spanning 5 years is waiting for me.
I follow her in my threadbare gown and deck shoes to the tiny and dark exam room. She has a strict no scent policy in her room. I even got a phone call reminding me to make sure nothing I had on was scented to respect her allergies, keepin’ the tech comfortable while none of my requests were respected. I put my purse and sunglasses on a chair and she tells me to hop on the bed. There is a gentleman waiting outside my open exam room door in a matching gown to mine and I know getting on the bed will give him, and anyone else in the hall, a full view on my uncovered genitals.
I tell her I am going to close the door and she tells me ‘it is nothing that we haven’t seen before.’ The test proceeds with her asking ridiculous questions like, ‘have you had sex before?’ after I answer ‘yes’ then she says, ‘good, then I can do this exam’ as she slides a condom on the transvaginal ultrasound wand, also lovingly called the ‘dildo cam’. I roll my eyes and cringe at her heteronormative questioning and wonder who the hell trains these people?!
The highlights continue with her asking me why I am crying silently as this shouldn’t hurt ignoring the possibility of trauma or abuse survival. The clinic refuses to allow Alana in the room with me and the signs on all of the walls say ‘dad’s must wait outside’…I feel like I should get an exception because I am not pregnant and even if I were, there would only be two moms – eureka, I found the loophole. After what feels like hours, but is really probably only 20 minutes, I am sent back to change and I get the heck out of there with Alana firmly holding my hand.
Enter my new practitioner
My results are sent to my new Ob/Gyn, Dr. Helena Frecker. I am excited to meet her. She is queer and working hard to implement diversity training at the local hospital she works out of. My favourite midwifery practice in Toronto loves Frecker and some of their queer midwives shared awesome stories of her gender-neutral-ing the L&D floor so I feel like she will understand me better than all of my previous practitioners.
I go to my first appointment where she takes Alana and I into her office and we chat. I share my history, which I look to Alana to answer most of the questions and to clarify timelines as she is a savant at keeping track of those sorts of things. Frecker does an internal exam where she over communicated everything that was happening and was gentle – finally a gynecologist that doesn’t seem to hate vaginas!
She tells me that my recent ultrasound is essentially useless and I need to do another. My stomach turns and my palms sweat. Not again. So soon. I also need to go for day 3 blood work.
I decide I love my new doctor.
34 days since my last period. What the hell is going on, I am never late? Natasha is going to have her baby that week so I set my ultrasound requisition and blood work on my desk to get to after September first – baby day.
September 1st comes, Margo is born and I finally get my period. It is the long weekend so I cannot do my 3 day blood test. Shit. I feel like I am dying and it will not slow up. I debate going to emerge every day for 14 days – I keep promising Alana ‘we will reassess tomorrow’. I am weak. I don’t sleep. I am going through boxes and boxes of sanitary products. It finally slows and I go to get my ultrasound at a new clinic that Frecker says is more thorough and queer friendly. I am nervous and Alana and I get into some disagreement so I choose to go alone for the first time.
The tech was not that much better. Gentle yes, but asked me questions that implied something was seriously wrong with me and yet would not give me any more details. She urged me to see my doctor ASAP to discuss my results but would say nothing more than that. Convinced I was going to be handed my death sentence, I called Alana from the car and told her that I was pretty sure I was going to die from whatever the tech found in my uterus.
I have to wait another week for my period to come again so I could do my bloodwork and wait a second week to see Frecker. On a side note, my blood work was done at the sexiest, most sleek and modern blood lab that I have ever been to! I was in and out in less than 3 minutes. My mini-wins. My period is so bad that I have to cancel all my weekend plans and stay in bed. I am in pain that is worse than childbirth – and I had an unmedicated 52 hour labour.
I am so worried about what is going to happen after this. What the hell is going on with my body?
Bianca Sprague is a birth doula, lactation educator, childbirth educator and business consultant. She and her partner, Alana, are the moms to their 10 year old daughter, Gray. Bianca is the CEO and co-founder of bebo mia inc. and Baby & Me Fitness.
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