May 19, 2023
The seasons are strong here, and because of this, so is the transition between the dry season and the rainy season. Or as I have come to realize, the dusty season and the muddy season.
For the last month or so, I have been in transition mode, preparing my house for its first rainy season, doing some maintenance on my car. It seemed fitting to keep the rhythm going and schedule my yearly OB/GYN check-up.
A few clicks on Whatsapp and I had an appointment with Dr. C, a few miles from my home.
He had suggested we do the three-part exam: Pap, coloscopy, and ultrasound and I was on my way to doing just that.
(By the way, do you know what the Pap part of Pap smear stands for? I didn’t. I had vaguely thought that it was an acronym of sorts, something about the P standing for Pelvis. But no. The first time I booked one of these in Mexico, I was told that I was actually asking for a “Prueba de Papanicolaou,” which felt both intriguing and tough to pronounce. It turns out that Georgios Papanikolaou, a jovial-looking Greek doctor — and zoologist, but I digress — invented the test that would years and years later continue to detect cervical cancer. How about that?)
I arrived at the office which is adjacent to the hospital, checked in with the receptionist who wanted to confirm that I booked with the doctor directly, and a few minutes later knocked on the door of Dr. C’. s office.
Handsome, friendly, dressed as though as was on his way to a nice restaurant, he invited me to sit down on the other side of his desk. The room was shielded from the hot sun by some muted color blinds, there were several thriving-looking plants and some nice art on the wall. It was cozy, felt safe and until I looked around the half wall to my left, had no medical feeling to it at all.
He asked me a few questions, jotted down my answers, and then gestured me to the exam corner of his office. A lavender chair was in the middle, two stirrups on each side and what looked like a lever that would easily transform it into an exam table.
There he handed me a brightly colored cloth to put on my lap, reclined the chair until I was comfortable, and lifted my shirt, telling me that we would start with the ultrasound.
I had never had an ultrasound while not pregnant and I was intrigued to see where this would lead, what he would see.
It turned out that I would see just as much as he would because as soon as I was positioned, Dr C. pressed a button on the big flat screen just to the left of the table, and just like that, we were looking at the inside of my body. Wow.
I was not expecting that and it took me a few seconds to ground myself around the fact that no, we were not looking for a heartbeat or tiny hands. This time, it would be all about me, my body — and not whomever I was hosting. I settled in.
The doctor took his time — he seemed to have all the time in the world — to point out my uterus, to measure it, then to do the same with my two ovaries. I was mesmerized.
He showed me the little pouch that pumps estrogen into my system, bless its tiny powerful self. He took photos, he guided me on this fantastical tour, assuring me that all was perfect. As he moved the wand on my body and the screen changed a little, I was feeling a mix of peace and awe, combined with a sense of being some sort of magical being, as though I was the first woman to have two ovaries. It was amazing in the true sense of the word. I was amazed. Amazed to meet for the first time these beautiful organs that had had such an enormous role in my life and the life of my children.
He took photos, explained a couple more things, and then quietly turned off the screen. I felt altered as did the cozy office. It was as though we had moved into a sacred space and in this sacred space, I had met me, my me-Woman, my me-Mother, and my me of a new chapter. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to recline the chair some more and take a nap.
But it was now time for the Prueba de Papanicolaou and the table/chair was straightened out while I was handed a beautiful little blue, backless gown to wear during the exam. It was soft as cashmere and if it weren’t for the fact that it was completely open in the back, I could have worn it to the beach. When I asked him to take my photo in the soft blue dress, he was kind enough to oblige.
Back on the table/chair, it will soon be time to put my feet in the stirrups. I know how this works, I have done it many many times as have most women I know and yet, there is always this little pebble of anxiety.
But not today.
The room is dimly lit, the world outside is far away, I am wearing a pretty dress, and as my feet go up to where they need to be, the TV screen comes back on again. Before I can ask what we will be looking at this time, there it is.
There it is about … oh, 20" tall. My vulva.
I am stunned. STUNNED.
Suddenly, I have zero awareness of the stirrups, only of the screen and what’s on it, brightly lit and oh so … real. Now, it’s not like I have never seen this side of me. I have plenty of times and I am generally fond of it. But … this big?
I am torn between looking away and being unable to. I forget he is in the room. I have no words.
Before I can come back to using some sort of language and oh I don’t know, maybe make small talk, ask about the art on the wall … the screen changes and now I really don’t know what I am looking at.
Without me even noticing, the speculum has been inserted inside of me and well, I guess we are now looking at … wait, what ARE we looking at?
This is your cervix, says Dr. C, as though introducing me to a famous and very special person.
My left hand is covering my mouth and I hold my breath just in case the small movement would cause the screen to turn off.
My cervix. Yes, I remember my cervix. The one that I had to wait three times to open up to 10 cm many years ago. The one it seemed as though several people had met and commented on while I was pregnant or giving birth, but never me.
Today, I am meeting my cervix and it is achingly beautiful. Pink, sweet, looking as though it is both inviting and guarding. My Cervix.
I am fascinated.
Until the Dr says: this is the door through which your babies came into the world.
The day before was Mother’s Day and I had seen all my three kids on Zoom for the first time. It had been an unruly event, all of them out-joking each other over the fact that we were using technology to “connect” and even though I left the call feeling a little weird (there they were but I couldn’t really feel them, touch them) I had just seen all of their three faces. Their sweet faces.
The same faces that I now imagined slipping out of this pink glistening circle.
I had become a full-bodied mass of emotion. No thoughts, no opinion, just this awe, this gratitude. This sacredness.
I’m afraid I am about to start sobbing.
Dr. C. was kind enough to talk little, even as he continued with his exam, painting my cervix the color of coffee to check for any abnormality.
By the time he raised the chair back up, I had no recall at all of anything medical having happened. No pain, no cramping, zero angst.
Just the feeling of having gone on a magical voyage, a holy journey inside of me.
I walked out of the office feeling so very soft, so very rich, so very full.
So very in love with Life — and with me.
I was on my way to leaving the lobby when the receptionist called out to me smiling, and said: Laura, could you please pay before you leave?
I sure could.