I sat in the waiting room at Doshi Diagnostics in downtown Brooklyn, forcing down a second liter of water in preparation for my pelvic sonogram. My bladder felt close to bursting, so I was relieved when they called my name, even though it was badly mispronounced.
I would have answered to anything at that point.
The female technician looked like she was barely 30, but her tortoiseshell frame glasses gave her a professional look. Hopping up on the table, the water sloshed around like a tidal wave inside my distended stomach. I got the chills when she squirted the clear, cold gel on my abdomen and then slid the wand around on my belly, pressing firmly. I contracted my muscles to keep from peeing all over the table.
She then instructed me to empty my bladder for part two of the exam. This time a dildo-shaped wand was inserted up inside me to get a better look. “I really couldn’t see your ovary on the last test,” she explained. “One of your fibroids was blocking it.”
She moved the wand around as I tried not to squirm. There was nothing fun about this, especially when the expression on her face grew concerned. Was she suffering from indigestion, or did she see something that was cause for alarm? She pushed deeper, and I held onto the adjacent wall to brace myself. I’d heard of rough sex, but I didn’t imagine it involving a lab technician.
This was what brought me to Doshi in the first place. In addition to arthritis, migraines and a predisposition to worry, there was something else my mother gave me—the gift of fibroids. With Mother’s Day/Cancer Awareness Day drawing closer, the gynecologist beckoned. These yearly visits were on that list of dreaded things I forced myself to do. The non-cancerous tumors in my uterus were trespassers in my pelvic region; they had to be kept under surveillance.
I thought back to my first pelvic sonogram at Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, which had been done by a middle-aged woman with compassionate eyes and warm hands. I liked that she explained everything beforehand,; which is why I cut her slack when her cell phone rang during the exam and she answered it while the wand was still inserted.
“Make sure your brother’s working on his homework,” she said into the phone. “I’ll pick up chicken for dinner.” Pause. “No, you cannot have friends over when I’m not home.”
She was having a mother-child moment, and while I understood the difficulties working mothers faced, I had a hard device shoved inside me that I wanted removed in the foreseeable future. I shifted my hips to encourage her to wrap it up, and she got the hint.
Back at Doshi, the young technician was digging around with more gusto. “Is everything OK?” I asked. She squinted at the screen, furrowing her brow like she had spotted hieroglyphics on my pelvic wall and was trying to decipher the message.
“I’m not allowed to discuss anything,” she said.
“Does the term ‘poker face’ mean anything to you?” I thought of asking. If you’re not going to tell me why you look like you’ve just discovered Jimmy Hoffa’s remains in this unlikeliest of places, then you should’d better do a better job of masking your expression.
“Do you have any biological children?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
She prodded on in silence. “Did you choose not to have children, or was there some other reason?” she asked.
I didn’t mind the question, but I was concerned about why she asked it. “No, I never felt the time was right for me to become a mother. Why, do you see something…troubling?” I tried again, figuring that perhaps we had bonded in some small way.
“No. I really cannot speak about this,” she said. “I’m sorry it’s taking so long, but I’m having trouble finding your other ovary,” she said. Given her persistence, I was wondering how I could convince her to call off the search; I wasn’t interested in having children, so finding my missing ovary was not that critical. She could stop rummaging around, and we could all go home.
I exhaled louder than necessary to let her know I was growing impatient with the expedition, which seemed to work. She finally breathed a sigh of relief, and said I was free to go. “Your doctor will call you with the results.”
I was glad it was over, but I left wondering whether, was it was the fibroids that were causing her expressions of distress and perplexity or was it something more sinister? This Marcel Marceau of sonogram technicians had implanted me with a seed of worry. Had my luck run out?
It wasn’t until the doctor called a week later, giving me the thumbs up, that I was able to relax. I wanted to share the good news after my uncomfortable ordeal on the table.
So I picked up the phone and called my mother.