I am not seeking to terminate a pregnancy, but I’ll admit that when my doc told me I would need a transvaginal ultrasound I was sorely tempted to ask her if a complimentary abortion came along with it. Ha. She is a little stern so I didn’t think she would appreciate my humor.
However, it did give me an opportunity to reflect upon attempts by (mostly) Republican men to force pregnant women to have a transvaginal ultrasound before accessing their legal right to have an abortion. In case you’ve never had this procedure, I decided to share my experience.
A week or so ago, I developed a very painful feeling in my lower back that sent me to MedExpress one Sunday morning. They diagnosed me with a kidney infection and sent me home with meds, telling me to rest and call my PCP. I did that the very next day and ended up on a merry-go-round of doctors filling in for my PCP who is on leave. After a few days, the nurse determined that I was not healing very fast so she had me come in for another exam, bloodwork and eventually a CT scan. At this point (last Thursday), the doctor thought I had a kidney stone (yeah!) but the CT scan proved her to be wrong.
Instead, they found small cysts on my kidney which are apparently “nothing” and a cyst on each ovary which she identified as a “teratoma” – the word is derived from the Greek teras, meaning monster, which Virchow coined in the first edition of his book on tumors published in 1863. (Yes i borrowed that from Wikipedia)
Ouch. Monster? Well, it appears that I have a very cool cyst that is oft mistaken for an unborn twin because it contains cells that develop into teeth, hair, bones and fat tissue (i have fat tissue only.) These are somewhat present at birth and usually need to be removed either using medication or minimally invasive surgery to prevent them from developing into cancerous cells – I don’t quite understand the medical part, but … I have unborn twins in my body! With no teeth! That’s cool, right?
That’s when the doctor laid the transvaginal ultrasound on me. She wanted to be sure I was familiar with the process. I did at that point bring up the heated public debate over mandating them and how I was quite familiar. I wasn’t thrilled but … I also don’t want to be featured on a cable show for having my unborn twins rupture inside me and crawl into the daylight. I jest. I hope.
My pain improved slightly, but I’m still very uncomfortable. Tylenol helps a bit, but I’m anxious to have this resolved. So off to the ultrasound place I went today.
The procedure is not a breeze. The tech was very nice & the room itself was comfortable and designed to minimize discomfort. She began with a traditional pelvic scan that was fine if a little uncomfortable because my abdomen is swollen and tender. Then I had to empty my bladder, slide into the stirrups and have a large probe inserted into my vagina (I said it!) – a probe that resembles a long vibrator (not in a curvy dildo way.) It was only inserted maybe two inches BUT IT HURT. I was trying not to scream because I knew she was just doing her job, but OMG.
It hurt because I’ve got cysts, infection and apparently fibroids on my uterus. It hurt because I am ill and tired and worn out and not sleeping well much less worried about what it is going to reveal. I can’t imagine it would be MORE comfortable if I had a fetus growing in my uterus and experienced equally uncomfortable abdominal and pelvic issues.
But I’m glad it is available. Because I NEEDED IT to address a potentially serious health care situation. Not to address the concerns of gyno-obsessed Republican men who don’t like vaginas.
Frankly, I would not have minded if the tech was a man as long as he was compassionate, professional and competent. But I don’t need an insurance agent, “business man” and gentleman farmer helping him examine my ovaries.
By choice, I have never been pregnant. If I had become pregnant, I would have seriously considered an abortion for personal reasons that led me to decide not to have children and I have no problem sharing that. I can’t begin to imagine being forced to undergo this unnecessary procedure to access that medical care. Why? The only thing I can fathom (without having been there) is that it would make me feel like crap and want to run far far away to give birth to a child I didn’t want with a frayed safety net to sort of help me. I can’t imagine it would give me the warm fuzzies – just layers of guilt and anguish. Not everyone will feel that way, but the point is – this is unnecessary.
But I can just imagine, I can’t really know what it would feel like. Hours later, I’m still sore and uncomfortable. I’m still a little scared what the results will mean for me and my health. But I had a medical procedure that will provide useful information to treat my symptoms and the underlying cause of those symptoms. I was not undergoing an unnecessary medical procedure to control my choices and bend my will to the mighty white men.
Right now, my main concern is whether I’m going to have to have my ovaries removed or some other partial hysterectomy that will send me spiraling into (much too) early menopause. Trying to sort through all of the available information on my various symptoms as well as the potential treatments (more pills, groan) is overwhelming.
And you know what I keep thinking about? Sitting in the comfortable little ultrasound waiting room, I noticed that all of the magazines were about pregnancy and parenting. The cover of each magazine featured a very attractive white woman in some stage of pregnancy wearing million dollar outfits and beaming for all of the world to see. And before I turned on my phone to while away the time, I thought about the fact that there was no alternative – no Time or Newsweek that might have a story about the economy or poverty, no National Geographic to lend an international perspective, not even a Sports Illustrated with a female athlete who put her career first. There were no women of color, no women who looked tired or a little stressed. There were no fathers. No plus sized women.
While this facility does not provide abortions, it did strike me that the message is the same – the ideal family has a defined look and those of us who fall outside of that spectrum shouldn’t be reproducing, but if we do == we need to be “responsible.” And that sort of boils down into the idea that sex is bad because if we don’t have sex, we won’t have unwanted pregnancies.
And that’s a fairy tale.
I was in a lot of pain for the rest of the day. I slept for 11 hours and woke up with my vagina feeling more normal, but my kidney pain in full throttle. So now I wait for the test results and remind myself that this was an important tool for my health, not an unnecessary barrier to my making decisions about my own body.
If I was opposed in principle to this horrid control tactic before, I am firmly opposed in practice now. Describing this as unpainful or a minor inconvenience is a terrible lie – it is uncomfortable, awkward and unsettling to have someone insert a probe into your vagina in the context of a health scenario. It is not like filling out an extra form or even making a co-payment – it is an invasive procedure that should only be used when medically necessary.
PS: If you think this is “Too Much Information” — that’s the point! What business do you or anyone else have with my vagina whether it has a fetus involved or not? NONE.