by Margaret Nickens
The doctor pushes me back and asks me to scoot forward until the bottom of my butt is hanging off the edge of the exam table. She spreads my legs quickly. Without warning, I feel the hard edges of a speculum spread me open, and a moment later, she slides two wet fingers into me.
I feel the pressure deeply inside of me and blink at the ceiling to distract myself. When I turn my head to the side, I’m staring at a poster of a mother and child standing under the title “The Benefits of Breastfeeding.”
I take a deep breath and open my mouth, talking more to the mother than the doctor between my legs.
“I, um… wanted to ask you something about childbirth,” I mutter quietly.
I feel her fingers slide out of me, leaving a trail of lubricant against my thigh and the sheet below me.
“Sure. You can sit up now,” she responds.
When I push myself to sitting, she’s walking over to the sink to wash her hands.
“I’m thinking of, uh, trying to have a baby,” I say over the sound of the running water.
“That’s wonderful,” she smiles over her shoulder. “From your cervical exam, you look healthy. I could do a few other tests to check for fertility if you would like, though.”
I shake my head, trying to ignore the lube continually dripping from my vagina to the sheet below and wishing I’d wiped myself before starting this conversation. Maybe put some clothes on. Maybe asked over the phone instead.
“No, it’s actually … I’m also thinking of getting top surgery,” I say the words before I can take them back. She furrows her eyebrows, confused, so I look at my hands before continuing. “Like having my breasts removed.”
“Okay,” she says slowly, drawing the last syllable into a question.
“Like is it safe? To get the surgery before conceiving? Will the pregnancy hormones mess it up?”
I speak quickly again, and I’m afraid she’ll ask me to repeat the questions. Twisting my hands in my lap, I’m not sure I could force the words out again.
“Well you wouldn’t be able to breastfeed,” she responds pointedly.
“I mean, I know that,” I sigh, “I just want to know if it is safe for me to have a baby after getting the surgery.”
“I think you should be wondering, not if it’s safe, but is it best? For the baby.” She purses her lips and clasps her hands in front of her.
After I don’t respond for a moment, she continues, “I’ll let you get dressed. Here are some tissues for your…”
She trails off and gestures at my lap, before turning quickly and walking out the door. I stand up and slide my gown off, catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. With a grimace, I step to the side, staring at the sink instead as I wipe the tissue between my legs.
Margaret Nickens is a writer and educator based in Denver, Colorado. You can find their work online inThe Round and Ms. Magazine.