Saturday, August 22, 2009

Add Her to the List

I'm not the only one who's been noticing I'm creeping closer and closer to the time in my life where I'm supposed to be progressing on to the next stage. My gynecologist has noticed, too.

I had my annual appointment on Wednesday, so I went, showed up early, filled out the required paperwork, worked up a urine sample--you know, everything you are supposed to do. And after the preliminary work was done, I answered the questions the nurse asked.

Any STDs? No. Any abnormal paps? No. Drink any caffeine? No. Tea? No. Any wicked addictions to crystal meth? No.

Satisfied, the nurse left me alone. She promised my doctor would be in shortly, and she didn't lie. My gynecologist--a lovely woman I lucked into when I was searching for a good doctor after I moved--came through the door looking just the way she had the year before: sweet and bursting with information. She looked a little like my grandmother who died when I was in grad school, and when I realized that--somehow I hadn't realized it the year before--I almost cried as she and I chit-chatted.

But then came this, which snapped me out of thinking about my grandmother and how possibly she had died missing me because I hadn't been speaking to my grandfather and thus avoiding their house for six months.

My gynecologist nodded at my file. "Wow," she said. "Aren't you a good patient? You don't even drink coffee."

"I'm a little boring, I think," I said.

"Honey," she said, smiling sweetly, "around here, boring is good. This is good. This is great." Then she pushed back from her computer and looked me straight in the eye. "So, last year we were talking about maybe getting you an IUD. Did you decide you wanted one?"

"Oh no," I said. "I think I'll just stick with what I've got. I'm doing good."

She nodded. "So, are you going to be having a baby this year?" she asked.

I hadn't been prepared for that question, and I almost swallowed my tongue. "Uhm," I said. "Uhm, no. No! No baby this year!" I tried to come off upbeat and peppy. I sounded like a cheerleader trying to make up for having the wrong answer in math class.

"Really?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. "Really."

She pursed her lips. "And do you ever want to have a baby?"

My hands were suddenly clammy. I didn't understand where this particular line of questioning was going. I also didn't understand where it had come from. We had just been talking about how I was set with my birth control, how I didn't want to make any changes, how I was good.

"Well, I don't know," I said, but then I jumped to make a correction. "I mean, I think I do," I said. "I'm pretty sure. Just in the future. You know, not now. Some day."

I just didn't want to disappoint her. It looked like she was so surprised and even a little sad when I said I don't know. It looked like she was thinking, She doesn't know? She better figure it out soon.

I don't know why she seemed so surprised. Maybe there was a note in my file about being in a long-term monogamous relationship--because I was last summer--and maybe she'd written that down as justification for the types of birth control options we were discussing. Maybe she thought my boyfriend and I were just offbeat, a little different, the type who were going to live together for the rest of their lives and not bite the bullet and get married. Maybe she thought we were the Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell of Maine.

"I see," she said. "You're sure?"

"Pretty sure," I said. I wanted to add that it would probably be a good idea to have a man before I considered getting pregnant, but I didn't want to get into that whole business, so I just shut up and nodded when she told me she was going to step outside for a moment and wait while I changed into my gown and hoisted myself up on the table.

I did as I was told. I put my head, my arms, my feet where she wanted them. And the rest of the exam went on as normal, until--in the middle of everything--my gynecologist stopped what she was doing and said, "I'm just going to say this one thing, okay? If, if, if you decide to try to get pregnant this year, I want you to start taking a multi-vitamin with folic acid in it about three months before you start trying."

My feet were in the air, my head was on a deflated pillow that dozens of women had rested on already that day, and I was staring at the ceiling. One of the panels had been excavated from the normal tile pattern and in its place the hospital had seen fit to install a fake stained glass insert--one which featured a garden scene and several playful hummingbirds. I wanted to reach up and see how close I could come to touching the artist's depiction of so many whirring wings. Or maybe I wanted to reach up and see how easy it would be to punch through that insert, create an escape for myself. Maybe I was wondering who the hell would decide hummingbirds were what women wanted to look at when they had a doctor murmuring the words, And now you'll feel a little pressure to them as their exam began.

I didn't know what to do or say. I could have probably just told my doctor I didn't have a boyfriend at the moment, and I really would like to be married before I thought about having children, so it seemed likely I would not be making choices about multi-vitamins with folic acid in them in the coming months. And I don't know why I didn't tell her that. It would have been easy, and it would have stopped the discussion. But I was tired, so I took a breath and settled the cheerleader chirp back into my voice.

"That's fascinating information!" I said. "That's good to know! I'll remember that!"

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