Owner’s manual

by Jillian Bogater (Exile From Hysteria)

To clear the way for a hysterectomy, I needed to undergo a pelvic ultrasound. As a master multi-tasker, I decided to prepare for the procedure on the way to my appointment. The task: drink 32 ounces of water in 15 minutes.

I accomplished this in the first part of the hour-long commute to the clinic. Then I tried my best to ignore the bumpy freeway and think of anything other than waterfalls. My meditation was interrupted by my boyfriend Matt when he saw the check engine light go on in his new truck.

“Pull out the owner’s manual,” he asked.

I opened the glove box, and a small box of tampons flew into my lap. I vaguely remember buying them at a gas station when we were on a day trip somewhere. My period had made a surprise appearance, and I bought the tampons as insurance that I would make it home without making a mess.

I handed Matt the manual, placed the tampons back in the glove box and tried not to think about the irony of the situation.

Who likes tampons, anyway?

By the time we got to the clinic, I was bursting at the seams, and the receptionist assured me that was exactly where I needed to be. She encouraged pacing. I told her I worried about peeing my pants, and said I wouldn’t be the first one to do that.

The ultrasound room was small, and contemporary. I spotted the restroom right away, just feet from the exam table. The tech turned down the lights, then told me to lower my pants to my knees and lay back on the table. She squeezed blue jelly on my belly, and started the ultrasound.

“When are you getting your hysterectomy?” she asked.

I told her I didn’t know. That I still needed to set up a surgery date once the test results were back. I confided I had just learned about everything the day before, and that it all was still quite a shock.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought your hysterectomy was voluntary,” she said.

Voluntary? I wasn’t sure what she meant. Did women just decide to give up their uteruses because they are in the way? I know there must be myriad reasons why women have the surgery, but my muddled mind couldn’t sort through it all.

After the test was done, I looked at the screen and asked if I could have an image of my uterus. She apologized, and said no. It seemed I wasn’t the first woman asking for this parting gift.

I thought of my friends with children, and how they gleefully post ultrasound images of their babies on Facebook. I was hoping for a similar affirmation. At least a token reminder that my uterus once existed.

Instead, I wiped the blue jelly off of my stomach.

The tech told me it would most likely take three days for results. I closed the door after her, and sat down on top of my things. I breathed in deeply, taking in this small moment alone.

Suddenly I wished for an owner’s manual. Anything to explain away the malfunction in my body.

Because soon enough, I was sure I wouldn’t recognize my life anymore.