Browsing Tag


courage, Fear, feminism, Guest Posts, Women

On Being an Unnatural Woman

November 20, 2015
leah wyman

By Leah Wyman

I’m walking in the the rainforest, debating whether or not to put in my iPod headphones to ease my jitters.

For a country with “Pura Vida” as its motto, Costa Rica can be an anxiety-provoking place for somebody who’s a borderline agoraphobic.  But here I am, covered in mud, my clothes sopping with sweat, swatting at bugs and moss, feeling all kinds of outdoor unknowns prickly all over me. I’m exhausted, I’m lost in the wilderness, and I’m grappling with the surreal situation I find myself in.

I had followed the map closely, I thought, but got turned around as to whether to climb up the creek bank or down the creek bank to get to the waterfall I was seeking. To most seasoned outdoorsmen (or just anyone who gets the concept of how rivers work), this wouldn’t be a mental struggle.

But hell if I knew—and downstream seemed conceptually like less of a labor. No guide, no common sense–just the great outdoors and me, scaling rocks and branches, sloshing my boots into deep pools, petrified of snakes, and talking to myself through this anxious situation.

You’re doing real good Leah, reeeeeeal good. You got this. I sputtered, spooked by weird animal and bug sounds and the rustle of leaves. I threaded the headphone cord in and out of my fingers. Maybe a little Katy Perry telling me I was a ‘Firework’ would spur me on.

Nature has always known its relationship with me: respectfully guarded but also utterly hysterical. It’s moved past dubious and now it feels like fact: the environment and its inhabitants are tickled by me. Mother Earth needs amusement like the rest of us, and I feel like the laughingstock of the terrestrial community.

As with most suburban brats, anything remotely wild in my past happened in zoos.

With my class at the primate exhibit at Brookfield Zoo I was standing completely unawares when I suddenly felt a nasty, mealy, putrid paste being flung repeatedly at my face and body. One of the so-called majesties we were admiring with awe had just thrown its shit at me. Gorilla feces all over me. In my hair, in my eye, all over my new sweater from the Gap, which I’d gotten for Christmas, which I really liked.

I was crying and humiliated while my teacher tried to wipe soapy water through nooks and crannies of cable knit. Mrs. Scott walked me to the zoo store and picked out a nerdy t-shirt with a baby otter that exclaimed “I Otter Be at the Brookfield Zoo!” for me to wear the rest of the day. (God bless you, Mrs. Scott). Continue Reading…

courage, death, Fear, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration, Vulnerability


November 10, 2015

By Klyn Elsbury

A few nights ago, I was wrapped in a blanket, lying on top of an RV off of a scenic overlook in Utah staring up at a sky full of endless, scintillating stars. The air was cool and crisp, delightfully tickling my lungs as they adjusted to the altitude. A handsome man with a beautiful soul was holding my hand and pointing out Venus to the south. Together, we were dreaming about the future. Something that until Orkambi came, I had all but given up on.

I dropped out of college because I started getting hospitalized several times a year, and I believed I would never live long enough to pay off my student loan debt.

I moved to California from Florida for a career in biotech/pharmaceutical recruiting so I could be closer to the companies that were developing the very drugs that would keep me alive. That would give me hope. When I started getting hospitalized every 4 months, I made the choice to leave my corporate career and preserve my lung function via exercise, diet, and adherence to prescriptions that managed the symptoms. I tried to get in on every clinical trial for Orkambi, before it was even called Orkambi, but time and time again I was denied because my lung function was too unstable.

He squeezed my hand excitedly, “did you see that?” referring to a shooting star that emblazoned an almost pitch black night. My heart skipped a beat. I shut my eyes and made a wish that one day, someday soon, I would be on this drug. I opened my eyes to see him smiling back at me.

For the first time in a long time, I believed I would have a future again. I was the first person in clinic the day after Orkambi was approved. However, they couldn’t write a prescription because I needed to go on IV antibiotics first. My lung function was around 50%. It was my 3rd round of IVs this year alone.

Meanwhile, one of my girlfriends locally who got approved for the drug, posted on Facebook that for the first time in years, she woke up without coughing. I can’t imagine a morning where an alarm clock wakes me up instead of a violent core-shaking, gut busting cough.

“Wow!” We both said in unison at yet, another shooting star. Who is lucky enough to see two of them in one night sky? Just moments apart? Surely this means there are good things to come. Waking up without a cough became my second wish. Continue Reading…

cancer, courage, Guest Posts, healing, Yoga

My Love Letter To My Yoga Teachers

October 30, 2015

By Alexa Shore

At 44 years old, I never thought I would get cancer. I never ever thought I would get it twice.  I never thought my yoga practice would save my life.

I knew something was wrong. I felt nauseous, had food cravings, felt as if my hair was falling out— was I pregnant? I went to the doctor to get a blood test and physical examination. I was handed a slip for a mammogram the following week.  That weekend, I went for a hike. I felt a lump. I went back to the doctor.

My oncologist said I was “lucky” after being diagnosed with “early detection” aggressive HER2+ breast cancer. Lucky?  That I have cancer? The second time I got breast cancer, I heard the words again. I finally got it. Both times, yoga had taught me to be so aware of my body, that I knew something was wrong. The second time around, I had the voice to speak up and say something was wrong – again. I caught my own breast cancer, twice, before it could metastasize to my brain, bones, liver and lungs.

I was healthy and I practiced yoga. I was not immune to cancer. People asked me questions about diet, environment, and personal habits to try to understand why I got cancer, and then, why it came back. I wanted to understand too.  I was told by one doctor “cancer creates change” I began to think …

I am a single mom, love my children, my family, my friends, my work, yoga, sunsets, and dancing. Change what? My body was strong; my mind positive and optimistic. So I sat and thought. How is Alexa? Did I truly have balance? Did I make time for me while juggling everything I did for everyone else?  Was I stressed? Did I feel resentment that I did not have time for myself? I bought gifts for myself and traveled to amazing places, but what about me? My spirit? Is this why I got sick? Could I have actually enabled cancer to grow? Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

La Llorona

October 29, 2015

By Alma Luz Villanueva

I lived in Santa Cruz, California, for sixteen years while my youngest son grew up, became a surfer, a runner, and went off to university. So, when I heard that eight-year-old Madyson Middleton was missing from the Tannery Arts Center, where she lived with her mother, I immediately began to worry in a personal way. Also, one of my granddaughters is exactly Madyson’s age, and I was to find out later that she knew Maddy from school. And so, the night of July 26, 2015 I kept checking for updates- was she found yet. Then I finally gave up, went to sleep after midnight. I kept seeing her large, beautiful, child eyes, awake when I checked the clock, back to dreaming. In the very pit of my stomach, where the truth lives, I knew she was no longer alive- but I refused to believe it. And her mother, her young mother- I imagined what she was going through. Her beloved child missing.

I felt the horror in every cell of my body like small fires. And I remembered myself at seven, an older thirteen year old friend saying it was okay to go to the park by ourselves. Buena Vista Park, San Francisco, the early 1950s. I was wearing a brand new dress and twirling around because I thought I was beautiful, special, in my brand new dress. My grandmother had made large curls on my thick, dark hair, held by barrettes- I remember they matched my dress, soft pink. I never left the street by myself, my grandmother, Mamacita, watching me from the window as I rode my Hopalong Cassidy bike with rainbow streamers on the handlebars. She’d yell my name, “ALMA,” and I had to answer like a song we knew together. Alma means Soul, and she’d often say (in Spanish), “Tu eres mi Alma…You are my soul.”

When my older friend, Peggy, and I got to the playground area we had swinging contests to see who could go higher. Of course, she was stronger as her feet pierced the sky much higher than mine. But I didn’t mind, I remember I was just happy to be swinging with my new dress blowing around me. I remember wondering if Mamacita was calling my name, waiting for me to sing back to her. I remember wanting to go back suddenly, like a pain my eight-year-old stomach. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Room Full Of Wounded

October 26, 2015

By Larry Patten

My questions were casual.

Sarah’s blunt answers weren’t.

“Sarah” is a pseudonym. I know several nice Sarahs, and this pretend Sarah certainly fit into the nice category. To further protect confidentiality, I’ll dub her friend as “Aspen.” Both women were in their mid-twenties, assistants on the staff where I did physical therapy for a troublesome left knee. They comfortably joked with patients, shared encouraging words, and often took extra moments to make sure those of us in therapy knew the whys and hows of what we were doing.

On this day, Sarah was the one reminding me which exercise was next. She brought me the yellow flexible ball to help stretch my lower body, and later set the timer for how long I should move my limbs back and forth, side to side. I usually bantered with her, though sometimes I silently plowed through the series of exercises.

When finished with the yellow ball, I asked Sarah a casual question that led to her blunt answers.

“Aspen told me she started working here because you recommended her for the job. Is that true?” (See . . . just a casual conversation with a casual question.)

Sarah grinned. “Right. She graduated from college and didn’t know what to do next. I told her she should give this a try.”

“How’d you and Aspen meet?” (Still casual, right?)

Sarah paused. Or did she? Did I later, recalling our spontaneous exchange, add a pause?

“Aspen was good friends with my fiancé. He died a couple of years ago.”

Just like that.

Sarah, always vibrant and bubbly as she helped the patients, had quietly disclosed some of the worst news in her young life. We continued talking while others around us worked their shoulders or knees or hands, all trying to recover from damaged bodies. In brief, hushed sentences, Sarah told me about her fiancé dying in a motorcycle accident, and how important that her caring family and friends (like Aspen) had been and continued to be. I mentioned my work at a hospice in bereavement support, where I spent time with those mourning the death of a loved one.

I suspected Sarah had other conversations like the one with me. While she may have extended our chat after learning about my job and sensing my “expertise,” her initial response was to just another one of her patients with a cranky knee. I wondered if her sharing had once included tears or that she simply never volunteered any information. But now, if someone asked about her life—to get to know her better, to deepen a potential relationship—had Sarah decided to let people hear the hardest truths? I think her honest, unadorned words were like sentries on a castle wall, warning about an approaching threat. After all, many of us dread conversations about death. Everyone who has had a loved one die like Sarah has probably experienced strangers, co-workers, and even “close” friends abruptly changing the subject. Worse yet, some people literally avoid the subject and the grieving person.

Her fiancé had died because of the negligence of another driver. Once a soldier in Afghanistan, he’d survived a tour-of-duty only to return home, dying on a tree-lined suburban street on a sunny day. He and Sarah had hopes and dreams, but now she told his (and her) terrible story to me. One day alive. The next day . . .

Sarah thanked me for listening. She smiled, guileless and unwavering. Still with that smile, Sarah told me to get started with my next exercise. Tough woman.

A few moments later, she swung by the raised table where I was finishing leg lifts. She whispered, “See the guy over there?”

I nodded. He looked to be in his early seventies. He was lean, seemingly in good shape. However, as he stepped up-and-down on a platform, I detected a hitch in his right knee. He, like me, was grappling with a leg injury.

“He lost his wife a week-and-a-half ago,” Sarah continued in her whisper. “So, so sad.”    Lost. Gone. Died.

I did my final leg lifts. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the lanky man with the slight weakness in his right knee step up-and-down. Up-and-down.

Sarah departed to assist a newly arrived patient.

Some injuries are easily seen. Others are invisible. Some injuries, with hard work, will heal. Others remain, a hitch in the soul.

Lost. Gone. Died. The room was filled with the wounded.

Aren’t all rooms?

Larry Patten_3 (1)

Larry Patten  is a writer, a United Methodist minister and currently serves as a Bereavement Support Specialist at a hospice in Fresno, California. He has had essays published in his local newspaper (Fresno Bee) and national magazines like Spirituality and Health. Along with working on a novel, he maintains (musings about faith) and (thoughts about dying, death, and grief). 
Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts, healing, The Body

Lick ‘em On

October 24, 2015

By Jane Ratcliffe

I reached toward my bowl of oatmeal.  Before me, I noticed a pair of hands.  Faintly red with raised blue veins, they floated in the shallow morning light.  I drew a sharp breath.  I lived alone.  The doors were locked.  Who could be in my house?  Unnerved, I kept watching the hands.  The colors glowed, the skin like the bark of a young tree.  Then I recognized the ring: an oval diamond set amidst tiny dots of turquoise and topped with a bright ruby.  My ring.  Therefore, my hands.

It was March, 2008.  These were my first moments of brain injury, although I didn’t yet know this was what was happening.  It was like watching my life on a high definition television screen. I was in my body.  Everything around me was vibrant and precise.  We were just in two separate worlds.


Exactly a decade earlier, on March 9th, 1998, I was temping in a furniture showroom in New York City, helping the owner with some office work.  A huge wooden tabletop hung over the manager’s desk.  I was there for a week and each day I said to her, “Aren’t you afraid that’s going to fall on you?”  She laughed.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t go near her desk.  Until the end of the week, when I daringly strode over to get a stamp and, bam, the rope snapped and the tabletop fell on my head.

“A tabletop fell on my head,” I said, laughing so hard tears rolled down my face.

“A tabletop fell on my head,” I said again, as my vision shut off, then returned.

“A tabletop fell on my head,” I repeated, as now my hearing went, then returned. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Racism

The Last Pep Rally

October 23, 2015

By Jane O’Shields-Hayner

It was during that last, fragmented year of college when I found myself standing, once more, in a hot and rowdy crowd at what would be my last pep rally. My sorority required my attendance, to demonstrate support for the next upcoming football loss.  My school lost pretty much all the time in those days and I had no real interest in football.

This was my fourth year of college and I was twenty-one years old.  This semester I had registered for fifteen units of classes, and not attended a single one. Without a conscious thought, I had devised a simple way to sabotage my life.

My life was college life, and college was the vehicle I used to meet my whims. As a student, I could stay up late and hang out every night. I could dress in magazine fashions and boogie at the kind of parties where everyone drank as much alcohol as their gut would allow, then smile for photographs holding a paper cup while the blue light from the photographer’s flash bulb ignited and smoked.

I wasn’t new at slacking, but this year I had pushed slackhood past the point of no return. I dressed and drove my car from sorority row each morning while my friends left for class. Instead of parking at the main campus, walking inside a limestone building and facing one of the many professors I had never seen and never heard, I drove off in one of several other directions. I pointed the long nose of my yellow Mustang toward the highway, pushed on the accelerator until my toes touched the floor and dreamed I was flying. Three hundred horses of power propelled my wagon of yellow steel toward the horizon and then I was free. With a thrill in my heart, I raced past the contradictions, troubles and lies of my scrambled and misdirected life.

Continue Reading…

courage, Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Self Image, Self Love, Truth

What’s In A Name?

October 22, 2015

By Cassandra Pinkus

I never was very good at writing in cursive. I remember in the second grade hearing another student mention that the teachers in the higher grades didn’t care if your homework was written in cursive or not. Right then I figured, if they don’t care later, why should I do it now? I started turning in my homework in print on that day, and never wrote another word in cursive for years.

Sometime later in my childhood I learned that sometimes you need to put your signature on certain papers. It seemed that the only expectation for a signature was that it be written in cursive. I didn’t know what to do. It didn’t matter that much though, because I didn’t need to sign my name very often.

I thought of when I saw my mother or my father sign their name. Whether on a report card or a check, the pen-strokes were always quick. It was clear that it was not the letters that counted. When they were done, I could make out clearly the first letters of each name, and all the rest seemed to descend into mad squiggles. When I went to sign my own name, somewhere I understood that no one would read the letters.

A first mark to indicate the name’s beginning, followed by a wave of jagged ink. A second mark to indicate the name’s end, and another cacophony of squiggled lines. The signature was not a thing to be read, but an action to be performed. It was done not when it was received, the way one writes a letter. It was done when the signatory had left their essence drying on the page. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Healing From Numbness

October 20, 2015
null-1 (1)

By Amy Oestreicher

“Healing” has meant different things to me at various points in my life.  As a child, healing took forever when I skinned my knee running around outside.  As a teen, healing also meant crying on the phone to a friend when the “guy of my dreams” was taken.  But “healing” took a completely new meaning – on the inside and out – when my life and world as I knew it changed forever.

When I turned 17, a mentor-figure in my life who I had known and looked up to for several years transformed into a complete stranger when he started to molest me.  I went into total shock and coped by leaving my body and staying numb.  This father-figure in my life who I completely trusted had broken our sacred bond in a split second, and suddenly I didn’t know who I could rely in.  I kept this secret burning in my gut, hidden from my family, who didn’t recognize the numb space-cadet I had become.

I was so out of touch with my emotions that it was hard for me to face that I had been betrayed by someone who intimately inside my circle of trust.  One day, I was browsing through the bookstore. Pacing through the aisles (as my way of coping and marking time) and I experimented with scanning the “Self-Improvement” aisle.  I had an instinct that something within me had changed, but I wasn’t exactly sure what.  It wasn’t even a reality to me that someone so close within my circle of trust could betray me in such a horrific way.  I “window-shopped” each shelf, trying to look as casual as possible, when a big yellow book popped out at me:  The Courage to Heal.

I was struck by those words – courage, heal.  Was there something I was scared to face, that I needed to find the strength inside to really confront face to face?  I involuntarily reached for the thick yellow binding – as though someone else was leading me towards this.  Now I was face to face with the cover, every now and then glancing over my shoulder to make sure no one was looking. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, courage, Guest Posts, Inspiration

More Than Enough

October 18, 2015

By Ali Ludovici

As you are, in this moment, you are enough.

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to succumb to self-doubt, to the nagging voices in your mind. It is easy to fall to the comparison trap. To forget that you are beautiful in your individuality; incredible as you are. You are needed, wanted and loved.

I have struggled for much of my life with feeling inadequate. There was always someone better, more talented, more skilled. There was always someone more intelligent, more beautiful, seemingly more deserving. I sought out external validation. Without their validation I couldn’t trust, couldn’t believe that I was enough. Without approval, I worked harder, tried to be more perfect, more of what they were looking for. I would lose myself to this need to please. I would lose myself to the persona I took on. I would lose myself, thinking who I was wasn’t enough and that I should become someone more, someone better.

  1. I approached the teacher’s desk after class, shame overwhelming me. I wanted to know why I hadn’t received a higher grade. My grade 5 teacher seemed floored. She told me I should be proud of myself; I had received 85% as my final grade. I started to cry. Proud? Proud of what? I had set my standards to 90% and until then, I hadn’t ever not reached that standard. People now expected remarkable grades from me. I had let them down. I was a disappointment.
  1. When I saw her skate, flawlessly, landing jumps I still struggled with, spinning in tight little circles and with such grace and speed. She was mesmerizing where I was graceless. She was talented where I struggled. I would never compare.

Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, healing

Crying Turned Me Into A Real Girl

October 17, 2015

By Janine Canty

Living with a cruel man for seventeen years teaches you that tears only bring more pain. Tears on habitually bruised and torn skin stings. Tears only feed a fire you can’t control and don’t understand. At first you might try crying in the shower or  over the sound of the washer. He watches in the shower. He’s deaf in one ear, but he hears over the washer.

He knows your hiding places and what your voice sounds like when it’s trying not to cry. He can see your tears before they form. He anticipates them before they fall. They are Mardi gras and Christmas rolled into one for him. Proof that he is right and you are crazy. Your wet eyes and begging give him fuel.. Pass him his manhood with your ravaged face. Slumped shoulders. Downcast eyes. A cup of black coffee. Extra sugar and shaking hands. I hate coffee. I taught this body not to cry in order to survive.

Numb is good. Numb is quiet. Numb is nirvana among the shattered green plates and ripped shirts. I kneel on broken glass with bloody knees. I hold a piece of glass in my palm. I wonder what it would feel like to open my wrist. To see my life flowing out onto the floor. Among the glass and cat hair. Turning the couple of cheerios the dustpan missed, red. My hair is tangled. Dirty and in my eyes. My face is aching  and dry. I wonder what my casket might look like. I wonder if my Mother will cry. I envy her if she still can.


I’ve become my own memory at 31. Have I stored up enough numb to end me like a broken sentence?  Pull the glass down my wrist. Let someone else clean my stain and non tears. Wipe the flesh that used to be a girl named Janine, away. The baby coughs once, then again, from a jenny lind crib. He’s had that cough a day too long. The house is chilly.

I touch the back of his head lightly with the hand not still holding a piece of glass. Like an admonishment. A reminder. A warning. I pick up a doll my daughter has kicked out of bed. I chuck it towards a cracked toy box. I’m cradling the glass in my hand gently, the way I once cradled them. I don’t cry when I sweep up the mess. I  wrap the glass carefully so none of the kids cut themselves. I’m not satisfied.

I slip my feet into the monsters slippers. I carry the bag to the shed behind the house. I push the lid down firmly on my non tears. My non-suicide.  My non-self. I get in the shower while he’s not there to see.

I don’t cry. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Alcholism, Binders, Guest Posts, Intimacy, Sex

Facts of Life

October 15, 2015

By Carol Weis

You discover your daughter has learned the facts of life. She is only seven when this profound experience occurs. Your husband has taken over this duty you thought would be yours. One your mother never shared with either you or your sister. You’d find out from your cousin when you were both nine. An image that would repulse you for a very long time. Your anger and grief about losing this right of passage with your daughter, your only child, becomes just another sticker in your already thorny side.

Sex is a thing that is hard to think about. It was your husband’s last straw, and one you have no interest in sharing with anyone but yourself. You occasionally flirt with guys at AA meetings, with no intention of going anywhere with it.

A habit that lingers from your drinking years.

And then the day comes in therapy, when it seems that your therapist might be at her wits end with both of you. She suggests you go on an overnight date, away for a night without your daughter, sleeping in the same bed without having her around.

It’s not that you haven’t tried a version of this before. Since your separation, you’ve slept overnight at his apartment, with ground rules about sleeping in the same bed. If he makes advances when you feel you’re not ready, he has to respect what you say. You’re more like a brother and sister right now, laying next to each other in your parent’s double bed.

His attempts at intimacy are always turned down. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing

Howl Of My Heart

October 13, 2015

By Julia Radke

Eating disorders are shit. You know this. Eating disorders sneak in and whisper you lies that scurry through all the hallways of your brain and make dark little homes in your body. And you listen to the whispers and soon they are yells and you can’t hear your heart anymore. Soon you are saying, “Be quiet heart. I know what is best. The women on TV, they know what is best. The red pills in the top drawer, they know what is best”.

The eating disorder screams and your heart can only whisper. So you forget your heart.

But it does not forget you.

Every day it pumps your blood and it whimpers. It cries quiet little cries, painful mute sobs. It whines and it stammers and it drops silent tears. Until one day you are sitting at your window and your body feels empty but the world looks full without you and all of sudden your heart fucking HOWLS. It howls and you can’t ignore it and the disorder is sending out all of its best men because even it can’t quiet the heart this time. And then someone is holding your hand and saying they are proud of you and you’re entering the hospital and therapists are saying the word ‘relapse’ like it is your name and you’re swallowing mashed potatoes, glorious mashed potatoes, when all of a sudden the months are over and you are leaving the same hospital with a little gold coin that looks like a cheap piece of fake plastic money from a vending machine. Except this time it says “RECOVERY” instead of “PRIZE TOKEN”.

But no one really tells you that recovery is going to be shit too. They say it will be hard, and you will not always want to do it, and it will feel endless. That is true. That is expected. But no one warns you that it will be just as destructive. Recovery destroys your life.

Continue Reading…

Family, Fear, Guest Posts, healing, infertility, The Body, Women

This Is Infertility

October 12, 2015

By Hillary Strong

“There they are!”  Betty, the technician, proclaims.

I blink. I stare at my husband. We both give her tight smiles. She’s wondering why I’m not crying. Not just crying, but ugly crying, where snot pours down my face, and I need an entire box of Kleenex to mop up the emotional refuse. She’s wondering why I’m not breaking out the horns and streamers, dancing naked while strewing confetti all over the exam room, watching it fall like snow over the stirrups, the tubes of Vaseline and boxes of Latex gloves, eventually drifting down to the bleach infused tiled floor.

She’s moving the wand around and gesturing towards the screen that to me looks like two Rorschach blots encased in static. My husband is squinting at the monitor. “What do you see?” I want to ask him. “A unicorn? A spider? Two caterpillars?

“You must be excited” Betty says, as she slides out the ultrasound wand that had been shoved into me with robotic efficiency. “Scoot your butt down, legs open, no down further, knees apart”, Betty had choreographed the weird dance of our weekly appointment minutes earlier. “What no flowers? I thought. “No dinner?” Just wham, bam, intravaginal ultrasound. Betty takes off her plastic gloves, drops them into the trash, and scribbles on my chart. “I will print out some photos for you guys to keep,” and with a click of a button, my uterus and its contents appear in neat, glossy, squares curling unto themselves like the receipt from a cash register.

“I’ll let you get dressed,” she says, and the door clicks shut.  Only then does my husband place his hand in mine, our fingers chilled from the air conditioning, and we stare at the pictures, poring over them like they are people we should know but can’t recognize.  It’s like she placed an enormous chocolate cake in front of us, and we told ourselves we could take a tiny little taste of the icing.  It feels decadent and a bit taboo and as our eyes pore over embryonic images of our children, we savor the deliciousness, for we know it could be as fleeting as sugar on the tongue.

I’m staring at a signed poster of Bruce Springsteen. It’s Born in the U.S.A., Bruce. White t-shirt, blue jeaned, red capped, Bruce.  Fighting the good fight. “I’m clothed now, so at least I’m not disgracing the flag”, I say aloud, and consider it a victory when my husband smiles and shakes his head slightly. I stare at the plastic vagina on the desk in front of me, and resist the urge to open and shut it, make it talk, like a puppet. Months ago, it might have been an elephant in the room, something that would have made my husband and I snicker like prepubescents in health class, or if playing the bourgeois, something that would have been examined like a coffee table book. Now, after months of being indoctrinated with anatomy lessons we hadn’t exactly volunteered for, I regard it like a paperweight or desk lamp. Continue Reading…