Time flies when you’re watching your kid cross the threshold from elementary to middle school, when he stands for a picture with his certificate and you can still somehow see the shape of his little boy form in his lanky legs and broadening shoulders. “Where did the time go?” we wonder, as we dab at our eyes and collect tears in our commencement programs. And then in a small windowless room in the mammography department, time slows to a crawl: gown gaping open, bare chest exposed, the very definition of vulnerable. “Where is the time going,” I wondered, as they prepped me for the sting of the first needle- the “good” one with the lidocaine. Something happens when your breast is compressed in a machine and you lose feeling in your limbs from having to lie still on your side for more than an hour: you begin to have a different understanding about being present, whether you want to or not. There’s nowhere to go. No phone. Nothing to distract you from the present reality and all of the “what-ifs” that threaten to take over at any given moment.
The doc was as kind and gentle as he could be in the situation, but I was originally going to be taken care of by a woman doc who they said I would adore. As it turned out, she wasn’t there that day, and I was surprised by my own instant sadness over losing that extra bit of woman-to-woman empathy. One of the techs spoke in a hushed tone, explaining everything as if she wanted it to feel normal for me. The other came and sat by my head to hold my hands- insisting that they were frozen, even though I couldn’t feel them anymore. She started telling me about her most recent trip to Disney with her daughters. All I knew is that I was grateful for a woman’s touch at that moment. I stared at a red knob that was directly in my line of vision on the machine in front of me. It had three arrows that formed a circle, indicating which direction to turn. It was soothing in a weird way, as I let my eyes follow one arrow into the other, over and over. Inhale, exhale. I wasn’t aware until later that the tears were coming, and that she had been wiping them for me.
I wasn’t going to write about this. But in light of the disgusting SCOTUS news last week, it feels appropriate- maybe even necessary- to be transparent and vulnerable about my physical, mental, and emotional health as a 40 year-old woman right here, right now in 2022. This isn’t about my uterus, but it is actually still about my body and my autonomy over it, which is the crux of all of this. What if (god forbid) this comes back malignant, and I was denied a procedure that would cure it? At some point in our lives as women/women-identifying, most of us are going to have the shit scared out of us with a test that comes back abnormal, or an ultrasound that doesn’t look quite right. We'll then sit in our nakedness (literally and figuratively) in exam rooms, holding both our deepest anxiety and the mystery of our bodies. Many of us have done this a hundred times over by now. We show up, even in our fear, not just to be evaluated or given the “all clear" (hopefully)- but because on the deepest and most human level, we want to be seen.
This is a tale as old as time. Legislators might try to rewind our country back a hundred years, but they won't ever rewrite the narratives of womanhood and what it means to be in- and love- our bodies. Even in the waiting.