This summer, I’m working for a center that does abortions, among other things. This center requires that all of the interns and employees schedule a mock abortion appointment, so that they can experience what it feels like to come into our clinic in that situation. Mine was on Tuesday, and I’m still processing it.
Inadvertently, I arrived at the clinic with an empty stomach and sat in the waiting room with hunger gnawing at my innards like every other woman there. Although I knew the reason for my presence was an illusion, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. Part of it was smelling and tasting the fear and anxiety in the air. Part of it was knowing I could have been here, or somewhere like here, legitimately looking for an abortion. I, like most, have had my fair share of missed menses and postponed periods. At least I was lucky enough to have been born in the era of drugstore pregnancy tests, so I never had to sit waiting and praying for the onslaught of blood to appear between my legs.
By the time I laid down for my sonogram, I could hear my heart resonating through my chest. “You know I’m here for the mock, right?” I giggled nervously as Gloria reached for the gel. “Of course,” she smiled. “We just do it this way so you see what it’s like.”
I lay back and shuddered as the cool gel hit my skin. Gloria shifted the screen over so I could see it as a grainy image pulsated onto the screen.
“There it is. That’s your uterus there. It looks good and healthy, and un-pregnant…which I guess is a good thing since that’s how you expected it to be. And there’s your cervix, and the opening to your vagina.”
Any fear I had felt before was instantly replaced by wonder. I felt like the woman in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues when she was handed a hand mirror and told to find her clitoris for the first time. Here I was, a woman in college, a woman interested in reproductive health, and I had never seen my own uterus. If it weren’t for this job, I probably would have gone my whole life without seeing it unless I had become “with child.” It looked so simple and unassuming. Who could imagine that that quiet little bubble might someday swell, a perfect human bud, to encapsulate a child? Who could imagine that that small blip was the source of so much trouble—from mid-month cramps to thousands of years of subjugation?
I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my sonogram. I don’t know that it will become my latest refrigerator magnet, as apparently it has for some. A scrapbook page sounds likely at this point, although perhaps then I won’t see and appreciate it as much as I should. Maybe if I practice what Igna Muscio calls “cunt love” a little more visibly, my cramps will get better. Then again, maybe my uterus doesn’t want to be gawked at by anyone and everyone, including myself. Maybe it just wants to chill out—just wants to continue being that quiet, unassuming little blip. Maybe it’s just biding its time until it can bulk up with the promise of something life-changing inside of it. Looking at the image, I am reminded of the womb-worship so central to so many cultures of yesteryear. It is suddenly tangible, understandable, venerable. Looking at the image makes me want to laugh, cry, scream. It makes me beg—how did we go so wrong? How did we decide that something so beautiful could be the root of all evil? How did we decide that it should be tortured, controlled, beat into submission? How did we as a human race get so confused?
And how do we make sure our sisters, daughters, lovers don’t get caught in the snares of that confusion?