Today was the day women everywhere dread. Today was the day of my annual exam.
Yes, that exam.
Remember when you were pregnant and you were so excited for your next visit? I remember walking in like I owned the place. Like I had purpose because I was a pregnant woman. I walked right in and gave my urine sample and sat down waiting for the nurse to call me back.
I would sit in the lobby and flip through every single baby magazine. I started with an interest in maternity fashion and then quickly turned to baby gear. I would go back to the exam rooms and flip through more magazines. The selection was smaller and I remember one magazine that was created for each trimester. I hated it when I had the wrong trimester magazine in my room. I wanted to know what was going on right then and there.
But today was a different visit. It was simply my annual exam. Time for the yearly poking and prodding. The kind that leaves you feeling especially vulnerable and violated. I will admit that my doctor today could probably win an award for fastest hands in the east. The exam was over before I could blink. And in fact, the whole time, I kept thinking, “Why would a man choose to do this for a living?”
All of that, I expected. All of that, I was prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was what happened when I sat down in the waiting area today.
Today, I went into the office that I’ve gone to for 15 years. The office where I brought my husband for a pre-conception consultation. The office where I spent nine months of my pregnancy. The office right next to the hospital where I delivered my son.
For the first time in four years, I was reminded this is where women come to help create life. This is where women come to deliver their babies.
I remember, four years ago, with my own swollen belly, watching all the women come in for their 6 week check-ups with their newborn tucked away in the baby carrier. I always say wondering what I would be like when I had mine.
In the days leading up to today’s appointment, I’ll admit that I had thought about asking questions about a woman my age having children. It’s always been a fleeting thought in the back of my mind. I usually push the thought aside or sometimes I daydream a bit.
For some reason, it was different today. The waiting area wasn’t overflowing with pregnant women. There was an older mom there with her newborn and a few other professional, clearly non-pregnant, women sitting around waiting. But looking at all of the baby magazines and the toys meant to occupy children, I had a strong realization none of it was for me.
I won’t be the newly pregnant women who’s not even showing or the overdue pregnant woman waiting for that baby to come out. I won’t be the recovering new mom with my infant son.
I felt my age today. I know that my body will betray me at some point and tell me that my choices are set in stone. Today felt like that day. I felt the burden of choices resting uncomfortably on my shoulders.
It also made me realize I’m not alone. I realized how difficult it must be for a woman who has lost a child or can’t have a child. For them to sit in that office and have some of the same feelings that I’m having. How painful it must be to stay.
My thoughts were interrupted by the nurse calling my name. As I went back for my exam, I tried to compose myself and dabbed tissues at my eyes hoping no one would ask me what was wrong. I didn’t know how I could explain it.
I endured the brief exam. Everything was fine. Everything was normal. The difficult part for me was having the casual conversation with my doctor about night sweats. I asked him if there’s anything I can do or if it’s simply part of the natural process of aging. Then he mentioned the M word. He said that while it’s unusual for women at age 40 to start menopause, it’s not unheard of. He suggested it as a possibility. I took it as a life sentence.
The hammer came crashing down. It made me realize that I am getting older and that a baby is not in my future whether I wanted one or not. And all I wanted to do was cry.
How did I recover? I cried a little. I texted my husband. And then I told myself to be thankful for the baby I have and not for the babies I do not.