I stood behind the yellow curtain, in front of a pile of paper gowns. A brusque woman had told me to go behind the curtain, remove “everything below my waist”, and put one of these gowns on. So I stood there, behind the yellow curtain that didn’t close entirely, wondering how to oblige. Did the slit on the gown go at the front or the back? How was the tie, inconveniently located on the part of the back most difficult to reach, supposed to even make a brave effort at keeping the gown closed? While attempting to figure out the difficult fashion of the paper gown, I also puzzled over the sign on the wall: “Attention female patients: if you are, or may be, pregnant you must let the technician know!” Why the emphasis on female patients, I wondered. Why not just pregnant patients? I struggled into the gown, awkwardly tied the plastic string, and went into the room where brusque technician was waiting.
I signed a waiver that I didn’t read, then lay down in the corner. As brusque technician silently squirted gel across my lower belly and began to poke and prod, she asked how many times I had been pregnant. “Never”, I answered. But I was trying to conceive? An interesting question. What did it mean, to try to conceive? When does that begin? When a partner relents? When a family doctor makes a referral? When you expose your stomach to a brusque technician and her ultrasound wand? I stumbled over the answer. No, we hadn’t started trying. I was in a same-sex relationship, I explained. We needed sperm before we could try to conceive, and to get sperm we needed access to a fertility clinic. As a part of the referral to the fertility clinic, my family doctor had sent me to her. First comes love, then comes marriage, then come 32 difficult steps between you and a baby carriage. Silence, again. I asked if I could see my insides. “No.” Chastised, I lay quietly, noticing the soothing orchestral music for the first time. The music and the beeps of images being taken were the only sounds until the movement shifted, and brusque technician was standing over me, spreading lube over an impossibly long wand sheathed in latex. Relax, brusque technician told me. Take a deep breath. I tried to obey, staring up at the dimmed light over my head, wondering how many other people had stared up from the same position; wondering how many more times I would as well. The soothing orchestral music and the beeps of the ultrasound continued as she moved the wand around and I stared up at the light. A pause, then: “Are you on hormones?”, “No.” The wand moved again as I wondered what hormones she was asking about. Estrogen? Progesterone? Testosterone? Then she was done. As I stood, and she handed me paper towel instructing me to wipe myself down, I asked how my insides looked. Brusque technician smiled for the first time before replying, “Photogenic.”