vaginal ultrasound

The sono tech was a cheerful woman with short curly hair and a pair of breasts that could side as a small table. (I had breasts like that, during pregnancy and breastfeeding: heavy, large, extremely soft but tough as hell.) She spoke low and steady to me, smiled softly, her voice as gentle as the dim lights in the room she led me to.

I lay stiffly on the crisp linens she’d folded across the table, soft cords and worn boxers crushed under my hips to bare a belly rippled and scarred by birth. I knew that the referring doctor wrote “trans” for gender on my chart, and I wondered if she was being extra solicitous to me on this account. She never asked anything about it, however, and I never brought it up. She labeled my body parts quietly as she ran the wand against my pelvis; I murmured in acknowledgement, intently watched the gray flicker of my empty womb on the wall.

I have never seen my womb without my child in it, and I was sad to see it void of the little whirling tadpole that my first ultrasound had revealed to me, about a month after a sudden bout of nausea in my morning biology class red-flagged my missing period as a larger issue.

I can’t believe that that little tadpole is 8 years old now; I miss him sometimes, the squishy red-headed baby that grew up just as quickly as I’d been warned he would.

Then I thought about the ultrasound tech at Feminist, wondered if the purring dark of the sono room had lost its magic to her after years of abortion work. Do people who have had abortions feel as conflicted and sad as I do, to later see a living black and white movie of their vacant womb?

Funny how this organ speaks for both potential and loss.

“This is your uterine lining,” she said quietly, her face aglow in a shaft of monitor light, “your endometrium.” She clicked twice, drew a short white line to measure its depth. “This is your ovary.”  She turned the wand, pressed down with a motion that in other hands might be a dig. Gray and white spots whirled in black, something grainy and filigreed, a black blob. I thought about space, alchemy, eggs.

Suddenly I wanted to return to my study of birthwork, to again work an image of this organ from wax, cloth, clay. I blinked back tears, listened to the blood pulsing through my guts as she recorded it.

During the vaginal ultrasound (she draped me in cloth, as I’ve done for many women, allowed me to slip the plastic-wrapped wand in myself) it occurred to me that I was knees up and half-naked in a sono room with a machine up my junk, neither pregnant nor planning to get pregnant, and that something might actually be very wrong.

This sono was by doctor’s orders, after many cycles so ragged and bloody that I’d lost consciousness once, nearly so many times. For months I’d spent most of my period bedridden and twisted with pain; each cycle I overfilled the laundry hamper with bloodstained sheets, towels, and clothing.

Hysterectomy. This word occurred to me as grain swirled on the screen, stilled again on an oddly fingered ovary. My knee rested against her breast, my leg wrapped in the warmth of her arm as she gently turned the wand inside me.

Many trans men want hysterectomies. I don’t. My uterus is the first place that my child came to be in, a place of violent possibility, magic.

And wouldn’t I have to take replacement hormones? Estrogen, to stay woman-ish. Or testosterone, to complete the transition that I’d started then stopped that awful year in Atlanta.

She turned the wand again, my leg rigid now against her bicep. A tunnel, a flattened ring of shadow: my cervix, my pussy. I began to feel light headed, stared at the screen only so that she wouldn’t see my discomfort. The inexorable fact of my digitized female parts beamed back at me in ghostly light.

“This is your ovary again,” she murmured. “Your cervix, your fundus.”

I’ve always loved that word, fundus. Fundus. A rich and powerful word, a word that tastes like iron or mud. My fundus.

This is my fundus, I told myself, a migraine creeping up my skull.

If I had a hysterectomy, I could never have another child. Not another tadpole flipping gaily on a grey screen, not another squished and silky face against my breast, or tiny fine-fingered hand stroking me as confidently, possessively as a tyrannical lover in diapers.

“This is the uterus again, from a different angle.”

Empty. Removed.

And then I’d have to choose- estrogen or testosterone?

Then I’d have to choose.

“Okay, that’s it. Here is a towel to clean yourself up with, and of course feel free to use the bathroom. To the left of the door is an exit that leads directly to the parking lot.”

“Thank you,” I said, pressed the towel to my gut, clung to the sheet.

She left me in the darkened room; by then my knees had begun to tremble.

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