Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Work: Defective


An unspoken roadmap to life exists if you happen to be female. Somewhere during the span of ages 18 to 30, you are supposed to accomplish the following tasks: go to college, start a fabulous career, fall in love, get married and have babies. Not necessarily in that order. And all the while maintaining perfect hair, flawless makeup and the quintessential size four figure. If you somehow fail to attain the preceding achievements, the stigma of failure becomes attached to your being. Pitying glances and disapproval are incessant reminders of your lack to achieve the standards that supposedly define being an American woman. It seems to matter little if you are happy in your life or have found your calling apart from a cookie cutter existence. It matters nothing if you change the world in your own way or pursue your lifelong passion to become an underwater basket weaver. All that matters is that you failed to become like everyone else. You are looked upon as broken, trivial, defective.

Defective. A simple word to most but one that changed my life forever. It started off simply enough. A routinely scheduled ultrasound. The cancer scare and subsequent whirlwind surgery of the previous summer had settled down to a once a year ultrasound for the rest of my life. The odds of anything being amiss were low, so with as much dignity as I could summon under the circumstances, I submitted to the scan. The sonographer tried to calm my half-dressed self’s anxiety, assuring me a repeat discovery was impossible. Despite her reassurance, I was sure the entire building could hear my heart pounding as she fired up the ultrasound machine. I scanned the room, eyeing my quickest route of escape, should I need it. Maybe on one of these visits, I could actually look

forward to the appointment. I could look to the monitor with hope for a flicker signifying a beating heart as opposed to fearfully looking for the telltale opaque obstructions of the previous year. The cold, translucent, blue gel she copiously applied to my stomach matched the temperature of my shaking, anxious palms. She began her mapping of my female anatomy, impervious to my fear. Uterus, ovaries, all present and accounted for. Expected scarring from surgery also present. The overall prognosis: good. Cheerful blue butterfly stickers, haphazardly stuck to the light above me, seemed to reassure that all would be well.

I should have known something was wrong when she paused mid-scan and grew silent, a foreboding calm similar to that of an impending storm. My immediate barrage of questions was blown off by her, further heightening my fear. She took a quick succession of pictures and left to get the doctor, leaving me to voice unanswered questions. I stared at the screen, desperately willing to see what was wrong amid the snowy images projected above me. Cursing myself for not becoming a sonographer (so I could interpret the scan), I was forced to wait in silence. My anxiety grew with every tick of the clock. What did she see, what did she know that I didn’t?

After what seemed an eternity, a harried doctor burst into the room. Without so much as an introduction, he proceeded to tell me the results of my scan. Small but functioning ovaries. Recurrent but small cysts. And then for the figurative bomb, blocked tubes. Blocked what? The information wouldn’t process as he proceeded to tell me that surgery had left me so scarred, becoming pregnant was most likely not an option. That I had a greater chance of winning the lottery, being struck three times by lighting (on the same day of course) and becoming Ms. America. In other words, never going to happen. In case I missed his point, he made sure to rub in the fact he was a top reproductive endocrinologist, and so he knew my fate. He knew from spending five seconds reading my scan that motherhood would most likely never be my destiny. Insult to injury was the knowledge that if a miracle pregnancy did occur, an ectopic surely was my fate. But please make sure to make an appointment with him, on my way out the door, for a tenthousand dollar attempt at pregnancy through in-vitro. He handed me his card.

Stumbling out of the office, I burst into tears before I could even escape the confines of the waiting room. Women of all ages and shapes watched me, concern or oblivion written on their faces. Waiting for the elevator, I lost it completely. I could barely see to push the button allowing my escape from this building that seemed to give me nothing but bad, life altering news. At that moment, I didn't care if all of Burlington saw me bawl, I was heartbroken.

All my life I had wanted a chance at motherhood and here it was, never going to happen. It's one thing if you plan not to have children, another if the choice is taken from you altogether. The emotional turmoil from the news left me reeling, gasping for air. If you spend your whole life expecting to have a child, how do you go back and completely alter your course in life? How do you rebuild a new existence? A balding, rotund man gaped at me by the elevator as I cried.

My boyfriend of six years was sitting in his truck at the entrance, steely blue eyes glaring at me for making him wait. Ever the unsupportive other half, he had left me to face my post-operative ultrasound alone while he perused in an auto store. In his mind, the endless supply of mechanic’s gadgets and gizmos always weighed higher on the priority list than I. To him, the fact he drove me here today absolved him of any emotional support duties. Why should he be there for someone he doesn’t really care about? Choking on tears and exhaust fumes, I climbed into his monstrosity of a vehicle. One look at the tears on my face and he knew the news was not good. Always one to hold back support, he immediately became angered at me. The explanation was barely out of my mouth when he started in on me, further breaking me that day.

His screaming lasted a good three hours. His rage at me and my failures only intensified with each passing moment. Having lost custody of his first two children, he always believed I would carry a child for him. Not that he wanted children with me, but rather, he wanted to parade them to the world, the perfect family, as if that would erase his mistakes of the past. His fists, large frame and sandy brown hair shook as he seethed, searching for more and more hateful words to describe his contempt for me. I had ruined his plans, his life, and I was going to pay.

As usual, I sat in silence and took it. I had learned not to challenge him as it only ended badly for me. I felt my heart shattering more and more, until I was sure there was no piece of it left to break. In one day I felt I had lost it all: all my hopes, plans, dreams, and now I was losing what little was left of my heart. Upon returning home, worn out, exhausted by the verbal assault, I collapsed, defeated on my bed. Closing my swollen, tear stained eyes to block him out, he still carried on. The bright pink blanket I lay crumpled on was a stark contrast to how I felt inside. What good was I anymore? I couldn’t even perform the one natural task assigned to women, to carry babies. He was quickly running out of verbal ammunition towards me when he said it. Smugly, arrogantly, condescendingly, he looked me right in the eyes and told me that it was ok; he would still love me, even though I was defective.

Defective. Defective?? As if I was comparable to old broken odds and ends, failing to perform any worthwhile function. Defective. All I could hear is that word on repeat in my head. That mundane and atrocious word burned my ears, bringing something to the surface I hadn’t felt in a long time. Anger. Pure, raw, painful anger. It was all I could do to hold back a scream, an uncontrollable cry mixed with anger and pain.

And that’s when I knew. That’s the moment I realized my six-year relationship was hopeless, dead, over. Through all those years of abuse, intertwined with the occasional moments of happiness, I had tried everything I could to save it. If he blew up at me, I tried to appease him. If he degraded me, I tried to change for him. If he told me I was fat, I lost the weight. If he told me I was ugly, I hid under more makeup. If he physically came after me, I got out of his way. I spent six years, two weeks, four days and a million tears too long with him. I don’t know why I stayed so long. I don’t even know anymore if I really loved him or was just trapped in the horrific cycle of abuse.

But at that moment, that second, I knew. The truth could not have been clearer had it been the proverbial two by four, smashing me over the head. Finally awakening from my fog of numbing self-survival, I knew that any man who, in my moment of pain and need, would label me defective in no way deserved my love, my life, my trust. In that one moment, he forever lost my heart. That moment became my catalyst to fight for a better life. And my life, since then, has forever changed.


1 comment:

  1. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.
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