It was as if it were déjà vu or like I had hopped time and traveled back a few years. I’d been there before; multiple times in fact. The place was familiar in a way that filled me with memories of joyous occasions and others that were tinged with ache. I’ve felt the whole spectrum that every emotion can bring here in this one little place. The smell always familiar, and if I closed my eyes to drown out the noise of others who shared the air in this mid-sized room, I could remember the conversations had years ago in the same place.
The waiting room had been my best friend and my worst enemy at times. The semi cozy chairs had provided a perfect spot to rest on days of celebration and a safe haven when I felt like a ton of bricks and was just making it through moment by moment. And this day, I sat again on a chair curious what emotion my stay would elicit.
No woman will say a gynecologist appointment is enjoyable. We all dread them, even if you like your doctor. The appointment becomes an annual ritual that you have to psych yourself up for because they are not nearly as anticipatory in the positive sense of the word as other annual occasions like Christmas or your birthday. Well… the older I get the more I dread my birthday, so maybe kinda like that. Maybe. No, no one enjoyed a visit to the gyno unless it’s for an OB appointment and your regular visit is to monitor your body as it prepared for a miracle that is indescribable.
I’ve experienced several miracles, yet no matter how many pregnancies my body has taken on, the amazement never gets old. But for me, amazement isn’t all that I feel. No matter how hard I pray or attempt to celebrate this gift from God, each pregnancy for me was always accompanied by a healthy dose of worry whether I wanted to admit it or not. And this day, while not here for the preparation of a birth, was like every other here. This waiting room will always be filled, for me, with a lot of joy and a whole lot of worry.
My doctor’s office has several of these rooms where they send people to wait. To wait for their initial appointment. To wait for lab results. To wait for a patient room. To wait for an ultrasound. I’ve sat in them all. I’ve tested out each chair – not one more comfy than the next – and analyzed every picture to the point that I could probably sketch a replica of several. To me, some of the waiting rooms, while important, are not nearly as meaningful. But the ultrasound waiting room… it’s like I’ve left a ghost that haunts me each time I set foot in it. No matter how many years divides us, upon my return unsettledness sets in.
It had been years since I had met this room for one of the first times. We were pregnant with our first, and as every new expecting parent, we were naïve and giddy all wrapped up with a nervous bow. That day in the waiting room was nearly empty as we got one of the earliest appointments, and since I didn’t truly know what to expect, all I could feel was my heart about to burst out of my chest, and my bladder about to burst through my pants. Especially since a full bladder makes a great ultrasound.
The tech welcomed us back to the room which had the ambiance of a spa but believe me, no massage or facial was about to be performed. Instead of playing soothing music, the tech barely smiled and after several pokes and prods, proceeded to acknowledge that the baby wasn’t as far along as she had hoped. Well you and me both, sister. She then shared the tragic news that I refused to believe. No amount of prayer, no amount of bed rest, no amount of anything was able to stop the inevitable. The baby we had prayed so hard for we would never hold. I’d never watch her grow up or know what good she would be able to do. I felt robbed of my joy that day, and upon getting the news, I went back to the waiting room to wait.
A woman came out from her ultrasound room with a swift pace to her step, leaving her husband many steps behind. Like me, she had a strip of photos. Unlike me, hers were of a healthy baby, even two. Hers gave a glimpse of what was to come. Mine, a glimpse of what I lost. And while sitting in this waiting room and silent tears streamed down my face, I listened to her. Her crisp negativity cut the tension in the room as she complained loudly of the fact that her ultrasound proved that she was having twins, something I gathered that she was not thrilled about.
As I grieved, she grieved. My grief ached. Hers was overwhelmed. That day I saw her, but I couldn’t see her. Behind my clouded vision I was livid as I watched someone who was so lucky to have two seem ungrateful, when I would have given anything to be in her shoes. She never knew my pain. She never saw my puffy eyes or the ghost I left in that room that day. She went to live on, during a time when I felt like my life had stopped.
That wasn’t the last time that waiting room and I would meet again. Several more times after that, actually. Each time I would approach the space cautiously, fearful of what would be found once the camera was turned on, and I could no longer hide from the truth. With my oldest, a blood clot was the culprit of a lot of stress and several visits to this particular waiting room. And with the other two, consistent pregnancy bleeding proved that I just wasn’t meant for a pregnancy that you see on the movies. No pickles and ice cream… well I had my cravings but my worries far outweighed them.
I’m sure each time I showed up in this waiting room the techs dodged you would be stuck with doing my ultrasound. I’m sure they much prefer positive news than being where the buck stopped between pure joy and deep sadness. I made friends with many since I visited so often, but one sweet soul I will never forget.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, her first ultrasound showed that her heart beat wasn’t as consistent as the doctor would have preferred as the gestational age that she was. The doctor gave her a week to see if he heart rate would speed up, and those days were some of the longest in my life. On a Friday I came back to this room to wait for a repeat ultrasound and the lucky tech that drew my number came out to welcome me back to her room. She had read my report, as I could read it on her face. And even though she had a smile on her face, I could see the worry that the smile was trying to hide.
She held my hand as she helped me onto the chair and while my husband and I shed tears awaiting the news, she let out a sigh of relief when she shared that the ultrasound looked perfect. My baby, perfect too. Throughout that whole pregnancy I made sure to request her when additional ultrasounds were needed as I called her my angel. Her face left a forever impression upon me, so years later when I was sitting in this room for a much different reason, I didn’t have to do a double take when she walked by.
No, another baby wasn’t brewing. Actually quite the opposite. My endometriosis, which had been dormant for years since the last six had been filled with either pregnancies or breast-feeding, decided it time to rear its ugly head. This day, instead of celebrating life, I was there to find out if my body had determined that no longer an option. No, more kids weren’t on our mental plan, but I’d rather make that decision instead of my body making it for me.
I sat in the chair as she walked by and, like she always does, she welcomed a beautiful pregnant woman into her room. As the patient undressed to become prepared for the ultrasound, the tech stepped out to give her privacy. The room was quiet but my heart was not. I stood up and approached her, figuring she wouldn’t remember me. But she did.
I started to ask if she remembered me, and she cut me off saying she definitely did. How could she forget. And then I pulled out my phone and opened up a picture of my family that was recent. One of me holding my sweet baby girl and my husband holding our boys. I looked her in the eye and thanked her for being there for me. For helping me breathe and believe when I was so unsure. She was there for me at a time when I couldn’t have known the future, and now, as I return to a place with such worry, I was comforted when I saw her, reminded that there was once a doubt that I would have children. Now, three healthy ones bounce off of the walls of my home.
I wanted her to see that what she doesn’t may be a job where you clock in and clock out, but her impact never something a time clock can measure. I told her that I never forgot her, and she told me the same. Thank you will never suffice, but I wanted her to know her work was meaningful. I sat back down in the chair as I waited my turn for the ultrasound (and my turn to relieve my aching bladder!). As she approached the door to share news with a new patient, she turned back and me and smiled. She thanked me for sharing; she said she needed that boost that day.
I could have sat there, like I have before, and not showed her the outcome of our years together. I doubt she would have said anything to me as she sees so many woman and has an important job to do. But she had been more than a job when I needed her most, and that day, something in my soul told me she needed to hear that.
The room felt lighter. The air, less heavy. A weight was lifted as if that ghost that haunted me for years with unfinished business had finished its important business. The room no longer filled with sadness, but rather peace. No, I will never forget. That’s not an option even if I yearn for it. But now I can smile again.
The wait now doesn’t seem so bad. And the room not so bad either. Whatever the outcome, I’m ready. Because no matter what I now know that I can get through anything.