The doctor welcomes me in brusque New York Fashion and ushers me into an anything-but-glamorous greyish office full of mementos and ultrasound images.
That's when the second phase of the Spanish Inquisition starts.
He asks me who I am, what I do and where I come from. He wants to know about the history of my period and my sexual activities, questions that clearly show he thinks I'm a single career woman. I'm very tempted to keep it that way, but I soon disabuse him of this notion and tell him I'm married.
I watch as his face registers surprise, then recovers.
As he continues with his rounds of questions, I feel like I'm being tested by a mellow college professor, the kind with a soft voice and sweet smile who nevertheless doesn't hesitate to ask annoying questions. My detailed description of one of our "typical" days seems to satisfy him, though, and provided I'm fertile and can produce eggs, he feels we can go ahead.
He goes on to explain to me the fertility cycle, asking questions here and there to test what, at age 39, I know about my body's biology. I'm embarrassed by my ignorance... I must have known the facts on some level -- how could I have stayed out of trouble all these years? -- but I begin to worry, just the same.
Maybe I'm not fertile. Maybe I can't go through with this. Maybe it's too late. As I tentatively answer his questions, my mind swirls with these daunting thoughts. I'm dreading the tests.
He starts me off "easy" with my first blood test. I brace myself as liters of my blood are removed from my veins to be tested for anything and everything you can imagine, including HIV.
The results of the blood test will come later, but for now, I face an ultrasound exam. I am wearing a spring dress, so it is easy for me to follow the instructions I'm given, yet I still have a few doubts about how I should position the rough paper cloth on my lap. All my degrees do not help... and it feels silly to call the nurse back in to ask for help. I decide to do my best and see what happens when the doctor comes back in.
He enters five long minutes later and is ready to start the exploration. The monitor lights up and the picture on a familiar one. I have received a few sonograms via email in the past year, but with the following difference: The one my friends sent showed tiny lives growing inside of them. Mine shows an empty womb.
But the next image makes me proud; my ovaries are there and they are healthy! I wonder if this moment is as defining for a woman as having a decently-sized and functioning reproductive organ is for a man (or so I imagine).
I'm told I can dress now and a nurse will explain the next steps to me.
I'm given a folder with information on the process of freezing my eggs, fertility tables, medicine dosage and consent forms. If I choose to go on, I have to read and sign them all. Next week, I will need to see another doctor and take a training class.
I leave a bit overwhelmed with the knowledge that I'm fertile, but the feeling is soon replaced with peace of mind. I feel good about myself, my femininity and my decision.
Previous posts in the series:
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers. Learn more