The doctor is running late this morning, and my stomach has pushed my heart into my throat. The nurse—a tall, thick white woman named Joe—talks about jumping out of a plane for relaxation. As she sets up the ultrasound machine, she tells me about slicing through blue sky and feeling her body become weightless. The gray room makes her red scrubs look like optimism. She goes up twice a month, she says. Her friends tell her they think she has a problem.
A skydiving addiction sounds better than a meth addiction.
When the doctor finally enters the room, she apologizes and says there’d been some emergency. Above us, the big TV screen lights up, and she begins to count the blobs outlined in white. She gets to 18. We like high numbers, she tells me. That means your ovaries are in good shape, egg wise.
The Cycle Day 3 test happens on the third day of actual flow (AF in infertility message board lingo). Coupled with a blood test, it measures your body’s reproductive potential. The doctor counts your immature follicles. The lab measures your hormones. It also takes into account your age. At 34, I’m told I’m on the cusp. The results of the test give you the odds. You have a good chance or a poor chance of producing a viable egg. It doesn’t offer condolences or explanation for the last 16 months of your life.
Blood work will be back in two weeks, the doctor says, and leaves me.
When I get off the table, tiny red blooms cover the thin paper on the exam table; they’re small bits of this month’s failure. Joe offers me tissues to clean up. I tell her thank you, and I hope she has a nice weekend. She tells me she’ll be in the sky, which is where she circles again, talking about the rush of the freefall. I try to close my gown behind me and nod along with her. While she talks, I imagine the broken landscape within my body. Looking down, I see the lovely red lines followed by the nothing colors, the evidence of the drought, the earth turning in on itself. I’d stand at the edge of the plane, clinging to the side, being eaten alive by fear. I’d look into the horizon, watch that yellow fog get closer, watch the Earth, that impossible thing, move farther away from me.
Secret Americas features writing about images from the U.S. National Archives.
Image: Imperial Valley, May 1972, photograph by Charles O’Rear. National Archives and Records Administration College Park.
Stephanie Austin’s short stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead, American Short Fiction, the South Dakota Review, and Washington Square Review, among others. Her creative nonfiction has appeared most recently in Used Furniture Review.