I first learned I most likely would never conceive before I ever had consensual sex. It didn’t seem strange to me, just another way things were, like how sometimes we weren’t allowed to swim in lake St. Clair because it was filled with e. coli or how after 9-11 Halloween suddenly ended before the sun went down. When I thought about it later, as my body started maturing and I starting having relationships and imagining my future, I decided reproducing was irresponsible anyway. I watched wars waged for fear mongering and profit and came to understand how truly dangerous it was to live in some bodies, including my own which became more and more responsible for increasing threats to its safety. I had spent time in foster care and thought that if I ever found myself functional enough I would do my part for the future generation by taking in kids like myself.
“The only magazines they have in the office are plastered with images of smug, healthy pregnant women. Almost like they are rubbing it in.” I was stumbling through clunky feelings as my friend merged onto 94. It was opening day and I had to get a piece of my cervix chopped out 45 minutes outside of Detroit. I rambled on about spring and Easter and Mayday, the rituals of which were meant to honor and pray for fertility and bountiful harvests. I directed him to a diner in the last town I was a dependent and asked if we could stop by the lake on the way home. He smiled, seeming to understand my need for synchronicity, cycles, responding that there were certain places you had to show people when you went home. My appetite wasn’t really there. He talked about the farm he wanted to build. He talked about wanting to open a restaurant on the west coast, but only after starting as a dishwasher and getting to know the area. I thought about how I generally try to align myself with people who have this attitude, an attitude that was about becoming a part of the rhythm and whole when most of our human experience is about dominance. We have dominated our surroundings, and we dominate each other. Anything that can produce is subject. For this reason things seen as female are especially suspect. When we call earth mother we think of the things she gives us, water, fertile soil for growing crops, shelter. The world we live in cultivates and dominates with no regard for sustained fertility. I told him about how fertilizer was invented as a direct by-product of war, as a way to get rid of left over chemicals used for killing. I told him that industry did a lot of this to me. That big agribuisness and factory farming used a lot of chemicals that leached into water and were causing increased endocrine disruption in humans and any other creatures that came in contact with it. These methods leave our soil infertile, and our populations increasingly infertile and cancerous.
I hoped that for once this would be a quick office visit. The room was ugly, the color of the colon. All the pictures on the walls were of women and babies in the renaissance fashion doing weird things, or babies in buckets, or the occasional impressionist landscape. We sunk into an overstuffed couch, the kind that my 80 year old neighbor had a plastic cover on when I came over for lemonade and cookies. He said I was right about the oppressive magazines and we passed time making fun of the décor. Two hours later, after watching an entire waiting room full of women come and go, they called me back.
“Well, last time we had atypical squamous cells and no HPV, this time we have HPV and no atypical cells, so I figured what the heck dude, we better just check it out.” Dr. White rolled up his sleeves and walked me through the process. First, they spray a vinegar solution on my cervix, its cold and feels uncomfortable. Then, they peek with a microscope. I held my breath hoping to hear him say “All clear.” If they had to take a sample I couldn’t have sex or take a bath for two weeks, oh, and it could be cancerous. “Ok, I see a little something, no big deal, we’ll just take a quick sample and if its anything we can wipe it out while we are doing your laparoscopy. You’re gonna feel a little pinch.”
In the car I pop in a tape and stare silently out the window. The pain comes in waves and I dig my nails into my friend’s shoulder. He distracts me by telling me that he argued with his mom about fracking destroying the environment while everyone is more concerned about the dangers of marijuana legalization. At the gas station he grabs a gallon of water and a lighter. He passes me the packed bowl and we puff it with the windows down, enjoying one of the first days of spring.
“It feels like being a women is constant punishment. That’s the narrative. Menstruation and painful childbirth were Eve’s punishment for eating the apple.”
It especially felt that way with HPV. Despite the fact that there are tests for men used in clinical trials, only women can be tested for it publicly. This leaves all the responsibility for owning and spreading this disease on women. Most of my partners were supportive and calm, but some responded negatively and I felt shame and at fault. Nearly all sexually active adults will have an HPV infection at some point in their life and it generally goes away on its own. They will monitor mine every three months to be sure it doesn’t become cancerous and to hopefully see that it clears up. However due to the health issues I already have and my particular strain, my already shaky fertility feels pretty much shot.
“Do you know why they call this Masonic?” He pointed to a sign and we read in a very disjointed manner that the Masons built a pier 1,500 yards into the lake. We sat on rocks near the water, passing the pipe or stashing it from the jogging soccer moms, trying to figure out if a distant buoy was meant to mark where the pier ended. When I was a teenager I would always come to this park to sort out my feelings. The lake has an infinite quality to it. Its calming, and it reminds me that nature always finds a way to right the wrongs we have done. We talked about the fertile delta and the natural treasure that is Michigan, and about how its resources were being stripped by corporate interests, never mind this is the largest fresh water source in the world. Nestle bottles it, Coca Cola owns it, and thanks to fracking our rivers are filling with oil and we’ve had two earth quakes in the past few years.
We drove into the city as the baseball patrons filtered out.
“Well now Midtown has all these attractions.” The streets were strewn with garbage.
At home I laid curled in a ball. The minimal pain they described left me popping pills all week.
I know I’m not ready for a baby, but I find myself resentful at my friend’s baby showers. I find myself a broken record in vulnerable moments at late night parties. My former partner of 6 years and I drank beers and talked about the cosmic joke. We bought the house, I finally quit smoking. We sold the house, we are both unlikely to reproduce now.
We have commodified fertility, and I’m angry. I’m angry about salmon that can’t conceive and that the future of chocolate is threatened because we stripped the soil of its natural sustainability. I’m angry that more little girls will grow up with uterine diseases. The day after mayday a friend and I gather dandelions to brew wine. I try to stay focused on all the fertility I still have. The soil we work together, the community that continues to create and grow no matter what adversity we face, my ability to fight dominion with words, and that’s still some pretty powerful stuff.
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