24 June 2010, by Tan Yi Lin
A Grammy: that was how I thought of it before I made the effort to remember the longer version.
Make that a 7-syllable longer version: Hys-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-gram.
Despite the information pamphlets and over-the-counter explanations given by the nurses at the hospital, it was only a few days before I was due to go undergo the test that I finally locked down the word in my brain: hysterosalpingogram.
Yups, today’s episode of MaybeBaby is brought to you by Really Long Words. Dannie just blogged about Teratozoospermia (a word that somehow reminds me of terrapins and Ninja Turtles… and thus, green sperm. Okay, nevermind.) It’s a case of 6 syllables versus 7 syllables… I win! 🙂
So there I was, on an afternoon sometime back in March, waiting (somewhat anxiously) at KKH for my number and name to get called. I looked around the waiting room and what struck me was the constant stream of ladies, mostly of them dressed in office attire, click-clacking into the room in their shiny work shoes.
All of them walked up to the counter and very matter-of-factly informed the nurse that they had an appointment for hysterosalpingography (yes, the 7-syllable tongue twister can actually get longer when used in a different form.) It was almost as if they were visiting their hairdresser or nail spa. In fact, there was one patient whose conversation I overhead (okay, eavesdropped on), who told the nurse that she had to be back in the office at 5pm for a meeting. I didn’t know whether to be in awe or be worried that she was treating a major fertility test like any other work appointment and was expecting to get it done quickly, wipe up (it is a rather messy affair) and get on with her work day. When informed by the nurse that she wouldn’t be able to make it back to the office in time for her meeting, she promptly canceled the test, whipped out her PDA and keyed in the next available date for the test – which, with KKH being the popular choice of thousands of women, would only be a few weeks later.
The truth is, I found the scene pretty disturbing. Firstly, the line of women (me included) queuing for their turn showed that there was quite a demand for hysterosalpingography. Which in turn meant that instead of storks knocking on our doors, the threat of infertility was fast taking the place of friendly birds with baby in beak. Not good.
Secondly, the women coming for the test all touted the corporate look: shirt, jacket, pencil skirt, high heels and handbag in tow. Which could mean that long hours in the office and stress due to work is a key factor in the inability to conceive.
Thirdly, the patients all looked like they were around my age (30-going-on-31) or older. So, as we all already know, women are having children at an older age. If at all.
Yes, it was a pretty glum scene in the waiting room that day. But what made it a scary glum scene was the flippant attitude of the busy woman who decided that she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – make the time to conduct a fertility check because being late for a work-related appointment was not acceptable – whereas being late for a chance at motherhood was okay.
The sound of the nurse calling my name woke me up from my thoughts.
I entered the examination room, laid on the bed (which felt more like a table) and (with much trepidation), did what I was instructed: spread my legs…
Now, before we venture deeper (no pun intended) with the details: hysterosalpingography is a process whereby coloured dye is injected into the cervix and allowed to run up through the fallopian tubes and (hopefully), back out into the womb. The purpose of this test is to assess whether the tubes are blocked. For the benefit of readers who need a GPS to orientate around a woman’s reproductive system: when an egg is released from a ripened follicle in the ovary every month, the egg will travel down the fallopian tube before being released into the womb, where it sits and waits patiently (cue Disney song “someday my prince will come…”) for the sperm to sniff it out and hone in on the target. So basically, if there is a roadblock along the path, the sperm and egg cannot meet. Conception thus cannot happen.
Now back to the gory details: the doctor inserted a catheter (don’t worry, the word sounds more painful than the actual process) and pushed it through my cervix. The situation was more awkward than it was painful. Awkward cos at least 3 to 4 people were gawking at the action scene between my legs. Even more awkward was having to watch a guy at close range – who is not my husband – focus intently on sticking a tubular device up my pu**y (think “cat”. Meow.)
The sensation, as the dye was pumped in through the catheter, was similar to that of having menstrual cramps – unpleasant, but bearable. The doctor (with one hand still between my thighs to hold the tube in place) drew my attention to the “live” action on the screen next to me. I watched as a shadowed stream trickled up from the womb and halfway through my tubes before making a sort of U-turn towards the ovaries. (In case you readers are directionally-challenged and getting confused, the test is done in the opposite direction of the actual path the egg takes from ovary to womb.)
I held my breath and prayed that the dark stream would continue merrily on its Journey to the Centre of Birth. I even silently cheered it on… (Go inky go! Please don’t dye on me now…)
Both the flow on each side slowed down as the ink neared the ovaries…
… the ink on one side started to pool… and halted…
… the ink on the other side inched on a little further… before trickling to a stop.
From the look of things on the display screen, this was turning out to be a sticky situation (in more ways than one)…
(To be continued)