[dc]W[/dc]hen my mom took me to the gynecologist for the very first time, I remember very little about the examination itself. I do however recall the impression the doctor’s office made on me. I remember that the waiting room was dark, and we sat on old couches that were upholstered in chintz fabric. There were framed paintings of withered flowers hung crookedly on walls covered in peeling, striped wallpaper. I felt like I was sitting among women who were all very, very old and we were all waiting to be seen by a very, very old male gynecologist. Of course, old to me was 35, being that I was 14 at the time. The thing that struck me the most about the whole situation was that I definitely felt out of place.
I was sexually active at a fairly young age so gynecological visits were par for the course. I went in mostly for birth control pills, which were prescribed so carelessly and without heed as to whether or not this method was safe for me. Truth was, The Pill was absolutely unsafe for someone like me, but back in those days doctors really didn’t perform blood work-ups — they just wrote up scripts and sent you out to the front desk to collect them.
All well and fine — I simply gained a ton of weight on the pills, hated the way I felt and eventually got fed up. Surely, there had to be another way — especially since one of the warnings on the pill package stated that this product should not be taken by anyone who might be predisposed to cancer, a disease that I would get to know on a very personal basis later on in life. Who knew?
So, as time went by, I tried all the trendy forms of birth control — without the guidance of a board certified physician. And many years later, after I met an awesome and very do-able dude — and after many awesome and very do-able lovemaking sessions — I found myself pregnant.
One of the super trendy methods of birth control at the time was this little, ultra convenient spermicidal cup thingee that looked like a small spongy diaphragm. In fact, I think it was called “the sponge”. Well, the only thing the sponge did for me was allow me to get pregnant — just what I didn’t want.
I went to a clinic to get an abortion. I wasn’t going to have a baby — not at that point, at least. I was smack-dab in the middle of my wannabe rock star career and I had no intentions of being a mother. Plus, being pregnant really had a strange effect on my senses; my boyfriend smelled like a rotten garbage heap to me and the only thing I could possibly consider eating were runny eggs — a dish I’d rather pluck my eye out than eat at any other stage in my life.
The clinic’s vibe was “conveyor belt”. There were many worried, panicky women, all sitting together on hard benches, with their boyfriends, mothers or husbands in tow. Every girl knowing exactly what the girl next to them was there for. Some women wept silently, while others bit their nails. Me, I put down my $286 dollars and waited for the attendant to call my name.
The doctor was male and very kind. I know there’s a conversation that brings up the question of preference as to what gender one would prefer their doctor to be, but in my experience, it doesn’t matter. I’ve had both male and female gynos, and fortunately they’ve all been kind and gentle. This man was no different.
One hour later and there I was — in the recovery room with every woman who was previously sitting on the hard bench, outside in the other area. Physically, I felt much better, but I have to admit, it was disturbing to wake up in a room full of women who, only moments earlier, had their pregnancies terminated. There was no privacy, and within a few minutes, we were all hustled along, back into our street clothes and back out on to the streets. Wham bam, thank you ma’am.
When I think about places like Manhattan’s Eastside Gynecology, I can only believe that facilities like this exist because someone had enough compassion in them to understand that women need more that conveyor-belt treatment. They need softness, warmth, gentle understanding and of course, respectful privacy. Had there been an Eastside Gynecology back then, I would have gone to them for all my needs, because — just like every other woman — I don’t want be a nameless face in the crowd, and I most definitely do not want to find myself being hustled off a gurney while overhearing someone shout, “Next!”