Invisible Lady At the OB/GYN

pregImage via Shutterstock

In the waiting room of the OB/GYN office, the rules are simple. The most pregnant lady wins. For a few short weeks in my two pregnancies, that lady was me. I waddled in there like I owned the practice and the doctors were my loyal subjects. With a theatrical sigh, I tried to wedge my capacious ass into a waiting room chair without my paneled pants ripping down the seams. I loved to make eye contact with the lesser pregnant women as if to communicate benignly to them: “Look and behold me: I am so utterly pregnanter than you are with your measly 27-week-old fetus. I will smile at you because I am a generous mother-to-be, but don’t forget, I am the Queen of this waiting room right now. (Now save my seat, because I gotta go pee again.)”

Today I found myself walking down Ontario Street in downtown Chicago as I have done countless times on the way to the OB/GYN office. Having (somewhat) recently given birth to two babies (2009 and 2011), I have a reel of memories of trekking to the office through the sideways blowing snow right before Simon was born or the sweltering, sticky July soup before Sadie was born. When my belly was swollen and full of life about to spring forth, I usually went to the OB/GYN with my husband Jeff. Hand in hand we walked through the busy streets near Northwestern Hospital making our way to yet another appointment to find out how many centimeters dilated, how many heartbeats per minute or how many days before an induction would be medically necessary. There was so much to measure; we hung on the doctor’s every word and wrote figures in the baby books I had prepared for our babies-to-be.

Those were heady times. I remember walking through the door of the doctor’s office feeling more like a celebrity the closer I got to my due dates. First my appointments were a month apart, and then a week apart; by the time I was visiting weekly, I felt like the queen (and the float, frankly) at the most spectacular parade on the planet: the parade that celebrates life and fecundity and my fucking awesome uterus. My arrogance was especially acute once I hit 40 weeks and continued to schlep to the doctor’s office with my recalcitrant daughter-fetus who sat perched high up near my rib cage refusing to budge, drop or descend well after her July due date.

Back then, I knew I was the winner: I was the MOST pregnant lady, clocking in at 41.5 weeks and not a mucus plug in sight.

But, today, I was not visiting the doctor with a baby stirring in my womb or breasts leaking colostrum. It was only a small consolation that I also didn’t have gas, heartburn or pee-pee leakage that accompanied me during both pregnancies starting at the second trimester. Instead of seeking prenatal care, I was there to discuss the fact that my menstrual cramps reached such a crescendo of pain two weeks ago that I fainted while on the toilet.

How far from celebrity is that? Sure, you can argue it’s pretty damn rock-and-roll to have a medical crisis on the toilet, considering that Elvis, Lenny Bruce, Judy Garland and other fatally unstable celebs met their makers on the toilet. I, however, fancy the more glitzy side of celebrity, say, swag bags, my own reality show, or a perfume line.

So, when I walked into the waiting room today I saw the pairs of expecting parents—the mothers in their ill-fitting maternity clothes (because those are the only kind that exist), and the fathers in their dress shoes and business casual khakis, sneaking peeks at their emails approximately every 17 seconds. I couldn’t meet their eyes. I felt like an aging athlete—a former two-time gold medalist who returned to the Olympic stadium a few years after my prime, sporting a bum knee and a muffin top. When I stole glances from behind my book, I realized that none of them were looking at me anyway. I was the great invisible singlet, with only one heartbeat housed in my still-ample chest.

No one cares about the not-pregnant lady at the OB/GYN’s office. I tried to sit up straight and look youthful so no one would mistake me for a peri-menopausal woman looking for estrogen supplements. I reminded myself of all the parts of pregnancy that sucked: not being able to take steaming hot showers while eating blue cheese stuffed unagi rolls and sipping Splenda-laden Crystal Lite by the gallon. How much did that suck?

And much as parts of pregnancy sucked, it also felt like a paralyzing jolt to sit there today and accept the reality that my baby-making days are (most likely) over. My two babies came so quickly that it has literally been a giant 3-year blur from that first positive pee stick to today. Psychologically, I am facing a bit of a blank page because I don’t know what’s next for me, and if baby-making is out, that’s going to leave me a chunk of free time that both excites and burdens me. As I sat there today, experiencing what it’s like on this, the we’re-done-having-babies side of the fence, I felt the first strong pangs of grief about moving forward and leaving all that (the adorable newborn smiles, the leaky breasts, the painful post-partum intercourse, and the uncontrollable weeping in the Macy’s restroom) to the women sitting around me, swollen with water weight, gas, and offspring.

Today, once the doctor told me I wasn’t dying, but only that my hormones were wacky and could be regulated with any number of birth control choices (sorry, Rush, here’s another slut looking for birth control), I felt such tremendous relief that when I walked back through the waiting room to go home, I felt like screaming to all the waiting women: “See you on the other side, Suckers! Have fun with that super satisfying post-partum sex, especially if you are nursing.”

Is there anything more touching than the bond between mothers?


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  1. Seriously Sassy Mama says

    I remember a rude older women who pitched a fit at the OBGYN because a very pregnant woman was seen before her. I too was pregnant, but only halfway through my second pregnancy. She was soooo rude, I told her she needed to shut her trap, because she probably did not even have a uterus anymore. I reminded her that the woman who went before her had a living being growing inside of her and it trumped her hormone shot. I loved pregnancy hormones! Rush must think I am a super slut. My tubes are tied! LOL

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    • Amy says

      oh dear god, please tell me you didn’t say anything that blatantly cruel and possibly true? Because karma’s a bitch, and people are often at their rudest when they’re in crisis.

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  2. Michele C. says

    this post made me crack up, b/c it sounds exactly like my visit for my annual this year at a new GYN. So weird to not be pregnant, and you totally are the invisible person in the waiting room! Glad to hear you aren’t dying ;-)

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    • Christie O. Tate says

      It’s possible I am a bit of a hyperchondriac. I am glad I am not dying either. The good news is that I don’t have to dress up or do my hair before going to the OB, because no one is looking.

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  3. Stylistically Stella says

    Sitting in the waiting room on the day I was to have an IUD inserted, I watched the expectant parents lovingly caress swollen bellies and laugh with outlandish names for their soon-to-be-babies. I buried my head in a Parenting magazine so nobody would see that my face was flush with envy and sadness. But not a single glance was cast in my direction – nothing is interesting about a lone 30-something.

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    • shanan says

      Me too! Went the IUD route for cramps and after three girls , I am done. But that doesn’t mean that I still get a little sad thinking I won’t have more. Then again, I do not miss the sore nipples and sleepless nights!

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      • Christie O. Tate says

        This may be a little off topic, but did the IUD help for the cramps? What’s what sent me to the office (the fainting from cramps on the toilet), but I am too scared of the IUD!!! There’s probably a chat room for this topic. And, I am still nursing but only on one side so at least I only have 1 sore nipple.

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        • Heather B from SC says

          H my goodness did it help! I haven’t had ANY cramps since getting an IUD in, and that’s probably not typical or anything, but mine used to be the rats gnawing your intestines out falling on the floor please pleas just make it stop kind. The kind where my mom explained to me that since I had to learn lamaze breathing to get through my period cramps, labor and delivery were not really going to be a shocker for me (they weren’t. We;ve had three kids, and not until I got to transition were my contractions anything like the power of my plain old period cramps of doom.). I got Merina after our third child, having had a lot of medical trouble with baby 3 (I have lymphedema and Chronic Lyme disease, and medically, let’s just say being SURE we weren’t going to have another one soon is a really peaceful feeling. esp since I spent nine months in a wheel chair with the last one.) I was really scared to get the IUD and stuff… but I have had no trouble with it whatsoever. Nada. No extra bleeding (less, actually. a lot less, and fewer periods in a year. a lovely thing.) no pain or cramping, nothing. I had done all my research and stuff, and figured if it worked it was a good option… and so far, it’s been awesome. My OB did use ultrasound to put it in and stuff, though, to make sure everything was positioned correctly. Just thought you’d like to hear some good experiences…. so many times all you hear is problems from folks. :-)

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  4. Lynn from For Love or Funny says

    Oh, my gosh, this made me laugh. Now that I’m on the other side of pregnancy, I could totally relate to it. My kids are teens now, and I’m happy to report that most teens are a heckuva lot of fun. :)

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    • Christie O. Tate says

      Seriously? NO one EVER says teens are fun? It’s always “just you wait until they are teenagers.” I am happy to hear another voice on the topic of teenagers. Let’s stay in touch for the next 17 years.

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  5. Violet says

    As I weigh the possibility of “just one more” I can only imagine how I will look in the waiting room, all swollen and pregnant at almost 42 years old and having the twenty-somethings smile sweetly at the waddling old lady, all the while thinking to themselves “Isn’t she a little OLD to be pregnant?”. I think I might welcome the chance to be invisible at that point. LOL

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  6. A Teachable Mom says

    So funny! I loved feeling like queen of my OB’s waiting room, right up until husband got into a loud, dramatic argument with the snippy receptionist about being kept waiting long after our appointment time. I loved that he did what I wasn’t willing to do and was mortified at same time. Feeling shame ruined my queen bee-ness on the spot! Ahhh, the good old days… now I have to bitch at the receptionists all on my own! Great post!

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  7. Steph @ DairyFreeOmnivore says

    Oh I so needed this today! Thank You! I had a GYN appt.that got totally screwed up by the office staff, and ended up being rescheduled for tomorrow. They were rude, admitted it was their fault but still blamed me anyway. And I’ve been stewing all day since! If I had been hugely pregnant they would have admitted their fault and fit me in today, sweetly and with apology. They treat you different when you’re not pregnant- as though you are a wasted appointment.
    I am most definitely DONE DONE DONE with my baby making years. We’ve made sure of that! I’m not at all sad about it- I have 3 beautiful daughters, the youngest is currently entering her terrible twos. I am very glad to be done with pregnancies and childbirth, and infancy. 9 years of my life was devoted to that stage, and I am not sad it’s over. I am not envious of pregnant women, I do not wish to ever be pregnant again. And I say with that with 100% truthfulness and sincerity. But it is really weird going into the OBGYN NOT pregnant. I am actually thinking of finding a new one. The one I go to delivered 2 of my babies, but since I am no longer a cash cow for him it’s near impossible to get an appointment in the first place.

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    • Christie O. Tate says

      I didn’t realize that it was impossible to get an appointment because I am not pregnant anymore. I literally had to faint and fall off the toilet to get a call back from the nurse. When I was single I hated going because I wanted a baby so badly. Now I have the babies and I hate going because I am “over the hill” or “out to pasture.” Maybe a new practice is a good idea for me too.

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  8. Susan says

    What a beautiful post. I too am past the baby years and it does feel so very strange! It’s amazing what we miss. I often wonder what I will miss the most when I look back on the kid’s ages now…

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