So, several months ago I thought I might be pregnant. After 20 years of reliably timely and heavy periods — without even one other genuine scare — I was suddenly a week late. After a couple of days of panicky phone calls to my best gals and Googling “early pregnancy symptoms” while trying to determine whether I was experiencing “implantation cramps,” I finally made an appointment at a women’s health clinic to get a blood test and put an end to all of the highly stressful guesswork.
And so I went to the clinic, and I sat on a vinyl chair in the waiting room, and everyone was really nice to me, and then a nurse took my blood and I burst into tears, and I waited about 16 hours for the results and it turns out that I wasn’t pregnant. I got my period two days after that and everyone — from my gynecologist to my naturopath — seemed content to chalk the whole thing up to random fluke.
But there was something about the experience I couldn’t quite shake. Sitting there in the clinic, where I waited for 45 minutes to meet with the nurse, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I would do if I lived in one of the many places in the world where women don’t have access to reproductive services — whether that’s due to an area being under-serviced in general, or whether it’s a function of someone’s political or religious agenda. And while these are rights — abortion, birth control, basic control over our own bodies — that we often take for granted here, we sometimes forget that they’re not entirely without threat. Visit any women’s health clinic that offers abortion services, and then check out the security measures they have in place, from anonymity to locked double doors to bulletproof glass, and then ask yourself if we’ve really completely accepted a woman’s right to make choices about her own body.
So what I felt, under those fluorescent lights on a vinyl chair with CBC radio playing in the background, was a strange mix of gratitude, guilt and terrific sadness. I was both happy and unhappy with yet another basic right masquerading as a privilege that has been conveniently dropped in my lap, thanks to completely random circumstances of birth. Many of us are in a position where we’re lucky enough to take a lot of things for granted, and it’s extremely easy to slide into complacency when our own needs aren’t being threatened. But with yet another recent controversy over whether our federal government respects basic reproductive rights, it might be time to put ourselves into another woman’s shoes and ask what we can do to help.