(an excerpt from The Underachieving Ovary)
The humiliation continues. Part of this first medicated cycle of my fertility treatment is to have a PCT: Post-coital test. This does not involve, as you may think, a pub-like pop quiz after a good shag. Instead, we are to ‘do our homework’ during our ovulation window, and go to the clinic first thing the next morning (without showering) to witness how Mike’s swimmers are faring up the creek.
Apparently there is such a thing as ‘hostile cervical mucous’. It means that the cervical environment is acidic and, as you can guess, not good for sperm.
A test! I feel completely unprepared. Should I be eating more yoghurt, or something?
PCT = Epic Fail
I’m going to go out tonight to drink a vast amount of whisky. Okay, I’m in the middle of a medicated cycle so I’ll just have one and make my friends do the rest of the drinking for me. As you have probably gathered, the PCT did not go well. In fact, it couldn’t have gone any worse.
So we’re there in the room at the clinic, blinking weary eyes, so early that neither of us have even registered that it’s morning. The doc takes a swab and smears it on the little glass slide and puts it under the microscope, which shows us what is happening on the big screen adjacent to it. That woke me up.
I think my jaw hung open for a while, as Dr G sort of gathered himself and started talking. I didn’t hear anything for those first few minutes. My attention was completely focused on the massacre before my eyes: all I could see were hundreds of dead or dying sperm. The dead soldiers were one thing — ghost-sperm! — but watching the others writhe and struggle and swim in wounded circles was just too much. And I was the one who had maimed and killed them. I could almost hear them groaning in agony. In my imagination one particularly brave tadpole, shivering in the beginning of his death throes, urges the rest of his squad to go on without him.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. What. The. Fuck.
I had given the poor things an acid bath — they never stood a chance.
‘Never’ being the operative word that makes this difficult to accept: Of all the months of ‘not trying,’ followed by the months of ‘really trying’: taking my temperature, prodding my body for signals, the carefully-timed ovulation-window sex … of all those months (18 failed cycles), all that hope that was dashed, over and over again, and all that pain, and actually, there had never been a chance. THERE HAD NEVER BEEN A CHANCE.
I feel like I’ve been swiped sideways. I feel like (emotionally-speaking) I was walking down the street, perfectly alive, and some asshole in a BMW skipped a stop sign and sent me flying. Irrationally, I felt the need to apologise to Mike. I thought that if someone had killed thousands upon thousands of my soldiers I would at least expect a card and a fruit basket.
‘Wow,’ I said, when I finally regained my ability to speak. ‘That’s not good.’
I expected Dr G to don a hazmat suit and usher me out of his building. It was clear that I was radioactive and a hazard to the general population.
I expected him to say: ‘Holy Moses! I’ve never seen such a gruesome slaughter. Who would have guessed that a seemingly benevolent vagina could be responsible for such annihilation?’ and then: ‘Would you mind if we took you and your cervical environment along to our next PCT WTAF conference? I’m sure the fraternity will find your mucous entirely fascinating.’
Instead he recommended I douche with bicarb. I was, like, do what with what-what? I have never douched in my life. I thought douching had gone the way of trepanning and toothbrush moustaches. I thought the last people to douche were promiscuous French women in the 1800s. I thought only people with a severe form of OCD would even consider douching nowadays; it’s an old wives tale that I have absolutely no interest in trying. He said the alkalinity of the bicarb should neutralise the acidity of the CM, creating a less hazardous playground for the swimmers. Those poor guys. I don’t want to be the fertility version of Idi Amin. It looks like I have no choice but to try it.
TMI: Project Douche
1x (larger-than-expected) douching instrument (syringe with bulb) (Strange-looking thing – I think I may have gasped when the nurse whipped it out of her supplies cupboard. I was, like, Holy Moly! What the hell is that thing?)
1x warm bath
1x box of bicarbonate of soda (or, in Afrikaans, Koeksoda! Koek, get it? Hee.)
1x glass beer tankard that you will never drink out of again. Not because it goes anywhere near your — ahem — hostile mucous, but because every time you see it you will be reminded of the not-romantic exercise of irrigating your punani.
Also handy: supreme gymnastic talent, or, lacking that, a developed sense of humour.
- Run a shallow bath. Not too hot. Hot baths are bad for fertility. Jesus Christ, don’t you know anything?!
- Mix one heaped teaspoon of bicarb with one tankard of warm water. Don’t be distracted by the logo on the tankard. This is not the time to think about having a nice cold beer.
- Get in bath.
- Use the bulb syringe to suck up bicarb solution from the tankard.
- Kind of angle yourself backwards, on your haunches, while simultaneously holding on for dear life and squirting the solution up your nethers. This requires a reasonable amount of dexterity and determination.
- Relax, and let it out.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 as many times as you need to, to finish the solution, trying to not pull any muscles or slip and brain yourself on porcelain.
- While practising your unique form of douche-yoga, accidentally knock over the box of bicarb so that it lands in a puddle of spilt bathwater. Swear a little. Crave a cigarette, even though you haven’t smoked in five years.
- Try again. In the middle of a particularly challenging pose, you hear footsteps outside the bathroom. As if caught in a lewd act, you immediately drop everything and start whistling.
- When your husband comes in, you sit on the bulb syringe to hide it, and pretend to drink the bicarb solution out of the tankard.
- ‘Staying hydrated!’ you shout at him, in case he doesn’t buy it. You add an enthusiastic thumbs-up and smile with all your teeth.
- He looks at you as if you are insane. There is a little fear in his eyes. He backs out the bathroom door, perhaps even the front door, grabbing his toothbrush and sleep shorts on his way.
- When it is over, lie back in the cold, quimmy water and wonder what the hell your life has come to. A pre-sexy-time bath used to consist of a glass of red wine, baby oil, and scented candles. Stare at the brightly-lit bulb syringe and feel suitably depressed.
- Now snap out of it! Time to feel sexy! Forget that you just used a common baking ingredient to neutralise your acid bath of a vagina, and hope that your husband decided to stick around.
- Hubba-hubba, bow-chick-a-wow-wow, etc.
High-Fiving my Cervix
Another PCT today. (Waking up when it’s still dark to sit in traffic to come to a clinic to wait in a waiting room to have your pootang swabbed and then put under a microscope is so awesome.)
This time we passed. I watched the screen through my fingers, not being able to take another battleground scene — I sense that the first one will forever haunt me, to the soundtrack of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ — but yay for old wives tales and bulb syringes: the swimmers were alive! I felt like high-fiving my cervix.
The Hostiles, or, Angry Vaginas
Mike has taken to calling my CM ‘The Hostiles’ (from the TV series ‘Lost’).
So now, douching has become ‘taking out The Hostiles’. Sometimes, during sex, I picture a tribe of creepy island survivors camping out on the dirty upside-down hill of my cervix. It’s them against The Swimmers.
My female friends and I refer to hostile cervical mucous as ‘Angry Vagina’. The first time I heard the phrase I spat sangria out of my nose.
‘I also have an Angry Vagina!’ says an acquaintance at a party, chinking my glass of wine. Forget the First Wives Club, we’re the Angry Vaginas. And there are a lot of us. Does naturally sperm-friendly CM even exist? we wonder out loud to each other in someone’s kitchen at a party. If it does, I bet it’s as rare and difficult to harness as a unicorn’s fart.
I referred to my Angry Vagina the other day in company not yet familiar with the term, and she spilled her drink out of her nose, too.
Nose-irrigation: the initiation ceremony for Angry Vaginas all over the world.
JT Lawrence is an Amazon bestselling author, playwright and bookdealer based in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. She is the mother of two small boys and a baby girl, and lives in a house with a red front door. ‘Grey Magic’ is her latest novel. It’s about an eccentric modern-day witch, accused of murder, who must explore her past lives in order to keep her freedom — and find her way back to magic. Three of Janita’s titles are currently on Amazon’s top 100 bestseller lists, including ‘The Memory of Water’ (with over 27,000 downloads); ‘The Underachieving Ovary’ and ‘Grey Magic’.