Among the Herd

Best of the Boards
Emma Steinfeld


I enter the lobby of the medical office building and check the directory on the wall between the two elevators. I’ve been here a thousand times—okay, that’s a slight exaggeration—but I’ve certainly been here a lot more often than I would like, so you would think I would remember what floor my doctor is on, but I never do. Maybe it’s a subconscious thing. My mind is trying to trick me. It thinks that if it doesn’t tell me the floor, I’ll just turn and leave. Ah, if only…

I push the up arrow button and watch the race between the floor-o-meters above the elevators. The right elevator appears to have gotten waylaid on the second floor and the left one wins. There’s the obligatory ding sound, and the doors open. I enter the lift and push my floor button just as a woman enters the lobby and walks toward the elevator. I glance at her out of the corner of my eye as she enters, careful not to make eye contact as per Elevator Etiquette, and can’t help but notice her condition.

We exit the elevator on the third floor and make a left down the hallway, passing the offices of all the various ‘gists—an ophthalmologist, a cardiologist, and a nephrologist—until I arrive at my doctor’s office with my elevator companion right on my heels.

I sign in on the receptionist’s clipboard and take a seat. The waiting room is about three-quarters full, but I spot a chair that will enable me to sit by myself, as it has a table on each side of it. I don’t like talking to strangers to begin with—probably a result of having the Dangerous Stranger warnings drilled into my head as a child—but I really hate doctor’s-office-waiting-room stranger chitchat. Especially the kind elicited by being in this particular doctor’s waiting room. I walk through the maze of bellies, taking special note of all the feet sticking out in the aisle, lest I trip and fall into someone’s girth.

The tables on either side of me are replete with reading material—a fortunate situation, since I forgot to bring a book or magazine with me. I peruse the choices the doctor has provided me. There are several cardboard displays of medical pamphlets and I scan them, thinking maybe I will be able to diagnose myself and won’t need to sit around and wait to see the doctor. My choices consist of: How Your Baby Grows: A Monthly Diary of Your Baby’s Development, Baby Basics: Your Month by Month Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Smoking and Pregnancy, Drugs and Pregnancy, Alcohol and Pregnancy, Prenatal Care, Men Have Babies Too, and Cesarean Birth. For a moment, I think I may have found a winner with Eating for Two, but realize they aren’t just talking about having a healthy appetite. Even if I were pregnant, I don’t see a pamphlet that would be of use to me, since none of them seem to include the number for the local suicide hotline. Apparently, pap smears, uterine fibroids, mammograms, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, tubal ligations and other methods of birth control, cervical dysplasia, and menopause are not important enough topics, when compared with pregnancy, to warrant even a pamphlet or two.

I turn to the selection of magazines: Parents Magazine, Prima Baby, American Baby, Pregnancy Magazine, and Parenting. I consider whether I might have time to scurry down to my car to grab my Toyota Prius owner’s manual, as it would surely be more riveting than the material provided here.

In my boredom, I scan the waiting room. The furniture, paint, and wallpaper are all particularly nauseating shades of pastel blue and pink. Not a color scheme I would think of as particularly adult-like. Why are gyn/ob offices decorated for those yet to be born instead of the actual patients who are, with any luck, mostly adults?

There are only two of us who are not visibly pregnant—the other woman appears to be in her early- to mid-60s. Of course, with the recent news reports of women giving birth well into their 50s and 60s, it’s quite possible that she’s simply not showing yet and I am, indeed, the only woman in the room with an uninhabited uterus.

With the exception of the older woman, every last one of the women in the waiting room is visibly pregnant. If nothing else, the crappy clothing selection alone would keep me from reproducing. They’re all wearing shirts that are different colored and patterned versions of a babydoll nighty. And they’re all—every last one of them—pastel. What’s with all the pastels?

Every two or three minutes a nurse enters the waiting room and calls out a name, causing one of the maternal masses to have to do the grunt-strain-shimmy-shake boogie out of her seat and then waddle across the room. Perhaps they should install a little mini crane to help their patients get up. Or they could invest in some of those electric chairs for the elderly I’ve seen advertised on television that rise up and gently dump out the occupant.

The entrance door opens and another obviously pregnant woman signs in and joins her herd. She unzips her coat and struggles to get her arms out of the sleeves. She doesn’t appear to look like she’s old enough to drive, let alone give birth. When she finally gets her coat off, she reveals something other than the babydoll-esque shirt the rest of her covey is sporting. She’s togged up in what appears to be a non-maternity T-shirt that might well have been too tight even before her bun started baking. Her shirt and pants do not meet over the vast real estate that is her stomach, revealing dark red stretch marks and a funny looking circle that, once upon a time, must have been her navel. I try not to stare, but it’s like a car wreck with ambulances and fire trucks… you don’t want to look for fear of the ghastly sights you may observe, but you just can’t help yourself.

“Emma,” a nurse calls from her intermittent post at the corral gate. Ah… music to my ears. I grab my purse and bolt toward her. I’ll have to wait a while longer once I get in the examining room, but at least I won’t feel like the silver pinball in a room full of bumpers.
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Emma Steinfeld publishes the web-log EriePressible: The Blog and helps edit the BrockLog. When not at her unfulfilling job, she spends her time blogging, writing, attempting to learn Italian, and working with friends to open a literary center in Erie, Pennsylvania. She resides in Erie with her inamorato and their dog, a feisty PugPei they rescued from a shelter. E-mail: emma.steinfeld[at]gmail.com

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