Learning how to talk to my ovaries

By Bethany Marcel

Last month, my therapist had me talking to my ovary. My ovary sat in the corner chair as I sat upright on the couch.

What would you like to say to your ovary?

I’m mad at you,” I say.

I glare at my ovary. An empty chair looks back, dumbly. It’s nonsense. And then I’m crying. It’s nonsense, but it works.


Close your eyes, she says. The heart and the baby. Let’s make them talk.

How silly and strange. In my twenties I never would have guessed I’d be sitting here in this airy and sunlit room. Back then I preferred bars, libraries, all the dark places I could find. But now I’m here. I close my eyes.

It may help if your hand is on your heart. To access it.

I place my hand on my heart like I’m pledging allegiance to my body.

What is it you feel? she asks.

My heart pounds.


The doctor said it was a dermoid cyst, full of hair and teeth. He poked at it with the wand. See that, he’d said, prodding. That’s the hair inside of it, moving. He was wrong, but for a month I’d thought it was inside of me—this growth on my ovary, hair and teeth and bones, an alive-thing, like an object to care for, almost.

Instead the cysts come and go, fleeting creatures, reminders of impermanence.

Not everything means something deep, my high school boyfriend often said to me. One of the reasons we didn’t work out.


Dermoid cysts are not tender unless ruptured. Most medical sites note this. I want to print this out. To wear it like a mantra.

I am not tender unless ruptured.


The doctor schedules me for surgery. He sends me for an MRI. Then he goes on vacation. For a week, the threat of cancer is in the air. It feels like humidity. I call the clinic four times, asking.

No results.

When I see the doctor again, it’s for the pre-op appointment.

No cyst! he exclaims, the wand inside of me.

The cyst is gone. Poof. It’s like magic, almost.

Apparently the clinic knew this already; they’d merely forgotten to tell me on the phone.

The cyst wasn’t dermoid but instead the disappearing kind.

Now you see it. Now you don’t.

The doctor gives me a high-five.


A new doctor. She tells me my ovaries are clear. She says the number of follicles look “excellent.”

Keep trying, she says.

I am not tender unless spoken to. I want to cry but instead try imagining how the doctor might react if I begin talking to my ovary.

Ovary, what would you like to say to doctor?

Instead I lie still on the table, counting up the months, the follicles, the tests.

As a child I was terrible at math, but I tried hard. I brought my homework into my bedroom and studied for hours, adding and subtracting.

I’ll never need this, I thought. But I was good in class. I got A’s. I strived.


This month my therapist asks, So why is it you want a baby?

I hesitate. Love, I answer finally. The most basic answer.

What kind love? Love for you? Love for baby?

All the love? Warmth? Chocolate chip cookies? She says it’s fine if I free-associate this way. She knows I’ll still feel as though I’m answering questions on a test. That I am always, no matter what, a good student.

My eyes closed, I can feel my heart inside of me like a small and fluttering parcel. I wonder if this is how a baby feels. A flutter. I imagine my future baby floating above me, not unlike an image of a cartoon cupid. Saggy diaper. Arrow pointed at the precise center of my forehead.

Heart, what would you like to tell baby?

I love you, baby.

Baby, what would you like to tell heart?

You don’t have to be perfect. I’ll be there when the timing is right.

Did you hear that? my therapist later asks. That you don’t have to be perfect?


Mornings, I piss in cups. I stick imperfect tests in bright yellow pee. Dip, lay flat, set a timer. I do this perfectly, with precision. I bleed every month as I wait for no-blood. How strange to wait for the absence of something. At night, my eyes closed, I fall asleep with two hands on my stomach.

Bethany Marcel is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon with her husband and dog. She is currently working on her first book.

Fruit and Flower, embroidery by Maggie Rozycki Hiltner.

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