Dagger in the Dragon's Eye

Inga tells me I’m tight as she slowly pushes a medical rod coated in cold gel deep into my vagina.

Author’s Note: in Chinese culture, the symbolism of the dragon's eye fruit, or longan, is mostly linked to fertility luck.

Inga tells me I’m tight as she slowly pushes a medical rod coated in cold gel deep into my vagina.

No kids, hun?
        —No, no kids.

I grit my teeth, take a shallow breath through my surgical mask, and stare up at the upper third of the curtain they pull across the room to give us the perception of privacy. Holes in the curtain. That’s an interesting design choice. I mean I’d imagine it’s a design choice, but it’s ugly as all get-out, so if it is in fact a design choice then, who is it for?

This will last only a little bit longer than last time.
           —No problem; take as long as you need.

You have adenomyosis, Dr. Nguyen stated quietly, his dulcet tones coming through the receiver of my iPhone 6S. I gripped it a bit closer to my ear, its cracked corner scratching lightly against my cheek.


Google Search Result: Adenomyosis is a condition where the inner lining of the uterus breaks through the muscle walls during menstruation.

Hello, Ellen?

Google Search Result: Adenomyosis is a sister condition to Endometriosis.

Hello, are you still there?

Google Search Result: Adenomyosis can cause menstrual cramps, lower abdominal pressure, and bloating, before menstrual periods.


Google Search Result: Can result in heavy periods.
Google Search Result: Can result in large clots.
Google Search Result: Can be severe.
Google Search Result: Treatment is hysterectomy.

… Ellen?

Google Search Result: Treatment is hysterectomy. 

             —Yes, sorry, I’m here.

The room is dark, quiet, and cool.

Google Search Result: Treatment is hysterectomy. 

Dr. Nguyen wasn’t a fan of hysterectomy this early on. Prescribed continual Marvelon intake instead, but continual Marvelon intake was resulting in break-through bleeding neither of us could explain. It’s a combination estrogen and progestin pill that works to prevent ovulation. It should work beautifully. So now I am here.

Staring up at the ugly holes in the curtain they pull across the doorway. I am here. Inga probing and prodding around inside me with a slick cold medical rod. I am here. In a hospital room during a global pandemic.

           —At least one of us is having an adventure.

What was that hun?
           —Sorry, it’s pretty clean in here.

It’s pretty clean in here.

The ER is currently closed to the public. That should be reassuring, but somehow, it’s not. I wonder if there has been an outbreak they aren’t reporting. Or, if anyone here right now has been exposed to someone and has conveniently forgotten to mention it? I wonder if there’s someone bleeding out somewhere, unable to receive the emergency attention they deserve. We’re in pre-vaccination times and the waiting room is marked clearly. Set up for proper social distancing. Yet, this girl decides to sit right next to me?! It’s pretty clean in here. Her mask is dirty. It’s pretty clean in here. Why is she talking so noisily? It’s pretty clean in here. Her nose dick is out.

           —That’s not how you wear a mask.

I’m sorry?

Ellen, we’re ready for you.

Well, the good news is, if you want them—

           —I d …

—children, that is, you still have the option.

           —Okay but I don …

It’s good!


We women should always want the option.

           —                            … if you insist.

Studies confirm that adenomyosis has a lasting effect on reproductive issues. Other studies have reported that adenomyosis (during pregnancy, particularly) may come with a greater risk of postpartum hemorrhage and/or infections in the uterus.

But people who are able to give birth should always want to bear children, right?

Google Search Result: Postpartum hemorrhage.

As I’m browsing through the hits, I remember a story I once read about a soon-to-be mother whose body was unable to release the embryo that had died inside of her. The mother was bleeding out, the embryo refused to drop, and there wasn’t much time left to, you know, save her life. There was only one option.

Google Search Result: “There are no federal laws governing abortion in Canada – it was decriminalized in 1988 – but access has long been an issue.”[i]

There was only one option. 

As I continue to browse through the hits, I remember another story I once read about a young woman lucky enough to land the lottery on an ectopic pregnancy. She was in her early ’30s. Ectopic pregnancies, I quickly learned upon that first read, are guaranteed fatal for the fetus. What about for the mother? Also guaranteed fatal if not quickly treated by—you guessed it. There was only one option there, too.

Google Search: Dangers of continual contraception.
Google Search: Is it selfish to not want children?
Google Search: What if one wants no children?
Google Search: Benefits of life without children.
Google Search: Life without children.

Google Search: Dangers of continual contraception.

Google Search Result: “It is so ingrained in us that we often forget there are people who actively choose not to have children, or who are biologically unfit to conceive.”[ii]

To my right the ultrasound purrs, punctuated by my soft, shallow breath and the click-click-click of Inga’s track pad. I wonder what she sees on the screen. I look up and study the holes of our curtain.

Only a little bit longer here, hun.
Your bladder is filling up though. *chuckle*

I wish there was a way for me to see these images, too.

Oh! Don’t lean up, please.
It distorts the image.

I lie back down.

Okay, we’re almost there.
One last little bit to go.

I stare up at the holes in the curtain.

I’m going to push a bit now.
Please tell me if it hurts, on a scale from one to ten.

… ?
           — … maybe a four … but then again, my pain threshold is pretty high?

*chuckle* Yes, it’s all quite arbitrary, isn’t it.
Some women scream at the tiniest touch.
Others don’t say anything at all.


… ?

Murmuring something I can’t quite hear, Inga glances at me.

Some women scream at the tiniest touch. Others don’t say anything at all. 

I need you to tell me what you feel, okay hun?

She twists the rod in her hand around in a circle and pushes a third time.

… ?
            —That’s a … three?

How does one gauge it properly, anyway?

Okay, I’m going to probe to your left now.

The rod twists.

Do you feel any pain?
            — … No.

Okay, now the right side.

The rod turns. I let out a sharp intake of breath.
           — … that’s an eight and a half.

Inga pauses. Clicks twice and pauses again. Slowly, she twists the rod back to the right, and clicks a few times more. I set my jaw and stare back up at those damned holes.

The room is dark, and quiet, and cool.


[i] Weeks, Carly. "What access to abortion looks like across Canada." The Globe and Mail, accessed May 11, 2022. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-abortion-access-laws-canada/

[ii] Scagliusi, Anne Lora. “Life without Children: Some by Chance, Some by Choice.” Vanity Fair, accessed August 30, 2021. https://www.vanityfair.com/london/2021/08/life-without-children-some-by-chance-some-by-choice

About the author

Ellen Chang-Richardson is an award-winning poet whose multi-genre work has appeared in Augur, The Fiddlehead, ti-TCR:19 from The Capilano Review, and Vallum Contemporary, among others. The founder of Little Birds Poetry, co-founder of Riverbed Reading Series, member of Room’s editorial collective, long con magazine’s editorial board, and I of VII, Ellen currently lives/works as a settler on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg. Their debut collection Blood/Belies is out in Spring 2024 with Buckrider Books (Wolsak & Wynn) and they are represented by Tasneem Motala at The Rights Factory. Find them online @ehjchang.