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How my body taught me a big lesson

By Sioux M. Polvi

From Radiance Summer 1998

"Have you always been this size?"
      she asked, breezing through the
          door with my file in her hand. 

I was sitting on the cold examining table, trying to make the paper gown somehow cover my most private parts, staring at my toes dangling over the black rubber step five inches below the table. The sudden break in the seemingly eternal silence of waiting startled me, and her question caught me off guard.

“Uh, no, not really,” I said.

I hadn’t been for a gynecological exam for more than two years, and I’d forgotten how awful it was to talk to a stranger while I wore nothing but a napkin. I believed that seeing a woman would make the visit to a new doctor easier. But woman or man, doctors always had a profound effect on my sweat glands. The moment I had started to undress, the faucets opened, and by the time Dr. Miller (not her real name) burst through the door, I was drenched and sticking to the table beneath me.

I can’t remember what she said after the question about my size, but I can remember with vivid detail my pitiful, almost apologetic, response.

“I’ve fluctuated all my life,” I began, “but I’m pretty content now. Well, I guess I wouldn’t mind losing weight, but I’ve tried everything. I just believe some of us are born to be this way, and I really am happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”

As I mumbled on about my various sizes from childhood through adulthood, I completely forgot about the persistent pain I’d been feeling in my right side for more than a month—the reason for this visit. Meanwhile, Dr. Miller went through the motions of a typical exam, but she was obviously preoccupied with the subject of my weight.

As she probed around my gut trying to feel my ovary, she suddenly stopped with a sigh and said I’d have to come back for an ultrasound.

“I can’t feel anything through all this fat,” she said with cold matter-of-factness.

“Oh,” I said dumbly. “Okay.”

I could feel a well of tears forming in my throat, but I held it back the way I’d been trained to do in front of strangers. Before Dr. Miller left the room, I managed to say, “Can we talk? I have a few questions for you.”

I was worried that I might have cancer or something equally devastating, and I was hoping to get more information and a little reassurance.

“Yes,” she replied curtly. “And I have some questions for you. Come to my office when you finish dressing.”

After composing myself and getting dressed, I followed the long hallway down to Dr. Miller ’s office.

“Come in,” she said without looking up from my chart, where she was feverishly scribbling notes. We spent the next half hour discussing my eating habits, my lifelong struggle with depression (and how that was probably due to my weight), and a diet she would like me to try, supplemented by evening primrose oil and vitamin supplements. The burning question that Dr. Miller posed to me was, “Are you willing to change?”

We never got around to my questions.

Standing at the receptionist’s station waiting to schedule my ultrasound, I felt like I’d been run over by a Mack truck.

Yes, it’s all so clear now, I thought. I’m fat. I’m fat. Yes. That explains everything.

PerfectI had not fallen so deeply under this spell for years. Despite the fact that I was healthier than most people I knew, had maintained a steady weight for probably five years, and was getting treatment for depression from a top-ranking psychiatrist, I stepped right into Dr. Miller’s trap. Though this woman knew nothing about me but a number on the scale, I allowed her to undermine my whole sense of self.

I cried on my way home that day.

A week later, as Dr. Miller pushed the ultrasound device around my uterus, she described the landscape.

“Ah, you have a lot of gas,” she commented with what seemed like a laugh.

My ears burned red with humiliation as I tried to avoid the gaze of the nurse attendant standing by. I sensed her trying to do the same.

“There’s a huge band of blood built up around your uterus,” Dr. Miller noticed, more to the point.

“My period is a little late,” I said, “Could that be a sign of pregnancy?”

“Women of your size produce too much estrogen,” she responded, “and this often results in the buildup of blood in the womb. I can give you something to get your period started.”

“But my period isn’t usually late,” I protested.

“Well, there’s a tendency in overweight women to have irregular periods,” she replied.

“But I have been this size for years. And I could set a clock by my cycle,” I futilely persisted.

“Well, all right, we’ll do a pregnancy test,” she said with a ho-hum attitude, “but I will give you a prescription to get your period started.”

On her way out of the examining room she said, “Wait until you get the results of the test before you start taking the medication." Then she briskly closed the door behind her.

I cried again on my way home, and threw myself onto my bed when I got there. I felt paralyzed by self-loathing and by a persistent fear about my still unanswered questions.

My size had not been an “issue” for me for years. I had come to accept what God had given me, even to enjoy myself, and to stop postponing life until that blessed day when I lost X pounds or fit into size Y. Yet, less than two hours in a doctor’s office had reduced me to a self-hating, self-doubting, hysterical mess. Maybe she’s right, I thought. Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I’ve just been fooling myself that this excess weight doesn’t really matter. She’s a doctor, after all.

After a prolonged bout of tears, my husband calmed me down enough to get me thinking straight again.

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” he said, trying to soothe me. “Give me her number. I want to call and give her a piece of my mind.”

“No,” I protested, “I’ll be all right.”

In the midst of the emotional chaos, I had almost forgotten about the pregnancy test. That night in bed, I finally broached the subject with Tom.

“You know how we’ve been talking about having kids someday?" I started tentatively. “Well, what would you think of doing that sooner rather than later?”

He looked at me in surprise. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean, what about, in, say, eight months?" I smiled.


“I took a pregnancy test today. My period is late. We should find out by tomorrow or the next day.”

I couldn’t tell if I saw joy on his face or absolute terror, but he smiled and hugged me and held me for a long time.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you, too.”

The next forty-eight hours passed like molasses through a sieve. No amount of mental rehearsal could have prepared me for the moment I got the call.

“Sioux?” the nurse asked after I picked up the phone.

“Yes, this is Sioux,” I said, my sweaty palms already losing their grip on the handset.

“This is Mona from Dr. Miller ’s office, and I have the results of your test.”


“It’s positive,” she beamed through the phone.

“Positive?" I said, confused. I thought of the rabbit and what it meant if the rabbit died. Did the rabbit die or didn’t it, I wondered in a split second.

“Yes, positive,” she repeated. Then she added, “You’re pregnant!”

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” she continued in the absence of any response from me.

“Oh, yes, yes. I’m just in shock. Thank you,” I said, flushed, smiling, and a little sick to my stomach.

“Congratulations,” she said before hanging up the phone.

“Thanks again.”

My eyes filled with tears for the third time in two weeks as I sat at my desk pondering the imponderable. “I’m pregnant,” I said over and over to myself, wondering if this foreign thought would ever sink in. My nightmare with Dr. Miller receded in my thoughts as I contemplated the news, and a triumphant feeling swept over me, as if God himself/herself had just affirmed, You are perfect just the way you are. �

Update: When I called to make my first prenatal appointment, I requested a new doctor. Not once did my choice, Dr. Watson, express concern or even mention my weight. After a complication-free pregnancy, I gave birth to my “perfect” son, Tyler Roy Hanson, on March 19, 1997. Weighing in at 9 pounds, 6 ounces, Tyler’s large size indicated health and robustness. Both my baby and I are thriving.

P.S. I’m expecting my second child in December!

In addition to being a new mother, SIOUX M. POLVI is a fledgling entrepreneur. Her company, Sioux Sunn Communications (born only a month before Tyler) has entered its second year with a small profit. Sioux is a writer and business consultant and lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sioux’s sister, Pam Polvi, is our Radiance editorial assistant.


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