On that which starts and ends in the womb

Maya Novak-Herzog
Human Parts
Published in
14 min readApr 4

I got pregnant in the summer of 2021. One month later, under the lights of planned parenthood’s finest fluorescence, I felt the exhilaration of fentanyl for the first time.

“This is the best I’ve ever felt,” I told the doctor as she tapped out the Mario soundtrack on my cervix with metal scalpels. “I can feel God in this Planned Parenthood.”

But what I would write about later, in my journal, was not the tools they had used or the God I had spoken to, but the memory of the Apple juice and carbs the nurse gave me afterward as she observed me. She, the qualified observer, had asked me to pick: graham crackers or goldfish, but I, unable to decide, pleaded with her for both. The aforementioned fentanyl had required 24 hours of total dietary and hydration abstinence, and the Costco array of snacks was irresistible.

What I remember most is the tiny graham crackers shaped like teddy bears. I dipped them in apple juice and bit their heads off. The nurse told me about her daughter as I waited. Later, she told me how lucky I was to have a boyfriend that sat in the waiting room for the entire procedure. She said, ‘do you know how rare that is to see here?’ and I really did feel so lucky.

When I read this journal entry about the apple juice and the graham crackers and feeling lucky out loud to my boyfriend, he was confused. “My memory of it wasn’t like that.” He said. “It was a lot sadder than that. You almost passed out during the ultrasound, and they made you wait by the graham crackers for 15 minutes until you were ready to eat them. Don’t you remember?”

I remember everything. Before — the stars in my eyes when the ultrasound tech asked if I wanted her to tell me if it was twins; during — the way I sobbed before the fentanyl hit and asked the doctor if I was going to die; after — the discomfort of staring at juice and crackers for 15 minutes while they observed me to make sure I didn’t choke on my own spit (I was so thirsty at that point that I thought if choking didn’t take me out, dehydration surely would). But all I wanted to write about was the food. I had waited all day for a Frappuccino, but I was too cold once we got in the Starbucks and had to resort to a hot mocha. After, my boyfriend held my hand in the car and drove us to get Chipotle. He didn’t even…