I’m watching happy mommies, round with bumps.
Some are accompanied by partners. They stand close. They rub their bellies. They smile and speak softly to each other.
A pair of women sit together.
Others like me, sit alone. Arms folded, eyes closed…or methodically turning the curling pages of a magazine. Some tap tap tap on their screens. Like me, right now.
I watch the ones who are visibly pregnant. One mother-to-be pulls out snacks and water. Her outfit, a striped knit bodycon dress, a jacket festooned with brassy buttons and suede flats, is sharp.
An athleisure-wearing, topknotted mom comes in with a baby riding silently in a stroller, little enough to need a cushion around its tiny head.
Others, like me, are not pregnant at all.
The desire to at least be able to give birth almost overwhelms me. It is the one thing I can’t do. Yet. Or maybe ever.
We all wait.
The waiting room is rust with shades of apple and sage green. The wall coverings are alternating panels of wheat-colored and puce brocade-print paper.
Then I am called.
No tussling with a paper gown, this time.
Just a plop of warm goo on my bare belly. The sonographer glides the wand across my flesh, and the wall-to-wall flatscreens light up.
There I am, inside out.
And there they are, all three of them that are immediately visible. Seven, hiding. Growing, insistently. Constantly. Feeding off of me.
But they aren’t babies.
Ten noncancerous fibroid tumors take up all available space. They’ve been growing there for years, in the place where a baby should be. Maybe the seed of them is genetic. Or maybe it’s environmental. One thing is for sure:
They have to be removed, in order for any baby to grow there.
I almost don’t believe what I’m seeing. I want to look away, but I can’t. When I finally close my eyes, they fill with tears that spill over onto my cheeks and run into my ears and splash onto the paper covering the exam chair. I want to scream. Instead I just cry silently in the dark. And when my doctor tells me to prepare for serious complications that could mean the end of my life I begin to pray out loud.
I shouldn’t have come here alone. I am so shaken that I don’t know how I will find my car, or get home. And I can’t stop looking at the flatscreens.
They’re huge. So huge they’re pressing on my stomach and other organs—which explains why I’m always hungry but can barely eat. Why I’m so tired all the time but can’t really rest. Why I’m in pain but can’t get any relief. Why I feel like I can’t breathe.
“Wow,” says the sonographer as she peers at her screens. “You’re so thin that I’m sure you can feel them,” she says.
They’re hard to miss, since they announced themselves with a 25 pound weight gain and 24-hour fatigue and breathlessness and mind-numbing cramps and back aches.
I’ve had so many side eyes at my expanding midsection the last two years or so that I’ve lost count. Now I no longer notice. There are only so many times you can fake-smile and explain a belly away as a food baby. And I’ve given up hiding it with Spanx.
I’ve suffered through the persistent stomach ache, the damage it’s done to my body image, my self-esteem and my emotions and the problematic monthly cycles.
Add to that the constant stress I’ve been under, which releases a hormone that (surprise!) only makes the tumors grow faster. Because the world doesn’t care if you’re sick: it’ll demand more and dump more and wreck you, regardless. I’ve been through so much personally and professionally in the last six months that I’m literally turning it into a book.
But relief is held out to me, swinging like a pendulum for me to grab and hold on to. And I grab it.
It will mean an open procedure similar to a c-section, only I will go home with no baby.
It will mean that there is a possibility the fibroids could return, since the only way to get rid of them for good appears to be to have a hysterectomy — an option that is not an option for me right now.
It will mean all my dreams for a doula-assisted natural childbirth, with soft jazz and Beyoncé and candles and my mother and mother-in-law holding each other’s hands in prayer around us, for the boy and girl fraternal twins I keep dreaming about, won’t happen.
But at this point even that doesn’t matter anymore.
Because this weight has broken me down and I can’t carry it or drag it anymore. Not one more blessed step.
And I’m ready to be delivered.
Well, here’s your #nofilter outfit of the day and post, over a week after my open myomectomy has been successfully completed. I’m home resting, and will mostly be offline in the interim.
Why be this transparent? I debated about whether sharing this is TMI, but the truth is not enough women are sharing the reality of their experience with fibroids. We’ve been taught our bodies are shameful and dirty and that what happens inside them should be kept secret. But who does that help?
I’ve been anxious, afraid and ashamed for SO long. And it’s time to let it all go.
Life got real, real fast last week and in the last few months. There’s nothing like planning your own funeral to make you reevaluate the direction your life is taking. I feel silly complaining now because I know it could be worse.
The important thing is I woke up and I’m still here, thank God. And I’m going to be fine. One day at a time.
I do not have enough words to thank my family and friends for their support, prayers and practical help. My surgeon/doctor says bikinis and babies are definitely in my future.
What I know for sure is, life can only get better from here. No matter what I’ve lost through this process, I have retained my sense of humor, my grasp on reality and my ability to overcome anything. So my foot is on the gas, from here on out. And with a flatter stomach to boot. Yassssssssssss!
Now before Mama takes my phone and pc away: who can I talk to about improving this outfit they make you wear? It’s the real tragedy of this story.
P.S. There are several options available to treat and/or remove fibroids, depending on their size, location and the patient’s preferences. The purpose of this post is not to recommend any particular course of action or treatment. I AM NOT A DOCTOR OR MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, and I cannot treat or diagnose you. If you’re dealing with fibroids, please consult with a trained medical professional to make the best possible choice for your personal situation, preferences and goals.
For more information about fibroids:
O, the Oprah Magazine
The Chicago Tribune
The White Dress Project
UCLA Obstetrics & Gynecology