Friday, September 18, 2015

The Tummy


I faced "female problems" from my early teen years. Thirty years later, this picture was taken last week, a few days before my final hysterectomy, which will hopefully lay the consequences of a diseased reproductive system to rest once and for all!

You see, this was actually my second hysterectomy, going back to take my cervix, remaining ovary, and once again (as has been surgically required so many times over the past 20 years) clean out the mess and pain created by Endometriosis. I am 43 years old and dramatically entered menopause in full force last week.

There had been absolutely NO CHANCE of that belly hosting the life of a baby for nearly seven years since I had surgically said farewell to the body of my uterus and first ovary, yet to look at me, all bloated and inflamed, it would have been a common presumption to think I was well-along into pregnancy!

This got me thinking and reflection on our decade of active infertility. My tummy HAS looked like this before, sometimes, at least six in fact, from the hard-fought blessing of carrying a child within! For all those stretch marks, I am rewarded far beyond anything I had ever dared hope during our infertility years, with three living children in my home today, ages 15, 12 and 9. I do not take them for granted. I so wish I could have worn a t-shirt (or neon sign on my forehead) that read something like, "Don't hate me infertile friend. This baby has been 7 years in the making!" Just because I was finally pregnant, the feelings of infertility were not magically erased! I readily still related much more with the infertile word than the fertile one!

Our living miracles' known siblings who never got to come home would be 20, a likely twin of the 15-year-old, 14, and 13. I am ever so blessed that my womb was their entire earthly home, yet they are still missed! Pregnant tummy mis-speaking about the state of my fertility once again, in each of their cases.

More strangely, my tummy has looked like this before because of the very reality of not being able to conceive! Illness and swelling such as I just pictured , from Endometriosis or other reproductive illness, but also sometimes from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), in response to fertility drugs, fibroid tumors, and/or due ovarian hyper-stimulation! What insult, added to injury, to "look pregnant" simply because of whatever condition(s) is causing sub fertility in the first place!

So next time you see a "pregnant" woman, don't presume! Maybe she is. Maybe she isn't. Either way, there may be much more to her story than meets the eye. And to the lady I naively asked how far along you were, 20-some years ago, before I knew better, I'm still so very sorry for the tears I brought to your eyes that day. Please forgive me!