On Pregnancy Tests

On Monday. I took my final pregnancy test.

“We’re required to do one whenever we are doing surgery”, the nurse explained.

The irony of a pregnancy test prior to a hysterectomy was not lost on me.

It just goes to show,” my friend Mombie texted, “There have been enough malpractices for performing hysterectomies on pregnant patients.”

Other than the 10cm dermoid that has attached itself to my left ovary (which I have nicknamed my alien baby) – pregnant is one of those things I have never been.

I remember buying pregnancy tests when I thought my husband and I would try for a baby. The box sat on the shelf haunting me as months went by and nothing worth testing was happening. I remember my less-than-joking conversations about him just putting some in a cup and I would use a turkey baster.

I remember discussing infertility options with my friends in couples class through our church. Our small group soon got divided as we became the haves and the have nots. Those of us who were childless started to feel like the kids who got held back and it was hard to deal with the depression of those around me who were trying so hard and yet were left without.

I knew what my problem was, as my marriage was rocky and lacked the intimacy required to even get the process started. But my heart ached for my other friends.

We looked briefly at becoming foster parents, but I realized in my heart that my husband would not be the kind of father I would want for any child – he had too many anger issues to provide a safe and stable environment. (It took me several years to realize that if the situation was not mentally healthy for a child, it was probably not healthy for me either, but I did wise up eventually.)

After my marriage ended, getting pregnant meant something different. I remember the first time that I thought I might be pregnant – the rush of emotions as I tried to figure out what I would do if I was. I had just started rebuilding my life, and the thought of being responsible for another being scared me so much.

I don’t know what it feels like to have a line turn blue, or show a plus sign, or flash “pregnant” and now I never will. I wouldn’t say I’m sad, nor would I say I’m euphoric. I’m more thoughtfully respectful that an aspect of possibility is now being laid to rest.

Phantom Loss

“I don’t need a uterus to have kids in my life,” I declared. “I’ve got 15 nieces and nephews; I’ve got a roommate that is young enough to be my son, I run a charity event for non-profit that deals with foster kids and adoption. If I decide I want a child, I think I can figure something out.”

It’s not the first time I’ve said it in the past few weeks, but this time I was saying it to my HR contact at work. I’m scheduled to have a hysterectomy at the end of the month, and am trying to work out how soon I can get back to work and off short-term disability. It’s not so much that I’m a workaholic, but I’m not really interested in dropping to 70% of my current salary.

“Don’t rush your recovery,” she cautioned. “Even if you physically recover, there is an emotional toll that overcomes you once your uterus and ovaries are removed. A lot of women don’t anticipate the grief of giving up motherhood as an option until it’s already gone.”

I understood what she was saying, but deciding whether or not to have kids was a decision I had to make back 7 years ago and I feel like I did my grieving then.

I had gone in for a routine check-up. The nurse practitioner was taking the normal vitals: height, weight, blood pressure. She took my blood pressure twice, actually, and then left the room – quickly returning with a crash cart and telling me to relax, which only made me more nervous. My blood pressure was 171/118. I looked at them confused – I felt the way I always felt. But evidently this wasn’t good.

As the nurse practitioner prescribed the much-needed medication to get it back in to the safety zone, she asked me if I wanted to have children. Because this med and pregnancy could not mix. I cried. Not that I wanted to get pregnant, but that the choice was being taken away from me. My life was in a place where nothing was certain – everything was in flux, and I just broke down for a bit there in the doctor’s office.

Yes, ma’am. I had already done my grieving. I was able to joke with the HR contact, convince her I was fine, and we got off the phone both laughing.

Later that night, a voice on the TV caught my attention. This psychologist was talking on a news show about having a mastectomy.

“My friends told me I would go through a mourning period, but I just brushed them off. My femininity was not defined by my breasts; I didn’t need them to feel empowered. I had counseled people in the past through their post-surgical depression; I knew what would happen and knew I would be fine.

And then I woke up, and my breast was gone, and I mourned.”

So now I wonder if maybe I’m wrong. I really don’t expect to be sad about it – I’ve kind of gotten a Spartan attitude about my body parts – get rid of it if it’s causing a fuss. On the other hand, not having my own children has allowed me to focus on so many other things I wouldn’t have time for: rescue dogs, charity events, The Geeks, etc.

But I don’t mean to dismiss it all so quickly. I can understand that feeling of phantom loss like when a soldier loses his leg, but still feels the pain or like the leg is still there. I just can’t focus on that. It’s counter-productive to where I’m heading.

Forward march.