Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Being Female

(Repost...originally written & posted on Myspace on date listed below)Saturday, January 27, 2007Being FemaleA friend of mine recently underwent surgery for a problem with her ovaries. I have just learned that all went well, and I am very relieved for her and her family. Since finding out that she would need this surgery, I've prayed diligently and had the opportunity to reflect on my own female problems.

I had a complete hysterectomy seven years ago and I've never gotten over it.

I will be the first to admit, the mere thought of getting pregnant again would fill me with an anxiety only those on death row must feel. I have often wondered why anyone would willingly endure (or worse yet...PLAN) that process over and over. My own pregnancy had been extremely difficult, boardering on traumatic.

For starters, I threw up at least once every day, from the day I learned I was pregnant, until the day I gave birth.I did not just have simple "morning sickness"...I had morning, noon & night sickness. This is called hyperemesis gravidarum I immediately dropped 15 pounds from my 120 pound frame. My iron level plummeted and my doctor soon threatened to hospitalize me for malnutrition and anemia. I would eat, taking my bright, blue, prenatal vitamins and rusty, brown iron suppliment, both the size of my thumb, right before bed in an effort to maintain some sustinance.

By my 16th week, I'd developed gestational diabetes resulting in dangerous weight gain for my baby and eventually me as well. I was promptly put on a strict diet for the remainder of my pregnancy. I began to retain fluid, my hands, feet and ankles swelling so badly, I had to resort to wearing my husband's tennis shoes! I was put on bed rest for several weeks in an effort to fend off premature labor. Despite the diet, I weigh 200 pounds the day I gave birth. It left me to wonder what I would have weighed had I not thrown up at least one, perfectly-portioned meal every day! I could not even see my feet, much less reach them and there was not a part of me that did not itch, chafe, swell, or ache. My once cute little belly-button was soon a large throbbing bulls-eye across my swollen belly.

Labor had been equally as horrific and arduous. I had thought I just had to poop when I felt the first pain around 10:30 that Friday night and I tried to go on and off for close to an hour. The straining only served to cause cervical swelling that would eventually work against productive labor. When I realized that there was a pattern to my discomfort, we headed for the hospital, at the doctor recommended seven minutes apart, arriving just before 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Of ten babies born that weekend, we had been the first couple in and the last ones out the next day (Sunday at 9:00am).

We had taken the child-birth classes and knew what to expect, to an extent. Little did we know that it would be 24 hours before any pain medications would be administered and another six hours before the baby actually arrived. The doctor on call had spared me an unnecessary caesarean by keeping a watchful eye on my progress. In class, I had fainted during the epidural video, due to an overwhelming fear of needles. When I could finally get one, I quite nearly kissed that little man when he arrived with his little cart of long, nasty-looking needles. Whomever said that the pain is soon forgotten, must have had some really good drugs, because I can still describe it vividly today, eighteen years later. Joan Rivers came really close when she said it was like pulling your bottom lip all the way over your head,... only she had the wrong body part.

If I'd had this one to do over again, I'd have eaten on the way to the hospital. I had eaten lunch Friday, but skipped dinner, opting to clean instead. You aren't allowed to eat once labor begins to avoid complications with annethesia, so I was left to endure the duration of labor relying solely on bland, unsatisfying ice chips. Around 8:00 p.m. I began to hallucinate, speaking to dead relatives, and because I was not on my epidural yet, I was allowed to have six ounces of the best Sprite I'd ever had. Of course, I promptly threw it up, but I can honestly say, I've never had one as good since.

When the time finally came, it was decided that the wonderful epidural would have to be stoped in order for me to push. Unfortunately, I was too exhausted to actually push, having been awake the better part of 48 hours. Two nurses did the honors, pushing down on my belly with each contraction. The pain was indescribable: I would not wish that on my worst enemy. I then needed an episiotomy that wound up being not just one cut but two, but I will spare you those details.

Despite all the horror, I was rewarded with a beautiful, healthy baby girl, the only thing I've ever truly wanted.

Whomever said childbirth was beautiful, has obviously never actually given birth. They never covered any of this in the books I'd read! I feel kinda guilty that I don't have the warm-fuzzies over the experience, but I don't think I should, so why sugar-coat it? Some women even share this feeling. Jenny McCarthy wrote a best selling book on feeling this exact same's hysterical if you get the chance to read it! Maybe I'd have a better opinion of it if I'd had a better experience. Another irony that I soon realized: the mother does all the work and every year the kid gets the party. So beginning with my birthday that June, and every year since, I send my mother flowers and a card saying "Happy Giving Birth Day!" (In case you are getting ideas at this point, I've already contact Hallmark about a line of cards for this occasion...they said they'd get back to me) to let her know how grateful I am that she lost her girlish figure, endured waves on unrelenting nausea and vomitting and developed strechmarks, all for me.

After becoming engaged to my second husband in 1998, I began toying with the idea of braving pregnancy again. After our 1999 wedding, we discussed it at length, deciding to let what happened, happen. But several months into our marriage when nothing was happening, I thought I'd better check it out. I will never forget the feeling of devastation and loss when my doctor told me that we needed to be discussing hysterectomies instead. In the blink of an eye, my reproductive career ended. No options, no choices. Done.

My weight had been a constant battle since my pregnancy, so I had really not thought much of my pleasantly plump waistline. No matter how much I tried, I knew my flat tummy was a thing of the past, so I paid little attention to the bulge I'd developed. I just chalked them up to the irreversable changes a woman's body goes through for the sake of motherhood. The bulge however, was actually a fibroid growth, the size of a soccer ball, growing within my uterine walls. A pregnancy could rupture my uterus in it's compromised state. My ovaries, I am told, were so covered in cysts that they resembled peeled pomegranates. My doctor diagnosed me with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome ( ).

I had a complete hysterectomy May 22, 2000...on my first wedding anniversary.

This is where God steps in. It wasn't that God did not intend for me to have more children....He just did not intend for me to give birth to them. Within six months, Darling Hubby and I were granted custody of his children from his first marriage. They have been living with us full time ever since. I love them as much as if I'd given birth to them. I know this was God's plan for me.

Despite knowing this fact, I can't explain the feeling of loss that remains. The closest I can describe it is like mourning a loved one. It is worst when I am confronted with pregnant women. I have had several friends and family members become pregnant and have babies since my hysterectomy. I've had to fight the urge to run screaming and crying each time one of them would make their happy announcement. Each one has been like a knife to my heart.

Please don't misunderstand me: I am genuinely happy for them and willingly celebrate with them, but I have to approach it on my own terms. There are times that I don't want to hear about it, or discuss it, or be involved with it, and I wish they'd just get away from me, so I can fight the green-eyed monster in peace. Yes, I admit to the jealousy. What really puts me over the edge are the ones who complain or are mad that they got pregnant, because, right now, I'd give anything for the chance, whether I'd follow through with it or not.

I've had to explain this to a few of my pregnant friends in hopes that they understand. I've been pretty lucky so far. But most people don't understand it, some even going so far as to tell me I'm being ridiculous, that I should be over it by now. And I guess I would be....had it been MY choice.

I've recently been watching a family in Arkansas on the Discovery Channel, who have 16 children, ages 18 to infant. Despite the potential for constant mutany, all the children are remarkably well behaved. The Duggar Family. His name is JimBob and hers is Michelle. ( of the girls is named Joy-Anna, just like me).They seem very normal and surprisingly sane. They say they always have, and will continue to let God plan their family. I must admit, I am awestruck....and darn glad it's not me!

To sum it all up, I can honestly say, having had a hysterectomy, there are some things I don't miss: the once a month crabby, bloated, period mess with its accidents and inconviences; the whole birth-control debate (condoms vs pill vs IUD,etc) and even those occasions when someone asks you if you're pregnant because you've got a stomach flu or you've gained a little weight.

Guess it's all just part of being female.

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