Parental Guidance Warning
This post describes lady innards and includes occasional profanities. Both are necessary to the story. If you’re not okay with that sort of thing, you might want to take your eyeballs elsewhere. If you are okay with that sort of thing, well, read on.
Early this February I happened to notice a weird lump in my lower abdomen. I’ve always had a lumpy lower abdomen and have suspected fibroids for years, but this lump was new. My first thought was, “Hmm, that doesn’t go there.” Brian agreed with me, so I called for an appointment to have it checked out. Schedules being what they are, that appointment was approximately a month away. I happened to have a checkup with my primary doctor the week before that appointment, so I mentioned the lump to him. His reaction was funny, but kind of horrifying.
Doc: *poke, poke, big eyes* “Oh my, this is HUGE.”
Me: “I thought so.”
My Brain: “NO SHIT, SHERLOCK! I wasn’t making it up!”
Doc: “When most people come in saying they have a lump, there’s nothing there. That is just…wow.”
He figured it was a ginormous uterine fibroid tumor and sent me for a CT scan a couple of days later. The CT came back showing multiple fibroids, so they referred me to an OB/GYN. By this time my stomach had grown dramatically, pain and fatigue were constant, and I was beginning to waddle. We had to wait a week for the referral and another two weeks for that appointment. Much crabbiness ensued, but we finally made it.
The OB/GYN doc’s reaction to my belly was even more entertaining (mind you, I had grown pretty immense since the primary doc visit and looked about seven months pregnant). She turned to the nurse and said, “I’ve never seen one like this.” The nurse said, “Me neither!” The big fibroid, which I had by this point named Fizzgig, measured 26 cm. He appeared to have quite a few minions, some of which rivaled him in size. I had told the doc the whole works had to come out pronto, and she wholeheartedly agreed with me, so we began the testing procedures to get that show on the road. Hysterectomy, here we come! And then…
The tests had been Wednesday and Thursday. We had another appointment the following Tuesday to get those wrapped up and the surgery scheduled. Friday afternoon, I was curled up with my tablet researching hysterectomy procedures when the phone rang. It was the OB/GYN doc! Not her nurse, but her. I thought, “Uh-oh.” She called on her cell from the hospital because the tests had come back and we had, to put it mildly, an unexpected complication. I was pregnant. She needed me to come right in to the hospital for an ultrasound and blood test to see how far along we were.
I hung up and immediately called Brian, who was working out of town that day. He was calm, steady, and perfect, leaving right then to come meet me at the hospital. I, however, was having a museum-quality meltdown. As far as I knew, I’d been infertile all my life, so possible pregnancy never entered my mind while all this swelly tiredy painy insanity was going on. Freaking out wasn’t going to help, though, so I pulled it together and drove the 45 minutes to the hospital my doc uses.
That drive was surreal. My brain was split between putting together all the pieces that I’d missed (fatigue, boobs, eating like a mastodon) and planning to move to a better house somewhere with really good schools for this kid. Total panic had transmuted into a general sense of “what the crap?!” by the time I hit the parking lot. It was an improvement. Being me, I ran to the bathroom before going to registration (hey, it had been almost an hour), and discovered a new problem. I had started to bleed.
The very nice ultrasound tech told me I had too many fibroids to count. They were inside, outside, even within the muscle wall. My uterus had been overrun. She had a hard time finding our little surprise hitchhiker in all that mess, but find it she did. I still have the picture. We were at twelve weeks, five days. I told the tech about the bleeding, which I knew didn’t bode well. She replied that I was very high risk and sent me off for a blood draw. That was it until the follow-up on Tuesday.
Brian met me at the hospital and drove us home. He wasn’t as surprised as I was because he had seen the signs and mentioned the possibility, but hadn’t pushed the issue. We speculated about what had happened. Maybe the exercise and improved diet over the previous six months had managed to equalize my hormone production, opening the door. I think this is the case, but we’ll never know for sure. We were so proud of our kid for being able to implant in such an inhospitable environment at all, let alone actually grow for over three months. What a badass bun, taking over a faulty oven like that. Given those circumstances, we decided to dub the baby Bunzilla until we knew which gender we were expecting. Even terrified, I began to feel weirdly happy.
However, I had been hurting more and more as the day went on. By the time we got home I couldn’t even sit up straight due to gargantuan cramps and energy drain. Thus began the most awful days of my life to date. The pain was horrendous, only made worse by knowing what was happening. The doc said that we never would have made it to term; Fizzgig and his army of resource-sucking invaders were taking up too much room. Making it as far as we did was a bit of a miracle, but there was nothing anyone could do. We lost our baby the third week of April.
The loss only cemented my conviction to go ahead with the surgery, which we scheduled for mid-May. Aside from the varied and dire health risks of another pregnancy, I did not want us to go through that again. The invaders were still there and would just expand to crowd out the next bun. No. I was so angry at my uterus for being a treacherous, defective jerk that I wanted to personally punt it into the incinerator after surgery. By this point I couldn’t stay up long enough to work and couldn’t walk for more than a few minutes at a time. My entire life was on hold.
Most of my focus from then on was getting to other side of surgery and recovering. My brain wasn’t letting me think much about the loss and I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. I still hate talking about it because it makes me cry, which pisses me off, and then we’re right back where we started. Defense mechanism, I guess. It was like this:
Emotions: “Hey, we should deal with this.”
Brain: “Get away from her, you bitch!”
Me: “I totally can’t hear you guys and am focusing elsewhere.”
Eventually, the lot of us made it to Surgery Day. Brian, who had heroically gone to every appointment with me, drove us to the hospital for check-in on a Friday morning. I was nervous and a little excited knowing we wouldn’t be blindsided again and that the monthly hells of the last 32 years were about to end. Also, the last few weeks had given the invaders time to shrink, so we were looking at a smaller horizontal incision instead of a vertical chainsaw scar going up my entire torso. Bonus.
The surgery went very well and the hospital was great other than the staff forgetting to tell Brian when I was in my room, which forced him to go hunting for me. The nurses were all very sweet and kept telling me I was “itty bitty” (not gonna lie, I got a kick out of that). This was the first time I’ve been in the hospital since I was ten, so it was an interesting experience. Lessons learned: morphine doesn’t work so great and makes me itch, Zofran is amazing, and cafeteria cheeseburgers taste really good when you haven’t eaten in 32 hours. Also, Cream of Wheat is still grossbuckets.
The doc cruised by Saturday to tell us that the treacherous uterus weighted 700 grams and was utterly enormous. For perspective, normal uteri weigh between 30 and 70 grams. Yeah. Even my fibroids had fibroids. Everything else looked great, though. Due to following all directions and walking when allowed, I got to go home Sunday morning, which was three days ahead of schedule. Being held together by superglue made me slightly twitchy, but getting to sleep in my own bed and really be on the road to recovery felt fantastic.
I can’t say enough about how wonderful Brian has been over the past few months. He was there when I needed him, taking care of me and everything else, making sure I had no extra crap to worry about. He went to every appointment, stayed at the hospital with me, cooked (best mac and cheese on the planet), cleaned, and built me the most gorgeous garden in town to sit in during recovery. He walks with me every day and is the most patient, supportive coach for getting back into the exercise routines. When I tell you he’s my hero, I am not kidding. While this is just as hard on him, he’s had the strength to carry both of us. He is the absolute best and I’m more aware now than ever how lucky I am to have found him.
Recovery has been pretty textbook. No major complications have cropped up, so we’ve only dealt with the usual cases of super-tireds and weird aches. Sadly, my appetite did not diminish. I’ve had a few hormone trips to Crazytown giving me insomnia, but nothing major, and those are just because my ovaries are like, “Hurr durr, we forgot how to ove.” It’s getting better.
Physically, I improve every day and have kept exercising as much as possible. Regaining my strength is the new focus, and it helps me deal with the grief. My brain has started letting me think about everything and it’s hard not to get mad at myself for missing the signs of pregnancy. Knowing sooner wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but we would’ve had more time to enjoy Bunzilla.
Honestly, we had never planned or wanted to have kids. As far as we knew it wasn’t in the cards for us, but our perspectives changed when this happened and we keenly feel the loss of this one. I really feel like we were thrown into a soul forge and came out utterly changed: heartbroken, definitely, but a thousand times stronger. We’re grateful for the brief opportunity we had to be parents and the knowledge of what might have been.
So, that’s what's up. Soon I’ll be back to boring you with talk of weight routines and the macronutrient profiles of my chili recipe. This post just needed to happen.