I find it funny that I created this blog to unplug and I did just that. I haven’t written a post in almost a year. So much has happened since last January. My mother came to visit us and about a month later our life changed as we knew it. We discovered we were expecting! We now are the parents to our beautiful Olivia Grace and are having so much fun seeing her grow and take in the world.
The purpose of this post, is to express what I’ve learned since March of 2014. This will be a long one, so if you don’t have a lot free-time, here’s the gist: Fibroid, tears, shots, surgery, and….the end. Wait…No, not the end. Actually, you’ll have to keep reading to find this out… 😉
I don’t know about you, but I imaging you are much like me in that you get excited when you have gained a little wisdom in this confusing world. And, as hard as it is, sometimes, the wisdom comes from traveling a rough and difficult road. Our difficult road began in March of 2014. I know there are many couples in the world that have been through the struggles of trying to start a family. I have empathy for what you are going through. For me, It was a time of hopeless thoughts, acceptance of a future that could be (that I didn’t ever envision), and a time of much uncertainty and tears.
I have to back up to one year previously to tell the whole story, in hopes that this will encourage someone else who experience some of the same symptoms. We had just moved to Durango and I needed more birth-control pills. I had to see an OBGYN to be subscribed these pills, so I scheduled my appointment with a nurse practitioner at a local women’s health clinic. During my exam, she asked me “are you sure you aren’t pregnant?”. I wasn’t. She told me that my uterus was very large and up to my belly-button. She responded to this fact by re-assuring me that most likely I just had a large uterus because I was taller than most women. I went out to the car and called my husband and told him what had happened. We both thought it was odd but didn’t really give it a second thought.
9 months later we decided to stop birth-control and begin trying to start a family. All the while I was running and losing weight. But, we weren’t getting pregnant. A few weeks prior to my 30th birthday, I was taking a bath and noticed that I had a bulge in my abdomen. At first glance, I thought it was nothing and just a new part of my body I hadn’t seen for awhile. I had gotten into trail running and had lost 30 pounds. I went to my husband and showed him this bulge and he wasn’t too worried either.
A few weeks late, I went to the same nurse practitioner who worked for a women’s health office now. It was time for my yearly exam and I also wanted her to look at said bulge. I had to be persistent and remind her to examine my abdomen. She did an internal exam and said I definitely had a growth of some kind in my uterus. She ordered an ultra-sound at the hospital within the next few days. I left this appointment feeling worried and scared. I think the first thought upon hearing you have a growth is cancer. Growth=cancer. Now, I know this isn’t always the case.
A few days later, with a very full bladder, I had my ultra-sound. I knew something was going to be found, but I was hoping for the best. The tech couldn’t say much, but with some prying I was able to find out she thought I had “many fibroid growths” in my uterus. I began to cry. I felt very lost and confused. How did this happen? What had I done wrong to cause these to inhabit my most prized organ, at this time in my life at least.
A week or so later, we met with a new OBGYN Doctor. She informed me that the results were inconclusive but she did know she wasn’t going to be able to help me. She expressed that there was too much fibroid tissue to remove (she didn’t know if there were many or just one) and she would have to do a hysterectomy if she operated on me. She referred us to an infertility specialist in Albuquereque, NM.
We went to see him in the coming weeks. He did a hysteroscopy and determined I had one very large fibroid within my uterus that was taking up the entire space. We named him “Bob”. He was as large as a 5 month pregnancy and there was no room for a fertilized egg to implant. He was the reason for heavy periods and frequent urination since I was in middle school. Surgery would be the only way to remove him and there was a chance it could end in a hysterectomy. Although, Dr. Thompson had been performing these surgeries 2 times a week for at least 30 years. He was our best shot.
Driving back to Durango, we called our family to tell them what we had found out. Being naturally minded, we hadn’t pushed away the idea of trying home remedies to shrink Bob. We came to the realization of how large it was and no natural remedy would shrink it enough to allow for pregnancy. And…even if it did, it would take many many years. I was 30 and my husband was 34, we knew we didn’t have 5 years to spare. Surgery was in the cards now and we had to trust this Dr. to lead us to the next step in our journey.
After determining the size, my Doctor recommended taking Depo Lupron to put me into temporary menopause with the hope of shrinking the tumor for easier removal. I was apprehensive because everything I read online led me to believe this shot was all-things bad and could have long-term side-effects like horrible pain at the injection site and various other fear-inducing side-effects. I even had friends tell me to not take the shot. My husband and I had to make the tough decision to go forward and hope our end result would be worth the possible negative effects.
Through this process, there were lots of conversations involving realizations and acceptance. I recall sitting in our parking lot talking with my husband about our news. As I looked out at the trees that surround our home, I remember thinking, “Ok, I can handle this, I guess I would be just as happy adopting a child; If that is what God wants for us and me; I can do that.” But, truthfully, I dreamt of what our child would look like and what it would be like to carry him or her. I anticipated the day our baby would enter the world and trying my hand at breastfeeding. This one life, this one chance to see a child of your own that has my nose or eyes, my husbands kind heart, his long eye-lashes, learning and growing in the world.
In hopes for a miracle, for three months, leading up to my surgery date: August 20th, 2014, I received a shot in my toosh, (that, without insurance, would have cost $1,000). The many nights of sleeplessness from hot-flashes and various mood-swings didn’t always seem worth it. I was angry at people (no estrogen) and was taking each day as it came. I continued to run and eat fruits and vegetable. I cut out sugar and caffeine because I had read that caffeine and sugar fed tumors. It was my full focus. I was determined to fight “bob” and give myself the best chance of removal.
Our family and friends tried their very best to be there for us in the ways they knew how to. I am grateful for all the support. I resisted the urge to keep my pain to myself and I asked for prayers. I think it was actually a sort of healing action for me, asking for support. I was released from carrying the burden privately and opened myself up to encouragement.
My husband and I experienced love and comfort. We also learned that people say things out of not know what to say, like “you’ll have a child, someday”, “I know God will bless you with a child”, “Everything will be OK”, “Just think positive, it will be alright”. But all these positive words didn’t change the many nights we sat in our room talking about how scared we were. All the “what-ifs” that flooded our mind. Still, I am grateful for their love and compassion.
I have since learned that people say these things to comfort themselves. Not because they are selfish, but the thought of the alternative is too much to for them to bear. Sitting there with you during your heart-ache is just too much. Seeing pain in the people we love strikes us to our core. Sitting there with them as they mourn is a very hard thing to do. We have to feel the hurt to truly be empathetic.
For example: I sat in a living room grieving with my husband and his family as they said goodbye to the matriarch of the family in June that year. The common consensus was “it will be okay”. Whether this is said at a funeral as you are in a line greeting the ones who loved the person you held dear or during some other tragedy in life. It is usually how we have learned to respond to tragedy. On the other hand, my mother-in-law somehow knew to tell my husband and I to prepare for not having children. I was so relieved someone had the courage to say out loud what I was thinking about each moment of every day.
My heart broke for him. I felt such self-pity and guilt for not being able to give him what he deserved. A child of his own. I felt an immense responsibility for what we were experiencing. This was a set of emotions I needed to process as well.
I have come to realize, it is ok to dread the worst. Forget being positive all the time. It’s not realistic. A person must grieve. A person must cry. In the end, even if it does work out okay, it is okay to think the worst, because, sometimes, the end result is heart-breaking. There isn’t always a happy ending and you leave the hospital mourning instead of rejoicing. It’s just the way it is.
The months passed and the morning of the surgery was upon me and my husband. I hadn’t slept at all the night before, I was worried beyond measure. Hoping for some comfort, I had read an entry from a book that was given to me, titled, “Jesus calling”. I don’t usually like religious books because they are so cheesy, but this one was different. The book had a daily reading and on August 20th, this is what was written:
I am a God who heals. I heal broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken lives, and broken relationships. My very Presence has immense healing powers. You cannot live close to Me without experiencing some degree of healing. However, it is also true that you have not because you ask not. You receive the healing that flows naturally from My Presence, whether you seek it or not. But there is more-much more-available to those who ask.
With a growling stomach, we loaded in the car towards a victory or a tragedy. Our future lay in the hands of a man God had led us to. All our trust was in this person’s ability.
We sat in the pre-surgery room. I was hooked up to an IV and given a “margarita” to ease the anxiety. The “REAL” stuff would put me out so quick I wouldn’t even see it coming. If you are anticipating surgery and anesthesia, be comforted in this. You won’t remember a thing. My husband found some clips of FRIENDS on youtube and we sat there laughing. He was so strong and kept me very calm; or was it the mangarita? Anyways, the time came to go into surgery. All I remember is being wheeled into the room, seeing all these people with masks on and… OUT.
My patient and loving husband and my strong beyond measure mother-in-law sat in the waiting room for 3 hours. My uterus was taken out of my body as I lay on an operating table. One clip and stitch at a time Dr. Thompson freed me from this appendage. The oncologist was present as well, just to make sure it wasn’t a cancerous tumor. Somehow, they were able to take a picture of the fibroid.
I know. Gross. Real Gross. This thing was IN ME?!?
I awoke in the recovery room and the first words that came out of my mouth (after asking for water), were “Did they save my uterus?”
Yes. The woman said this simple word and I was so grateful and FULL of joy. When they wheeled me into my hospital room, although very drowsy, I could see my husband and MIL waiting at the door and I waved to them with a smile on my face. I mean, I felt the smile. It is amazing that anesthesia can’t keep away true joy and happiness. I can only imagine what they were thinking. I am sure they had prepared for a very different outcome. It was a wonderful night. I slept for most of it, but still.
After 4 days in the hospital, we came home. I began to recover physically and we both began to process the emotions of the past 6 months. If it is true you can’t appreciate something until it is gone, that is the overwhelming message of this story. Yes, I didn’t lose the ability to have a child but I did have to accept that fate through the process. It was all out of my control.
I have seen other women’s stories expressed and I hurt for them. I hurt because they may or may not come out of the other side of this trial with a happy ending, or at least the ending they imagined. I hurt because I know that when they do get pregnant, they may still struggle to trust that everything with turn out good and that the day will come when they will hold their baby in their arms. I hurt, because they may miscarry and go through a whole new gamut of emotions. I hurt, because they may struggle to trust and know everything happens for a reason.
Realizing that I may not be a biological mother was a crisis in my life. It may not be for some, but it was for me. This crisis was a tangible reminder that despite my efforts, things could go down an unknown path which seemed almost too hard of a thought to bear. It is a real possibility for so many women and their spouses and I understand how powerless you can feel.
I walked out of the hospital a new person. Not because I was able to now try for a family, but because I had been through hell. My hell. I was still constipated and I was still scared. I was grateful; and yet, apprehensive. This may have a lot to do with my childhood, which is another topic for another post, but trust was certainly not easy. I now began the healing process, both physically and emotionally.
Months passed and emotions came to the surface. I joined a fibroid group and bonded with my fibroid sisters.
February 2015 came and my sweet husband and I discovered we were pregnant. We were both in disbelief. A few days later, I thought I was miscarrying. I began to bleed and my worst fear was coming true, I wouldn’t be able to sustain a pregnancy. I paced the floor and cried. I was desperate for an answer, so at the urging of one of my friends, I called the OBGYN’s office and the nurse told me to not assume I was miscarrying unless I was heavily cramping, which I wasn’t. I went in for an ultra-sound and thankfully the baby had a heart-beat. What a relief! Each day that passed and each day she grew I was able to attach to this miracle baby. I recall the day I began to allow myself to love her. Not long after we saw our sweet girl on the ultra-sound at 20 weeks, I was sitting at the table and I felt her kick. I felt so much love for this little life within me.
The months passed and with each ultra-sound, I became less and less anxious. This was really happening! I was going to be a mother, we were going to be parents. We were given a gift. We surely didn’t deserve it.
On September 22nd, 2015, our sweet Olivia was born. The love that overwhelmed me when I saw her for the first time was so powerful it hurt. Hearing her cry was the most perfect sound. She was perfect. She had brown hair, her daddies cheeks and my lips. She was born 3 weeks early so I wouldn’t have contractions, so coincidently, she struggled with breathing a bit and went from her birth weight of 6 lbs 14 oz down to 6 lbs. But, she was very healthy and had a set of lungs on her.
We tried breastfeeding for 5 weeks and she did very well. In the end, it didn’t work out, but she is healthy and growing all the same. The first 6 weeks of her life was very hard. I lived in fear of losing her. I think this is because of the anxiety I have had most of my life which was exasperated by the fibroid. I reminded myself continually that the anxiety would get better, in time. As I knew from my past, anxiety usually meant I had unresolved emotions to process.
Each day as I change Olivia’s poopy diapers and she cries for no apparent reason, I am in awe. I am so grateful to be her mommy. I can’t imagine a world without Olivia Grace, the girl who has lungs that would make an opera singer jealous. The girl who couldn’t handle at least 5 different formulas and now smells like soured goats milk because of her spit-up. The sweetie who amazes everyone who sees her, especially when they realize she is the result of a very long journey. Going through everything has helped me to appreciate life in a new way. And, although I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through it, I wouldn’t change anything about the past year and a half. It really has been the best chapter of my life.
Now, on to the next chapter. I think it will be titled, “Tired, fat and happy: life with Olivia”.
I wish each person out in cyber-land the very best. And, please, tell your story. It isn’t shameful and it may just be the one thing someone needs to hear to get through their trial. And remember, Love. It really does open you heart and allow you to heal. Let it come. It will show itself when you least expect it. And the joy will wash over you.