First, in response to numerous and repeated comments about how I never put pictures of myself in this space, I give you my favorite portrait of recent years (even without make-up!), taken by Bella in a hotel room in Nashville a couple of weeks ago.I like it because it's just out-of-focus enough to lend a softening effect, and also because, since I didn't expect her to actually snap anything for real at that moment, I wasn't making any of my myriad extremely-self-conscious photo-op faces, but rather just looking at my daughter like I tend to look at her about 95% of the time. Do you see the unadulterated,wondering adoration displayed there? I'm hoping to have that under control before she's old enough to use it against me.
So, onward. The state of my health is that my uterus is full of fibroids and polyps once again, and judging from the level of pain I'm experiencing, the endometriosis is raging anew, and gaining ground all the time. The only good news here is that a pelvic CAT-Scan did not reveal any abdominal masses, such as endometrial tumors like the one that nearly killed me back in 2000. So while I'm not currently under immediate threat of death-by-perforated-bowel, hope of restoring my reproductive organs to any kind of working order is slim to none, and as long as they are left intact, they will, indeed, hasten and encourage the growth of endometriosis.
The surgeon is reviewing the tapes of my previous surgery (Yup, I have video with surgeon's narration), and evaluating the possibility of incorporating a surgical microscope in a similar way to what is done in the "good" surgery. It appears that even now, 6 years later, there are still only 5 states in the nation where women have the option of surgical excision of endometriosis to a microscopic clearance: Georgia, Louisiana, California, New York, and Illinois. What is sad and tragic is that this type of surgery is the ONLY thing which can offer any reasonably good outcome in removal of endometriosis. Without the micro-laser surgery, even something to drastic, so invasive and final, as a total hysterectomy, offers no assurance of ending the endometriosis (no matter what many, many uninformed doctors might still be telling you). Endometrial tissue simply is not always visible to the naked eye, and if ANY is left, it WILL grow.
Right now, I'm not even facing the They Probably Won't Even Be Able To GET It All angle, and am just trying my best to deal with, to cope with, to accept the I'm Going To Lose My Uterus And Ovary Forever angle. (Yeah, I said "ovary", singular. I only have the one, but it's the one that gave me Bella, so I'm a bit attached to it.)
I have to admit that all signs indicate that no more children are in the cards for Alex and me. We've been trying to conceive for a while now, which has resulted in only one all-too-brief, pregnancy, which was prematurely ended in miscarriage in December of 2004 (that year will really go down in my personal history as one of the worst of my life). Nothing since then. There's that.
Then there's the endometriosis. I knew, after the last surgery, the "good" surgery with Dr. Cook that, if I did not stay on continuous birth control pills or some similar form of hormone therapy, The Beast would be back. That's just its nature--you don't banish The Beast from the body of a woman whose reproductive organs are intact. The best you can do is hold it at bay with various artificial hormonal sleight-of-hand manuevers. And by not hiring the chair-weilding lion-tamer of continuous birth-control pills for the last 6 years, I've held the door wide open for The Beast, and fed it good food with plenty of growth hormones for the duration of its visit. (Geez--is overuse of metaphor a hormonal condition?)
I didn't start back on birth control pills after Bella was born, because I was a nursing mom. And claims of harmlessness to nursing babies aside, having been through the female-hormone-related nightmare that I have since puberty, there was just no way I was going to do ANYTHING that increased my daughter's chances of having to suffer the way I have. Because MY body? My body takes anything hormonal and just mlutiplies its power. You know how they tell you that if you exclusively breastfeed a baby, you won't have menstrual cycles for a while? Yeah? Well, hello! Mine started back up precisely 28 days after Bella was born, and heavens, was she ever exclusively breastfed--this child didn't start eating solid food until well into her eighth month. So, no continuous BCPs while she was nursing. Which she did until she was two and a half. I could have taken up the pills then.
But, you see (and I know you understand), I wanted another baby. SO desperately. (Still do, in fact, but we'll come back to that, I'm sure.) So we tried and tried and tried. We'd actually, by the time Bella was weaned, already been trying for at least 6 months, and had had our miscarriage. No joy. Looking back, I realize that my body was, even then, probably already overrun with endo, that happy fertility-killer. It just hadn't trumpeted its presence and marched in by the front door--it had crept and slithered and oozed in from the shadows, through underground entryways, until it had a good firm foothold, and then poured on the pain so there'd be no doubt.
So that's where we are now. I can't even really tell you where I am in this grieving process, because I run the gamut from accepting to outraged to bereft to a state of near-total denial. No more babies...ever. No chance, ever again, for the rest of my life, of ever having another child. Alex and Bella waited on me in the lobby of the specialist's office the other day during my consultation, and when I came out, Bella ran up to me, hugged my leg, and asked, "Mommy, did the doctor tell you you could have more babies?" I nearly lost it, and don't have any idea what she absorbed that gave her those clues, but it was like she just laid open my secret heart, where I wasn't even admitting to myself that I'd been hoping for...well, just that. That by some miracle the doctor would come out and tell me I could have more babies.
But no one is going to tell me that. IF I could afford to go see him, The Amazing Dr. Cook might be able to go in and clean everything up and give me another shot, but then again, maybe not this time. Probably not. My life as the mother of a baby is over, never to come again. Bella will live out her life without a sibling. All the baby things I've hung onto and treasured, hoping for a chance to pull them out and use them again with my "next one"...they can go. No more use for them here. I'm crying a lot, and imagine I will just about every time Bella innocently talks about wanting a baby brother or sister, or at any one of a vast number of emotional triggers.
This is a depth of self-pity and regret that I haven't quite experienced before, and it's bound up in so many odd, here-and-there emotions and memories and shattered dreams, that I don't know quite what to do with it. I would really love to hear from any of you who have experiences that relate to this in any way, especially in regard to coping mechanisms that help/helped you.
At the end of all this grief, though, I have no inclination but to remain eternally grateful for the gift that is my daughter. It's sometimes hard to remember that I wasn't even "supposed" to have her! Isabella Faith is our little miracle, and not a day goes by that I don't thank God for this most amazing blessing, far, far beyond what I ever could have deserved.
Point illustrated: This morning, I was awake early, just sitting in the middle of my bed and weeping. I just couldn't seem to stop, and every time I started to get it under control, something else would creep in--an "I really want another baby," and a "But Bella won't have any immediate family left after her father and I are gone," and even, like a thunderbolt from the blue, an "I WANT MY DADDY!" And the sobbing just went on and on until my head hurt, my stomach hurt, and I could hardly see straight. And then I heard it. The rapid thump thump thump thump thump thumpTHUMP THUMP of little bare feet on hardwood floors, getting closer and closer. My bedroom door was flung open, and there stood this perfect little angel--a vision of all thing bright and happy--who declared, "Mommy! The sun is up, and so is your DAUGHTER!!"
And then the smiles came.