Sunday, June 24, 2012

Healing with women

For a stay-at-home housewife/mother, solitude can become a problem.  Of course we are surrounded (constantly, even in the bathroom) by the love and laughter of our children, but actual face-to-face grown up contact is a rarity.  At least it is for me.  My husband works two jobs back to back, and we only have one car.  There is very little adult face time in my everyday life.  The sense of cabin fever, and loneliness can sometimes become a very heavy feeling.

Add in a pile of family crises, and it becomes overwhelming.  To say that things have been chaotic for us of late would be a gross understatement.  If there is bad karma to be received, we are receiving it.  People have been sick.  People have died.  People have disappeared.  People have undergone major surgeries, or have major surgeries pending.  This has been a very, very strange couple of months.

Thankfully, and completely out of character, my husband and I have maintained.  The stress has not (yet) caused me to experience a toddler-grade meltdown, and he and I have managed not to take it out on each other.  In fact, he has been incredible.  And I believe that the composure between the two of us has helped make things seem a little easier.
What?  Behaving like reasonable, mature people who respect and love each other, makes stresses easier to handle?  Who knew?

So we're slow learners.  Being grown up is hard.

As wonderful and supportive as he has been, it still doesn't take the place of the support of a friend, immediately outside of your circle.  A person who loves, but is not "required" to love you.  A person who is there for you strictly of his or her own choosing,  and not because there is a marital, or a familial obligation to do so.  There is great strength in knowing that someone chooses to support you in a crisis, simply because they love you, and nothing more.

As a woman, there is sometimes nothing that can equal the support and laughter of other women.  A circle of ladies, sharing of themselves, and helping a person to feel supported, surrounded, and loved.  A coven of women, sharing their laughter and their sorrows, without judgement, and in kind, accepting yours.

My family received some strange and terribly sad news this week, and consequently there has been a chalky fog in my house, as we decide how to process this news.  The feeling of being swamped in isolation became nearly overwhelming as a result.  I wanted to hide, to sulk, to mope.

But, rather than canceling plans that were set into motion a month ago, I kept them.  And I filled my house with lovely women, old friends and new, and they brought with them their healing laughter, and unspoken support.  We shared wine and food, swear words and talk of aging bodies, husband and boyfriend stories, our woes and triumphs of parenting and marriage, and they refreshed me.  I am grateful.

I find it fascinating, the energy between women.

There is such relief and comfort in hearing another woman talk about a struggle or a burden that you're facing yourself.  There is power in knowing that we share the same struggles.  With our children.  Our husbands.  Our bodies.  It's soothing to know that we are not alone, even when we are certain that's the case.

It is entirely too easy for me to make a habit of staying isolated.  Socializing begins to take on a frightening form, and so I allow myself to withdraw from it, which creates a sort of vicious cycle, leaving me lonely, and socially hungry.  I am grateful to this recent circle of women, who came to pull me from the fog with their laughter.  I am grateful to myself for accepting their healing presence.  I am eager for the next gathering of women, and food, and wine.

I will embrace it as medicine.

The woman-strength thing.  Not the wine thing.
Although the wine was nice, too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Feminine gore, and gratuitous use of the word "vagina."

Something's on my mind, and I want to talk about it.  It's girl-stuff related, and I don't know how in-depth and gory I will want to get, so just be forewarned that I will probably write about vagina things, and all that entails.  So you should read at your own risk.  And if you're my dad, or an easily grossed-out cousin or something, you should skip it.  Because I have a vagina.  And I'm about to talk about it.

When we're young girls, approaching adolescence, getting our periods sounds like the coolest thing in the universe.  All those mysterious products reserved only for women.  And only for women of a certain age.  Pads and tampons and special washes and all sorts of fantastic and mystical's like joining an awesome club, and getting a bag full of kickass party favors.  We can't wait.
And then it happens, and it's still pretty cool, I suppose.  For a while.  And then we start realizing that this monthly bleeding shit comes with cramping and depression and stained clothes and ruined swimming trips...and we start realizing that we're going to do this every month for the next forty years...and the "new" starts to wear off.  And then we're pretty pissed.
For me, it was days on end, lying in bed, doubled over in pain, and eating ibuprofen straight from the bottle like Smartees.  For me it was a thousand pairs of adorable underpants, tossed in the garbage (ok...eventually tossed in the garbage).  For me it was month after month of emotional outbursts, and irrational depression, and hoping against hope that it would all just go away.  "Menopause is going to be THA BEST EVAR."

And then, resignation.  We finally accept that this is reality, this is nature, this is womanhood.
And something else begins to take place.  We begin to finally see our places within the life cycle, and all of this somehow becomes
ok.  We are able to accept the bleeding, accept the pain, accept the emotional imbalance, and know that this happens because it must.  Because nature needs this of us.  Nature asks this of us.  And so we do it.  Some of us even become thankful for it.

Of course, that's just my take on the situation.  That's how I felt as I navigated menstruation, and I assume that, at least on some level, it is similar for most women.

I became familiar with the idea of my cycle.  I became familiar with the idea that I would experience this grand and powerful thing monthly, and that eventually I would graduate into another mysterious club, for those women who have "survived" menses, and had moved up to the next level of womanly maturity.  I became familiar with the idea that menopause was my next step, and that I would go there when my body, and nature, were ready for me to do so.  I would receive my period-diploma in the form of hot-flashes, mood swings, and finally the secession of my menstrual cycle.  

For the last year, give or take, I have found myself deep within the appreciative stages of my cycles.  I celebrated what it meant to house a uterus.  I celebrated the children I had created inside of me.  I appreciated my body for the marvelous machine it is, blood, cramps, and all.  I began treating myself with love and tenderness during my moontime, taking care to give my body what it needed.  I sewed beautiful cloths for myself, and stopped using toxic bleached cotton to collect my menstruation.  I felt earthy, crunchy, and damn satisfied with myself.

My uterus.  She is a chicken.  
And then things got...weird.
Things got painful.
Things got lumpy.
Things got...too bloody.
Becoming "in-tune" with my body gave me knowledge enough to know that something wasn't right in there.  I took my painful, bloody and lumpy self to the gynecologist (who I had not seen since she delivered my now seven-year-old daughter.  Oops.)

She pressed my belly.   She poked my uterus.  She sent me for ultrasounds.  She sent me for blood tests.  She patted my hand and told me not to worry, that she would find out what was troubling me.  I resisted the urge to cry in her arms, and went home to worry instead.

She found that I am free of cancer.  Which is an immediate relief.  She found that what ails me is not necessarily dangerous, nor will it become immediately dangerous.
This is good news.

What is not good news is that the "cure" for this series of shitty events, for these lumpy bits of fuck that have invaded my body, is not really a "cure" at all.

It's a hysterectomy.

It's the removal of this beautiful organ, whose value I have only begun to appreciate.  The removal of this beautiful organ, that gave life to my children.  The removal of the organ that has reminded me monthly for two decades that I am woman, I am powerful.

The removal of my femininity.

This is not true.  Femininity does not come from a uterus.  I know this.  Lovely women in my life are without their  Women who have had surgeries to remove them.  Women who were born male, and identify mentally as female.  Young women and old women.  Lovely, beautiful women, who live their lives without that part of themselves.  They are feminine.  Without their wombs.

But I am struggling.

The gore, and the specifics:

I could have an ablation, which is essentially the removal of the lining of the uterus.  This is a temporary fix, however, and I would likely experience symptoms again within a few months, and have to have the hysterectomy anyhow.

I will be able to keep both ovaries, which should prevent menopause, and any hormonal horror-shows that tend to occur with a "complete" hysterectomy.

I will also be able to keep my cervix, which as I understand it, is something for which I (and anyone having sex with me) should be grateful.

The surgery will be performed with a DaVinci robot something-or-other, which enables the Dr. to make just a few small incisions, and operate remotely.  Like fucking Nintendo.
Which is cool, I guess.  It means they don't have to slice me open like a science-class frog, and yank my organs out with their bare hands.  I like that.  And I like Nintendo.  I'm good at Nintendo.  But no matter how many times I have rescued the princess, there is always that one time where I fuck up, somehow, and die.  There is always that one time where my brain says "jump" and my finger on the B-button says "lol, no," and I kill defenseless little Mario just inches away from victory.  The idea of my organ extraction resting on the video game skills of my surgeon is slightly horrifying.

And, because the incisions for this procedure are so tiny, my over-sized, tumorous uterus won't fit thru them.  The method of extraction then becomes horrifying.  The only way to get the severed uterus, and her tumorous friends out of me, is to grab it with what is essentially a tiny meat grinder, chop it up into bite-size bits, and pull it thru one of the incisions.
To treat such an incredible organ in this manner, is one of the main reasons I am hesitant to do this.  My babies came from there.  Because of this part of me, I have two sweet children, who lived inside of me, thrived inside of me, safe and surrounded by the comfort and warmth of my precious uterus.  And now, because it's being an asshole, I am going to sever it from my body, grind it into sausage links, and yank it out of me to be tossed into the medical waste bin with some guy's cancerous testicle, and some vain woman's liposuction refuse?  Now who's the asshole?

Babies are no longer a possibility for me.  After our daughter was born, I had the baby factory medically disabled, and we went about our merry way as a family of four.  So I realize that there was never the possibility of making a new one.  But my uterus was there, intact, and still reminding me monthly that it was there, keeping me female, and waiting patiently for its retirement.  I settled on that.  Me and my uterus were comfortable with that.

And now it has to go.  My expectations of twenty more years of monthly girl-dom have been shaken.
And my irrational fears have begun to take hold.

What if the Dr. misses, and stabs my intestines with her robot machine?
What if there's an earthquake while those things are inside me, and I'm razored to death from inside?
What if not having a uterus somehow magnifies my depression tenfold, and I end up a raving, bawling lunatic?
What if I am never able to enjoy orgasms again?
What if my vagina emerges from this surgery as a useless, dry cavern, and every sexual partner from now until forever decides, "uh, no thanks"?
What if I experience a severe escalation in migraines because of this?
What if I gain another fifty pounds, and become dependent on one of those Wal-Mart obesity scooters to get around my house?

What if my precious husband, whom I adore beyond measure, suddenly decides I am damaged, and unattractive without all my important parts, packs his bags, and abandons me without so much as a backward glance.
No, thanks.  I'd rather...anything else.  


The fear and the grief are normal.  I know, because I have searched every weird corner of the internet, looking for women who have felt likewise.  They all seem to have grieved, in one way or another.  And I am an asshole.  I have children.  I have a choice, and I don't have to decide immediately because cancer is eating my body.  I have time.  I have the ability to wait, if need be.  Until my body decides to forcibly expel this organ itself, or until I'm hospitalized for anemia, I can keep my decision on hold.  Some women are not so fortunate.  Some women are stranded, childless and cancerous, saddled to a decision that nature makes for them...hysterectomy or death.  I am fortunate.  Well, relatively speaking.

But there is fear, and there is grief.  If it makes me an asshole, then I'm an asshole.  I am afraid.  I am sad.

I like my uterus.  I like being a woman.  I even like having a period.  Ok, so if you ask me that while I am in the throes of brutal cramping and bloody vaginal gore, I will probably give you a different response.  But for now, in the twilight of my time with my uterus, I like having a period.  Losing it makes me sad.  Losing it in such a brutal, disrespectful manner makes me sad.

And now, this, because it made me lol...

My uterus.  She is a comedian.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I'm grumpy.

Trees: Ohai guys! Listen, we are going to give you lovely fruits, flowers, and beautiful foliage! You can eat from us, you can seek shade under us, and you can enjoy all the sweet creatures who will make homes in our branches. We're also going to give you life-sustaining oxygen, because, let's be honest, we both know you can't live without it. We don't even want anything in return! How'bout it?

Us: LOL no thx we're just going to cut you down and make paper out of you, to smear on our asses after we shit. 

Conclusion. Trees are better people than people.