My name is Jessica, and I'm not going to shut up anymore.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dear Pamela Beard: A letter to my lady parts

Just to avoid any confusion, "Pamela Beard" is my nickname for my uterus. I mean, guys name their man parts, right? Anyways...


Dear Pamela,

Hey girl. How are you? Just from how you've been acting around me lately, I'm gonna go ahead and imagine that you'll tell me things are "fine." But when you say "fine," I know that you mean things are not fine. I know you're not doing so well right now. It's okay to be honest. In fact, it's why I'm writing you.

Pam, I'm scared. I'm scared for you. I'm scared for us. I'm afraid that because we've both been sick lately, we'll find ourselves in a most precarious position. And by "precarious" I mean infertile. YES, I KNOW we've talked about this before, and you tell me not to worry! You tell me: "You can achieve your professional dreams and wait to have babies. You don't have to hinge your femininity upon your ability to procreate. If your fallopian tubes are too scarred in three years, you can always look at adoption. The world doesn't have to end here." But Pam, I'm worried. I'm worried that, while I obviously have dreams to become Dr. Knouse someday, I'm going to look back upon my life and ask "what if?" What if I wouldn't have waited to have babies? What if I wouldn't have had that abortion in college? What if I just said Fuck it and decided to take my Nuva Ring out tomorrow? Am I allowed to dream of having both titles of "Dr." and "Mom?" Or must I choose only one option.

Am I being an asshole by thinking I have the right to choose to gamble with my fertility? I know women who are struggling with becoming pregnant. I know amazing couples who want nothing more than to be parents, but still have challenges conceiving both with and without medical intervention. When issues like this arise, I think to myself: Am I wasting away my precious fertile years? Am I an asshole?

Pam, we're getting surgery soon. Perhaps within the next 2 weeks so that we can recover before our students come back for the fall semester. We're getting surgery--only 1 inscision this time!--and Dr. H says he'll check on the status of your health, our ovaries, and fallopian tubes. I was sure to express my concerns to Dr. H about fertility since you, me and the hubby will be thinking about this in the next two years, possibly three. I say "my concerns" because I know you're a lady of leisure; you've told me before that you don't mind not having a job and that baby-making is my decision, not yours. I appreciate your laid-back approach to this situation. It keeps me balanced, I think.
I should also tell you that we're getting the Mirena IUD, so be prepared to have a roommate for a while. I know you prefer to live alone, and have managed to successfully reside as neighbors to my Nuva Ring for the last year and a half. The Mirena will prevent pregnancy for up to three years, so you'll be living together for a while. But hey, "Mirena" seems like a nice name. I hope you gals can become great friends!
I have to mention this--just so you're aware--that if Dr. H looks up inside of us and thinks that we look like a "mess," then he'll let us know that we should think about family planning sooner than later. Your "lady of leisure" days will be numbered. I just thought I'd give you a heads-up about that--you know--because we're besties.

Oh, Pamela. I'm scared. What if it is a mess in there? Or what if nothing is wrong? Then what? Am I crazy? Is the ridiculous pain, nausea, bloating, fatigue and discomfort all just in my head? I hate that I have to ask these questions, but I do. After all the shit I went through last year, I still question myself constantly. I know this isn't healthy, but what else can I do? I had doctor after doctor tell me that I had "nerve entrapment," or a "bad back," or "Irritable Bowel Syndrome." That "we'll treat you for endometriosis," but at the end of the day no one really knew what was wrong with me. Then we met Dr. H. I know this might sound silly, but I don't want to let him down; I want to get better, but I also want him to find endometriosis in this surgery. I don't want him, the best doctor I've ever come to know, to think I'm crazy, too.

By the way, I hope that (between you and me) this next surgery works. I'm so incredibly tired of being in pain. I'm tired of looking at my "Leave Balance" at work and fretting that I don't have enough time to take-off to have surgery. I hate that I might miss out on this up-coming conference because, well, what if my surgery falls upon the date of the conference? Sure, I can probably get a refund. I can re-book my flight. I can look for other professional development opportunities out there. In the big picture, it's not that big of a deal. But if I want to be honest, I'm sick of being scared to make plans. Again. This was the life I lead last year--it's not supposed to happen again. This year.

Pamela, if you don't know this already, I should tell you that endometriosis never truly goes away. There is no cure. Research suggests that pregnancy may have a greater chance of lessening growth, and only in some cases, it may not return after a woman is pregnant. But not all endometrial cells are created equally. Like cancer, endometriosis cells can regenerate "mildly, moderately or aggressively." Thus, even if we did get pregnant, there are no guarantees that this will stop our pain. We might have to get a hysterectomy some day. Possibly in our 30s if we do have babies within the next 5 years. (I know you don't want to think about it! It would mean we'd be breaking up for good--for life. Don't worry; it's not a decision that I'll make lightly, and I'll be sure to consult with you first.) It's not something to dwell on, but it's something to think about. I mean, the more I talk about this to women, the more I find that so many women have had a hysterectomy or some form of laparoscopic excision/surgery. It's nuts! On the surface, I feel so alone, but once you begin to dig a little deeper--once you begin to peel away the shame of having "lady part problems"--I find that I'm not so alone. There are many women out there in our situation. We have to remember that. Always.

I know you may not be able to write back right away, but if you can, please tell me that I'm not crazy. Please tell me that I'm not an asshole. Please tell me that I need to relax and wait until our surgery is complete so we know our next step. Please tell me that I am lucky to have support systems--husband, family and friends--who support me and want me to recover, to be "okay." Please tell me that sometimes the greatest thing we can do as humans is to "let go" to the feeling that we have to maintain control over everything in our lives. Please tell me to let go. To have hope. To understand the meaning of grace. And in the meantime, to get some damn sleep.

Thanks for listening, Pamela.

Your friend,

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