In Stitches

Last week, I said good bye to all my junk. Not the plan-a-garage-sale, ask-the-kids-what-they-want-to-keep, cancel-the-garage-sale junk – my JUNK junk.

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I had a complete laparoscopic hysterectomy to remove my perfectly healthy but no longer useful uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix.

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In anticipation of a sad good-bye, planned for this space, I shot the above photo – the ultrasound pics of all my three bambs in utero, pics that adorn my bedroom wall. I had thought to speak of the straight-as-an-arrow, resolute strength in the spine of my oldest (top left), and the giggling playfulness of my centre child (top right), not to mention that my facing-it-head-on youngest appears to be baking up with the dog, who was not born until years later and certainly was not born of me (whatever quips the dullest among us might birth at that appearance). I had planned to be very sad because, while my other accomplishments in life have been far from negligible, being a mother to my own offspring was all that I truly aspired to and remains what matters most to me, in life.

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What a shock, then, to feel so elated, if a little sore, this week. Where’s the tug, the realization that I’ll never give birth again? [Well, that was back at menopause, a couple of years ago.] Where’s the lamentation for mortality? [Honestly, I’ve been singing that song since I was a teenager, so much less so now that I’m sure it’s a melody with no counterpoint.] One of my boys points out that it feels a bit weird that his first home is now gone, but even that fails to move me; have I become cold and heartless without my uterus? No way – most of his first home is actually still here, and most especially the bits that could feel him kicking or be stretched to the point of making a footprint on the outside: a visible-to-the-eye, grab-able-by-a-hand footprint on my belly skin.

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Being a mother isn’t like getting your CPR certification: you don’t have to keep becoming it to remain certified. I’m done giving birth and I remain a mother to three adults who know me well and love me. As exciting, character-building, and meaningful as the experience of conceiving and gestating a child is, I wasn’t going to be having any more. Moreover, the complexity, nuance, and character-building features of this unique love are emergent properties of time in relationship; not all attendant changes occur overnight, and having more babies doesn’t produce more of the effect (although it does provide more of the experience, and with different personalities). Rather, the effect evolves through living in relationship with the humans you’ve already made. The experience is ongoing.

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And this junk is dangerous. Anyone who has watched a parent go through multiple cancers and finally die of one knows what might be in store down the line. It feels so good to be proactive about some of these possibilities, and some of the most dangerous ones. We’ve all heard that ovarian cancer is often imperceptible until you’re nearly dead of it; uterine cancer is not much better. Annual screenings don’t include ultrasounds of these parts because it’s not cost-effective to provide them (I’ve read that it would take 500 scans to save one woman). But enough of that.

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Driving home with the dad of my two youngest – my mom and one of them in the back seat – I recalled and recounted the moments just before my surgery earlier in the day. As they wheeled me into the OR, with the morphine drip started, I peered keenly, one after another, into the faces that surrounded me. One particularly beautiful face made me feel calm and happy, and I told this nurse, “I love you.” Laughter jolted me away from that face and toward another, and another – “I love you all.”

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None of this was terribly surprising to the people in the car – they know I’m given to spontaneous expression of this sort, even without chemical inducements. But the operating suite had been abuzz with joyous laughter and repetitions of “She loves you! She loves us all!” My very young, competent, and smart surgeon was in stitches.

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Due to her skill with laparascopy, however, I am not.

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copyright gossamer universe 2017

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