In the fall of 2007, I had an abnormal PAP. Further testing indicated my cervix was covered with severe dysplasia. Abnormal cells. Pre-cancerous. My doctor recommended an immediate hysterectomy. I was concerned about the time I would have to miss from work…a job I had just gotten not quite a year before…and asked if there was another option. She told me we could try the Leep procedure, which, quite frankly, is barbaric. They take this kind of hot knife thing that burns through your tissue and cuts chunks out of your cervix in the area where they can see the abnormal cells. If they get “clean margins” (an area of normal cells around the edges of the tissue they remove), you don’t have to have any additional treatment. But if the margins are also filled with abnormal cells, the only option left is to have a hysterectomy. In my case, the Leep procedure didn’t work. The margins were not clear. The doctor wanted me to have the hysterectomy immediately because the cells were close to becoming cancerous. Immediately didn’t quite work for me. I put it off for a few months, mainly trying to get through the holidays and to a time that would be more convenient for friends who would be helping me out afterwards. But in February of 2008, a friend took me to the hospital early on the morning of the 27th and I was prepped for surgery. I expected her to drop me off. My aunt had come to stay with me for a few days, but being from out of town, I didn’t want her to have to drive me to the hospital in the dark. So my friend took me, and my aunt would pick me up the next day. However, this wonderful friend stayed during the actual surgery and was in my room every time I woke up during that first day. I was amazed. I was also touched. It was a more emotional experience than I had anticipated. Her being there meant a great deal to me.
You see, my room was on the 2nd floor. They had asked me before surgery if I would mind if they put me in a room on that floor and I had agreed to their request. I didn’t think it would matter. Didn’t think it would be a big deal. But as it turned out, it was harder than I thought. The 2nd floor is the maternity floor. I had never been in the maternity ward before. My first stay in this particular area of the hospital was to have all that baby-making equipment removed. And surprisingly, it hurt.
I was old enough by the time I made it to the maternity ward that no one should have supposed I was actually there to have a baby. But the little guy who wheeled me down to my aunt’s car upon my release said, “Just you? You’re not leaving with anyone?” And he sounded rather sad. I wanted to laugh…I mean, I WAS over 50. But I also wanted to cry. Just me. Not leaving with anyone. Never did that. Never had that experience. Never will.
It was mostly by choice…never having had a baby. I was so afraid of damaging a child. I read all about how abused people abuse people. I really didn’t believe I would abuse a child. In fact, I pretty much felt I would rather die than abuse an innocent little one. But I was concerned that the brokenness of my soul and all the things that were missing in me would create problems for the tiny little being should I actually decide to have a baby. So I didn’t. Have one. Sometimes that hurts a lot. Sometimes I feel good about the decision I made, believing I did the right thing by not taking the chance. Most of the time, it’s just a dull ache and the regret is bearable.
My stay on the 2nd floor was short. I was only in the hospital 30 hours total. The room they gave me was toward the end of the floor and there weren’t any others in my pod. I think they did that on purpose, so I wouldn’t be near the nursery or near the new mothers who had just given birth. I didn’t see a single other patient during my mandatory walks made after the hysterectomy. But I didn’t venture too far down the hall either. Mainly went in a circle around my pod. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to encounter a tiny new life, a beaming new mom, a proud new father.
Sometimes I think back on that experience and there is a wistfulness that comes over me. As much as I was willing to sacrifice to make sure I never hurt a child, might I have been a reasonably decent parent? Did I give up that dream too easily? Was it wisdom or overkill? Now that I am approaching old age and find myself totally alone, it would be comforting to know a little piece of me would live on in a child. It would be nice to think someone would be there to watch over me as the end approaches. Selfish thoughts. Just like wishing I had visited the 2nd floor when I was younger, for the “right” reasons, is selfish.
There is no rewind button. No going back. No do-overs. The choices we make become written in stone. The story of our life, once lived, can’t be rewritten or revised. What is done is done.
And so, my one and only stay on the maternity floor of the hospital was to recover from a hysterectomy. Highlighting everything I had lost. So much more than my ovaries, uterus and cervix. So much more.