From my teens through most of my 30s, my absolute worst recurrent nightmare was that I was pregnant. Even if in my waking life it would have at times been a physical impossibility, the terror at the sense that my life would no longer be “my own” always seemed so real. I had too many things I wanted to do, places to travel, other countries to live in, and a kid would just have gotten in the way of all that. I would wake up horrified and feel the sweetest relief to know that it was just a dream.
Long after my sister and other friends had their kids, when I was around age 37 or so, I was surprised to begin to feel that if it was still possible, I would like to try to have a child and experience that part of what it is to be human. But because of a condition called fibroids, I could not.
In case you’re not familiar, fibroids are benign tumors that can grow inside, or under the lining of, the uterus. They are fairly common in women in their 30s and 40s and tend to be hereditary. They also can grow pretty big – up to the size of a cantaloupe or bigger in some women. Mine didn’t get as big as that, but I had a lot, the biggest of which were about the size of a tangerine and a ping-pong ball. They began to distort my lower belly and I could feel them through my skin if I pressed them. If I happened to be wearing anything remotely body-skimming, people on the subway would offer me a seat, thinking I was in early pregnancy – the irony!
I had shockingly heavy monthly menstrual bleeding that caused serious iron-deficiency anemia, which explained more frequent leg cramps at night, a weird craving for crunchy salt crystals, and a new shortness of breath climbing even a small flight of stairs. As the fibroids continued to grow, exerting pressure on my bladder, I had to pee a lot more frequently. To top it all off, they affected my fertility, disrupting the lining of my uterus, creating a rough zigzaggedy texture to the point where implantation could not occur. Despite having been off birth control pills for at least 6 years, I hadn’t able to get pregnant, and I finally would have liked to (though I’m thanking the lord I didn’t get knocked up before I moved to NYC). When I again had the recurrent “pregnant dream,” for once the scenario didn’t seem so terrible, and when I woke up, the feeling I felt was the opposite of relief.
So last September, I underwent open surgery to have the fibroids removed from my uterus. Afterwards in what seemed to me to be a strange move at first, I was put on birth control pills for about 8 months in order for my body to heal – now I’m finally off those. My last ultrasound a few weeks ago revealed that any remaining fibroids that stayed with me after my surgery last fall are small enough that they won’t pose a problem for having a baby, so…
So I’ve allowed myself to begin to dream. I’m beginning to sound out names to myself, beginning to think about how we would fit a baby’s stuff into our apartment. I’m also panicking slightly at the thought of actually potentially getting pregnant, and about being required to give up the freedom and uninterrupted sleep I’m used to as a childless person once the baby’s born. Then there’s the concern that at 40, I’m really getting too old for this – I’d be at least 41 before I theoretically have a child at all. But then, two of my friends over 35 have gotten pregnant recently without even trying… so then I start the dreaming process again. All of this is such a uniquely human emotional dichotomy: waffling back and forth from being excited and hopeful for and yet dreading essentially the same thing (that may never even happen!) at the same time. I’m going through it, though, and gladly, because it is part of my life. My real, live, life, not just a dream.