My daughter will be crossing into that dreaded realm of teenagehood in less than a month. Like every parent, I’m dumbfounded at how fast these years have gone, hope that I’ve done everything I can to prepare her for these difficult years ahead, and wonder how long it will be before I consider eating my young.
If it’s good enough for burying beetles (which eat their own young to insure the “right ratio of mouths to food supply”), then it might just be good enough for me.
But seriously, it’s moments like earlier this week when my Sweetpea smooched my cheek on her way through the living room, unsolicited I might add, or when she still lets me tuck her into bed with Teddy and Smith, that I catch my breath with the wonder that she’s here at all.
And with good reason.
When I was a teenager, just a few years older than my girl will be in August, I experienced a nagging, stabbing pain in my left shoulder. I had no idea what was causing it—I hadn’t been injured or in an accident, and was an otherwise healthy, smartass teen. After a few months, my mom took me to our family doctor, Dr. Wayne Alberts. He looked me over, hanging around my lower abdomen while mostly giving my shoulder the cold shoulder.
He suggested I have an ultrasound. Not of my shoulder but of my lower abdomen. When I asked him why my belly when the pain was further up north, he explained that he suspected I was experiencing “referred pain”—pain that stabs you with hot pokers in one area of the body, but not the part that’s actually causing the pain.
The ultrasound showed I was carrying around what looked like a cantaloupe. He said I needed to go under the knife so they could take a trek through my belly to figure out what the holy melon was going on. He never said the ‘C’ word, but it floated in the air around my parents and me like a poisonous gas cloud (otherwise known as my brother’s farts).
Dr. Alberts knew the surgeon and asked if he could scrub in, just to observe; the surgeon agreed.
The surgery revealed a nasty infection that had spread throughout my reproductive organs. The cantaloupe we saw in the ultrasound was my enlarged, inflamed lady parts. Apparently I had contracted an STI from my first gentleman friend to punch my dance card. Other than the pain in my shoulder, I had no symptoms, so the infection had partied like it was 1999.
The surgeon’s recommendation: take out all my girl junk.
He predicted that I would never be able to have children so why would I possibly need my baby-making accoutrements.
Dr. Alberts had a different idea. He suggested that they close me up and treat the infection with some kick-ass intravenous antibiotics. He pointed out that there was no way to predict what sorts of medical advancements for the treatment of infertility may exist in the future. What would be the harm in leaving everything as-is?
The surgeon agreed.
I was in the hospital for a week. My veins were blown to hell from all the antibiotics, and I went home with a ten-inch scar and the knowledge that I had only a ten percent chance of ever making a baby in my Bates Motel of a uterus.
But what did I care? At the time, I just wanted to graduate from high school…and track down my STI-spreading boyfriend. Unless my dad beat me to the punch.
The race was on.
Years later I worked with a woman who had gone through fertility treatments for years, and saw what that tortuous process did to her mentally and physically.
In other words, it was a beatch working with her.
I decided that I would proactively make the decision not to have children before doctors told me I couldn’t. I never got pregnant with my first husband in the four years we were together, even though we didn’t do anything to stop a possible bambino from making an appearance in our crappy marriage.
That pretty much confirmed I was barren as a matinée of “Showgirls.”
We eventually divorced, and I remarried. My new husband and I had talked a lot about the closed sign on my uterus before we married. Our motto—“If it happens, it was meant to be.” But we were damn sure that we would never jump on the fertility treatment merry-go-round.
Five months after our wedding I was pregnant, with no clear explanation. Other than the obvious.
When I look at my girl, my baby who still occasionally crawls into my lap and asks me to rock her to sleep, I think about how grateful I am for Dr. Alberts’ surgical voyeurism and the questioning arch of his big bushy eyebrows.
So what about you? Have you had any near-misses, things that almost weren’t if not for a certain wringing of the wet towel of Fate? With whom does your gratitude lie for what you have in your life? Have you ever considered eating your young, and if so, what’s your poison—mustard or ketchup?