Cats supposedly have nine lives. There’s also been a lot of talk about magic potions that are numbered nine, and the Ancient Greeks must have had good reason for choosing nine muses. Tomorrow, I will walk into the OR, assume a crucifix-like position, and drift off to sleep to endure surgery number nine. I’m hoping the number will serve me at least as well as it served Roger Maris, but hopefully the mysticism behind the number will give me some much-needed luck. I will wake up- how much later, only my body and the surgeon’s skill will decide- and pieces of me will be fixed, while other parts will be broken. And I don’t just mean that as an emotional metaphor.
I will be “going under” tomorrow to fix a potentially life-threatening complication that occurred as a result of my surgery just two months back. I am grateful that this can be done. I am lucky that it was found. I will live to see many more days because of it. But, there is something profound that I will lose tomorrow. It will never again return. And I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to it. Yet I keep coming back to this theme of false choice: one cannot choose between the ability to bear a child and one’s life. It should not take my saying to comprehend that one must have the latter, in order to choose the former.
I am told that when I wake tomorrow that my pain will be controlled through a pump that slowly delivers opioid medication through my veins. That’s nice. Really, it is. But it isn’t that type of pain that I am worried about. When I wake tomorrow, I will once again feel the pain of losing our baby girl. And I will feel the pain of losing the future baby girl or baby boy that I always thought I’d carry. Of the kicks I will never again feel. Of the sonograms I will never again see. Of the heartbeats that I will never again hear. That funny stick figure sketch of my family of four that I’ve been carrying around in my irrational head since the fourth grade will be smeared with some kind of metaphoric white-out. And there will be no medication to pump through my veins that could redraw that image for me, or numb the feelings that will come with my picture being altered against my will.
But there will come a time tomorrow, too, when I feel my pulse and become in tune with my breath. I will place my hands on my scars and close my eyes. And I will focus on feeling thankful. It’s a side effect of surgery that never escapes me, and certainly will not elude me tomorrow. Because when mini-me comes to visit, it will be so hard not to smile. And if I’m anything like a cat, all I can hope is this ninth life treats me well, and treats me well for a very long time.
My experience tomorrow will be irony at its finest. I will lose the ability to carry life within me, but my own will be saved. Tomorrow, my surgeon will save the life of a mother. He will save the life of a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter and friend. And I will take that life that he will give me and I will do the best I can with it. I will cherish it, own it and use it, gratefully. And as I say goodbye to future hiccups and kicks, I will remember that my womb once served me astutely and selflessly, and gave me a most cherished gift. Much like we say goodbye to our loved ones, I will mourn my fecundity with fond memory and a thankfulness for the great gifts it has given me.
And then I will cry. Because, hormones.
And then I will cry some more because, well…
This sh*t is going to suck the big one.