It wasn’t always this way. I remember being normal, unscalpeled, unscarred, mostly intact, as I had come into the world. But it all changed when I became part of a peculiar battalion of women-turned-mothers, brandishing secrets stitched up in centers of pelvic silence, the woes medical records omit and redact. Our wombs are time capsules filled with relics we can’t see, but can feel.
This is no Antiques Roadshow.
Now my insides are tangled and mangled reeds dried in a mass of organic confusion and calamity. They are the very vines that were once naturally, effortlessly clipped and groomed and tended to, to unleash grapes worthy of fermentation. Now these very ovaries feel like raisins in the sun, ducking and decoying fertilization. They are empty orbs with vacant centers, not eggs, simply the biological dregs of the inheritance modern medicine has bequeathed to me.
I once had a steady, relatively seamless and unremarkable monthly flow. That went the way of feel-good hip-hop and Reebok Freestyles. Before I was diced and sliced with the thoughtlessness of chopping up a decorative garnish, my monthly visitor was predictable, progressive, passing along like a classical song – the crescendo striking on day two or three and by day four, ending with peaceful solemnity.
Now my flow is angry, volatile and erratic. It gushes out in unexpected bursts and lashes out in a menagerie of gothic clots and bright red raindrops. It is as if there is a chink in the system, a roadblock, a detour organically put up by my uterus as one last attempt at self-preservation since the C-section.
It was a mechanical, toxically medicinal birth, the antithesis of peppermint-stick-bubble-gum-cotton-candy-variety births depicted on popular programs such as A Baby Story on The Learning Channel. IVs extended from my wrists like uprooted veins; fetal monitoring and steady doses of elixirs numbed purely physical sensations of my femininity and blunted my psychedelic birthing sensibilities into submission.
I was in no position to protest, to argue, to march down the hallowed halls of my city’s highly touted baby factory. My body was rolled away in a rush after being told, “You’re lucky we live in a day and age when women don’t have to die having babies.”
I was just where they wanted me – passive, narcotically permissive, pregnant with unadvocated fear.
A poke here. A prod there. Ouch, I can feel that. Epidural not working. I had been in labor for a double digit number of hours, but not nearly unduly long for a first-time birth. There were no signs of distress. Husband rushed away. Someone says they have to attend a party. Novice residents’ noses twitched and eyes shifted. Breathing mask forced over mouth and nose. My world went bewilderingly black.
Three years ago, I got pregnant the first time without thinking. It was the first time I’d left myself in the line of fire; it happened so serendipitously, just like it does in high school health textbooks. But now after months of trying and continued appearances by my angry monthly visitor, I instinctively sense something is wrong. Even though the medical establishment doesn’t flinch at the word “infertility” until a couple has tried for a year, I know my body, I know my self. I know they can no longer be trusted.
Little could have prepared me for the reckoning I felt when I type “C-section,” “infertility” into a search engine and find message boards of other cut-up women recounting the same stories, the same struggles. The sites talk of adhesions blocking conception or forbidding implantation. They write of scar tissue and scar removal surgeries and the mysteries secretly sutured up into our own bodies – the possible short-cuts and mistakes curiously unrecorded in medical files.
Some scoff when I make this claim, voice this possible connection. Unfortunately, I am now accustomed to my new, well-researched and intuitive motherly wiles being dismissed. Urgency is in order. My eggs are getting older. I am approaching 30. Soon I will be categorized as “high-risk” and need special testing and monitoring should I become pregnant.
I give up. I quit calculating and charting, and just decide to fuck.
Weeks later, my angry monthly visitor has not arrived.
Faintly positive pregnancy test.
My body works!
I see my OB/GYN – again, somehow thinking, hoping, wishing she has changed. I don’t feel like interviewing, researching and investigating other practitioners. Maybe I caught her during a bad time with my first pregnancy. Maybe during each office visit she was having a bad day. Maybe someone in her family was ill. Maybe she was under financial duress. Maybe she had a headache. Maybe …
I’ll ask her how she feels about VBAC. I pose the question, “So, what is your philosophy on VBACing, vaginal birth after Caesarean?”
She huffs dismissively, as if she has just been asked a repetitive question from the whining lips of an impatient elementary school brat.
She says, “Your uterus could rupture, and you and your baby could die. You could bleed to death and your baby could suffocate on your blood.”
The next day, I schedule an appointment with a midwife.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem