In the waiting room: Her C-section, my hysterectomy

She looks just like me: Mid-late 20’s. Nervously perched hands over her belly. Convinced that ‘leggings as pants’ are appropriate to wear in public.

We’re just alike.

Together we sit in a waiting room.

Same uncomfortable chairs. Same ultrasounds to check for abnormalities in our uteruses. Same referring doctor. Same nervous waiting as the minutes tick by.

She rubs her very pregnant, round belly and gives me a reassuring smile. She’s here for the last time before the big day. She confides that she’s nervous she’ll need a C- section- she had hoped for a natural birth plan.

I give her a half smile back. I’m here to find out if I’ll need a hysterectomy. 

Even our potential future scars will match. But she’ll have a baby. And I’ll lose my uterus.

Her face quickly turns to pity. She’s at a loss for what to say. Tighter she holds her belly. I know she’s sending up silent feverish prayers of gratitude.

I shouldn’t have said anything, she’s looking at me funny now.

Scanning the room I see expectant mom, after expectant mom- everyone here is pregnant, except me. Thoughts run through my head like: “I really need a new doctor (one that doesn’t deliver babies anymore) but his bedside manner makes me feel so safe….” and “barren women sharing a waiting room with pregnant women is like having AA meetings in a liquor store.” None of these thoughts help.

“Fertility challenged.” That’s what my sister calls it. I call it my bum lady parts. I thought harvesting my eggs at 23 was hard. I thought losing an ovary was hard.

I thought wrong.

I thought I had made peace with my infertility but flanked between a woman filling out her own baby shower invites to my right and my new-found twinsie to my left; I realize that maybe I was holding out some hope for a teeny tiny mitzvah. It was one thing to remove an ovary, there was still one other left (no matter how cyst filled and lazy it was). But to face removing my uterus too… that just felt final.

Game over. 

My mom sat a few seats away for moral support. She probably didn’t want to wait at work with idle hands for news we already knew wasn’t likely to be good. Looking at her smiling and chatting with the other moms it dawned on me that my infertility is her infertility. Just like I once envisioned a day when I too would be a mom, I realized that she probably envisioned a retirement with grand kids. She probably thought our traditions would one day hold granddaughters and grandsons the way it currently holds nieces and nephews. It’s not just my loss, maybe, it’s also my parent’s loss.

Waiting at the hospital. Personal photo via @audreybellis' instagram
Waiting at the hospital. Personal photo via @audreybellis’ instagram

Finally summoned behind the double doors that everyone keeps disappearing to I get placed in a room, get undressed, put on my paper gown, and stare at the ceiling. The ultrasound technician comes in and tries to be chatty through the imaging procedures. She can tell I’m nervous. She’s seen my chart (its grown quite thick in the last 10 days amid appointments, consults, and lab work), she also knows that something is not right. Her sudden silence mid sentence and intense screen staring tell me that.

Knees knocking I turn away from her and let a hot tear slide. “Do you know what fibroids are sweetie?” she asks me.

I do. I’m now very familiar.

For the next 20 minutes she walks me through what she can see for sure. The number of masses, the sizes, what my uterus looks like.

After I got dressed, she hugged me. “I don’t know why I’m sad” I told her, “I knew this was coming. The doctor prepared me, all indicators pointed towards this. I couldn’t have kids before last week, this shouldn’t make a difference…”

She nodded knowingly and squeezed my hand.

I passed my new found twinsie on my way out to meet my mom. She didn’t meet my gaze. Maybe the next time I see her, we’ll have matching scars. Maybe then we’ll have something to bond over. If the weather doesn’t change, maybe we’ll still both be in leggings.

About the Author
When Audrey Bellis isn't curating community for StartUpDTLA, or solving Downtown LA's office space problem at Grid110, she can be found Urban Exploring as a Transit Enthusiast. Often memorable.