The last 7 days have been extraordinarily … what’s a word for difficult that encompasses the emotional drain, the serious and unanswerable questions, the sheer exhaustion of your brain, your body, your life not stopping or slowing down for you despite your desperate desire to just be able to stop and be silent and thoughtless and still? There’s probably a German word for it.
So although this was not the manner in which I planned to be able to make an art blog post about it, fate had other plans for my art blog pregnancy announcement.
I’m 9 weeks today. And for the next 4 weeks, I will be waiting to see if I’ll make it to week 14. You’re supposed to be able to celebrate after you see your little bean on an ultrasound. They read the heartbeat and suddenly it’s all very likely everything will be fine and you’re going to be a parent and there’s going to be a new little life you brought into existence.
I guess I should have known? But at the same time, I thought I was average, and the pregnancy would be average and my experience would be average and maybe I don’t believe in the miracle of childbirth but I know I would be soaring with love and excitement and hope for me and my husband’s new little family.
But when they saw our baby on the ultrasound the technician also found out that I have what turns out to be a 27cm ovarian cyst that has basically inflated on top of my organs in my abdomen and has been hanging out for what I believe is probably the last 4 years since I went off hormonal birth control and gave it a chance to grow back. Fast forward to meeting my new surgeon, an OB at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Clinic. She says that the mass and the ovary both need to come out for the baby to even be able to keep growing around it, but that the baby will be at risk of not making it through the surgery due to trauma/jostling/too much CO2 in the baby cavity. And, what’s possibly worse is that I have to wait until the second trimester for the operation, in order to reduce the risk to the baby.
So now I have a month to try to work through these vast and varied feelings about…all of this.
I feel like I went very rapidly from the relief of seeing my fluttering baby heartbeat on an ultrasound to the horror, confusion, relief, and anticipation of this growth and its upcoming removal.
I’m in the midst of a really intense identity struggle today because of this. I thought it was going to be difficult enough coming to terms with becoming a mother. But now what this has essentially told me is that even my physical appearance is not what I have thought it was. I don’t know to what extent this growth has changed how I look. My theory is that it contributed to me gaining 30lbs post-birth control and significantly increased my stomach protrusion. And so in a way I’m ecstatic that it’s not all my fault I look the way I look, and the next time someone asks me any time soon if I’m pregnant they will feel even guiltier when I tell them it’s actually an enormous cyst they’re looking at and thanks for the reminder I’ll be having surgery soon. I’m excited to be unburdened by this and all the pressure and probably pain and discomfort it’s probably caused me for the last few years. I’m excited that maybe my self esteem will have a chance to not be scraping the ocean floor because of how my stomach looks. I’m excited that the deep, painful sense of disgust I feel about my stomach might be able to lessen.
But in a way I’ve known nothing else. My OB kept asking me all these questions assuming I’ve been in constant pain and discomfort and if it feels weird and I’m like HOW WOULD I HAVE A BASELINE FOR WHAT STOMACH FAT IS SUPPOSED TO FEEL LIKE WTF and it was vaguely if not outright frustrating. There is no way I ever, ever would have been able to predict something inside me was this wrong.
There is also an aspect of my situation that is scientifically and theoretically very fascinating. My circumstances are very rare. Not only did they find a mass that needs removal, it’s fucking enormous. Abdominal masses are categorized as “huge” at 15cm and mine is LITERALLY almost double that. Laparotomy, the procedure I will have done, is very very simple. Simple incision, simple “expansion” I think my doctor called it of my abdominal cavity, simple lifting out of this superficial mass resting on my organs, snipping out my ovary, done. The rarity of it being done on a pregnant woman though is such that most of my internet research has led me exclusively to medical journals from Seoul or the Middle East featuring samples of a couple hundred women.
Over the weekend I was oddly optimistic and peaceful about the whole upcoming procedure, the way it will change my body, being able to participate quickly in school, and the prognosis for my baby surviving the operation. Because honestly if we were able to grow a baby in the first place with one working ovary and this enormous mass from my other ovary lurking around in my body, this baby is fucking fierce. And so if it’s made it this far, if it made it through those first tenuous weeks where many women miscarry, then nothing’s going to stop it from hanging on and joining me in this world.
Then there’s the stress of the fact that I have no intention of this stopping me from completing my semester at Saint Thomas, even though it will lead to at least one class each missed if not, if I were wise, two classes. It’s me so I obviously already emailed two of my three professors to warn them that it’s probably not likely I can make it to class 4-6 days after undergoing surgery. And they both respected my proactiveness and wanted to accommodate me. So like, naturally I already got that all sorted. But when I sit back and look at the circumstances I am going into with this semester versus what led me to drop out of Adler I’m kind of like “…how the fuck have I NOT had a nervous breakdown yet?”
Call it treated panic disorder, or simply not having the time or space to process and emotionally react to everything at once…but that might all change, as I also found out an hour ago that my grandpa died. We weren’t close, he had been degenerating for two and a half years since my grandma died, and I haven’t seen him for like a year. But my dad was his primary caretaker and I worry about him. And the timing of it all is making me so angry it feels like I am on the verge of an explosion.
So that’s the latest on me. Not sure what my art life will look like right now since my whole basis of working on displaying curvier women with guts like mine is like…well my gut is a cyst, not fat, so what’s my gut actually look like? And anyway, I start classes tomorrow. But I’m hoping that will make the next 4 weeks fly by so I can get this fear over with and move on with my life, come what may, free of a foot-long ovarian cyst inside me.