Tuesday, March 17, 2009

swelly belly & sleeping ovaries . . . who knew?

I'll be taking a hiatus from contemplating the diaconal ordination liturgy while I'm recovering from surgery. As some of you already know, I had a laparscopic supracervical hysterectomy last week. So I thought I'd offer an update.

It wasn't an easy decision. I was coping with my symptoms, but with ten years to go until menopause, the prospects for making it to my fifties without the bleeding becoming intolerable were slim. I could wait, but I'd still need major surgery to have my tubes tied so I could go off birth control pills. And if the fibroid tumors continued to grow, I might lose the option of a laproscopic procedure. Taking out just the fibroid would actually be riskier than a full hysterectomy and there was not guarantee that others wouldn't quickly take it's place. So . . .

I checked in at 6 a.m. last Wednesday, was home by noon with a lovely pain-killer cocktail on board. In the weeks leading up to the surgery I'd been teary and cranky a good part of the time--mostly from worry, I think, about whether I'd made the wrong decision--but as soon as the surgery was done I was calm, peaceful, relieved. No more bleeding, worry-free sex (well, the promise of it), and the freedom to ditch the birth control pills I've fretted about for the last five years since my mother died of breast cancer--done and done.

I'm not recovered, of course. I have "swelly belly." The four tiny incisions scattered on my torso don't reflect the healing that needs to happen inside, so I look pregnant--especially when I've been up and around too long. And after a several nights of waking up drenched in sweat, I did a little research on the internet and learned about "sleeping ovaries." Although mine were left alone, the disruption of the surgery can put them into a kind of shock. They should "wake up" and start pumping out hormones in a few weeks or so. It's also possible that going off of bc pills after 15 years has something to do with this. The pills could have been masking some perimenopausal symptoms, and it's going to take a month or so for my normal hormonal rhythm to reassert itself. Luckily, the only emotional expression of this hormonal hula has been a brief moment of rage when hot grease popped and burned me while I was fixing dinner last night--exacerbated by the fact that I really shouldn't have been up fixing dinner, no doubt.

But here's the kicker. I really expected to feel miserable after this surgery--what with losing my girly parts and all. Before the surgery, I speculated to a friend that this would be a Lenten experience full of digging around on the dark side, threshing out issues of identity, femininity, and OMG I'm OLD! Instead, I feel liberated. Probably some of that pre-operative weepiness helped me process any sense of loss connected with this. And now, the positive effects of being forced to slow down and rest are having an interesting effect.

It started before the surgery, actually, this urge to do creative things. For many months, I've been in a receptive mode, mostly intellectual--learning my new job at the college and doing formation for the diaconate. Normally a voracious reader and learner, I realize now that so much learning has been overwhelming me. Too much information, not enough time to digest it. That's the input side. On the output side, most of my activities have involved pushing paper (at the college), doing missional activities (Holy Trinity), and engaging in intense relational work (Holy Trinity). None of these "outputs"--as Spirit-filled as some of them are--create a tangible finished product . . . which may explain why being forced into days in the recliner--deprived of my usual routine, social contacts, and busyness--I'm giving in to strange cravings:
  • I dropped an impossibly boring online class in the Old Testament in favor of a couple of trashy novels--mind-candy thrillers that have no redeeming intellectual or spiritual value.

  • I'm dreaming about my own garden, not the church's.

  • I'm rediscovering "worthless" activities: an old cross-stitch project, skimming magazines, crochet. (Because I'm slightly concerned that my renewed interest in crochet may, in fact, be an unmasked symptom of perimenopause, I'll be writing another blog entry--Things I Promise Never to Crochet--as a sort of insurance policy against the possibility of becoming a bonafide church lady.)

  • I want to make things--with my own two hands.

Perhaps a psychotherapist would interpret this as a combination of regression (avoiding responsiblity in favor of fun) and womb-grief (needing to create things since I can no longer create a person). And maybe they'd be right. But it feels more like someone hit the reset button. And the new message goes something like: Slow down. Relax. Enjoy.


  1. Hope you are recovering quickly! Hey, you just rebuke those hot flashes, get out that crochet hook and enjoy creating. That reset button is there to be used.

  2. Oh, I love this post. Slow down. Relax. Enjoy. Like manna from heaven. Thanks.