Finding Beauty in Fraying Threads

The healing process continues. My energy level is mostly back to normal. I still have up days and down days, but I seem to be reaching an equilibrium where every day looks pretty much like the day before. My leg is still swollen from the clot that is stubbornly sitting there, taking its sweet time to dissolve. I still get short of breath sometimes, but nothing remotely close to the symptoms on the day of The Event.

Now that I am pretty much stable, I have been able to do some more exploration into why this whole thing happened and what I can do to prevent it.

One of the most likely causes was the fact that I was taking birth control pills. I say “most likely” because we’re still not entirely sure that was the primary reason. I also tested positive for a genetic mutation that makes me more likely to form blood clots. (It’s apparently extremely rare. I’m very special.) I am hoping beyond hope that it was the birth control, because that means that I can stop taking the blood thinners after 6 months and be done with them for good.

I wasn’t taking birth control to prevent pregnancy, although that’s a really handy side effect. I was taking it to control my period. My apologies to those of you who aren’t in to reading about menstrual issues — skip to the next paragraph if that describes you. At the end of 2011, I bled for 35 days straight. No let-up. The only thing that stopped it and brought me back into balance again was the birth control. And now, I can’t take it. I have bled since The Event, and the blood thinners aren’t making that a pleasant experience, but at least my periods have stopped when they’re supposed to. I don’t trust that luck to continue, however, and my options for resolution are limited.

I’ve been talking to my gynecologist, and the option that I am going to go with is called ablation. It’s a fairly simple procedure that destroys my uterine lining so I won’t bleed. It also essentially makes me infertile, since there’s nothing for a kid to hang onto or get nutrients from. Pregnancy is still possible, though — which would be dangerous for both me and the baby — so once I have healed from the ablation procedure, I’m getting another procedure done that’s similar to getting my tubes tied, just much less invasive. The nice thing about all of this … I get to keep all my parts and my quality of life has the potential to improve tremendously.

The doctor asked me over and over about my plans for children. I assured her that I don’t want to have biological children, and if I did change my mind, which is unlikely, I wouldn’t be averse to adoption or surrogacy. My token line is, “I am an awesome aunt. That’s good enough for me.”

And yet… I am still struggling with this. It’s not that I want children. I really don’t. I love kids – but I value my freedom and independence more. I am single mostly by choice, partially by circumstance. When I was much younger I thought I might want to raise a family, but that shifted around my late 20s. For most of my adult life, I have been childless by choice. So why should this change be such a big deal? I don’t want a kid, now I can’t have one. No harm, no foul, right? … Right? 

So why does this feel like such a big deal?

Maybe it’s the stigma attached to a woman who doesn’t want to fulfill her what society might call her “biological imperative.” Maybe it’s the continuing sense that I am being left out of a club. Maybe it’s residual guilt that I feel like I should want kids. I come from a big extended family that’s pretty tight-knit, and I am the only unattached, unmarried, childless cousin over the age of 20. There are 14 of us – so I feel like an oddball at family gatherings, even if I get to be the cool aunt who lives in the mysterious land of Chicago miles and miles away.

I really don’t know. It’s probably a combination of all of the above and some things I haven’t even considered. I don’t even think it’s worth trying to find the true reason. It’s just enough to know that I am sitting with a loss, even if that loss is something intangible that never existed and will never come to pass.

But honestly? Deep down, the loss that I am mourning is the loss of choice rather than the loss of a potential child. When I was young, I felt threads of possibility reaching out in every direction. And I still do, to some extent. But I am finding growing older to be a little like fraying cloth. Some threads just aren’t available to me anymore. That doesn’t mean the tapestry or rug or whatever-metaphor-you-want-to-use isn’t or can’t be beautiful. It just means I have more limited options on how to create or sustain that beauty.

The key word here is “create” — because even though I won’t ever give birth to a human being, I will continue to give birth to projects, music, art, friendships, harebrained schemes, and rituals. I will breathe life into experiences and ideas and stories and songs. Creation is a pretty multifaceted gig, and I feel like I have been given a second chance at life in order to make a number of possibilities come alive.

Breathing, healing, and dreaming.

4 thoughts on “Finding Beauty in Fraying Threads

  1. This is excellent. And true. It may help you to know (and it may not help at all) that when I needed to have a hysterectomy due to uncontrolled bleeding I suffered an inexplicable sadness, too. I felt silly for it because not only did I already have 3 kids, I had had my tubes tied 5 years prior. and yet ….. that surgery didn’t feel like the type of choice I’d had with birthing three and tubal ligation. Peace to you.


  2. I so hear you. I’m so glad you’re writing about this. And frankly, I’m so glad you have medical/surgical choices that don’t require you to remove organs wholesale.

    From my perspective, I think we’re hardwired to feel deep sadness about the end of ‘possibility,’ about lots of things – and especially about having kids. Not because of anything we think, so much as the deep programming in our DNA to make sure we continue projecting said DNA into the future. After all, from the double helix’s point of view, the only reason I exist is to give birth to the next generation.

    It also seems to me that there’s a nodal point somewhere in midlife when the arc of our trajectory shifts downward. During all of childhood we are taught that things will be better – we will be more powerful – when we get ‘bigger’ or when we ‘grow up.’ Nobody much tells us about the day when our lives (and sometimes even our skeletons) start to shrink. When one day we can’t lift what we could before, or walk as far, or run as fast.

    I cried the day I gave away my iceskates. Oh, I’d never been all that much of a skater. But until that last big fall I’d always thought I’d learn to skate backwards ‘someday.’ A bruise the size of a dinner plate, that could just as well have been a broken wrist or hip, persuaded me it was time: no more falling on the ice for me. And the sadness wells up again just thinking about that.

    So much love and healing to you! I bet you are indeed an Awesome Auntie.


  3. Thank you so much for writing this, River. I completely relate to the loss of choice–my own medical stuff that stole that choice from me quite some time ago. It was the loss of the choice, (not the loss of having a child of my own) that was so very hard. And I still struggle with the expectations society has of women (and try to not let society’s expectations matter to me, but that’s hard).
    Keep breathing. Be sad–losses must be mourned, and that takes time and doesn’t follow any direct path. Then breathe again.
    Big hug to you, Rockstar Aunt!


  4. I empathize strongly with grieving loss of choice. Some days I simply can’t deal with my regrets, not of roads not taken, but of roads I can’t take anymore. I hope someday I can find the objective distance to make peace with the relentless march of time.

    Thank you for continuing to muse and for sharing your musings with me.


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