How do you say goodbye to a lifelong dream?

How do you say goodbye to a lifelong dream?
Thing 1 and Thing 2 inside my uterus. Mickey Mouse ears or alien eyes? You decide.

In just over 24 hours, I will give up all chances of fulfilling my greatest lifelong dream: becoming a biological mother.

That’s right, I will no longer be able to have my own children. And I’m doing this sort of by choice.

Let’s back up . . .

Earlier this year, and quite by accident when I had a CT Scan after my car accident, it was discovered that I have fibroids in my uterus. If you’re not a woman or otherwise not familiar with fibroids, the Mayo Clinic explains that “[u]terine fibroids develop from the smooth muscular tissue of the uterus (myometrium). A single cell divides repeatedly, eventually creating a firm, rubbery mass distinct from nearby tissue.” Fibroids are very common and many women don’t even know they have them because they don’t experience symptoms, or like me, don’t realize their symptoms are symptoms.

Last month, I finally decided to check out the issue of these fibroids at my annual exam. Dr. Susan Shaw, a very kind and compassionate OB-GYN, said she could feel them (I guess when you know what you’re feeling for, they’re not so tough to find), which meant they weren’t tiny.  We joked that they were sizable enough and my uterus was swollen enough that I must be having fibroid babies. She ordered an ultrasound to determine their exact size and placement and called me with the results shortly after Thanksgiving.

Post-ultrasound, the official diagnosis was two sizable uterine fibroids (I’ve named the Fibroid Twins Thing 1 and Thing 2), that are lodged within my uterine wall (specifically called Intramural Fibroids – are they playing after-school volleyball in there?), and look like Mickey Mouse ears on the films. Dr. Shaw and I had another discussion about my symptoms (I have at least five of them) and my options for treatment.

After studying the multiple treatment options, I quickly narrowed my choices down to the “do nothing and see what happens” plan or having a Uterine Artery Embolization (“UAE”). The UAE is a fairly simply procedure that involves cutting off the blood supply to the uterus, which in turn causes the fibroids to shrivel up and die (source: Mayo Clinic). Don’t let the “simple procedure” description to fool you. From what I’ve learned, recovery is a bitch and takes anywhere from 10 days to one month.

As part of my decision making process, I obtained the required MRI, which provided us full technicolor images of Thing 1 and Thing 2, and met with Dr. Eliot Hohlastos, an interventional radiologist at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, to learn all about what I could expect if I chose to move forward. I learned, that part of the procedure includes an epidural and cramping on the level of labor pains for up to a month after the procedure. Yay! I get to experience the super fun parts of childbirth without actually getting to go home with a new baby. Thing 1 and Thing 2 will be coming home with me, but they’ll remain in my uterus wall where they’ll die.

Because it’s unknown exactly how long Thing 1 and Thing 2 have been growing inside of me and because the good folks who found them in April didn’t measure them, it’s impossible to know quickly they’re growing. I can pinpoint my symptoms to the past 18 months or so, so that gives us some idea about when the fibroids began growing.

One of the fun facts about fibroids is that they can cause infertility and pregnancy loss, so it’s entirely possible that I’ve been unable to get pregnant for a long time. And let’s be honest, at 43, I’m not getting more fertile. Cutting off the blood supply to my uterus, as part of the UAE, eliminates whatever remaining chances I have for getting pregnant.

Being a biological mother has been a dream of mine for as long as I remember. I looked forward to being pregnant one day, giving birth, and being a very involved mom, although not a Helicopter Mom. I dreamed of letting my daughter and son play with the Legos; blocks; puzzles; dolls; Star Wars action figures; Fischer Price house, airport, farm; Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, and Anne of Greene Gables books; and more, that Dave and I shared. Yes, my mom saved all of it.

I had dreams of creating tea parties for my children, like my mom did for me, using my child-sized china tea party set that was my mom’s before it was mine. I eagerly anticipated playing Santa and the magic of Christmas morning, the way my parents created that magic for us.

I dreamed of helping my children with homework, even learning Common Core math, and volunteering at their schools and attending parent-teacher conferences. Heck, knowing me, I’d probably even be the PTA president.

I even dreamed of the raucous tween and teen years, when my children would try my patience far more than I tried my mom’s patience.

Of course, there is still the possibility of becoming a step-mom and I can choose to adopt. Both of these options to becoming a mother are choices I could be perfectly happy with in the next few years. They’re just not the dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember.

Now that I’ve been dealing with this reality for the past few weeks, I can tell you that I’m sad and have shed a lot of tears. The last few nights, I’ve had fitful sleep and dreams. I even had a pretty public meltdown about 15 minutes after making the decision. I know that not every dream turns into reality, but this is one I just always believed would.

Quite unlike the lumpectomy I had in November, I’ve held this decision close to my chest and only a very few people have known about it until now. I’ve done so because I was afraid of Monday morning quarterbacking that would lead me to second guess myself. Believe me, I’ve done enough of that on my own. I also just didn’t know how to talk about it.

I know in my gut that having the UAE is the right decision because it will significantly decrease my symptoms, I’ve still asked the “what if” questions. What if I meet the right man for me tomorrow? If I do, he’ll love me for me and not because he hopes I’m a baby making machine. What if I just hang on a little longer and maybe the symptoms will go away on their own? They won’t. The list goes on.

I’ve spent hours in reflection about my decision, talked to professionals, and sought counseling. I know this is the right choice for me.

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    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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