After 45 years of living with my uterus, I want out. Or, rather, I want it out. Of me.
It’s not that I’m ungrateful for its service: Dependably dumping what seemed like gallons of unexpected blood onto my nicest undies, white pants and cute jean skirts.
OK, that was a bit passive aggressive, because I am grateful for the accumulative years that my lady pocket held four babies all snug and cozy, as they developed from a couple of cells into real, live offspring—couldn’t have done it without the old girl. But now—now that I am done making babies and now that my uterus seems to be actively boycotting my body, now I think it’s best we part ways.
This sentiment became clear to me a few weeks ago. After Aunt Flo came to visit and stayed for three weeks (three weeks, people!) I woke up one morning with painful cramps. While this is not out of the ordinary, the cramps got exponentially worse as the morning went on.
By 11 a.m., I called my gynecologist to beg for an appointment that afternoon.
A nurse midwife?
Yes, a new physician (who just joined the practice a few months ago) had a 1 p.m. opening.
I had to act fast. I knew that if the pain continued to increase, I could possibly be admitted to the hospital, which could only mean one thing: I had to get dinner going in the Crock-Pot before I left for my appointment.
There were seven girls running around my house (four mine, plus three friends.) It was raining steadily outside. I took two Aleve tablets, put my eldest in charge and staggered out the door and to the grocery store.
I was literally hanging onto the cart as I made my way from produce section to butcher department to the wine aisle (always thinking ahead.) Because I go to the grocery store literally every day, most of the employees know me. As I was checking out, one particularly sweet cashier asked if I was all right. “I think my vagina has exploded,” I replied. She looked immediately shocked followed by an expression that conveyed a silently-awkward-uneasy feeling. “Bye…” she said as I staggered away, like a pre-menopausal zombie.
As I drove the short distance from the grocery store to my home, my uterus declaring mutiny, began contracting. My breathing became labored (pun intended). I practically crawled in the front door. Giggles, and shades of pink whizzed past me, as little girls played hide-and-go-seek in the house. Asking my eldest two girls to retrieve the groceries from the car, I grabbed the crock-pot, turned it on high, and began chopping a red onion. I was clinging to the kitchen island, chopping with one hand when my daughters deposited the groceries on the counter behind me.
“Mommy? Are you OK?” Claire, my eldest asked.
"Huhhhhh-huhhhhh," I panted, “Yes. Fine. Just cramps. I need. To get. This into the. Crock-Pot. Then I am. Headed to a doctor’s. Appointment. No worries! Huhhh-huhhh-huhhh."
Children trust what their parents say even more than they trust what they see with their own eyes. I said I was OK, and although perplexing, my 13- and 16-year-olds believed me. I dumped all the ingredients for a kick-ass beef stew into the Crock-Pot, put Claire in charge once again, clutched my uterus, and left for the doctor.
In the elevator up to his fourth floor office, I woman asked me if I was OK. The pain had gotten so bad at that point, that I literally could not speak—I began crying. Who, other than children, cry from pain? I never cried during childbirth, and that hurt like a mother. What was going on?
Thankfully, when I entered the doctor’s office, I was spared some embarrassment, as no one was in the waiting room. I still couldn’t speak, however; the nurses looked concerned and took me into an exam room immediately. They told me to lie down on the exam table—I could only shake my head "no," and stood gripping the counter, doing what I remembered of Lamaze breathing. It was at that point that Doogie Howser walked in the exam room. No wonder he had joined the medical practice a few months ago ... he had to finish 8th grade first.
What if it is a 20-pound benign tumor in my abdomen that has to be surgically removed, leaving me 20 pounds thinner just in time for our beach vacation!?
I am 100 percent sure that I scared the bejesus out of him—pudgy, middle-aged woman, panting like a jackal, communicating like Jodie Foster in Nell. He must have thought I was mountain folk, just come down from the Carolina Appalachians. His internal exam lasted exactly 24 seconds. The longest, most painful 24 seconds of my life, which elicited two words from me, "mother effer!"
“OK, Mrs. Brulé? You need to go downstairs to the ER. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but because of the level of pain you seem to be having, you need further testing,” Doogie said. Because my doctor’s office is in a hospital, I only had to make it onto the elevator and down four flights to the ER.
I was having contractions every two minutes. What the hell is happening? I thought to myself. I had my tubes tied, I’m too old, there’s no way I am pregnant. Could this be a kidney stone? Then a happy thought squeezed its way in through the anxious ones—What if it is a 20-pound benign tumor in my abdomen that has to be surgically removed, leaving me 20 pounds thinner just in time for our beach vacation!?
I was admitted and quickly wheeled in for a CT scan, followed by urine and blood tests, an IV and finally a hefty dose of morphine. Three hours later, the doctor came in to my room to share with me the results from the testing. She looked very serious.
“The results from all the tests and the CT scan show…”
20-pound tumor, 20-pound tumor, 20-pound tumor.
“Show nothing.” She said.
“Nothing?” I said louder than necessary. “No kidney stone? No fibroid? No exploding vagina?”
She allowed for a faint smile and said, “Everything looks normal. When you feel up to it, you are free to go. I’ll write you a script for pain meds. If the pain gets worse over the weekend come back here. Otherwise, make an appointment to see your gynecologist on Monday.”
Over the course of my three-hour stay in the ER, the pain had reduced dramatically. I went home, laid down on the couch and called my friend Betsy who is a gynecologist. I explained what happened, in dramatic detail.
“Yeah, sometimes that happens,” She trailed off.
“What happens? What happened?” I demanded.
“It could have been a fibroid that they didn’t catch—maybe it was pulling away from your endometrial lining—stretching it, which really hurts. Or maybe it was a burst cyst. Or maybe your uterus is just being bitchy,” She said, completely seriously.
“I bet it’s the last one—I bet my uterus is just sick of me and angry that I invaded it so many times with babies.” I said.
Hanging up the phone, I could smell the beef stew bubbling away in the crock-pot. All the girls’ friends had gone home and the house was relatively quiet. My daughters set the table for dinner, as my husband served up bowls of comforting stew with broad egg noodles; he brought a bowl to me on the couch.
“I really hate my uterus,” I said to him.
“Yeah, your uterus is mean,” he soothed, “But the stew is good.”
To make this delicious stew even better, brown the meat first. If your uterus hurts, don’t bother.
2 to 2 1/2 pounds lean, cubed stew beef
1/4 cup Wondra or plain flour
1/2 bottle dry red wine
32 ounces (4 cups) beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced thin
8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1/2 to 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (taste and let flavor be your guide)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup cool water
8 ounces "No Yolks" egg dumplings/noodles (or noodles of your choice)
1. Turn the slow cooker on to high. Bring the wine, stock, tomato paste and onions to a simmer on the stove (or microwave until very hot), pour the hot mixture into the slow cooker and add in meat. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 hours, but up to all day (you may have to lower the heat to medium).
2. In the last two hours of cooking, add in the mushrooms, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Mix the Wondra (flour) with the room temp water, pour in and stir to combine, cover and bring back to a simmer, cooking until the stew thickens and the mushrooms are soft.
3. Cook the noodles according to package directions, subtracting 1 minute from cooking time. Drain well, and toss into the stew.