By Zsofi McMullin
I’ve always had this fantasy that one day I would find a baby. I’d be driving down the road, or walking on the street, and a bundle would catch my eye—nobody else would notice it but me. Maybe there is a small toe sticking out, or an arm, and I know immediately that it’s a baby. I call the police, of course, but they just hand it to me to take home. Finders keepers.
Everywhere I go, especially when I am driving along long stretches of highway with so much trash littering the side of the road, I keep an eye out. Every discarded tee-shirt or tarp or trash bag could potentially hide a baby. I never slow down, or actually check, but I carefully consider whether a certain pile of trash would be big enough to harbor one.
I sort of forget how small babies are.
My last period is a bit dull—I can’t even remember now its start or end date, or how many days it lasted, or whether it was heavy or light. This is a bit disappointing, especially after all of the drama and fanfare it put me through over the past few months.
The most memorable was the time I passed a blood clot the size of my hand during our vacation in Aruba—it just slipped through my fingers as I was taking a shower. It landed with a splat at my feet and I stared at it for long minutes, letting the water run over my back. The clot was the shape of an embryo. You know those science books with the pictures taken inside the woman’s body—the translucent embryo floating in the blackness of the womb? This one would have been at the stage when the arms and legs are just tiny stubs, with a square-ish head and a body. I poked the thing with my toes and it slowly dissolved in the water and slipped down the drain.
I stood there a bit longer, considering whether it actually could have been an embryo. But no, no, there was no way.
I am fascinated by those shows on TV where women think they have food poisoning, go to the hospital, and push out a baby. How do you not know that you are pregnant? How is it possible to not know what’s going on inside your body? My boobs started to ache the day after my doctor injected me with my husband’s semen. It was Mother’s Day. I was getting a pedicure with my mom.
My fibroid feels like a pregnancy. It feels heavy and low in my abdomen and there’s a constant feeling of something—cramps? twinges? contractions?—in my belly. I feel it the most at night, when I am no longer moving around, going about my day. If I lie on my back, I can feel its weight pushing against my bladder, and my lower back aches. “It’s a good size,” my doctor tells me and holds up his closed fist to demonstrate—he has small hands for a man—and he means that as assurance right before he examines me. And anyway, how big is my uterus? It’s hard to know whether something the size of a small man’s fist in my belly is cause for concern.
The thing has to come out. My surgeon is an older man and he looks at me with sad eyes when he says, “But you are so young.”
At forty, I am too old for the following things:
TV shows about college and/or single women.
To be noticed by the young men at the pool in Aruba.
Face lotion without SPF.
Anything that takes too long.
Not having a uterus? Maybe, yes, I am too young for that.
“Are you sure?” the surgeon asks one last time during my pre-op appointment.
How is one ever sure about these things? We do the best we can, with the information we have available at any given time. Right now, it’s this: I am in pain and hemorrhaging every month. I drink iron supplements by the gallon to keep up. Our son is six. My husband has a bad heart. The freaky blood clot ruined my vacation.
I think about all the babies I could have had—with the blond boy I loved with the sparkly smile, with the Palestinian with the olive skin and dark eyes, with the dancer with the smooth hips and long fingers.
At some point, life has to go on. You tally all of the things that could have, should have, would have happened, and you say “fuck,” and then you move on. The uterus must go and let me live my life.
I am sure.
The uterus is not an organ you think about too much. It has one job, really, and once it’s done that, what is there to think about?
Until now, I never thought about mine. I knew from my OB that it was “tilted”— whatever that means—but other than that, I never paid much attention to it. But now I think about it all the time. I think about the space it occupied in my body and wonder what’s in its place now. I think about how my son referred to it as his “hotel” when I was explaining to him where babies come from. I think about it being sliced in half and pulled out of my body. I think about it in the specimen bag as it’s carted over to the pathologist. I think about practical things like where does my vagina end now? And if there’s no uterus and no fallopian tubes, what’s holding up my ovaries? Are they just hanging out there, in the pink sliminess of my insides?
These are things I should really ask my doctor about.
I am vaguely aware of the pain in my vagina when I wake from surgery. But everything hurts, everything is tender and sore, so I don’t pay it much attention.
The doctor mentioned before the surgery that he might take my uterus out through a small cut in my lower belly, or through my vagina. He couldn’t say for certain—it just depended on the size of the fibroid.
As the anesthesia wears off and I drag myself to the bathroom to pee, it definitely feels like I have just given birth to a baby. “Why does it hurt so much down there,” I ask my husband. “Oh,” he says. “The doctor told me he had to give you an episiotomy. Your uterus didn’t fit through your vagina.”
Even in my dopey, drugged-up state, sitting on the hospital toilet, holding on to an IV pole as I try to relocate by bladder, the irony does not escape me: I gave birth to my uterus.
I would laugh.
But it hurts too much.
You can never really be sure that you are done having babies. You can list all of the logical reasons why you “should” be done with babies: your age, the state of your marriage, finances, your love of sleeping through the night, and not having to wipe anyone’s butt anymore. These are all great reasons.
Then you see an announcement on Facebook—or several in a week, as it happened—and it suddenly feels like someone punched you in your non-existent uterus.
Rationally, I know I don’t want another baby. But there is nothing rational about this urge—it was not excised along with the offending organ. I mourn the ability, the possibility, the what-if.
I have never known anyone who found a baby on the side of the road. I don’t even think I’ve ever heard about something like that in the news.
But it’s possible. It could happen.
ZSOFI McMULLIN is a writer living in Maine. Her essays have been published by Motherwell, The Butter, Paste Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and several other publications. She is a regular contributor to Full Grown People, where her Pushcart-nominated essay “This Body” appeared. You can see all of her work at zsofiwrites.com and find her on Twitter as @zsofimcmullin.