I’ve just spent 5 minutes inspecting the 4 three week old wounds in and below my belly button. They are on the cusp of becoming fresh scars rather than wounds. They tell a story, along with the two older scars right next to them: a story of disappointment and hope, of sadness and joy.
In April 2017 I went to the doctors feeling fairly confident I knew what the problem was. My husband Dave and I had been trying to conceive for over a year so thought it best to get checked out but there had been so much stress in our lives over that past year that I thought it unsurprising I hadn’t fallen pregnant. One month earlier my dad had died of brain cancer, having slowly deteriorated over the year. Five months before that my aunt, who I was very close to, died of liver and pancreatic cancer. Stress prevents pregnancy right? At least that’s what I was told again and again by various people, including my doctor. Over the next few months we both went through all the check-ups required. All the results came back normal (some even better than normal, which Dave was very proud of!). That is until I got to the internal scan (yes, ladies it is as unpleasant as it sounds!). They spotted an endometrioma in my left ovary – not huge in size but it explained why I had had two months of excruciating periods. They arranged for me to have an operation to remove it the following September. So far, so good. Quick appointments, quick diagnosis. Not ideal, but nothing terrible.
I was set for it to be a quick, straightforward, low risk procedure. I came round from the op, woozy and fuzzy, to the nurse telling me “they didn’t do everything they had planned…” Basically, the surgeons had taken one look and decided not to touch me because my womb, bowel, vagina and left ovary were such a royal mess! To say I was disappointed was an understatement. Two months later I was told by the consultant that I have grade 4 deep infiltrating endometriosis and that these four organs were attached to one another by scar tissue. Getting pregnant wasn’t impossible but our chance went down to less than 1%.
Over the following two years I developed a love-hate relationship with hospitals. I found them incredibly frustrating and at times dehumanising. On the other hand I was deeply grateful at the way the doctors and nurses worked to give the best treatment possible under what, at the moment in the NHS, are really difficult circumstances. The journey of rescheduled hospital appointments, check ups and blood tests, tools being shoved up (what seemed like) every orifice of my body, phone calls to the appointments line, operation dates being put on hold indefinitely, more phone calls to the appointments line, moving hospital trusts and more rescheduled appointments eventually led me to three weeks ago when I had the long awaited surgery. The skilful doctor managed to remove the now very large endometrioma from my left ovary, save my fallopian tube, separate my bowel out from my vagina, womb and left ovary and remove some other pouches of endometrioma tissue from the bowel and uterus wall lining. I am far from fixed – the nature of endometriosis is that it grows and sheds and scars with every monthly cycle – but for the time being I definitely have more energy and less pain! Praise God!
The scars on the outside of my body, the scars on the inside of my body, the scars on my soul will always be there. And I am grateful for the story they tell.
The journey of nearly four years of childlessness has been emotionally tumultuous too: seeing numerous friends and acquaintances, in some cases, have multiple children in the time we’ve been trying; the glimmers of hope as doctors told us it could still be possible; the months I was that bit more expectant of falling pregnant because we’d been to Christian festivals and received prayer; the many moments of misinterpreting PMT symptoms; the thoughtful friends who have asked me how I’m doing, and have cried with me and prayed for me; the wrestling with God, leaning on God and identifying with Christ who suffers in a new way; coming to terms with the truth that God hasn’t promised us biological children, that they are not an entitlement; and the dawning realisation that getting pregnant may just not be God’s best and first plan for us…
These four years have left scars. Scars always tell a story don’t they? The thing about scars is that they never leave you. Eventually they become less sensitive and often they will fade, but they’re always there. The scars on the outside of my body, the scars on the inside of my body, the scars on my soul will always be there. And I am grateful for the story they tell. I am still hopeful that one day Dave and I will be parents, though perhaps not in the way we imagined. We plan to begin the adoption process later on in the year. In the meantime I am so thankful that I get to be a spiritual mum to our five Godchildren, to our niece and nephews, and to other children in our church, who bring me a whole lot of joy!
The scars of your life matter. One time they were open wounds, deep enough to leave their mark, painful enough to change you. Don’t be afraid to share the story they tell.