Tuesday
Mar262019

Hysteria

Liz Breazeale


 

My uterus started multiplying on a Tuesday. At my gynecologist's office on Thursday, I had five.

Congratulations, said my doctor, more to himself than to me. This is unreal. He shifted closer to the monitor. 

Excuse me, I asked, but when can you remove them?

Most women would be happy for this kind of fertility boost.

I never really wanted my original uterus. I tried to throw the statement away like a joke, but he didn't laugh.

I have every reason to believe these are functional organs. See? He pointed to some scattered glands, attached to the uteruses with curling tubes, twisted and crimped to fit. Ovaries. 

Like a rat king. I stabbed a finger into my belly and the flesh bounced back.

Oh, don't say that. This is a miracle! Women are miracles.

I've never wanted kids.

Well, he replied, gesturing to the ultrasound. You have plenty of time to change your mind. 

He sent me home after jotting some notes on his iPad. Come see me Monday and we'll check your progress.

Like a term paper. Something I'd started and intended to see through.

 

The uteruses doubled by Monday. 

That makes ten, I reminded the doctor. 

He didn't look up from the ultrasound, shaking his head, a half-smile splayed on his lips. You know, he said, you're a medical marvel. I have some colleagues studying fertility and they would love a look at you.

Could you refer me to a surgeon, please?

But you're the most fertile woman in the world. He tapped the ultrasound, where my uteruses were nestled together like sleeping puppies.

I'm sure some women might love that.

Look, he said, leaning forward from his stool, patting my hand. His face was mossy with stubble, and the bags under his eyes were gluey, grey. You're what, thirty? Don't be hasty.

He performed a biopsy on one of the uteruses, the largest and newest one. They were all different sizes, some the size of kidneys, some like half-deflated balloons.

He called two days later with the results; by then I could feel more had appeared. I was swollen with organs, the seams of my jeans leaving indents in my skin. 

He said, they're medically viable. Fully functional. 

Okay, but why are they here? Why me?

He wasn't sure. But, said the doctor, why don't you come back and we'll run some more tests? He laughed, soft. Boy, you really hit some kind of crazy jackpot.

Is there maybe a female doctor you could refer me to?

But he had already passed me off to a scheduling clerk.

 

The tests were myriad and invasive. Gynecological exams, blood drawings, my legs stirruped open for hours. I was hooked up to the ultrasound the whole time.

Look, one of the doctors gasped at one point. A new one!

That was the fourteenth one.

It's so beautiful, said one doctor, a white man with a handlebar mustache. It's the creation of life.

It was an organ, not a fetus, but what did I know.

 

The uteruses tapered off at twenty. The final one was the size of a grape, the splinter of it lodged between two others.

The tests had proved nothing. I wasn't sick, the uteruses were still functional. The doctors still had no idea why they appeared or what about me had called them into being.

I asked the doctor, can you remove them now?

I had grown so much all I could wear was maternity dresses; people stopped me on the street, laid their hands on my belly, and said, bless you. 

The doctor sighed. The thing is, they're basically people. They have potential to create people, anyway. 

Transplant them to someone else.

There's no medical reason to do that. You're healthy, the organs are healthy.

I can't be healthy, I have twenty uteruses. 

If you started getting sick. If it was causing you unnecessary pain, if your life was in danger. If another doctor had transplanted them into you without your consent. But as it stands, there's nothing for me to do.

I swore I could feel them, bumping up against one another like jellyfish, their outlines spongy, spooning one another.

Think of it as a blessing.

I was an incubator, electric and superheated. I could feel them all the time, pressing against one another and my skeleton, a horde trying to escape.

 

I needed the uteruses gone. I couldn't sleep, my appetite withered. I was starting to feel crazy, desperate; I felt like an intruder in my own body, a squatter inside a home that waited, dormant, for its rightful inhabitant. 

I Googled local doctors and went down the list.

Every single one had his own reason to object to the removal. No medical necessity, not enough information about my little problem, the surgery would be too difficult. I might never be able to have children if there were complications. One went so far as to tell me he wouldn't perform what amounted to a vanity surgery. Just because you want to go back to the way you used to look, he cautioned me, throat skin wobbling, doesn't mean you can deny this precious gift.

I was stretched out, pulled apart. I looked like some nightmare being, a misshapen creature a preschooler would sculpt out of clay.

Weeks into my search, I saw what turned out to be my final doctor, a middle-aged woman with hair like coral, rough and shaped into a pumicey knot on top of her head. When she entered the exam room, she placed her hands on my massive mound of a belly. Oh, she said. You poor woman.

I collapsed against the headrest. The paper crinkled under me.

You want them out, of course you do.

I nodded.

She leaned across the exam table, took my hands. The wrinkles around her eyes were so fine they looked soft to the touch.

Don't worry, she said. We'll get in there as soon as we can. 

I wiped my eyes with the tissue she handed me, surprised at the tears. While you're in there, would you be able to take out the original, too?

She snorted a laugh.

I said, I don't want kids. The words, repeated so often and in so many variations, didn't seem real anymore. What did it even mean, to want? Was it a knowledge I held in my body, a thrumming baseline thought? Was it an instinct? When I looked at a baby, all I saw was a scrunched alien, a body too delicate to be real.

You're so young. She consulted her iPad. You're only thirty. And I thought the same thing, believe me.

I've always known, though. Especially after this.

From one woman to another, just think about it, okay? Meanwhile, let's schedule the surgery.

She turned back to her iPad, not waiting for a response. 

 

The surgery happened one week later. It took ten hours to complete the procedure.

You're a hero, my doctor said the day after. She asked how I felt (sore), and whether I'd slept (better than I had in weeks), and whether I had any nausea (a little). 

It's such a relief, I gushed, loose from the painkillers.

I'm so glad.

You have no idea. I've wanted this since college. 

She and the nurse exchanged the smallest of glances.

You took them all, right?

The fluorescent lights thrummed.

She grinned, breezed to the side of the bed like the softest of doves. The excess uteruses have been removed.

The excess.

She fiddled with a cup of water before handing it to me. I couldn't remove the original.

Couldn't?

Well, didn't feel comfortable.

You're my doctor, don't you have to do what I ask?

It would have been an unnecessary removal. What if you change your mind a few years down the road?

I started shaking. I was heavy, so heavy again, the anchor of my abdomen weighing down all of me. 

I know you're upset. And I'm sorry.

My stomach, mountainous under my hands. My body, waiting to be molded by an outside force.

But now, just think. Her voice was scrambled, yolky. She leaned forward, squeezed my shoulder. Just think of all the choices you have.