Transitions: How a Personal Crisis Led Me to Self-Love

Uterine fibroid tumors are one of the leading causes of hysterectomies in African-American woman. T...

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Uterine fibroid tumors are one of the leading causes of hysterectomies in African-American woman. Throughout the years, my doctor had diagnosed and treated mine with a ‘don’t bother them unless they’re bothering you’ mindset.  Approximately four years ago, I woke up bothered. A large fibroid had interfered with the flow of blood to my left leg, causing a blood clot.  A clot that, had left undetected, could’ve traveled to my heart and killed me.

In preparation for the myomectomy, the surgery to remove the fibroids, I had to daily administer blood thinning medication via a shot in my stomach, take medicine which caused the same symptoms as menopause, and wear a tight compression leg stocking during the thick of the North Carolina summer. My doctor informed me that the odds of having a successful myomectomy, (fibroid removal surgery), were slim due to the amount of fibroids detected. If during the surgery he found cancer, or if excessive bleeding occurred, my doctor warned he would perform a hysterectomy, snatching my uterus faster than a TV at a Black Friday sale. I had heard stories from women in similar situations about unethical, or even indolent doctors who’d given few options save a hysterectomy. Hysterectomies were easier, and dare I say, more lucrative to perform than the often time consuming myomectomies.

After my surgery, my doctor recapped the operation to my relief, explaining the myomectomy had been a success. He likened the sizes of the fibroids removed to fruit found on a continental breakfast: grapes, oranges, lemons, honeydew melons.

At the time, I was knocking on forty-years-old, and single with no kids.  I left the hospital, uterus intact, with a renewed passion to have a baby. Time was ticking, and my doctor had warned that like a stray cat that’s fed, more than likely the fibroids would return. I immediately went to a fertility doctor. After numerous tests, we decided artificial insemination an appropriate option, chatting about the best places to find donor sperm. I combed through hundreds of donors, deciding on the graduate school student whose profile claimed he exuded gobs of charisma, loved poetry and football, and got along great with the staff. Winner. However, before I could plunk down money on the chosen one, I fell in love with someone I’d recently met, a connection looking back, I probably wouldn't have entertained if not for Operation Baby Daddy. The next three years consisted of me enduring the stress of a rocky relationship with someone, who I knew in my heart, was not the person that God had ordained for me.   There were many commitments, re-commitments, breakups, makeups, and finally wakeups. I decided to end it, albeit devastated. I’d wasted three years of my life with no baby or husband in tow.

Now, living in a different state, I’d visited with another fertility doctor, hoping the graduate school student who loved poetry and football was still available.  The doctor  informed me that because of my age, my ovaries ability to produce good eggs adept for fertilization had rapidly declined, and were about as viable  as an eighty year-olds’. If I wanted kids, he'd advised the best choices, miracles or adoption aside, was in-vitro fertilization, which could cost upwards of fifteen thousand dollars. He'd added Celine Dion and Brooke Shields had multiple in-vitro treatments before achieving success. I never went back.

My body mended from the surgery, but side effects from the medications had caused my hair to suffer. Perms now produced breakage. It thinned more than normal around the edges. I’d always wanted to stop altering my hair’s texture with harsh chemicals and go natural, but never had the courage. However, as Oprah Winfrey said, “most of us are just hitting our stride in our forties, ready to break out into our real selves.”  Starting over with short, natural, virgin hair was harder than having the surgery. Like many African American women, I was raised to believe your hair is your crown. When my beautician cut the perm out, I looked in the mirror, not recognizing the woman looking back. I saw Don Imus calling the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy- headed hos.” I saw men opting for the sisters with silky hair.  I had my beautician sew in a BeyoncĂ© like weave, and I wore it for months.

Prior to the blood clot, I had symptoms which indicated my fibroids needed more attention than I wanted to give.  I hoped if ignored, the symptoms would disappear. There may be things in your lives vying for your attention that you hope if ignored will disappear. It may not be as serious as a medical issue, but could kill you, if not physically, then mentally or emotionally, nonetheless.  Recently, for me it was the unexpected emotion of fear of what everyone from my corporate America co-workers to my family would say about my natural hair.  Or envy, when I saw a couple walking down the street, causing me to wonder when the heart that is ordained to love me would show up. Or doubt, when I decided to follow my true calling of being a writer, making it my life’s work, instead of having a job with no passion or purpose.

Life Coach Iyanla Vanzant says that “so many of us think that if we act like a thing doesn’t exist it will go away.  When you are on a spiritual path you must come face-to-face with yourself and acknowledge all of who you are. Only through this process will you grow and become the embodiment of a true spiritual consciousness.”

I no longer ignore symptoms detrimental to my physical and emotional well-being, or yearnings that I'd placed on the back burner, like pursuing my writing career, or adopting a child one day.  As far as my hair, it’s been a year since I asked my beautician to take out the BeyoncĂ© weave for good.  That day when I looked in the mirror, I saw beauty, I saw pride, I saw me.

Erica L. Williams is a writer living in Dallas, TX. She has an MFA in Creative Writing –Fiction from Vermont College.  She recently completed her first novel.  An excerpt was published in Kansas City Voices Literary Journal Volume 9.

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