Note: Bellyscars

I have been delinquent; not wanting to show up here. I have been writing in my journal, jotting down inspiration and fears. I went for a ride last Sunday that I have yet to post. I even wrote it all out before bed one night, just not on the computer. If open my laptop before bed I find myself awake still at three in the morning. The words wait in my journal ready to be transcribed but I am not going to do that now.

An element of this exercise is the search for my voice. I had one once, I think, back in the day, when I would get stoned and channel the grit and hum of Los Angeles. It was a youthful, fatally cool identity. But now I struggle, even after 17 years of recovery. I am aging, I am a mother, a wife, I have survived near-death, and have experienced the pure joy of living in the moment and my son’s laughter. I have been thinking about how to be more authentic and tell a little more about me. Maybe this isn’t the place. Maybe this should be just a series of sweet vignettes of riding down country roads. That is much of what my life is like now except for the financial issues, the continued struggle of organizing our house, and concerns about the political and social climate of the U.S.

I have decided to repost the intro to my last blog. The one I never let anyone know I was writing. I don’t know if anyone has clicked the link on my About page and that site will go away at some point. There is not much there, I only posted a handful of times. I thought I was going to try my hand at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but instead was motivated to rearrange my house to give myself a better writing space.

So, here it is, slightly edited:

belly scars

I have three scars on my belly, well, four if you count the dime-sized mark where a drainage tube passed out of my body. The first is the sexy scar; the one I don’t mind being seen. It is cut just below my ribcage on the right side. Starting at my midline, it slopes down and widens a bit under the bottom rib like an arch-less eyebrow or an exclamation point without the dot (or with the dot at the wide end as the aforementioned mark was given at this time). This was from my first abdominal surgery, a choledochojejunostomy, before anyone knew my full diagnosis. I had a stricture of the bile duct due to pancreatitis, which was the preliminary. The endoscopically placed stents (attempted twice) immediately clogged and I went yellow. A more permanent solution was needed.  Unfortunately, my gall bladder was a casualty of the bypass; it was seen as extraneous and was removed.

The next scar is the ugly one, a ravine that divides my belly in half giving it the appearance of a cleft peach. I was told I was lucky that the surgeon left my belly button intact. Given to me when my colon tried to burst, the tale of this scar is more difficult to tell, a life-altering moment with many lessons in acceptance, humility, and powerlessness. I was busy making plans and my body sent me a big message to slow down. Working, going back to school, being pregnant, trying to buy a house…it was all too much: my bowels gave out. I also had a stroke while hanging out in a maternity hospital as they were trying to hydrate me and figure out what was wrong. I was finally sent away to a more equipped hospital and right after meeting the surgeon, I was put under. Toxic Megacolon. I woke up with a huge incision up my belly, a bag attached to my right side, and the pregnancy terminated. I had been given an ileostomy, like something was given, not taken. My entire colon had been removed and I would now have to learn to live with this changed anatomy. It wasn’t until after the surgery that I received the diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, originally thought to be Ulcerative Colitis. I recovered from the stroke during my two-month stay in the hospital, though the incision got infected and the staples were pulled out early. I believe this is why the scar is so cleaving. That and excess belly flesh.

Funny thing is, I always liked my belly. Never minded that it was not flat or washboard, even liked the soft fullness. This was not the part of my body that I would try to hide. Now, anything too fitted reveals the unevenness its two hemispheres: how it protrudes just a bit more on the right, even when the bag is empty.

The last scar is the hidden scar, tucked in so nicely under my paunch. It is barely noticeable even when the skin is pulled taut. This is the blessing scar, the opening from which my son was birthed. After such a severe Crohn’s flare during pregnancy, I was advised not to get pregnant again for fear of a repeat episode. I was so traumatized by the event I took that advice to heart. Then, soon after my 40th birthday, I found out I was pregnant. My first thought was, “I’m gonna die.” Then I did some research. The illness had been in remission for a while and was being controlled by medication (Remicade). I began to feel cautiously optimistic. The nine months passed fairly easily as far as pregnancies go. With my history, a caesarian was likely though I was hopeful for a vaginal delivery. In the end, it didn’t really matter how my son came into the world, just that he arrived.