For my surgery, I wear a cute, long-sleeved denim dress from APC’s side line, Madras, that I got on the sale rack at Urban Outfitters for $19.99. At any given moment, I am wearing at least one item from the Urban Outfitters sale rack. As I type this, I am wearing a pair of purple suede ankle booties I got for $9.00. They are very elfin and have no support whatsoever so it feels like you are wearing house slippers out into the world, which can be kind of groovy.
The dress is perfect because it won’t bother my belly and also because it will add much balancing cute energy to my post-surgery aura. I expect to be pasty and spooky, the way someone who just had a machine breathing for her is supposed to look. My belly will be crusty with bloody scars and also all blown up into a balloon with gas. Gas that will travel throughout my body and give me terrible muscle pain.
“I’m not gonna kid ya,” my mother says ruefully via the telephone. “That gas hurts. I had to stand in the shower to get some relief. You’re gonna be in pain.”
Dashiell’s eyes widen he hears what my mother has said. “She said that?” he gasps.
“It’s true,” I shrug. Dashiell’s family protects each other from the harsh reality of life whenever possible, so the comments startled him, but truly I would rather not be protected. I always want to know what I’m in for.
At the hospital, they rip me away from Dashiell far too soon. I’m brought from the waiting room into the long, narrow ward lined with curtains and cots. I change from my outfit into this crazy hospital gown that actually hooks up to a hose that blows warm air into it. It’s like wearing a small hot air balloon. It’s pretty cozy.
All my things get hung on my wall in a bag, and someone comes by and says that Dashiell can come and sit with me, thank god. A Nurse named Pearl comes and asks me a series of questions. I feel like she is being slightly condescending or skeptical of me, and when she asks me my age I find out she had clocked me at being in my twenties.
“No, I’m 41,” I say, in a tone that I hope reads as "And I heard you talking to me like I was your little sister, OK?" Nurse Pearl is totally normal to me after that. How weird. Age is just a number, people! Still, don’t think I didn’t enjoy being mistaken for a 21-year-old. I spend way too much money on anti-aging creams to not enjoy the results -– heeeeeey!
OK, everything is kind of cloudy in my memory –- probably because I was drugged and sedated to the brink of death! I remember being seated in a dark brown room, reading magazines and having my vitals checked. I remember being in my little room with Dashiell, who smiled sweetly from the chair beside my bed and told me she loved me and took camera phone pictures for the blog. And I remember going away, I guess I was wheeled through the floor and into the operating room.
The operating room! It was large and gray, with crazy operating contraptions like miniature cranes. They were listening to music. Isn’t that funny -– doctors and nurses like to listen to music while they work, just like cab drivers and baristas. I guess I was already getting woozy when Dr. Wendy walked up and said hi.
Of course Dr. Wendy would be wearing her head covering at a jaunty angle, like a beret. I’m happy to see her like she’s my best friend, and she actually holds my hand while I wait to go under. That’s my last memory -– Dr. Wendy holding my hand in her jaunty beret, smiling down at me, maybe even tenderly rubbing my palm.
I wake up in the operating room after the surgery. There are some people talking, the radio is on but I can’t understand what is playing. I sort of sleep and wake up and sleep and wake up and eventually I wake up back in my little room, and Dashiell is there. “Dr. Wendy held my hand,” I croak.
Dashiell tells me how Dr. Wendy went to see her in the waiting room and reported everything to him right after the surgery. And Dashiell called my mom and told her everything. Everyone knows everything, and as soon as I can stand up and pee all by myself I can go home. I would like to go home right away and I’m sure Dashiell would too so I really try to make it happen, but just sitting up without falling over takes a couple tries. I’ve got these crazy things on my calves that squeeze your legs so you don’t get a blood clot -– way better than those ugs white stockings they used to give you.
There is another nurse administering to me, and she too talks to me like I’m a child, but she’s in her 60s so it doesn’t bother me. I actually like it. I tell her my mom is a nurse. Nurses have such Nurse Pride, I love telling them that my Mom is in their club. I get on their team like that.
Listen, I know this is a little boring but really, having surgery is a little boring, what I can even remember of it. What is more exciting is coming back to our House of Fleas, where Rodney is on Terrorist Code Orange, barking at everything. We are both worried about how I will sleep with the dog freaking out all over the place, but at least for that first day, I am so doped up sleeping is all I can do.
Oh, hey -– not only was my bod "riddled" with fibroids, as Dr. Waller so charmingly put it, but the Queen Fibroid, according to Dr. Wendy, was "as big as a baby’s head. Bigger."
“I don’t think many women feel that different after these surgeries,” she tells me, “But I think you might.” And I do. Once my swelling goes down and my body returns to normal, I find that I actually do feel much lighter, and the weird heavy feeling I had, which I was thinking was maybe the same gluten allergy everyone else has, is gone. It wasn’t my weekly chocolate croissant. It was a fibroid bigger than a baby’s head. Ugh.
But, before my body returns to normal, I am to lie around in bed popping pills. This is sort of great -– the pills work. I’m not in much pain at all. I don’t even feel super high. To Tali’s horror, I edit her novel while popping Vicodin. I mean, I’m just sitting in bed all day. There’s no reason I can’t work a little.
I send an email out to the 2013 Sister Spit tour performers explaining that no one is allowed to bring pot or any drug they don’t have a prescription for on the road, and that no one is allowed to bring tricks, dates or one-night-stands back to the hotel rooms they share with their tourmates. Seriously -– you would think that such bullshit would not have to be spelled out so explicitly, but if you aren’t a bitch about it up front, before you know it everyone’s smuggling weed in their panties and trying to give their new best friend a blow while their roommate sobs quietly in the next bed.
Then I think about once I have a baby -– will BABIES be suddenly allowed to come on Sister Spit? The thought seems terribly wrong. Will I become a MOM ARTIST –- like, someone whose work suddenly becomes all about them being a Mom? It seems likely. Most of my art is about my life, and when I have a baby that is going to be a big life deal. I decide to draw the line at selling Sister Spit onesies. I won’t do it.
But it would be sort of cute, playing off the whole "spit" part of it.
So, the pills were great and then they weren’t. Because I am a drug addict, I get sort of excited when I get to have a freelapse and legally take a pill. But, because I am a DRUG ADDICT, I forget that taking pills actually is not fun for me anymore. My inner addict thinks that drugs = fun times, no matter what. No matter how many sobbing, desperate sickly nights, the inner addict thinks it’s just a fluke –- the good times will be back in a jiffy! Just do another line!
This is why it is so hard for people to get sober. And even now, sober, I’m shocked that part of me thinks that having a robot literally chew up a bunch of gnarly fibroids and spit them out of my body is going to be RAD because I get to TAKE PILLS after!
So what happened to me on the pills? Well, mostly they just kept the pain at bay and I could function in my life –- checking emails in bed, reading magazines. But the more I put in my system, a weird tinge began to spread. One night, after Dashiell spent about 20 minutes rubbing my shoulders, I tried to get him to get it on with me. Pills always make me amorous (when not putting me into a blackout).
Let’s imagine how appealing I had to have been -– surgery breath, scabby belly, pasty skin, matted hair, pill-sweat on my pajamas. Brave Dashiell made out with me a little, but put the brakes on when I tried to go to third base.
“Baby, you just had surgery,” he said gently.
I burst into tears. “You don’t even love me!” I think I wailed.
I’m pretty sure I accused him of doing nothing to help me, though he had only just given me a massage and had been bringing me Cozy Shack Chocolate Pudding after Cozy Shack Chocolate Pudding for 48 hours. I sobbed so hard you would think I had just witnessed a major humanitarian tragedy. I soaked a hankie with viscous snot, becoming even more grotesque. I wanted a cigarette so bad.
Oh right -– when I do drugs, I cry! Towards the end of my using, that was all that ever happened. And just like everyone in AA says, all that time you’re sober, not drinking or using, your addiction is still there inside you. It progresses, even though you’re not feeding it anymore. It doesn’t go away.
I remember a guy at a meeting in Brooklyn, saying in the perfect New York accent, "My addiction is downstairs in the basement, doing push-ups." Totally! I went into the bathroom and wept loudly, hoping the sound of my pain was tearing Dashiell’s heart apart.
The next day I was horrified. It was like I had gone on a very deep bender. I hated that Dashiell, who had never, ever seen me drunk, had seen me in such a condition. It was like the space-time continuum tore and horrid 2002 Michelle fell into 2012 Michelle’s perfect life, snotting it up and disturbing her one true love!
So I decided to not take the pills anymore. Fuck it. People had all sort of procedures and didn’t take painkillers; alcoholics in AA talked about it all the time. It wasn’t worth it to them, getting so close to those dangerous old feelings. They’d rather take the physical pain.
So I tried that for a day and finally felt what it really felt like to have a robot chew your fibroids up. It was as if I got an instant, massive flu. Like a Norwegian Black Metal drummer mistook me for his kit. Like I’d gone to Great America and spent the day laying down on various coaster tracks. I felt tremendously bad.
I started taking the pills again, warning both Dashiell and myself to just ignore any feelings I might claim to be having. None of them were real. And if they were, then they could wait until I was off the Vicodin to process. And in that way, I got through the next two weeks of my recovery.