Part of the struggle of motherhood is the lack of control. So much of what I do is reactive not proactive. When you are reactive you are always behind the gun. Never caught up. Time and again realizing you have missed a step, requiring you to double back and repeat a step.
A proactive approach to anything makes me feel like I am on top of things. The trouble with being proactive is that it is hard. But I have recently established that I can do impossibly hard things.
Yesterday I did three proactive things. For me. For my health. Not for my children, although they certainly benefit from my good health. And today, one day later, I am already feeling better than I did yesterday as a result.
I slept. I got up and said goodbye to Em and MQD and back to bed I went. For just a minute, I thought. I’ll snuggle with Lucy, get her back to sleep. Those few minutes became
two hours of blissful sleep. Sleeping harder than I have in months. Recently my lack of sleep has begun to …. show in my attitude. Enough so that when I asked MQD what I can get done for him the other day he said he’d make me a list. That’s it pictured on the left. Message received, dear. And accomplished.
When I woke it was nearly 9:30. Thus began the second impossibly hard thing. I excel at creating exercise plans for myself, I do not always succeed with the follow through, much like many of us. There is almost always a good reason. Lately I have had a nasty cold and the windy and intermittently cold weather was not helping matters. So I decided to take it a little easier than I had planned. But when I looked at my phone and it read 9:30 I knew I had to leave at 9:35 to make the 10:00 exercise class I had planned to attend.
With the extra oomph my nap provided I peeled myself out of bed and jumped in to some exercise duds and was out the door. Lucy had been tanking up at the drive through breakfast bar all morning so she was nice and sleepy. I think we were 45 minutes in to getting our sweat on before she knew what hit her. Second impossibly hard thing, done. I had the good old “never wake a sleeping baby” rule on my side had I decided to stay in the sack with my kiddo. And the list of things to do provided by my husband. And, still, up and out the door I went.
Thing number three is not so fun. At my initial prenatal visit to the midwife I got some less than pleasant news.
More than 50% of sexually active adults in America carry the human papilloma virus (HPV) at some point in their lives. 1 out of 4 women with HPV have one of the strains that can lead to cervical cancer. But now that more and more women are educated and getting an annual pap smear only 1 out of 1000 of those cases will develop in to cervical cancer.
Mid June of last year I had been married for less than two months. I had been pregnant for nearly the same amount of time. I was anxious to have my first prenatal visit, hear a heartbeat, so I could relax. As I have said so many times before I get nervous when everything goes my way, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And in my 35 years I had never felt so on top of the world, so it would be a long fall from there. The call from the midwive’s office was not a suprise. Something had to give. “Your pap smear came back abnormal, ASCUS. We won’t do anything now, but the positive HPV test means we will want to get a closer look after your pregnancy.”
Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought my appointment yesterday afternoon would be the day that the bottom fell out. (There is an awful joke in there somewhere, I mean if the nine pound plus baby didn’t make the bottom fall out a high powered microscope, a speculum and a light sure wasn’t gonna do it.) I have been dreading this appointment.
Standard procedure following an abnormal pap smear with high risk HPV is a colposcopy
. Essentially a doctor takes a good look with a microscope and a light at your cervix and determines whether or not a biopsy is required. Vinegar is applied to the cervix, causing the “color to come out” in any abnormal cervical cells. This amuses me, as vinegar is also used to get brighter Easter eggs. This procedure is subjective to some degree. And this was worrying me. Even after a doctor said “I don’t see anything to worry about” I’d be left wondering, but what did you see? Exactly.
And yesterday afternoon, because UNC is a teaching hospital, I had the pleasure of seeing something most women never do. There, on a television screen so the doctors could discuss what they were seeing was my cervix. “Look, Lucy, does that look familiar, there’s your home, baby girl! Your door in to the world, where you made your big debut!” It was like taking Julie Andrews to the London Hippodrome and saying “This. Here. You first felt the spotlight here, this is where it all began.”
Not everyone gets to bring a pal to a gynecological exam.
Everything both doctors could see, I could see, too. And there was nothing to see, nothing abnormal. I will spare you the description, but it was truly amazing to see how quickly the human body puts itself all back together again. I’d certainly not have guessed my big baby had peeked out that hole only weeks before.
I was nervous. And now I am not. “I don’t think we will need to do a biopsy at all. Seems your pap smear may have just detected an abnormality triggered by your pregnancy. So, make sure you get a pap smear in a year and take care of that baby. You can put your pants on and let yourself out.”
In a different context that last sentence could break a woman’s heart but it was music to my ears.
Three things. Sleep. Exercise. And medical follow up. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did.