I’ve been waiting months to have an appointment at Mount Sinai hospital with the colorectal surgeon for a consult about the next steps in having a J-pouch, and today was that day. As excited as I was, I left feeling scatter brained, confused and burdened with a very emotional decision. The choice to have a J-pouch comes with a great responsibility. I need to consider all my options and what I really want for my life. Yet, how is a single 26-year-old supposed to decide what she wants from life? It's beyond me.
I’ve done my due diligence of research and conversations with doctors and surgeons so I know what to expect, however today’s appointment put things into reality. First of all, she confirmed that the process would be done in two separate steps. That meant two more surgeries. Two more recoveries. And two more times I must wait to heal in order to move on. Second of all, it was my first very real conversation about fertility and the affect that ulcerative colitis and multiple abdominal surgeries could have on my ability to conceive and carry a baby.
Let me dial it back and give a brief description of what the J-pouch process will involve. The first step was an ileostomy which I've had since November, 2015. The second step will be more invasive, a larger operation. In this surgery, she will remove my rectum, build a J-pouch, and form a loop ileostomy. Using my small intestine, the surgeon will create an internal pouch attached to my anus, formed like a “J” (hence the name) which will eventually act like my rectum. This is where waste will be stored until I go the bathroom. A new stoma will be formed using bowel from about 60 cm higher from my current one. Although this surgery is bigger, the recovery in hospital is approximately 5-7 days with 6 weeks of rest and recovery. The third surgery is called the take-down. This is where my stoma will be removed, and connected to the J-pouch, allowing me to use the restroom the “normal” way. This surgery is shorter, however the recovery will be longer as I retrain my bowel to function again.
Now because these surgeries are done in my pelvic region, there are a lot of nerves that could be damaged and scar tissue left behind. Which is where my concerns about fertility issues come into play, because the scar tissue would be around my reproductive organs so my ability to conceive and carry might be compromised. Apparently, about 20% of the "normal" female population has difficulty getting pregnant. My risk could go up to 40% due to these surgeries. IF I am in that 40% who has difficulty, invetro fertilization is an option… until I’m around 35. After that chances are very slim that invetro would work. So my internal clock would now be ticking a little louder than your average woman.
I knew this information going into the consultation appointment. Like I said, I did my research. I went in thinking I would cross the fertility bridge when I came to it. I did not want to compromise my current happiness and my current life for a future what if. You can’t play that "What If" game because you wont ever know. The truth is, as happy and healthy I feel with my ostomy, I still hate it. It’s annoying, its expensive, it gives me anxiety and my confidence is generally lowered because of it. If I’m not even confident enough to date then how the hell am I supposed to get pregnant?
So I went into the appointment ready to book the surgery. And that’s exactly what I did. September 23, 2016 I am tentatively booked in for surgery #2. I’m excited and ready to keep this process going. I’m confident in my decision yet I assure you, it did not come lightly. That weight it something I carry in my heart and I take very seriously. I look at women who struggle getting pregnant or who dream of being a mom. That’s never been me. If I do get pregnant one day, I'll no doubt be thrilled. But I can’t say at this time that if I don’t get pregnant, I would be devastated either. I am aware of the magnitude this could potentially have, but cannot predict the future and cannot keep putting my life on hold. So that’s where I am… waiting.
This post originally appeared on IBD Baggage Claim.