Yes, its true. I’m back at it, after time off to heal. I have posted the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is part 3, and the last installmentof this feature. And tho I was coy with my disclaimers in the previous posts, this time i really mean it. This time I get personal, really personal and write some graphic descriptions that those with modest mores might find a bit over the line. As always I tried to keep it in good tastse. But your boundaries are your boundaries - no judgement here. You be you and I'll keep it as real as my fingers can type. Without further ado.. Wait! Where were we? Oh yes, I left us at a cliffhanger? Good for me. Dr. Wylie would be proud. And that cliffhanger was... oh, yes, that I had just had the bandages removed from the surgical area and was handed a mirror to see for myself what had been under all that white guaze. Ready? It's Raised by Wolves 21's conclusion? Well, anyway, it’s part 3 of 3…
Scottie Jeanette Madden , June 2017
And… there… I am. In this magic window into reality (which you earthlings call a mirror). I can see ALL of me, my smiling face, even my top knot of hair at the top of the frame, but in the foreground… well, it’s… it’s…
… what I always expected to see for over fifty years, but it was always hiding behind a… well, that thing that boys have. Now I have said this in a number of ways in this blog and my book, but, my genitals were never what I expected to see whenever I did actually look down there. And the truth is, I just stopped looking. But not now! At last, I am… just…right.
And, tho’ I’m a trifle more swollen then I expected, I am… beautiful. I catch my smile in the reflection and wink - it’s a quick moment of connection with the reflection of me, that we’re developing more every day. This beautiful woman in the mirror and me.
As I'm trying to relate to my new me-ness, My surgeon’s head nurse, Meg, displays a glass dilator. It looks exactly like what you'd imagine. It has grooves at the base for my fingers to grasp it to keep it upright because there’s a gentle upward curve at the last third to the tip. Also at the base are a series of blue dots to measure the depth of penetration. The goal is for the last dot from the base to “disappear” This magic wand is actually aesthetically quite beautiful. It’s elegant.
Meg shows me how to lay a bead of lubricant along the top and add a small dollop of antibiotic ointment to the tip, and she hands it to me, "Okay girl, do your stuff and I'll be back in fifteen to see how you did." And so begins a lifelong relationship with my Vajayjay. (Thank you, Shonda!)
Now in the pre-surgical manual from Dr. Ley's office, they explain this in depth (pun intended), but the part I loved was that they suggest that we girls make it our time - candles, cushions and your favorite music.
Mylove embraces this notion, “They won’t allow us any open flames, but…” and music starts to fill the room, and she becomes my VJ (I know, right?)… rocking not one but two iPads with the combined playlists of our marriage. She has a strange look of glee on her face as she works.
As the music begins to fill the room, an Indian Bhajan, I stare once again into the mirror at Dr. Ley's miraculous work and... well, it’s not as pretty as it will eventually be, but it's sooooo beautiful.
At least what I can see through my tears.
And I take the elegant Plexiglas wand in. And I wasn't prepared for the spiritual experience that welcomed me, almost snuck up on me. I bowed in my heart to the supreme Mother Goddess - the one who has heard my prayers and tears and pleas for the last 20 years. When the God of my childhood failed to answer my prayers, it's the Goddess of my adulthood who held me as I swam across the rapids to cross this river. As the intensity of the sensation overtakes me, I allow myself to surrender... to receive... and I am cradled into the arms of the Goddess like an infant. I am swaddled in Her love and embrace. I am gently, sweetly welcomed into the fullness of my femininity.
As tears of gratitude and joy pour, I discover how wicked Mylove can be. As VJ, she’s killing me softly with her songs - Simon & Garfunkel’s "For Emily Wherever I May Find Her" is so poignant as she makes time stop for us both. I am her Emily. And I am enrobed in baroque brocades and incense. And then she’s slaying me with something silly, like “Bang, Bang” by Jesse J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj). I laugh out loud as we share inside jokes that have been refined in the daily retellings for almost thirty years of love. Which is her plan. She’s just setting me up for another push off the emotional cliff of irony with the next song. “Defying Gravity,” “Come Fly With Me,” “All You Need is Love,” “You’re the Biggest Part of Me,” “Circle of Life,” “Crazy on You,” “Don’t Stop Believin,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” … and on and on. You get the picture. I swirled from one emotion to the next without a break between tears and gales of laughter.
This is more than just a spiritual epiphany, it’s an amazing relief. Because I’ve been anxious about… well, pain.
What we don’t talk about with GCS is that the actual surgery is the smallest part of the journey. It’s the maintenance that comes with a lifetime commitment that is the biggie. We’re not just talking hygiene. This physical therapy is a requirement - and tho’ it’s a bit… maybe “graphic” to discuss in “polite company” as my Big Sis would say, it is the real confirmation that has to be renewed every day for a year (four times a day for the first month alone!); then every week for the next three years; then “as needed” for the rest of one’s life. I’ll be doing this in my nineties… and if my Finnish bloodlines hold (My Gram lived to be 101!), well, I will be doing this… forever.
And yes, I’d been set-up for sure, I was warned about how freaking painful dilation actually is by my friend Sharon. She lets me in on a secret that only our sorority knows: The brochure lies. “This really hurts,” she says, “the pain is blinding.” Oh, Toto…
Only... it doesn't hurt.
Maybe Sharon has done me the best solid a sister can - made me prepare for the worst so the reality is much easier? Maybe it’s my VJ spinning an auditory anesthesia that dulls the pain. Maybe it’s the Grace of the Goddess and the spiritual high. Whatever it is, I don't care, cuz this dilation-thingy… amazing! (Thank you, Sharon!)
And I begin to become addicted to the spiritual experiences that await my dilation every four hours...
Here are some highlights:
My mother passed away when I was in college and, as I wrote in my book, I have always felt that she did know that I was, in fact, her daughter, I mean come on, she’s my mom. (It’s my story and I'm sticking with it.) One day, as I got past the initial fumbling with my new equipment, and everything settled in, I was suddenly embraced by my Mother's arms… my Mother’s warmth. My Mother’s… hug.
I allowed myself to once again receive completely... I float in her arms... and I drown in her eyes and then I am embraced by every departed female in my family, all welcoming me into the legacy of great women who have nurtured this family for generations.
I am sobbing with joy to once again feel them all - my grandmothers, Sylvia, and Maryann, my Aunt Mary, my Aunt Cappy, and cousin Maryann (she passed as a young woman). And then there's the women who are only names and stories, but here they have form, and that form is love and warmth and wisdom and acceptance… I look around and see a group of shadows on the edge of this circle of light - it’s the departed men, and my father leads them into the light as they join us, and I am accepted and welcomed as daughter, granddaughter, and niece.
Mylove, the VJ, crossfades into Whitney Houston's "Hero" which makes me tumble off the cliff of bliss into a snowstorm of yellowed and faded polaroids, corners curling, emulsion peeling... it’s a young boy, blond hair across the forehead, hazel-blue eyes staring, a slight smirk starting at the corner of thin lips... it’s this young boy spirit who protected and served his sister spirit as they tried to make sense of the world. Yes it was confusing, but he tried, and gosh darned it, he succeeded... standing tall in the role he was given... and I thanked him for bringing me so skillfully and lovingly to this moment in time... then I say goodbye. I start to cry. But he graciously, lovingly, and gently steps aside as the smirk goes full, lighting up into a blazing smile...
And it goes on like this for days -
A schedule of intense spiritual journeys interrupted by walks around Scottiesdale, and lunches with Mylove as spring training fans thin into spring break tourists. One day, as we hurry back for the afternoon dilation, Mylove suggests we duck into a quaint adobe mission church - Our Lady of Compassion - built by Mexican families “invited” (the docent’s word) to work on the ranches and farms of the newly created Scottsdale. The rustic chapel still has that quiet whisper of old Catholic sanctuaries. We enter and my muscle memory doesn't miss a beat, dipping fingers into the holy water font at the entrance, sign of the crossing (it’s a verb, you have to be raised Catholic to understand) and then, we’re kneeling at the rack of prayer candles. I light a candle for the great souls upon whose blessings we have floated effortlessly during this whole trip. A quick tour with the docent to be polite and off we go...
It isn't until Marcy posts pictures of this mission on Facebook that night that we learn that our dear friend, Tammy, had lit a candle in the very same sanctuary just two weeks prior for my (then) upcoming surgery…
And then, it’s day 8. The last full day in the hospital - my job today is to have my catheter removed... as long as I have "filled the hat." And maybe, just maybe, the foreshadowing I’m hinting at, the afterthought that was never part of my mental preparation, is the reason why I am not... well, hang on I’m getting ahead of myself (wow, first time for that, ever)...
Let's back up. This "hat" is the white plastic device that sits in the toilet to catch your output, it is used to make sure you are peeing properly (which means, “all’s good” in the plumbing dept.). And to fill the hat you have to pee a lot. And I mean a lot, a lot.
Yup... here it is - the actual shadow that was fored... this shadow ain't the vaporous mist of the lack of light - oh no, it’s the wall of reality that I am about to slam headfirst into at full speed that could prevent me from completing my stay here, my job here, the way I always dreamed of doing it.
If I don't fill the hat, I have to have the catheter put back in! And then I have to wear it on the plane ride home!
No. Nuh-uh! I wanted to be done. Done-done. Done and done. My life was poised to start for real. Finally. I did not want to begin with an asterisk! I want Scottiesdale in my rearview mirror, a big W, a tearful hug and then seeyoulaterbye!
Now, hopefully, I made enough disclaimers on behalf of those of my sisters in our community who choose not to go the surgical route, but for me, for me, FOR ME (clear now?) only for me, this was (as silly, misguided or naive as you may think I am) supposed to be the ending of the first phase of my life and the beginning of my second. I wanted a clear break with the past. Arrive back in Burbank, and step off into the new chapter. Done. Done, means “all done.” (Forget that I’ve got to come back in three months for the second stage of surgery - we’ll discuss that later.)
This was just so not in the plan.
So, I tried to fill the hat. My night nurse, Gloria got it - she felt for me and got into my efforts full bore, even tho’ she canceled out every stride forward with her required disclaimers and had one foot stepping onto plan B at all times.
But Mylove knows me and more importantly, knows what a wreck I will be if I can't succeed - so she takes charge - reminding me to keep pounding water - force hydrating (there's a phrase from my survival show past). We're going to waterboard my reluctant bladder into submission.
We watched both Star Trek "Into Darkness" and Star Wars "the Force Awakens" to distract my bladder as I try not to let the dilithium crystals meltdown by using Jedi mind control to push pint after pint of water into my saturated body...
...and every hour, on the hour, my nurse checks in... "Anything?"
I reassure her (these are not the hats you're looking for?) and I strike a deal her with her. I promise that if I fill the hat before Meg comes in the next morning, Gloria will promise to clear me for departure and, she makes me add, “If I fail, the catheter goes back in...”)
Armed with her promise, I head into the wee hours (sorry, I couldn’t resist - call it my last call for potty humor?).
I wake up out of a sound sleep, ready to burst! I call her to the room at midnight – “success!” I proclaim. Her faith in me was not misplaced and I go back to sleep, happy at nailing this surgery thingy...
But they don't call them the wee hours for nothing - I pee every hour on the hour! Filling the hat three times over - and still, I wake like clockwork and pee and pee and pee...
When my nurse comes in for her early morning check-in she doesn't greet my news as good. I've seen that look many a time - it's the look the ref gives you as she waves the red card in the air over your head... a sense of judgment as you are... ejected from the game.
I beg her to reconsider and when begging fails (which stage of grief is that, again?). I do get her to agree that Meg will have the final call. At this point, I’m showing how desperate I am, looking for any way to squeak out a "W" here - some habits never die.
I play my last card - reminding her, that I did what she asked, I filled the hat (never mind that several times over prolly means a bladder infection at the least!), and this wonderful, compassionate, albeit tired, nurse grudgingly agrees - maybe even thankful that Meg will be the bad cop here.
But it doesn't stop her from being my nurse now. And she orders a sonogram to measure my bladder's current volume which, despite the hatfuls, we see (hear?) is still at max capacity - 990 ml.
... and another nail goes into the coffin of my dream of leaving "all done."
Meg stands before my nurse, Gloria and me as judge and jury. We each plead our cases (which in this case is even sillier, since we're both arguing on my behalf). But Ms. Scottie is the one missing the obvious... this is a serious problem.
Meg smiles her big sisterly smile, radiating compassion and reassures me this is no reflection on me - many girls go through this... and she asks me once again to blow out my candles as she inserts the rubber catheter back in where nothing should ever be...
Despite her reassurances, I am sad, mad, disappointed. Red-carded and asterisk’d and all. But I put on my big girl panties and smile...
‘cuz its day 9, and we're going home.
The room looks like a bomb hit as Mylove and I pack. Well let’s be real, Mylove did the packing just as she has done all the work this past week. I start the “daisy chain” - taking the vases of flowers, one at a time down the hallway (I am confined to lifting no more than 12 pounds at a time - Meg’s orders!) the 100 or so yards from my room, to the nurses station - and within 6 trips, their drab counter has been transformed into a florist shop!
It’s fun to express my gratitude to the entire team in this way.
As I return to my room from the last trip, Debbi has arrived. This incredible woman is the unofficial Godmother to all of Dr. Ley’s girls. She is an ombudswoman who has Dr. Ley’s ear, the best tips for buying clothes in Scottiesdale and anything else you could possibly need to stay on track here. Today she’s checking in to give me last words of advice and goodbye hugs. The best tip she has today is that we can call ahead and have the airline have a wheelchair waiting... it will turn out to be a Godsend. She helps us calculate the time and we realize — there’s just no way around it, we're gonna have to dilate at the airport!
Again, Deb is our girl, telling us the things we just don’t know - they have special restrooms at airports for travelers with physical... well, needs. And she reassures us, we most certainly need to dilate - never never never miss a dilation. Never. Not ever.
And then, our friend Rebecca arrives and drives us to the airport, and after hugs and kisses and promises to stay in touch (which we've yet to follow thru on), I settle into my waiting wheelchair-iot, and Mylove heroically pushes me thru the crowded Sky Harbor Airport.
We find it quite quickly. The special restroom is actually a palace with a bed/couch and even a shower, should we be so inclined. But there’s a long line of travelers behind us with similar rights to this sacred space, so we take our twenty minutes (with Mylove using a mid-break to reassure the waiting people that we'll only be just another 10 - with apologies). As we exit the sanctuary, passing the waiting line, we receive nothing but smiles and wishes for our safe travels.
And then, one last burrito, and we're on the plane.
It’s an uneventful trip where we sleep on each other’s shoulders - we’re just one more wheelchair ride away. B-T- Dubs, I would’ve never made it walking. What happened? I wonder thru the exhaustion. I was walking all around Scottiesdale just the day before??? What did Debbi know that I didn't? Apparently, that post-surgical adrenaline only lasts 8 and a half days...
My brothers-in-law, Dougie and Macky, are the shining faces, so happy to welcome us home. I am a chatter box about adventure travel on the way home, answering an innocent question Dougie with a long anecdote that involves Green Berets Navy SEALS, a six foot Teddy bear and and some clown shoes. I can’t even remember his question, but Mylove wants to know what’s wrong with me... and the truth is, her question slaps me in the face. I don’t know what’s wrong - I have no idea why I am tumbling, assoverteakettle down memory lane… am I overcompensating? One thing I do know, it that I am overly sensitive... because her question shames me into silence.
But the bouquet of balloons declaring “IT’S A GIRL! Cute as a bug!” that float in our living room, return my bliss, and re-lift my spirits, and we sit and laugh and try to catch our breath.
And now life begins. Tomorrow.
As I lie back for my nighttime dilation, I take huge satisfying breath in and blow it out slowly, I envision brilliant birthday candles flickering into wishes. And epiphany flares. On the path of yoga that I’ve practiced for 30 years, the mantra of the incoming breath and the outgoing breath translated from Sanskrit can be translated into “I am that.” Which is, as a tenet of yoga, the understanding of your truest nature - the awareness of the ultimate truth of who you are. It’s a consciousness of the truth that transcends even our physical presence. But tonight, I finally slow down between each breath to realize what has actually happened to me while I was trying so hard to swim to this side the river.
I can feel that, while I was following Meg’s directions and dealing with a self-determined, all-out assault on my body, while I was in survival mode trying to just get thru the last 9 days…
The inevitable “it” that has ruled my life, that thing that stalked my every waking thought, that desire that haunted my unconscious, and that obsession that clung to every subconscious whisper… that dysphoria that was the cloud that hid that sun on my horizon, the that that was all I ever really knew in life…
And as I take stock of life now, I can feel, truly feel, that for the first time in my life, my awareness, my body, and my heart all breathe in complete and natural sync. Everything is, finally, in complete congruence.
I made it.
It’s already past tense.
No more waiting for the inevitable…
Yes. That happened.
As I wrote last time, “I’m back on line” in more ways than one, after some time off to heal. I promised to post the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is part 2 and it contains some graphic descriptions that those with weak tummies might find a bit graphic for a place that takes pains to chart the psychological seas of transformation. I tried in as many case as I could to soften the blows, but then again, I made a pact with you waaaaay back at the beginning of our journey together to tell you all to the best of my abilities as a writer and a human. So, I do this with some… adherence to a growing sense of graciousness that I hoping comes with the territory, and so, without further ado… I present Raised by Wolves 21 pt 2
Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden ,Spring, 2017,
PREVIOUSLY ON… Scottie Jeanette has just come through “day zero” the first day of spring of the rest of her life and is surprising everyone, including her surgeon with her blooming radiance…in fact, she’s what some would call “that girl.” (and not in a flattering way) and she’s getting frankly, little annoying…
OPENING TITLES IN, READ: “Part 2 More That happens.”
I am starting to levitate in my very bed. The smell of fresh flowers and bouquet of balloons have taken hold of each cheek and stretch mouth into a pepsodent smile… Mylove has just deftly origami’d her fold-out bed from what is supposed to be a chair and stands over me to kiss me good night. She brushes the hair from my eyes… God, she is beautiful… She kisses me deepy and settles into her… nest, as I turn out the light.
The chime of my cellphone lets me know that I’ve received a text,… I look to my cell and see that My big Sister Alexandra Billings has checked in on me, and I read aloud for us both to hear:
“So much stardust and history rain on to you today. You move into a newness that is alive and glorious. Although it is filled with the unknown, there are discernible and recognizable parts to it. The fact that you are living in the center of what’s possible has been with us since Time breathed in its first space. And so the courage of who have always been rests in the knowledge of where you’re absolutely headed. That is close to you. Your courage to run into the fire; to blaze across the sun and to leave a trail of compassion and brilliance in your wake. When you do this, and when you do it out loud, others receive it and are reminded. No matter what the transition, they are saved by you.
I love you Angel.
Okay… so, it’s one thing when you feel these things in your head and heart… quite another when someone says them about you. It seems so much more, I dunno, tangible? I know, I know, we’re supposed to be self-reliant strong women, who do not require outside validation… still, her descriptions are waaaaay better than I would ever allow myself to use for myself. They carry substance. They have… an effect.I drift off to sleep, with day zero in the books…
But my status as the star blazing across the sun is short-lived.
The next day comes and I’m even more radiant as the effects of the anesthesia are wearing off. Today’s task is to take me off of the intravenous pump for pain meds. Not sure how I feel about this. I’ve actually grown fond of the fact that I can push a button and feel pain-free instantly. In fact, I will confess that I have actually figured out (by counting beats of the pump) the minimum wait time that allows me to push it again and get another dose. My goal is to get maximum doses in the two hours I have left, before they’re going to take it away.
I said I was blissed out I did not say that I was not in pain.
I make a note to look at this aspect of my character later…
The first couple of doses of oral hydrocodone seem to be OK and so is my appetite. The hospital food isn’t really all that bad – a nice fillet of salmon, some green beans and green salad what’s not to love? And they are getting me as many Italian ices as I can eat, which brings me back to my grandmother’s stoop in Brooklyn one summer when I was a child…
which is actually happening a lot today. I’m tapping into a lot of childhood and teenage and young adult memories. With each one, I connect the dots from then to now, from there to here, and realize… OH MY GOD. Oh. My. God. Oh, my God, yes it’s true…
I’ve made it. I’m here! Amazing.
And I feel great – which feels like bragging as I hear how the other girls on the floor are doing. And you know me, I’m not one to flaunt what I got…
But that night. It’s dark after midnight, Mylove is asleep in her itsachairitsacouchitsaloungeitsatorturedevice, and she’s actually sleeping for the first time in hours… And something is happening…
I can feel that feeling. My nieces call it the “mouth sweats” – that sudden watering of your mouth for a reason that you never wanna even think about. That dreadful feeling that tells you that you’re suddenly too far away from any bathroom… Now I have never, ever in my life liked the idea of barfing. I resisted it to the very last possible moment. I think I would rather be hit by a bus than throw up.
But suddenly I realize I’ve lost the ability to have a vote in this and I hit the nurses call button…
FREEZE FRAME. I have to back up.
Of the nurses and assistants who have been tending to my every need here, 98% are women. There have been only two dudes. One, a nurse named Shane and the other an assistant named David. For some reason, David and I must have some karma because I’m relating to him like every dude on every team I’ve ever played. I still have the muscle memory of how to speak “dude.” And for every shot across my bow, I return fire in kind. In other words, we have a lot of snappy banter (I said snappy, not witty). Mylove is the first to notice this give-and-take, and she asks me what (the heck) I’m doing. Like I said, it’s my muscle memory and I thought I was just reacting to things he said, but the fact that I use words like “return fire” to describe this needs to be looked at.
I don’t know why David’s firing at me in the first place. Actually, if I think about it, I do know why he’s doing it. It’s how dudes relate to the world, and this world “in partic,” which is one of the top places for GCS in the world is all about women. It’s so all about women that that’s all there is in the surgical ward. My surgical team was 100% women. Many of Dr. Ley’s office staff visited me every day. The office staff is 99% women with the exception of the man whose name and reputation is the head of the practice, Dr.Toby Meltzer. Yes, David and Shane are outnumbered and are involved in a world of all women, all the time. So, as professional as they both are, Shane cloaks himself in crisp professional confidence, while David chooses instead a benign “trash talk” as his idea of bedside manner.
But I have no idea why I am relating to him in the way that I am. It’s as if I sense his “fishoutofwateryness” (what? It’s a term, look it up), and I’m trying to put him at ease by returning fire. I’m not cutting him any slack. And he’s not cutting me any either. Our banter has an edge like a pick up street basketball game. it’s competitive, it’s fast and you’re never gonna let your opponent see you sweat…
But it’s just about to backfire on me as my mouth sweats and my stomach churns and I stab the nurse call button and…
it rings and rings and rings and finally David answers but instead of asking what I need, or even why I called, David uses this opportunity to get a couple of jabs in, because that’s what we do…
And as I try to squeak out the words, “David. Nauseous,” for fear of what will happen when I keep my mouth open too long… but It happens anyway.
And I cover the call button, and I cover my bed, and I cover the floor…
… and it keeps on coming, and coming, and coming. Mylove is up instantly from a sound sleep, but I’ve created a moat that she can’t cross. She fumbles to get the lights on, and finally David comes into the room with Shane the nurse (it’s dude night) and they see what I was trying to say over the intercomm — a tsunami of my day’s worth of food and drink.
I stare at David. He reassures me – he’s got this, I can go back to sleep… He does smile sheepishly as he disinfects… well, everything. Our banter has no place here…
It’s a rough night, and the next day, I’m down a few pegs, both emotionally and physically, my comet streak may have gotten eclipsed by the dark side of the moon… but not for long.
Because for the next few days I’ve got a job to do, and I need to get serious. it’s all about healing doncha know, come day six, my life will change dramatically… again. The packing will come out, the bandages will come off, and I begin “physical therapy.”
So Mylove and I get up every morning and walk through the town of Scottsdale now Scotties-Dale. It is for all intents and purposes almost like a vacation, except that I have to be back every three hours to the hospital (rules), but it’s a sweet time for Mylove and me. And we really have nothing to do except get some fresh air and then go back to the hospital to find a new bouquet of flowers waiting for us.
A quick note on that: it seems many of our friends have been waiting and planning for this time as well – our room is filled with bouquets of flowers and the balloons and a teddy bear and cards and well wishes all celebrating “it’s a girl!” It makes me smile, and it makes all of the nurses and assistants on the floor stop by our room just for a whiff of the amazingly beautiful fragrance of love, acceptance, and support. So much so, that one of the assistants, Amy, comes in after five days of this with yet another bouquet and says, “you are killing me with these flowers!”
Everyone on the floor agrees, they have never seen so much love in one room.
I’m not the first girl to go thru this experience with this team. I am Dr. Ley’s 44th since January. And Dr. Meltzer has been doing this for over 20 years. To say they got this down is an understatement – it’s a 10 day regimen that counts your surgery as day zero. Each morning a nurse comes in and writes on the white board that day’s “job.” And they are serious. Days 1-5 have simple tasks of healing and walking but on Day 5, Charlotte, my day nurse, gave me the pep talk for day 6 (I guess i needed a day to process it?), drawing on the whiteboard a crude drawing that would make every 7th grade boy titter with glee, of me with my legs spread like a porn star. In the newly created sacred area between my legs (which Weezie has dubbed the “Pristine Vagene”), Charlotte drew on the area a wide black oval and looked at me like a Sex Ed teacher, drawing a “black circle” for each as she says, “Scottie… there are four holes: your clitoris, urethra, vagina, and anus. Got it? Wipe from front to back always! And don’t wipe – pat, pat, pat. Any questions?”
As a matter of fact. Um.., yes.
I never thought of it before, but why did God but the ladies’ room in the middle of the playground? (This could be evidence that God is a man – guys never think these things thru, on the other hand, it cold prove that God is a woman, making the restroom centrally located, and never to far from anywhere…) I mused aloud this essential question as Charlotte left the room. Mylove stared at me blankly. She had nothing, smiling with amused dismissal, a certain “they’re so cute when they’re little,” kinda thingy.
But whatever. Right now all I know is that I’m the mummy down there, but tomorrow’s the big day… the big reveal and it starts early!
I don’t sleep a wink – It’s like Christmas and blessedly it’s finally morning. Meg, Dr. Ley’s head nurse, has given word she’s thirty minutes out. That’s Meg, my big sister, efficient, together and “on it.”
I stare at the yellow-brown rubber tube that flops out of the square of surgical tape that hides my… me. The me I’ve only dreamed, prayed, screamed and cried for, for over fifty FREAKING YEARS…
And then Meg is in my room – without a sound, she’s standing over me with huge smile and my bed starts rising up like Young Frankenstein toward the sky, so Meg doesn’t have to stoop to get to work. She winks at me, “you ready for this, Miss Scottie?” I realize I’m not breathing.
Meg tells me to use my “lady blow” – which, I learned is the magical connection between putting my lips together and blowing and the moving of muscles that open my vjay-jay,… (I know, right?) I follow her instructions… and she gently yanks the square of tape off from my abdomen and, as I wince from the warm sting of the tape’s protest, Meg starts to pull the packing that has held my new vagina open and in shape – and it’s just like a magician pulling endless scarves from a top hat… Then she says, “blow out your birthday candles, Honey.” And as I blow, she pulls the last of the packing and I feel like I’m turning inside out with her last tug… I’m blinded by a sensation that seems to light up my entire body with white hot electricity…
As I return to my body (timidly) and open my eyes, Meg smiles and says the last bit is always… interesting.
So is that what the kids are calling it these days?
Meg hands me a mirror… It’s time. As I reach for it a lifetime of inevitable rises on my horizon, brilliant rays spear the lingering mists of dysphoria. The last clouds of a storm that passed forever just six days ago. The spring breeze of the bloom of my life left fills my heart, my mind… and now, miraculously, even my own body. My fingers wrap like new shoots around the handle as I look to Mylove. She nods, “it’s time.”
Time to see just what inevitable looks like.
Next time: The Conclusion of “Well, that happened.”
This is me, getting “back on line” in more ways than one, since the biggest spring of my life. As I promised, I would take some time off to heal and bring the blog back when I could, which is now. I will post the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is benign, but parts 2 & 3 will contain some graphic descriptions (and will also carry this premumble) reminding those with weak tummies that surgery and the human body sometimes can be… an uncomfortable affair…
So without further ado… I present Raised by Wolves 21 –
Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden ,Spring, 2017,
Well that happened…
I thought I would start writing this one a lot earlier than I actually am… I’m three weeks from the largest moment of my life with the exception of my marriage and… Yes, it’s basically a rebirth?
Is it? Because as radically different as every single molecule of every moment of every day is for me now, this is that inevitable that I wrote about in “Getting Back To Me…” that inevitable that has been the sun on my distant horizons my entire life, that inevitable that I tried to hide from for so long…
that inevitable that finally came.
When I last wrote to you all, I was on my way to Scottsdale Arizona – I returned from Scottiesdale Arizona literally a new woman.
Before we go any further, I feel it’s time for the requisite pre-mumble and disclaimers, and I confess that I say this now with a little different understanding than I had before. But it still is our promise to ourselves in our community (which is of course the Ts of the LGBTQIA+ community). That promise is that we make sure it is understood that for us a community: surgery is not the destination, it’s not a value or degree of trans-ness or a commitment or anything other than the personal choice to either have or not have; that one must make in one’s life to fulfill one’s personal life path one way or the other.
We take pains to make this crystal clear so that we don’t establish a way to judge someone’s else’s identity.
We are who we declare we are and that’s not up for debate, opinion, or judgment.
That said, it is (was) the most important aspect of my transition, with the exception of Marcy’s support for me.
So, here I am.
On the other side of the river I’ve spent my entire life staring longingly at from the far shore.
And here’s where our legacy and the generational divides start to appear. I am, in the language of the older generation in the trans community, no longer trans… Yes, in the older generation when one of us “went all the way,” that person was no longer considered trans. You were now…
just a woman. And thank you, God.
And to get academic for another half-second to completely throw this all into the blender, the whole idea of using the terms “cis” and “trans” from the Latin meaning this side (cis) and that side (trans) of the river, I suppose by definition I am on back on this side now.
What I can tell you is that, yes I am, finally after 45 years of longing, dreaming, wishing, praying, denying, trying to forget, throwing up my hands in despair, and burying my body with alcohol and any other kind of distraction…
The prayers of a 4-year-old child begging God to give her her body back when she woke up the next morning, have finally been answered.
I Got Back To Me completely.
And I wish I could say it was easy… it’s easy if you view it from afar, like watching the rising sun melt river ice. The truth is that the sun’s blaze transforms the hard crystal of ice to liquid and eventually vapor by searing the molecular bonds with such force that it cleaves atomic forces like paper dolls.
And speaking of paper dolls. For those just joining us, after waiting for six months in line for my surgical date, suddenly the day was drawing nigh. My surgeon’s nurse called me to make sure that I had all of the drugs I was supposed to bring with me, as I would be traveling from California to Arizona to enter the chrysalis and emerge as my butterfly self. I went to my local pharmacy to pick up the drugs and discovered…
According to their “infallible” computer, I was no longer covered by my insurance plan. I, or rather it, had been canceled. In their world, (which I had adopted now as ALL my world) I didn’t exist.
To say that I dissolved in a puddle of tears in the parking lot would be an understatement. I whimpered out to Mylove over the telephone as I struggled to find my car in the parking lot through a shower of tears. She calmly said, “come home Mylove, and we’ll figure it out.”
“Figuring it out” literally meant a 48 hours of round the clock phone call vigil, which i wrote about in my last blog – no need to pick that scab again.
Working with Kaiser’s managers in the members’ office and covered California to work it out was a harrowing experience considering I was just about to get on the plane. it was with those circumstances that we are driven to the airport by my brother-in-law then its a kiss on the cheeks, hugs that practical crush us and we’re on our way.
As we jog through the Burbank airport, Mylove suddenly veers left and I almost slam into a woman in a wheelchair, after making my apologies, I see what has literally attracted Mylove’s attention – A magnetic sign , in the shape of paw print declares, “I heart my 2 mommies.” Mylove is buying 2, for us each to affix to our cars back home. But it floors me, Mylove wants to declare to the world our state. Through tears I continue toward the TSA Prechek… with Mylove. Completely.
When we got to Scottsdale, the hotel clerk told us we had to pay for the entire 9 nights in advance, $2500 that we didn’t have. We realized we needed to do something and fast. And by saying “we,” I really mean Mylove.
It was all her.
And that was the beginning of her carrying me (literally) through this entire experience, emotionally physically and spiritually, keeping my spirits up, making sure I took everything I was supposed to take, and generally opening every door in front of me.
I think you may all think you really know what love is, but you have not felt the full power of it as it comes from Marcy Madden.
So we paid for the one night, both held our breath and dove into the internet… no way we could blow money we didn’t have at that moment on something KP was going to reimburse us Gosh only knows when. And here’s where Mylove and I started to realize we were on a divine path lit by angels…
One our oldest friends, a blonde tornado who goes by the name of Eloise or Weezie for short was in Scottiesdale for a conference, and decided to stay an extra day and help us out. And she had a car, and she knew where the Whole Foods was and best pho. Since I could only have clear broth – I would not be deprived. To say she was a Godsend wouldn’t cut it – she was a blast of sunshine.
After a comedy of errors and another hotel, we were finally settling in to a day of bowel cleansing, which, if any of you ever gone through any kind of major surgery, may have had this experience. You have to completely flush your system of all solids which involves using industrial-strength laxatives that they try to make palatable by adding berry flavor to. SPOILER ALERT: it doesn’t work. I mean flavoring doesn’t work. It tastes like berry burp flavored gasoline. However, the lax thingy works waaaaaaaay too well.
Weezie and I must have have been sisters in a past life because in this life we bantered and teased like siblings… I’m using the past tense because, since transition, our banter is lighter and sweeter and the edge is all gone (something that she can’t stop reminding me of… sigh).
Except that now the roles are reversed and I’m the little sister. Weezie took far too much delight in my extra-embarrassing efforts during this mega cleanse, and couldn’t stop herself from recording on camera my very first enema.. yes we have to get that scrubbed from all devices…
The jokes and puns never stopped and soon we are all completely laughed out. Weezie excuses herself to her own hotel and then it’s just me and Mylove and a hundred or so more trips to the toilet even tho’ my “lips are sealed,” in other words, absolutely no more fluids after midnight. Even so, you’d think from the volume departing my body that I had been drinking directly from a firehose.
And then dawn comes… thank God! Actually it’s predawn but I’ll take it – we have to walk to the hospital at 4:30 a.m. to be there at 5:00.
It’s eerie… walking with nothing but the street lights awake. Even the signs for Starbucks are dark at this time. The traffic lights change for no one, until we press the pedestrian button and get our way…
The hospital is as quiet as a church. Three other couples sit and whisper in the darkened lobby. We’re all anxious for our various reasons and scheduled surgeries. Not even the receptionist has arrived yet.
Marcy and I are crossing our fingers and holding our breath as we sit with the admissions woman moments later – we’re trusting that Marcy’s work with the KP members services has somehow held, and trickled down to here. Everything’s still in a whisper as if we’re not wanting to wake the hospital up lest they too have kicked us out of queue over the insurance confusion. But we’re fine, and whatever snafus we had getting here seem to be ironed out at least for now.
And then I’m escorted away. Marcy will be sent for once I’m “gowned up.” I can feel myself slipping into survival mode. I’m not afraid. I’m scared that I will miss it – these most profound steps that I’ve taken as an adult, even more intense than our wedding, are happening! And I’m trying desperately not to miss a molecule, but my mind is being clouded by adrenaline.
Weighed, gowned, and measured – BP is surprising normal, heart rate too, how could that be?
Yes, the super zen calm that I’m known for when I’m directing multi-cam television or steering a crew through a third-world customs quagmire has descended on me like a trusted friend. I am in my zone now, and the anxious turbocharged fear has given way to my superpower – I remember everyone’s name after hearing it only once, the entire surgical team flashes in and out of the cubicle getting ready for showtime. They are a well-oiled, highly professional team that moves with the tight choreography of a hip-hop ballet, smiling, gently joking and tending not only to my physical needs with needle, pill or cuff, but my emotional needs, keeping it soft and light, — they know better’n I, that every small step for them is a giant leap for me.
I’m helped onto my gurney, the warming blanket fills with warm air and I snuggle in, and Marcy arrives. Things are light and efficient – everyone is cloaked in surgical green except…
… my surgeon, Dr Ley.
She’s in her workout clothes as if she jogged to work this morning and is powering a banana and yogurt as she checks in on me and her team. She likes what she sees. Her team is ready. She gives me a reassuring squeeze as the anesthesiologist slips a pill under my tongue.
And Marcy says that she brushed aside my hair and kissed me for good luck. I have to take her word for it (I would’ve guessed as much) but that’s where the tape stops. No fade to black, no static… No freeze frames or even the film caught in the gate before melting… just a hard cut to black…
Three and half hours later I’m in a recovery room. Dr. Ley and Marcy have already spoken, apparently. I have no idea. I have no reason to disbelieve that, it’s just, I have no recollection of even being anywhere except… wait… yes, yes…
The first inkling I have that I have just finally crossed the river back to this side is when I’m aware that… yes, it’s… my face? Yes, my face is stretched into…
A huge contented smile. Mylove’s brushing the hair from my eyes and standing over me smiling (this time i remember) and she says, “every time you wake up, you have the biggest smile on your face!” Every time? Every time? You mean this isn’t the first time I’ve open my eyes? I’ve been in my room for two hours, which B-T-Dubs already has flowers in it, and a pink teddy bear holding a heart that says “it’s a girl!” and a huge bouquet of balloons. Weezie is still here having kept MyLove company.
And I am now fully starting to enter my body… this body. My body.
Did i mention that I don’t want to miss a moment? I am supremely, blissfully, wonderfully happy. I’m so happy that I can’t believe how happy I am. As much as I tried to imagine this moment, I’m struggling so hard to cling to it. I’m….
Holy cow, I am not prepared for how immense this moment actually feels. And maybe that’s a defense mechanism or maybe that’s how I was able to stay on the other side of the river for as long as I had to. Maybe that’s the way that I was able to endure all of what I had to endure in order to get through a day on the far shore. But guess what? I’m so blissed out, that I cut off thus line of introspection. Even asking that question now seems so… Irrelevant? It’s hard for me to admit this, but yes… that’s how I feel, that’s how amazing this time is! And it hits me like a thunderbolt! As my toes recognize the feeling of the warm sands of this shore… The pain of 50 years is so… distant. It feels like a story I once read.
(Now, this is me talking three weeks after the crack of a thunderbolt sheared the smog of Gender Dysphoria from my being… and some perspective is in order)I
n my writing, speaking, workshops, and activism, I’m remembering what the pain of gender dysphoria is so I can describe that to people who have never experienced it. That has been very relevant. It’s how I’ve been able to help open the hearts of people to understand our community, to help them try to understand how confusing and psychologically disturbing and traumatic this is. But more important than that – the world’s understanding of the destruction that Gender Dysphoria wreaks is crucial for getting transgender people the help and care we need to merely live our lives. Critical. Crucial. Necessary.
But… suddenly irrelevant?
Snapping back to my hospital bed…
I mull this… the black hole suddenly filled with light and love… like seeing the hole where a diseased oak had once rotted suddenly filling in with Gardenias. I reason, as my mind floats in a soup of Dilantin, the intravenous pain medication that is blissfully keeping me distracted from the sutures keeping me trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey… where was I? Oh yeah… it’s only irrelevant, this lack of gender whatchamacallit, to me right now. It’s obviously not time to think about the past, but wonderfully important to treasure this moment now.
For the next couple of hours I drift in and out of sleep, and every time I wake up, I struggle to stay awake to share this moment with Mylove… A gentle knock at the door and Dr. Ley walks in and stops and stares at me and says, “how the hell are you so blissful? you just came through major surgery and yet you look… radiant.”
This, of course is a bit surprising since she sees at least three patients per day, so I would’ve thought that everybody has this same reaction.
But now even she was surprised.
Next time: Part 2 of 3 – More that… happens.
Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years"