We all have fears. Most people have a fear of things that will eat them. Some may be afraid of heights. This is the story of a fear of mine that walks a fine line between a little weird, and crazy.
I have fears just like everyone else. I’m afraid of earwigs. One of my biggest fears is having to disrobe for a medical exam between waxings and I’m mistaken for Sasquatch and forced into a life of captivity as a subject of scientific research.
For as long as I can remember, I have never worn anything without my underwear, even pajamas. First, it was my diaper under my feet-ey pajamas. Next, K-Mart underwear, because we couldn’t afford Underoos. and finally, underwear and an over-sized T-shirt. Look, I may not always wear pajamas, but when I do, I always wear my underwear beneath them.
This may sound like the beginning of a story where I talk about how I was traumatized, or have a repressed memory manifesting itself as a compulsion to protect my private parts, but no, this is not the case. And before you go all Freudian on me, I can say with great certainty after 16 years of therapy, if I had been violated in some way, it would have come out, and luckily this is not the case. Nope. I just have an unrealistic fear of going commando.
Is that really such a bad thing? I think not.
When I was growing up, I saw actors on soap operas wearing sheets like a beach towel, and I wondered, “Why are they talking about how much they love swimming. I love swimming too, but this is ridiculous. Maybe if you’d shut up about it, someone will bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to that fancy tree house of yours, just like like Mrs. Lancaster did. ” (Hey, didn’t everyone have a friend with a pool?)
Eventually, I learned that people in soap operas were not having a post-poolside conversation in a fancy tree house, but had just finished playing another type of Marco Polo. Now, years later before, during, and after I play ‘Marco Polo’ , I leave my underwear on until the very last second, and once they’re off, I know exactly where they are. Or at least which direction to look. Maybe that’s TMI, but we all saw Kim Kardashian’s naked, oil-basted, photo-shopped ass last week, so if anything, I’m being modest. (You’re welcome!) After sex, I may stick around to bask in the after glow, but only after I have put on my undies. If I can’t find my underwear, and I’m not at home where I can pull a new pair out of the dresser drawer, I will search the place with the passion of a cleaning meth addict. (Without all that itching) I will turn on lights, lift sheets and flip mattresses if that’s what it takes to find them. Maybe to \ you, underwear just may be just a poly-cotton blended piece of clothing, but to me, my britches are The Knight of my Lady Parts, and defend The Kingdom with honor. (Yes, I did just refer to my vagina as, The Kingdom.)
In 1998, I left for work one day and woke up to find my mom was there from Arizona, my dad was there from Northern California, my grandparents were there from Westminster and my ex-husband looked a few years older, and he lived with me so I had no idea why he looked so tired. I might have felt like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz if it weren’t for the stabbing headache from a skull fracture with subdural hematoma and a few broken ribs. I had been in a coma for three days, (I was time traveling. Suck on that, Doctor Who!) and if my husband had not been home to perform CPR on me in a pool of my own blood, I’d most likely be dead. I had heard of comas, but I thought they only happened to people in soap operas. Once I realized I was in a hospital gown, I immediately took inventory on my underwear and found a catheter, and it freaked me out a little bit, but I had such a headache, I was unable to do anything about it, and for a few days, The Kingdom remained unguarded
It took me months to recover. My mother-in-law came out from Wyoming. She and my mom were both there to help as long as they could, but eventually it was up to my ex-husband to change the dressing on my head. It was very hard for me to reach my wound, because I had been in bed for so long recovering, my body atrophied a bit, and there were broken ribs, and the scleroderma, didn’t help either.
Then came the day when my underwear saved The Kingdom from invaders. After a head injury most patients need sleep, and I was no exception. My head wound had almost completely healed closed. It had about an eighth of an inch left to be closed completely. I had most of my mental faculties back, but I still tired easily and needed naps. One afternoon, I was awakened by movement on my arms. It felt like tiny little hairs barely touching my skin. I got out of bed and headed to the bathroom mirror, took off my shirt and saw ants scrambling from their marching formation across my body, up my neck and into my hair. I looked in my underwear, and there were no ants. The Kingdom had been defended from foreign invaders. I wondered why ants were headed for my hair, then I pulled the bandage aside, and in the white puss were ants,. Zombie ants harvesting bits of my brain to bring back to their colony of ravenous, zombie-baby ants baring tiny, zombie-ant teeth anxiously awaiting my delicious brain tissue. I had always thought that if I were to be eaten by a creature, I thought I would be delicious, but knowing I’m delicious did not calm me down. There was no time to even scream, because I jumped into the shower, got rid of all the ants I could from my body, got dressed, and got into my car , which in retrospect was not the wisest choice, and drove forty-five minutes from Oceanside to La Jolla, to my local Veteran’s hospital ER to get those ants out of my head.
I wouldn’t recommend it, but I can say with great certainty that if you walk in to any ER and start screaming, “Get these ants out of my head!”, you will get immediate attention. In most cases, that would result in restraints and a psychiatric evaluation. Lucky for me, the bandage on my head added credibility to my story. I was examined, and I found out my wound had become infected. We had just cleaned and changed bandage that morning, and the doctor told me the ooze was only a few hours old, and the ants were harvesting the pus, not feasting on my brain. I do worry that one day, zombie ants will come back for the rest of me.
My husband came straight from work at Camp Pendelton, and brought with him a shipmate to take my car home. To say he was upset with me because I drove myself to La Jolla, was an understatement, but by the time he got there he was either over it or had swallowed his feelings to get through one more medical complication during our first year of marriage. I remember that he was a cool cucumber when he got there. After that, I don’t remember much. My wound was scrubbed and debreeded of tissue and bandaged. They tried to give me a bandage cap to wear over my head, and of course my dumb-ass refused, because we had a wedding to go to the following week and I didn’t want to look like a head-injury survivor, you know because I’m that kind of stupid. So, they bandaged it with more tape and gauze, and sent us on our way. I don’t remember much else, because after having my head scrubbed with what I believed to be steel wool, I got a nice shot of morphine for the ride home.
Sixteen years later, I continue to enjoy my full recovery. But if I was already ‘enthusiastic’ about always wearing underwear, I became even more so because you know, ants. (in case you forgot) And so, the saga continues…
Having scleroderma, means that invasive tests are routine to monitor progression. The following year, I was due for an upper endoscopy. In the pre-operating room, I was handed a gown and told to remove all of my clothing, even underwear. I remember thinking, “Yeah, I’m just going to ignore the part about my underwear.”
They were working on my mouth. Why would they possibly need me to be completely naked? Maybe they take this who sterile environment thing too seriously. I’ve had them before, but I couldn’t remember if I had left my underwear on during prior procedures, and my compulsion guided me to the right path: Keeping my chonies where they need to be, protecting my private parts from ants. And I got away with it.
Fast forward to Superbowl Sunday, February 1, 2004. A young and upcoming artist named Beyonce, sung our National Anthem. Kid Rock was wearing a lovely American Flag poncho, desecrating the American Flag. And Janet Jackson had just scarred the corneas of children around the world because they saw her star-shaped nipple for 1/16 of a second, but I had bigger concerns. I was eight month pregnant, and someone had the nerve to interrupt me while eating a chicken pot-pie. I was in the hospital, with blood pressure so high, I was blind in one eye. My had doctor come in to my room and with exciting news: We could not wait until the following morning, that baby had to come out now. Blood work had determined the rate of my organ failure due to my very high blood pressure had become critical.
So I looked at him with my one good eye and said, “Okay, let’s do this. But I did just eat a chicken pot pie, is there any way we can make it so it doesn’t come back up?”
Even on an empty stomach, I hurl coming out of anesthesia.
He replied, “Don’t worry, we have drugs for that.”
And that was the day I learned to ask for nausea medication before every procedure, and I never threw up after surgery again. THE END.
My husband and mother had just left an hour before this lovely news, back home to Murrieta. The plan was for my husband was going to come back to stay with me in the hospital overnight, and my mom would be back in time for the birthing in the morning. We lived forty-five miles from the the hospital in San Diego. So while my mom and husband sped back to the hospital, I was prepped for surgery. I was given a gown and told to remove all my clothing and of course, I left my underwear on. If there was ever a time I needed The Kingdom protected, this was it. They were cutting the baby out of my abdomen anyway. ( In retrospect, wearing underwear while giving birth does sound a little odd, but at the time, it sounded pretty sane to me,) I was transferred to a wheelchair and spent some time outside the OR watching nurses and doctors work quickly, but calmly. Premature delivery was common at Mary Birch Hospital, and at thirty-two weeks, I was considered full term. I was placed on a gurney and wheeled into the OR.
This was my first time in an operating room while being wide awake. The bright lights of the operating room seemed to emit cold air against its deceptively bright white, foreboding walls . I caught a glimpse of the table, just before it was covered. The steel made me think of a deep sink in the galley of my first ship. The smooth surface looked more like it was made for a giant cooking pot, not a human. Just like the counter next to the deep sink, the sides of the operating table beveled a little. On the ship it helped keep water from falling to the floor. How clever.
I was placed on the operating table. My vitals signs were taken, my IV was hung and I was ready for my epidural. I sat up, the back of my gown was opened and I heard the doctor behind me ask, “Why are you wearing underwear?”
“Because it’s comfortable? ‘
A nurse walked up to me, held out her hand as if she were collecting my chewing gum like my fourth-grade teacher, and said, “You’re not getting that epidural if you don’t hand me that underwear.”
And like a kid spitting out her gum, I removed my underwear. I got back into position and felt the cold of the antiseptic at the base of my spine, a small pinch and then nothing else. My first epidural was a piece of cake, but I was forced to go commando. I felt weird and exposed although I was covered in sheets. A partition was set up, it didn’t cover my face, but I felt like I was in a tent. I closed my eyes and tried to pretend I was in a blanket fort at my grandmothers, which helped until I felt those blue sheets they use in surgery, over my belly. Then I heard one of the nurses say, “Doctor, he’s here.”
My husband and mom were greeted at the hospital’s main entrance by a nurse who quickly let my husband to where he was to scrub in. Now I understood why the operating room in this hospital was on the first floor, near the NICU.
As soon as my husband was in the room next to me, I could sense the scalpel slicing my belly. At first, I marveled over just the possibility that a human being could open up another human being’s abdomen, and pull out another human being. Then I began to feel my insides being stretched and rearranged. It wasn’t painful, but my head moved with every not-so-gentle push and pull. My partition was blue, and I wondered if looked like a swimmer, treading water being attacked by a great white shark beneath the still blue water.
Just when I thought it would never end, a giant lizard with the most beautiful face I had ever seen, was held up by the delivery doctor. The lizard looked at me and said, “I got this mom. You get some rest. I’ll take from here.” as he appeared to point his index finger and wink at me.
My husband left to be with him while I was busy having my body put back together, and fondly remembering the hallucination I just had. I could feel my organs going back in and wondered if this was what a car feels like when its cam shaft is replaced. The doctors rushed to put my insides back together, before my blood pressure went any higher. I felt like I was inside out. Even after being closed up, I could still feel the cold air of the sterile ER inside my body. I was transferred to a gurney and was wheeled to the recovery room. On our way, I got to see my little guy in his incubator as we crossed paths, and paused for a quick hello.
Once I was stable enough, they let my mom and my aunt into the recovery room. They stayed with me, as I lay there shivering from the inside out. Mercifully, the shivering stopped and as soon as I had the strength, I lifted the sheet and examined my dressing. My abdomen looked like it had been stuffed into a gauze corset, and I was wearing underwear. Operating room underwear, but it was still underwear. I sighed contently,. My son was healthy and The Kingdom was once again, safe and protected.