I have a tumor I’m happy about, and we need to repeal the 8th amendment. One evening, I came home from a run, went to take a shower, and noticed what looked for all the world like breast milk on my chest. Upon further checking, I confirmed my suspicions that it was in fact breast milk, and proceeded to promptly shit myself. I ran to my bedroom, frantically googling.
“Pregnant but have normal periods”
“How early in pregnancy do you produce breastmilk”
“Breastmilk pregnancy trimester”
My mind was firing a million cannons a second, and I was trying to remember the last time I’d had sex. It had been about 3 months before hand, and had been protected. And yet still, here I was, convinced I was pregnant. I ran to my housemate, a nurse, in the other room, and she agreed to drive me to tesco to buy pregnancy tests. I booted up the stairs on arriving home, and took both of them. Both tests came up negative. And yet still, I was convinced I was pregnant, despite it being literally impossible.
I went to the college doctor, anxiety ringing in my ears. She mentioned the possibility of a tumor on my pituitary gland, and also said it could be entirely idiopathic. She took blood tests for my pituitary, my thyroid and HcG, the hormone that indicates pregnancy. About 7 days later I got a phone call in the middle of a lecture to say that I was definitely not pregnant, but that the other blood results were slow to come back, and I would be contacted as soon as they were back. I ran back into my lecture and scribbled “Not pregnant!!” on a piece of paper for my friend beside me to read, and she wrote back “But the tumor?”. I scrawled a note that I would get that call some other day. It was the least of my worries.
I was referred to a specialist when hormone levels came back raised, and have since had a brain MRI which has determined that I do in fact have a pituitary adenoma; a noncancerous tumor of the pituitary that just sort of sits there, producing prolactin, a hormone that lead to my initial symptoms. I was so relieved, I can’t even begin to describe it. But what does that say about the reality of being a woman with a womb in Ireland? What does it say when I can throw my hands up in the air and say “I’d rather be sick than pregnant”?
The tumor is currently tiny, can largely be treated with medication, and will need monitoring throughout my life. If treatment doesn’t go to plan, it’s possible to shrink it with radiation, and in the highly unlikely case that it grows, it can be removed with a routine surgery. I’ve taken the liberty of naming him Dave, because he’s benign, and have you ever met a malignant Dave? It may seem strange to be relieved by a rare medical diagnosis, but this the reality of Ireland if you are a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant.There are a variety of healthcare options on offer to me, many of which are covered by my health insurance. I have been presented with a wealth of information about exactly what’s going to happen and what is available to me through the process. If I had been pregnant, I would have had two options; become a mother, or become a mother while someone else becomes the parent of my child. I simply wouldn’t have had the money to go to the UK to have an abortion, and if somehow I had made it over, I would have been expected to come back and be quiet about it.
So me and Dave are happy hanging out, he shouldn’t cause me too much fuss, except, ironically, if I go trying to have babies, at which time I’ll need careful monitoring, but all of it should turn out fine. But here’s another thing; I don’t want children. I am planning not to have them for several years, and I am extremely careful about making sure that doesn’t happen. But contraception fails, nothing is perfect, and mistakes can happen. Forcing a woman to remain pregnant against her will for a mistake that is beyond her control is absolutely a human rights abuse, and it is a disgrace to Irish women that we are written out of law in this manner, while non-viable organisms we do not want to carry are afforded the same rights as a full citizen. As much as I know it’s the truth, writing those words is still scary. When a woman can confidently say “I’d rather have a tumor than be pregnant”, there’s something horribly wrong.