I opened my eyes groggily, stabbing pain shooting through my lower pelvic region. The nurse walking towards me with a tray of hospital food, I was in no mood for green jello. It was time for a catheter check and another dose of medication to keep the pain from taking over. Hours before the doctor had removed my uterus. I had arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. for surgery prep. I was 22 years old and about to have a life changing procedure. I felt like an ugly smurf in the hospital gown and hair net. As the doctor approached his eyes portrayed sorrow. For several years he had been greeting me in this same fashion. Numerous laparoscopies had proven to burn off my endometriosis for a few short months. It was common for me to have surgery every 6 months.
It was three days before Christmas. I had scheduled my recovery to be over my favorite holiday, knowing the Christmas spirit may lift me out of the emotions I was faced with at such a young age. Three months earlier, a procedure had found numerous tumors and fibroids taking over my uterus. A DNC was done to scrape all of the disease. At a follow up appointment, I had explained to the doctor that I did not feel right. I could sense there was something not right. At first he thought I was emotional. He asked me to come back in thirty days. In thirty days I returned, explaining I felt more than ever my body was under attack. After ten procedures, enormous pain, and year round bleeding, he told me the only answer was a hysterectomy. We scheduled it for December when I would have a good 2 weeks to rest.
As the nurse did final preparations for the surgery, the doctor explained that last evening he had prayed. He was going to come in to this hospital and call this surgery off. He could not remove the uterus of a 22 year old woman/girl. I was young. I needed to fight, and he did not want to take the opportunity away for me to have children. As he explained this, my heart started beating, “what does this mean”? As I stared at him intently, what I heard next, made my eyes heavy with tears. He explained, that when he arrived at the hospital, my lab results were ready. I had cancer. That my intuition had probably saved my life, because he did not want to perform this surgery. He explained that he was going to remove the uterus, and leave the ovaries if they were intact, to at least try to give me options for a future family.
As I was wheeled to the operating room, I tried to think of beaches and dolphins to remain calm and not allow my mind to race to what if. At that moment I was scared of the scars that would appear on my body, would anyone ever look at me the same?
Knowing I would have to eat the jello to escape jail, I chose to fight. I could do anything. I could overcome anything, and this pain was temporary. So I became a good patient. Walking down the hall, swallowing the bad food, and pretending I cared about the television. I was alone for most of my hospital stay. Family and friends were working and preparing for the Holiday. I remember my dad’s best friend stopping by to say hello. So many people around me were saddened by the news I had received and my loss. In some way it felt as if they were grieving for me. At 22, I was not grieving. I knew there was a different plan. I had felt it deep in my soul. Something I could not explain to anyone else. I trusted my feelings and it had paid off. If I had not been persistent with my true feelings, I may not be here today writing these words.
My recovery went well. As a dancer, I struggled with taking six weeks to jump and leap through the air, as that invigorated my spirit. The physical pain and physical truth, were much easier than what happened inside my head for many years. I was raised Mormon, with strong family values. As I watched friends and family give birth to beautiful children, it teared me up to hold their babies. As women, we have a motherly instinct. It is common. Holding babies, I questioned if I should have one. Prior to my decision to operate and remove my uterus, I was told that it was not fair that I would not try to get pregnant first and give a baby to my spouse. This was never an option in my mind, and ultimately ended the relationship. The feelings harbored brought about anger and sadness for both of us. I could not give something that was believed to be the only thing to matter – a baby. In the face of diversity, sometime true colors come to light. I had rushed into this marriage, believing this to be the only opportunity to have a baby in my life. And three years of surgeries and drugs, had proved to me that babies were not my future. Devastating for my spouse, family, and friends, they watched me struggle to heal myself.
Making myself feel good had nothing to do with my physical trauma. I had to come to terms that I would not live the fairytale. I would not have biological children and the white picket fence dream every little girl dreams of. I was not picking out baby names and baby clothes, and chose to focus instead on a career. Shifting from the perfect Mormon ideology that the woman should stay at home. This was not my dream or my desire. I did not fit the mold defined for me, so I pushed boundaries. I was disruptive. Everyone around me did not know how what to make of my strong will and desire to do more than be a housewife.
The surgeries thickened my skin. I was delicate. Years of ballet training and discipline had instilled grace in me. Surgeries had made me stronger, however I was never prepared for the emotional pain. The pain from others reflections of what I should be, should do, or should want. The pain from holding a happy baby. The pain from the sadness in my mother’s eyes knowing that her only daughter would never have a baby. The pain from being different. The pain from dating and men dropping me off immediately after dinner. To them I was broken. As my nephew explained as a young toddler, “My baby maker was broken.” I was used up and of no use to so many in my life. At a superficial level, I was a commodity to them. If I could not bare their children, they were not interested in getting to know me. I was one of the guys. I fit that role. I could talk 3rd and 1 at the 40 yard line, and not become emotional. I blended. I hid my emotions, wants, desires, and needs.
I had been in tune with my body to know that something was wrong, however I started becoming afraid to speak up for fear of rejection. So I became the yes girl. Needing to fit in. I chose the wrong relationships for me, causing so much of my internal struggle.
The fact is, this surgery had changed the definition of who I was supposed to be. I was raised believing I would be a devoted mother and wife. Without a uterus, men I encountered did not find me to be devoted or useful. My dreams of big things started, and were quickly suppressed with my need for acceptance. Being different is not easy. What it took me a while to realize, it is ok to be different. We all have a different calling. What is right for me is not right for you.
Women often put themselves into roles that we believe we should be. Our strength, our power, and our commitment is often suppressed. I read an article this past weekend about how women will be instrumental in the next 10 years when it comes to entrepreneurship. The world needs women. This world needs strong women that have been shaped by life experiences that have cause pain or suffering. Women have something men may be lacking. Women have compassion. They are smart and compassionate. In a world so tough and so broken, women have the delicate touch.
The world needs mothers, entrepreneurs, CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, political figures, wives, sisters, friends, survivors. Choose to be an ambassador to the world. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and say yes, that happened to me, I can overcome, or I can become. Not having a uterus does not define who I am, it is a part of what I have to give. A part of me that makes me special, allowing me to share with others my experience and inspiring message. We all have gifts, talents, and circumstance. What you choose to give and take is up to you. Be empowered. Choose your heart. Your scars serve as a reminder of the knowledge you have.