I visited a good friend in the hospital recently who had undergone a hysterectomy procedure. We had discussed the feelings of losing a uterus the week prior. She felt comforted knowing she had been able to have pregnancies and children in her life. When she looked at me, all she said, “I am sorry, sorry you never had children.”
I’ve had several years to consider my choice to have a hysterectomy at the age of 22, and I would never go back on that decision. I had cancer. My choice to save my life and not attempt to get pregnant and have a child was mine. Many did not understand the extreme pain and suffering I had gone through with multiple surgeries and procedures leading up to that decision.
Showing up with Godiva chocolates at the hospital, because chocolate makes almost any woman smile, was my way in comforting her. No matter how prepared you are mentally for a hysterectomy, there is something that weighs very heavy on women about this procedure.
When I was twenty two I was not ready for children, and could not process that some day I may feel differently. Not having a uterus is more than not being able to have children. It is the change in your body, the change in sex drive, and the comments from others. It is feeling as though a piece of your womanhood is missing.
This procedure can make someone feel depressed. I don’t know what to call it, how I felt. I experienced so many emotions. I was grateful to have my life, yet I struggled for years with what society believed. I was not “good enough” to many because I could not have biological children, and so I took that to heart.
I was raised with the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” However, I think words cut the deepest. I took others words and believed that not having a uterus defined me as a person.
I remember how it felt. Waking up in a cold hospital room and feeling the stabbing pain. I remember my two year old nephew saying my baby maker was broken. I remember the countless doctors visits, the poking, the prodding, the hundreds of trigger point injections. I remember trying everything else before surgery.
I had to come to a point that my life was more important than others. My well-being, my existence. It was both a hard and easy decision. It was never something I wished for. At twenty-two, a hysterectomy is something your mom, aunt, or grandma has.
The more I talk about what I have been through, the more I get both young and older friends open up about their struggles. I gave a Tedx speech at UNCAsheville a few years back, and told my story. At the break, a young woman came up to me and told me she struggled with endometriosis, and asked if she could speak to me. We exchanged contact information, and she left knowing there was hope.
As women, we are often afraid to talk about the struggle when it comes to our “down there”. We don’t have a perspective on what is normal, or what is wrong. All we know is how we feel, and each circumstance is different. Every doctor is different, and although we can’t compare, we can talk.
I know I felt sad. I struggled with hormone pills. I ended up having cancerous ovaries removed during two separate procedures after my uterus was removed. I have battled breast lumps. I have struggled with having a sex drive. I have experienced multiple urinary tract infections. I have had to adjust to my change.
Night sweats, and the decision not to take hormones to keep my health at its optimal level. I started yoga to strengthen my inner muscles to help keep things intact. Without a uterus, there is a lot of space in there. Things shift.
Having a uterus or ovary removed, is not the end of the world, yet it does change so much. It does not change that you are a woman, it only changes circumstance.
We may never know why something happens to us, such as having to have a hysterectomy or experience cancer. We can only have faith, that there is something bigger. It was not until my thirtieth birthday that the reality of not having a uterus settled in.
When I realized I took on everyone’s belief of I was not enough, something changed in me. I realized I was enough. I stopped living in the fear of never having a family, and shying away from a life I was not meant to have. I used to cry when I held babies. Now I embrace them.
So is having a hysterectomy is scary, yes. You may feel like a piece of you is missing. There will be physical and the emotional pain. There may be hormones you have to take. There will be changes in your body. And the most important thing you can do, is acknowledge the procedure and move forward.
It’s normal to feel angry, sad, or broken. That feeling is temporary, and does not define you.
My girlfriend handled her hysterectomy amazingly. It needed to be done. Her circumstance was different than mine, yet we have an understanding of what it feels like. The emotion of it all. There is an uneasiness in it, and somehow when we come out of the surgery, we know that it was something that had to be done.
For me, my hysterectomy was part of my journey in making me who I am today. I am blessed to be here, to be writing, and to be living. So kids, they may not be for me, but that does not change me as a woman. And the motherly instincts still exist.
Am I sorry I had to have a hysterectomy at age twenty two? No. I would not be here today to deliver chocolates to my friends that are having the same procedure. Chocolate won’t fix it, but it will hug the soul.
A uterus doesn’t define a woman, but chocolate, chocolate just might. ?