(*My laptop, Daisy, died. My husband is not very happy about having to share Jules – his computer – and so I’m not able to be online as often. Hence the long time span between posts.* P.S. Yes, we name our computers.)
I used to count uterus’. I was about a year and half to two years post hysterectomy. I would be out at a store and as women passed me by I would keep a count in my head. Of course, unless she was pregnant there was no way of knowing for sure. Pregnant women counted triple. I was bitter and jealous, and most of all, I was hurt.
There are several things that create a bias from me when it comes to the subject of hysterectomy. I had just turned 24 years old when I had my hysterectomy. I had just given birth (via c-section) to my daughter 3 weeks before. Prior to my pph (post partum hemorrhaging) and emergency hysterectomy I had been in good health (as far as I or my doctor knew). Pph occurs for various reasons and we each had our own unique experience. I am rare even in pph circles because I will never know why or when a small part of my uterus atrophied (this was the cause of my pph because the part of my uterus that had atrophied ripped apart and caused the bleeding). I nearly died and a hysterectomy was performed to save my life.These are all facts that have contributed to how I feel and think about hysterectomy. You can read the fuller version of my pph story here.
I wish there was a book that I could have read on life post hysterectomy and the effect it would have on my life. I wonder how much easier would it have made things if anyone threw a book at me that told me that it’s okay to grieve. Grief is hard. I believe it is something that in our culture is done behind closed doors (hence not having the book thrown at me), and seen as something that is dealt with and done within a small amount of time. I don’t believe I will be fully emotionally or mentally healed until well past my 5 year alive anniversary. I estimate this based on other women who have been through a pph/emergency hysterectomy and my own feelings over the past 3 years. It sounds like a long time, but it really isn’t given the context of the emotions that one has to go through to come to terms with something like this.
There’s a line. An invisible line, but it’s definitely there. Those women who live the grief and those that don’t. Sounds so morbid and down, doesn’t it. There are three very large issues that came with my circumstances: loss of faith, loss of being a woman, and loss of childbearing.
Nearly dying at 24 hit me hard. Just as, I suppose, it would any young person. My faith was challenged more so than ever before. While I am not naive enough to think that God just hands out positive experiences only and that good things can’t happen to good people – Why Me? And not just Why Me?, but why kill off such an important part of me (why not take my finger or ? Why take away such a large part of what makes me a woman? Why take away what gives my children life? Why take away my connection to a world of mothers and sisters and girlfriends? Why take away so much of what I had expected to give to my husband? It was not easy to rebuild my faith and my belief in God, and it is something that I have to work on daily to build. Religion has always been important to me and it is taking time for me to build a new relationship with God.
Losing the ability to carry a baby hit me hard too. I wanted a large family. I still do. Having it happen as I was just beginning to build my family was not something that I was prepared to deal with. It is a part of but separate from dealing with how I defined myself as a woman and how I related to other women.
One of the largest changes in my lifestyle has been my relationship with the women in my life. It was that line again. I was on the other side of a line that I couldn’t explain and had no hope of the women in my life to be able to understand. And this, right in here, is what makes it so taboo. It’s not something that is discussed, the grief and the definition of a woman. I haven’t yet figure out why that is. Is it that we, the women who have been through a hysterectomy, don’t feel safe exposing our feelings to the world? Is it hard for women who haven’t been through a hysterectomy to hear about the hardships and the after-effects?
I always knew that my mom had a difficult time when I was born. I knew that it was serious and that she bled a lot and she couldn’t have children after. My mom had suffered from pph; I found out when I was pregnant with Chloe. Now, just to preface this, her pph was caused by something different from my own. She didn’t have a hysterectomy, but did nearly die. The doctor told my father less than 50% chance of her making it. My mom is, of course, alive and well today. Not many people know what happened to my mom. I barely found out the details about four years ago.
So what is it? What is it that prevents us from expressing the heartbreak that comes along with having had a hysterectomy, especially in the case of pph where it was coupled with a possible loss of life? I’m still trying to figure that out.
One of my big leaps came when I had to realize that grief is not a competition. The first thing that is always said after hearing my story is usually one or more of the following:
at least you survived; at least you don’t have your period; at least you don’t have *enter name of some condition or disease*; at least you have your daughter
I’m going to dissect these a little bit, hoping to not sound too harsh. At least you survived was always hard to question. Because, yes, I’m certainly glad that I lived and didn’t die on that operating table. It implies however, that the pain of living without a uterus is or should be nonexistent. Because I survived, all should be right with the world. I have tried to bury my feelings on what happened to me and have found that it doesn’t help in the long run. In the long run I am much healthier emotionally and mentally if I can deal with it head on. To face that I no longer have a uterus and be able to move on from there. My survival is only a part of the equation and I have to consider the other parts.
At least you don’t have your period. This is my favorite because I used to say it too. I think one of the problems is that I was never too bothered by my period. And now that I can’t bear children it has become a symbol of something that I can’t have, something out of my reach that other women share and take for granted.
At least you don’t *compare other condition or disease*. I can’t compare myself to other people. I just don’t see it as a healthy step. There will always be people that have a worse life than myself, and people that have a better life than myself. It’s in figuring out my feelings and dealing with my own life that has helped in terms of overcoming anything.
At least you have your daughter. This is my least favorite. I think it implies a responsibility for my daughter to fill my happiness from whatever void the pph/hysterectomy left. I never liked the idea that any weight has been placed on my daughter to define my happiness; I have always seen them as two separate entities. My daughter does make me happy, but she is in no way responsible for that – I am responsible for my own happiness as well as my daughter’s happiness. I’m having the same problem with adopting. This idea that our child will fill this void bears a responsibility that I do not want to give my child – all my child needs to do is play and love and learn; I will take care of the rest, including my happiness and any voids that may need filling.
Why don’t we allow each other to grieve? I lost count of how many message boards I have been on that will describe the after-effects of hysterectomy as a positive experience or the best thing that happened to them when someone expresses worry. My point in all of this has always been that it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to grieve past 6 months or a year. It takes time to rebuild and I know that our society doesn’t always recognize that.