This is going to be hard.
I have spoken a few times about my hysterectomy in terms of a timeline and about all the medical aspects of it. I haven’t really talked about the emotional part or its affect on my personality on my blog, and I haven’t really talked about that anywhere else, either. I didn’t have much of a chance to deal with the surgery, really. I had the surgery without my family knowing and was mostly just determined to keep it that way. I was in the hospital for a week, was at a friend’s house for a week, at another’s for a week after that, then went back home to pretend like nothing had ever happened while I got ready to move away from my hometown to Saint Louis. So many other events were happening, both good and bad, that I just pretended that I was okay. On top of that, everyone else expected me to be okay, to get over it, and that once the physical pain was gone I would just go back to normal.
But I am not okay. I am farther from it than I ever have been before, and that’s not normal in the slightest.
Last night I had a long conversation with my boyfriend. A conversation about who we were as people, what we were struggling with both together and individually, and what we could do to try to make it better. And in that moment I erupted, and I cried harder than I had all year, because it all finally poured out of me that my surgery has changed me, has hurt me, and I have been keeping that all locked deep inside the hole in my body where my uterus used to be.
I do not believe that being a woman is defined by your ability to have children. I don’t believe that women who don’t want kids, regardless of their physical ability, are incomplete, or ignorant for making that decision. That being said, I am a woman who has always wanted to be a mother, and to have the experience of being pregnant and giving birth. That experience has been robbed from me.
It was not my choice to have this surgery. I had two options; I either live a life that even doctors told me I shouldn’t be living where I would be unable to walk, constantly fainting, and staying in agonizing pain without relief for the foreseeable future with not even so much as a drug to help me through it. Or, I could have a hysterectomy and be relieved of the unbearable suffering, relinquishing the ability to have my own children, but also giving myself a chance to live a real life that was more than a just losing battle. Do either of those really sound like a choice?
I had to fight for my surgery and beg several doctors to listen to me, because due to my age they believed I was not ready to make the decision. Take a person and throw them into a physical hell for nearly eleven years, then tell them there is a possibility of it ending. Then tell them to their face over and over they aren’t ready to make the decision that will lead to an end to their misery. To assume my age causes me to be ignorant, despite the life I have lived, is one of the most appalling insults ever given to me. And this insult was viciously hurled at me over and over again by both my family and my doctors as they witnessed me lose consciousness, scream in pain, and be carted away in an ambulance while writhing on a gurney for eleven. fucking. years.
After my surgery, a handful of friends were more dedicated to me than I could have possibly imagined. Even now, a few months later and four states between us, they still are dedicated to me just as I am to them, yet no matter how many letters I write them or conversations I have with them I cannot properly convey how they were, and many times still are, one of the only things keeping me alive. They are the reason I had the strength to survive eight ours of excruciating contractions my first night in the hospital, 48 hours without sleep and only searing pain to keep me company, being too tired to breathe without a nasal cannula, and having to learn how to walk and eat without fainting.
Most of my life has been a struggle to simply keep my head above the water; but this summer I was hit with a tsunami and was repeatedly dragged down to the ocean floor . These few people pulled me out of it, and gave me hope, which I did not have a single shred of. However, aside from these people, the other people that knew about my surgery, for some reason assumed that I was completely fine after, and held me to that expectation. Many others I never told, because I didn’t know how, if I should, or what their reaction would be. People get to announce their engagements and pregnancies to every single person on the Earth when those events occur. No one gets to announce their hysterectomy or ask for help during it. No one gets to ask for attention or compassion when their heart is rotting inside of them. People want to hear about babies in pumpkin costumes and kittens playing piano, not this sad, depressing shit, I guess. But this sad, depressing shit is important. I hope someone understands that. I am considering posting this to my Facebook, but I wonder what the use of that would even be. Would anyone read something this long or would they simply think, “TLDR,” and scroll along? Would they know what to say after they did read this? Through every letter I’ve typed out in between tears, would all they would get from this was the fact that I insulted them by saying I am crushed by their expectations of me? I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to find out.
Year after year, I have had so much taken from me, whether it was taken by my health, other people, or just unfortunate situations that even now I don’t understand completely. And this year, one of the biggest goals of my life has again been torn out of my hands. And I am having a hard time dealing with it. I will never feel a life inside me. I will never get to call my best friend or my sister and tell them I’m pregnant. I won’t ever feel something kicking inside of me, saying hello to this world that will all be new to them. I won’t ever feel the horrific pain of giving birth, which to many might seem like a positive, but along with never feeling that pain I will never feel the uncensored emotion of having a new body and life come from my own, that I made. I will never see myself in my child, and I will never be told that they look just like me. All of that has been taken from me, and I am told by so many people to act like that isn’t weighing down on me every time I take a breath.
I didn’t realize it until last night, when, after my conversation with my boyfriend and after we had fallen asleep in peace, I woke up at 5 am in the morning, sat up in bed, and began for the third time that day to cry uncontrollably. My heart is so weighted by the pain of this surgery and by the pain of so much else that I never truly got the chance to face or heal from. I just carry on, which is exactly what you are told to do when tragedy and pain strikes. But carrying on is not enough. I touch my stomach, and I swear to God I feel the hole left by the removal of my uterus. I feel the space, I feel the emptiness, and if I am not careful, it will consume the rest of me, until I feel nothing else but that.
I have to be honest; I don’t know what I need to heal. I do know compassion, care and kindness certainly help, and I’ve been lucky to get that from a few outstanding relationships I have. I try to remind myself that even if I didn’t have the surgery, the chance of me being able to have a child of my own was always slim, not to mention I have three congenital diseases, and while it is not an absolute fact that it would be passed to my children, that was not a risk I’d be willing to take. There was only a one-percent chance that I could have children, but now, that one-percent is a big fat zero that matches the new hole in the middle of me.
I also try to remind myself that while I will never have children from my own body, I can adopt them. While they may not look like me, maybe my daughters will pick up my love of music and writing, or maybe my sons will pick up my love for retro fashion and old television shows. Maybe my children, though they won’t come from my body, will still absorb all the love I am so willing to give, and while they won’t inherit my green eyes, maybe they will inherit my compassion and empathy and have it create a nest in their hearts. Maybe, just maybe, the fact that one dream has been stolen from me has made room for a different one that, on my journey towards healing, I will look forward to even more.
I don’t regret having my surgery. But just because I don’t regret it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt any less that I had to have it. I still get ghost pains in my abdomen, and that week in the hospital comes rushing back towards me. It scares me. Through the years I hope the pain fades, along with my longing, my heartbreak, and my sorrow. But right now, every breath I take stings, every smile I flash is laced with sadness. My heart is mourning, my brain is scrambling. My body doesn’t quite know what to do with itself. But, as one of my favorite authors, John Green, says, “pain demands to be felt,” and this pain is screaming out bloody murder to get my attention. I apologize with the utmost sincerity possible to my soul for not listening. I am listening now. I hear you.
Oh baby, show me a sign, send up a signal that everything’s fine.
Come on, slide up right here by my side, you know that I, I wanna rest in your light.