In late March of this year, my doctor told me I was not a candidate for endometrial ablation. I’d hoped I would be, because I am somewhat attached, in many ways, to the bits I was born with. As science continues to reveal, each part of our bodies does more than we realize and I wasn’t certain, though it was making my life miserable, that I wanted to be rid of my uterus. Family history triumphed, however, and the surgery was scheduled.
Nearly 20 years ago, I had a laparoscopic procedure and I naively thought, “That was no big deal, how bad could this be?” I was told it’s an outpatient procedure (no big deal), couple weeks off work (no big deal), I get to keep my ovaries (yay & good). The only thing on my mind was relief that this bleeding phase of my life was finally… done.
Truthfully, though, there was something else on my mind. I realize what I’m about to say negates every “no big deal” above, but I clearly hadn’t thought any of this all the way through. More than relief from heavy, awful, painful & debilitating menses, I wanted a near-death experience.
Yes, the rest was necessary and I didn’t go to my doctor with that last revelation in mind, but once it was certain that I’d be having surgery, I wanted nothing more than 10 seconds in the realm my sweet daughter now calls home; to check out the neighbors, find the closest grocery store, urgent care clinic, park, Chinese buffet, GoodWill, guest parking….I promised I would come back! I promised!
To my knowledge, I remained firmly anchored to my human form and my first thought upon realizing I was conscious was, “Damn!!” followed by “Oh, thank God.” I guess it’s time to accept that I’m here for good.
The procedure I had 20 years ago was a tubal ligation. My lighthearted joke at having my recent hysterectomy was, “No more children for me!” (hahaha since that was decided 20 years ago and I wouldn’t be having children at my age anyway.) Still, it’s a little bittersweet to consider. I think about places in this world where people are forbidden by law to have more than a certain number of children and that concessions are made, sometimes, when a family loses one of those children so they may try for another. There are also people who cannot conceive any children no matter how much they want to regardless of how many they’re allowed, while others manage to deliver child after child into situations of abuse or neglect or desperate poverty. Apparently, “fairness” doesn’t enter into this, not naturally, ever.
My own situation involved a condition known as “Hyperemesis Gravidarum.” It sounds like something Hermione Granger might shout with wand-focused intent (and it would make a darned good curse, for that matter!) Apparently, it is another triumph of family history from both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family, which simply dropped me to my knees in front of the toilet for 6 months of each of my pregnancies. Home I.V. therapy kept me out of the E.R. and I will probably never enjoy eating green grapes or peanut butter sandwiches, among other things, again as long as I live.
As sick and terrible as I felt, I knew my children were growing and thriving within me. I understood that pregnancy is a condition of health, not disease. I knew that I was able to give them everything they needed to form strong, healthy, perfect little bodies and though I was ultimately losing my teeth and my hair, I didn’t care. It was for them… my babies; the brilliant beings I love more than any other in existence.
Just like so many aspects of the grieving process, I didn’t expect to feel what I felt following my hysterectomy. The physical pain was difficult; the emotional pain put me back in November 2012, reliving the trauma and the loss of my daughter’s physical existence. In a strange sense, having lost her, gave new value to the part of me that brought her into this world, and now that was gone, too, and I felt again Hollowed Out.
In her book, “The Magic of Flowers” by Tess Whitehurst, the author describes wombs as being like hearts; emotional centers of universal mothering instincts be they for our children, other’s children, other people, animals, plants, or the planet. I wish I’d have found this before my surgery but I am grateful to have found it since. That passage has helped me to make some sense of the emotional pain of this physical loss though I am still disappointed that I didn’t get my near-death experience.