14 December 2011

What We Talk About When We Talk About Hysterectomies

Here's what happened when I decided I was going to have a hysterectomy: everyone, I mean everyone, had something to say about it.

I had been having really disturbingly heavy periods for a while, starting three years ago. Then the clots started coming. Really big, unwieldy, variously shaped blood clots just arrived and literally fell out of my body. (see above).

We discovered that I had a benign fibroid that was likely causing the giant clots and occasionally tremendous severe pain. I had given up on tampons to quell the flow, and now even the biggest most absorbant pads were no match against the giant squid-like formations that my body was excreting. My helpful mother suggested adult diapers. Not funny, Mom. Anyway, after various attempts at hormonally altering this menstrual trajectory, my physician and I decided upon (which really means I gave in to her idea that she had suggested years ago) a hysterectomy.

So, we scheduled it, and I looked forward to a menstrual free, clot free, invading alien fibroid free life. My doctor said we could leave my ovaries in so I wouldn't have so much hormal adjustment to deal with. That was a good thing. Anyway, here's what happened.

Every person I talked to about this procedure had things to say about it way above and beyond what anyone would say if I had told them I was having gall baldder surgery, for example. Here's a list of stuff people said:

Oh--are you sure you're okay with that?
Oh, my mother in law had a hysterectomy and she was never the same afterwards.
Really? I'd be careful if I were you. When I had a hysterectomy they did
something to a nerve in my leg and now I always feel numb.
Why do you want this surgery? You'll never be the same.
I don't think you should do this--those are your organs.
Isn't there anything you can do to save your uterus?
Oh, you must be cursed!

These are a few of the most intriguing examples I can remember. I should also say that I have many supportive feminist friends who said nothing remotely like the above comments and who were all very kind and helpful. It's just intriguing to me that the removal of an organ that is so distinctly affiliated with what it means to be a female (or is it a woman?) prompts these kinds of responses from usually thoughtful humans.

I realize that there is a lot of controversy about hysterectomies in the culture--and that in the past there have been too many performed for probably specious reasons. But can I just say here that I'm glad and grateful that I could end my suffering? I was miserable with blood gushing out of me at random and seemingly for no reason. And the pain was, at times, unbearable.

I'm lucky, in fact, that I have health insurance. I'm lucky the surgery went well, and that my recovery has been relatively not terrible, although I'm still tired. And weirdly enough, I'm still reluctant to tell everyone about this surgery because I don't want to hear any more bullshit about my uterus, and how I might be changed in some way because I no longer have the ability to reproduce.

I am changed, because I will no longer menstruate. Yippee! But I, myself, am not changed in any way that sexist people might think removing a uterus would change a person. I feel fine, I feel liberated, and I feel like me. I have four little scars where the laparoscopic incisions were made, and I have a new appreciation for modern surgical techniques. I am grateful for my doctor and the my caring, thoughtful nurses. But I'm still me. So there.


amy said...

Hysterical over hysterectomies. Having practically completed menopause, these organs no longer contain the mysterious power to create life, or more precisely, burden me with the fear of pregnancy. Life is much more peaceful. It is a huge freedom to not have to think about a period, much less suffer through a condition like fibroids that can be so problematic. Too many people have drunk the koolaid which encourages identifying self and or gender with a body part, even if the poor thing has simply worn out! At the end of the day all our parts will wither away, and probably not in unison. Some are simply seeking early retirement. I hope you feel relief and freedom.

TruAlly89 said...

My clots have looked this way the for a while now and I'm concerned no matter how uninterested my doctor is. I'm 23 and I've had heavy abnormally long periods my entire life! I've been bleeding since my 11th birthday :( I'd get it all yanked out if I didn't want a baby some day.

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