I remember age 12 when my first period arrived on Christmas Day, surrounded by aunts and cousins all saying congrats. I was mortified and embarrassed—thinking how am I supposed to do this every month for another 30-some years?
I remember age 16 when my mom took me to the doctor in the middle of the school day. My period cramps were so bad I threw up in the school trash can. And not the little one but a big one next to the stairwell. I had my first physical exam to determine if I was experiencing an ovarian cyst. I remember hearing the comment, “Yes, she may have endometriosis, but it gets better after your first kid.”
I remember age 18, visiting a high school friend at her college dorm. I woke to agonizing cramps which I laid with in silence for hours, afraid to wake her. In the end, my whimpering woke her, and she got my prescription ibuprofen from her car while I threw up in the bathroom.
I remember age 27, going off my birth control in hopes of getting pregnant.
Not knowing if the years of medicating my body to not produce a baby would be a problem, I prayed to trick it into working to make one now.
I remember age 30 after the birth of my second son, I never stopped having postpartum bleeding. My doctor said sometimes this happened and the body needed to reset. I wondered if my body ever properly functioned in the first place.
I remember age 33 when I was told that birth control was no longer an option for me to regulate my heavy bleeding and painful cramps because it was giving me ischemic colitis (blood clots in my colon).
I remember age 38 after months of growing dramatically tired, losing iron, and dealing with periods that were coming every two weeks and lasting three or more, I was diagnosed with adenomyosis, the evil sister to endometriosis. What is adenomyosis? It is when the endometrial tissue grows into the muscular wall of the uterus causing heaving bleeding, prolonged periods, painful cramping, and more. Fun, huh?
So, my doctor and I weighed my options, the very limited ones I had, and we concluded to get rid of it. All. Of. It.
And, oh man, I haven’t regretted a single second of this decision.
A total hysterectomy was the right choice.
So a breakdown (I needed this as well since I wasn’t 100 percent aware of all that went into this surgery):
I had a total hysterectomy, which is the removal of my uterus and cervix. In addition, I had a salpingectomy (removal of fallopian tubes). I kept the ovaries as those are big hitters in bone and heart health. Plus no one needed me to go through menopause at 38. So I kept the hormones and got rid of the pipes.
My surgery was quick, going home the same day. My recovery took a bit longer and my body needed the full 12 weeks to heal. But after one week, I felt like me again. My energy. My mood.
I worried about the immense grief I would feel knowing I would no longer be able to get pregnant again. Was I a woman who would always yearn for another baby? I worried I would feel less than. A woman without what makes her a woman. No longer holding the power to create life. I have heard other women say this is how they felt after surgery. The struggle to come to terms with these things.
So I waited.
Maybe I already grieved my childbearing years passing. Maybe I laid to rest the heartache of saying the two I have is enough.
If anything, I feel freedom. And some power.
I feel as though I have my body back. My uterus isn’t running the show anymore. No more tampons. No more pads. No more worrying if I am pregnant. I am not constantly wondering how long will this last, how painful will it be. The physical symptoms of a monthly period are gone. (Sidenote: I do have a little cramping with my ovaries but very minimal.) The sex is better. Really. It is. Something about knowing a baby or a period isn’t gonna mess up sexy time. It is liberating.
I am not less than because I am missing most of my reproductive organs. I am so thankful this was an option for me as my uterus was making me very sick. I didn’t take the easy way out either. I lived with terrible pain and bleeding for decades. Now my quality of life is better. Physically, I feel better than I have in years. A hysterectomy is a major surgery, and I took my recovery seriously.
And I don’t regret any of it.