So someone who knows a lot about these things has recommended that I should have a hysterectomy. Not today or tomorrow, but sometime in the next few years say, when I am resolute that my family is complete.
I would have thought that something as final as a hysterectomy would in itself be a resolute affirmation that your childbearing years are over. But it would seem that I have to step up to that plate and give my full and complete surety that it is time. I’m hoping I’ll know, rather than just swinging slightly more in favour of no more children than the strength of the niggle that we’re not quite finished.
The thing is though, I feel like I’ve barely got to know my uterus. It seems unfair that when we are just getting to know each other, I have to prepare to say goodbye. We’ve only become properly acquainted in my thirties. It was only then that I discovered the unwelcome contractions of crippling period pain that can send me to my bed; juxtaposed with the reassuring, comfortable then powerful surges of knowing my baby would be in my arms soon. My teens and twenties didn’t pay a blind bit of notice to my uterus as I sailed through painless, clockwork – often pharmaceutically induced – periods. I might as well be having my period as not, so uneventful and invisible my reproductive system was in my life at that time.
I read today that your uterus is the size of a pear. There’s one sitting in our fruit bowl on the kitchen table. Imagine my pear nourished and grew an eight pound baby? It expanded and supported, protected and then encouraged. Within weeks it had snapped back into place, back to pear-sized. What an incredible, powerful organ my uterus is. I am in awe of it.
Why then though, when I possess such an amazing gift of an organ, do people dismiss the significance of its removal from my body? Why do people tell me that I won’t need it any more and what does it matter that it’ll be gone?
“You’ll still be able to have sex, and that’s the most important part”
people have said.
But I don’t have sex with my uterus though, do I? And just because it’s not carrying babies doesn’t mean that I don’t “need” it. I don’t “need” both of my kidneys or half of my liver, but having those removed is a very serious life decision. I probably don’t “need” a couple of my toes. Apparently though, having a hysterectomy is no big deal. Once you’ve recovered from the surgery – a major surgery, with a long recovery time – that you won’t even notice.
I find that very hard to believe.
If it’s no big deal, then why would my body be thrown into menopause earlier than it would have? Why would anybody be talking to me about hormone replacement therapy or increased risk of osteoporosis amongst other side effects from changing hormones? Why do we accept that a hysterectomy is “just one of those things” that is just as likely to happen to a woman as not?
A hysterectomy is a big deal. I won’t be cowed into believing otherwise.
Yes, for many women it provides relief for debilitating symptoms but that doesn’t mean there’s no bitter sweetness about losing your uterus forever.
A uterus is not the definition of a woman, no more than being a mother is. But it has a sacredness about it that should be honoured and its loss mourned. I plan to do both. But not until the time is right.