If you were one of those people who, throughout my life, told me that I couldn’t possibly know that I didn’t really want kids, or who insisted I would change my mind as I got older, or who scoffed at the idea that a female had the ability to decide that the biological desire to reproduce just wasn’t for her without any larger trauma guiding that decision, I have a thing to tell you:
I am finally a barren woman.
I told you so.
Two days ago, I had a partial hysterectomy performed by a robot in order to relieve my body of nearly two months of constant, chronic, severe pain caused by one very large fibroid tumor and a whole bunch of smaller ones. It seems like a long time to wait for relief and it was, and there were times that I basically stopped functioning because it hurt too much to stand, walk, or be conscious. But really, none of the tumors in my uterus were the cancerous kind, so I understood that other women who needed killing parts cut out of them needed the robots sooner. So I waited, and finally I got my surgery, and 4 hours later, my uterus – which was the size of a watermelon and weighing five pounds, btw – along with my fallopian tubes and cervix were outside my body.
At the moment, I’m trying to heal. I’m still in a lot of pain from both the incisions (five total, and guys, I should not have looked the belly button one directly in the face) and the gas that surgery causes. Oh, right, that’s the thing about abdominal surgery, especially one performed to get rid of an enormous mass in your body. Your body has to re-learn how to pee and fart without those masses in the way. Which I wouldn’t think would be a problem, neither in function nor in things I normally find hilarious, but it turns out that both are extremely difficult and caused me to scream out in pain and dry heave and panic because I couldn’t breathe and this of course led to several extra shots of morphine in my IV and an extra night in the hospital. Anyway. I’m home now and trying to get better and so far I’m okay, I think. I can finally pee again and it no longer takes 20+ minutes. I can fart and it’s becoming funny again. Graham is an amazing nurse, strong enough to lift me and patient enough to get me every single thing I need while also waiting 8 weeks to have sex with me again (although he did say that he caught some upskirts in my hospital room, even though they were nowhere near as sexy as he thought they would be). My mom is in town to help. I can’t do much of anything for the first week and I’m not even supposed to drive for two more weeks after that, but I’m doing what I can and hopefully I can start living in 2016 without debilitating pain soon.
But there’s a thing that makes me mad still.
After turning 30, I noticed that my periods went from relatively normal and regular and manageable to…um, what’s the word? Hellish. Yes, that sounds right. I noticed that in terms of pain, discomfort, volume, etc., my periods were becoming impossible to handle while also being a functioning person with a job and a life. And I told doctors this for three years, I told them how uncomfortable and nauseated and humiliated I had become during my period, and every single one of them told me the same thing: “Periods can get worse as you get older.”
Another thing every doctor for the past few years told me was that I needed to lose weight. And for a bit, yes, they were right. I did need to lose weight. I knew that my face was fat and I didn’t look comfortable in photos and I didn’t feel like myself anymore. So I lost weight. I got a Fitbit, started using it and keeping track, and I went down two whole sizes in maybe half a year. Still, even though every time I went to the doctor I’d lost weight, I was told to lose more. Two separate doctors told me that I had to lose my belly fat because it led to high cholesterol and “a weak core.” So even though I’d lost this weight and should have felt proud, I still felt like a big fat failure, because the doctors told me I was.
So when I went to the ER just after New Year’s with unbearable pain and a severely distended abdomen and told them I’d been on my period for over 2 weeks and found out about this fibroid tumor (after 2 pelvic exams and a pelvic ultrasound, which is a lot like how I imagine alien abduction goes), I was a little upset when doctors asked me how I didn’t know something was wrong before.
I didn’t know because no one told me.
Because I’d been telling them my symptoms for years and no one suggested this.
Because they refused to do their jobs, and if I’d been the type of woman who did want children, I’d have been devastated.
I can’t even wrap my head around that. I’ve always known that I didn’t want kids. No question about it, not for me. Even when I was told I’d have to have a hysterectomy, no hormonal alarms sounded in my head to tell me this isn’t what I should be doing. But if I hadn’t been me, if I had been someone else who desperately wanted children as a biological imperative, I would be crushed. Not only because that opportunity was taken from me, but because the doctors who were supposed to care for me missed this entirely for years. Because, apparently, it is easier to call a woman old and fat than it is to address an actual medical issue.
And since my diagnosis, one friend of a friend went to her doctor and, with my story in mind, told them about a concern she had about her own periods and asked to be checked. Turns out she has an ovarian cyst that needs to be removed. Another friend is going to the doctor soon for the same symptoms – cysts actually run in her family, and although her doctors haven’t offered her more information, she wants children some day and knows this could affect her fertility.
I promise I’ll tell funny stories about the hospital later. For now, please, if you’re at all concerned about your own issues, please go get yourselves checked. If your periods are especially difficult or have changed, or if the pain is worse, or if you’re gaining weight or mass and don’t know why, please don’t wait for a doctor to say something. Some might genuinely miss it. Some really don’t give a shit about your health. Bring it up, ask about your options. If you’re not cool with being barren (I call the now-empty space my Mystery Chasm!), do what you need to do to protect yourself and your fertility.
Me and my Mystery Chasm