At long last, here I am at the final chapter of the story of my evil uterus Augustine, who was banished to a place far, far away, almost four years ago. If you haven’t read the previous chapters, I recommend starting at the beginning.
Part One: The Back Story
Part Two: Full Revolt
Part Three: Gynecologist Fails
Part Four: The IUD (Insanely Unpleasant Disaster)
Part Five: The Road to Freedom
Part Six: Under the Knife
I didn’t really picture the story of my hysterectomy taking seven freaking installments to tell, but I really do think that my memories all the suffering and the frustration that led me to the point of surgery have fuzzed out quite a bit, like tacky old wallpaper that’s unbearably tacky at first but becomes almost quaint with age. Now, I look back on these events, horrendous as they were at the time, and view them as part of the blueprint of experiences that has made me who I am.
Since my hysterectomy, the crippling pain that impacted every aspect of my life has disappeared: I am so very grateful for the vast improvement this has brought to my life in general. Although the examination and dissection of my uterus once it was removed showed no detectable pathology, my lack of symptoms since it’s been removed confirms my belief that there was something wrong with it.
My best guess as a non-medical person is that there was an issue with the conductivity of the uterine muscle. According to my theory, the diagnostic laparoscopy is involved since it shifted my symptoms from occurring only around my periods to kicking my sorry butt at least 25 days a month. Electrocautery is used to control bleeding during laparoscopic procedures, and I think that the electrical current used during that procedure created a disruption in the way the muscle fibres of my uterus conducted impulses.
This is how I picture it: originally, my uterus’ muscle fibres featured moderately frayed wires that shorted out when aggravated by my cycle. The whole analogy is not unlike the wiring of an old house. Knob and tube lady bit wiring: that’s me! After the laparoscopy, the wiring that had been barely hanging on (but only acting up a quarter of the time) totally failed to do its job at all, causing constant shorts in the walls of my uterus that burnt the house to the ground on an almost daily basis.
I just realized I wrote a fabulous pun by referring to the “tube” wiring next to my uterus. Nice how things like that work out sometimes.
Whatever the reason for me running the gynecological gauntlet, I’m so relieved the pain part is over. People get really strange, though, when they find out I had my uterus removed. My favourite type of conversation generally takes place with a medical-type person who does not know my health history. This type of exchange takes place when I have to go to a walk-in clinic rather than to my own physician, Dr. Lovely Shoes.
MTP: So Kay, when was your last menstrual period?
Kay: Umm, I think it was in 2007.
MTP: Two thousand and seven? Like four years ago?
MTP: Are you sure that’s correct?
Kay: Oh yeah. It was right around the end of October. Went for nigh on three weeks.
Once I explain the whole shebang, the medical-type person picks his or her eyeballs off the counter and we continue with the appointment. Sometimes the MTP gets really worked up about my hysterectomy, and I can see the wheels turning in that person’s head. I’ve even had doctors who don’t know me ask “who my surgeon was, anyway,” in an indignant tone, suggesting that perhaps some medical law has been broken, and implying that I am the victim of surgical over-enthusiasm. In the minds of these physicians, I was struck down in my prime child-bearing years by a surgeon who needed to slash at something with a scalpel. Sometimes I almost feel like I need a prologue before seeing a doctor who doesn’t know me. Rather like Romeo and Juliet, I feel like a chorus-delivered Elizabethan sonnet to outline the particulars of my situation might help bring the doctor up to speed. It would also sound damn classy. I’ll write that for you sometime. You know I will.
Other people react just as oddly as the medical-type people. Often, the person who has discovered I have sent my uterus packing reacts with horror. It’s not like I advertise my non-fertile status to random strangers. I decided against having “Ask Me About My Hysterectomy” t-shirts printed due to reasons of social awkwardness and the fact that those shirt stores typically carry shoddily constructed garments. The issue often comes up when people ask me how many children I want to have, or when I’m going to make my parents some grandbabies. I don’t believe there should be stigma attached to infertility, although there all too often is, so I generally just state that my uterus was no good so I had it removed.
A funny thing happens when people find out I can’t have children the old fashioned way. Many of the very conservative traditionalists, the ones who believe a woman’s primary purpose is to breed and raise children, respond with shock and disbelief. Those people are also the most likely to tell me that it’s God’s will I not have children, obviously. They often pat my hand and tell me I might find a man who will love me anyway.
The other camp of people who get strange are the women my own age who are already moms. These women, bless them, attempt to reassure me that I’m not missing much by missing pregnancy. I’ve heard more stories about stretch marks and hoo-haw stitches than I can count. More people have described their struggles with hemorrhoids to me than to a proctologist in a busy city practice. I’m not sure what brings it about, but the moms my age very often try to tell me all the gross, painful, and embarrassing parts of pregnancy and childbirth. For some reason, they often attempt to convince me I’m lucky to be sans uterus.
Here’s the thing. I’m lucky to have found a solution to my pain. I am not lucky that the cure for my illness took my ability to have babies to the lab with Augustine, my uterus. I feel for the women I know who are struggling to conceive or are undergoing unpleasant and crushingly expensive procedures with no guarantee of success. I have it easier in a way because I know that there is no chance of me getting pregnant, but I feel a sense of understanding for the women who wait for good news month after month. These women often feel left out while their friends joyously welcome baby after baby. When a little old lady asks them why they don’t have babies and pat their hands sorrowfully, those women smile and nod and wish they were somewhere else.
I don’t know why infertility is such a hush-hush subject in a world where women gyrate mostly naked in music videos and I see an advertisement for Viagra with maniacally grinning (and singing and dancing) middle-aged people every time I watch television. It seems that the inability to create more people in the traditional way is so humiliating and shameful that we don’t talk about it above a whisper. What a shame.
I wrote the saga of my hysterectomy as candidly as I could as my positive contribution to the current attitudes our society holds toward infertility and women’s health. As much as I crack jokes and write sarcastically, and as much as I’ve come to terms with giving up my uterus, this is an issue that has saturated my life for years. I invested my time in completing this saga because I have found a lack of positive female voices regarding these experiences.
I am sick of very significant physical and mental health concerns for women related to their reproductive systems being ignored and desperately underfunded. Try as I might, I cannot fathom why a society that has advanced on so many fronts lags so painfully in its ability to act with compassion toward women’s health issues, and perpetually fails to adequately fund research into solutions.
To all the many, many women who face reproductive health issues, I send you love.
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