This is the third and final post about the ongoing feud with my uterus. If you’ve struggled with heavy periods, horrible cramps, ablation-related issues, or the finality of a hysterectomy, read on.
If you want to catch up, read these first:
Part I: When You Get Your First Period at Sea World with the Girl Scouts
Part II: “My wife has peed and would like to go home now.”
Our bodies are so incredible that we can grow a tiny human, birth it, feed it, and then look like none of it ever happened. Well, for the most part…*yanks up my mom jeans*
Unfortunately, our bodies also have huge asshole potential. They give us such wonderful gifts, and then they turn on us: Heavy periods and pain so intense you’re certain what’s in there is going to fall out. At least that’s what happened in my case. If the words ovary, uterus, or cervix make you squirm, leave now. I’ll wait.
I got my first period the year after fourth grade. I was at Sea World with the Girl Scouts and that’s all I’d like to say about that.
Thus began the years of monthly cramps, migraines, and vomiting. The pain made me miss school every month, and the heavy cycles made me miss fun every month. No gymnastics, no swimming, sometimes I wouldn’t even leave the house. Finally, when I was in sixth grade, my mom was all eff that noise and put me on birth control. Contrary to what the FBP (Female Body Police) believe, birth control does not turn a gal into a whore, enticing her to have all the sex. What it does do is regulate her cycle and lessen the pain. Birth control gave me my life back.
Fast forward to 2014, after I had my third and last baby, which also marked six years without any or inconsistent BC. I began experiencing health problems, including crazy, unpredictable cycles; heavy, I’ve-just-murdered-someone-in-my-pants periods; debilitating cramps; and just for fun, sudden hair loss. I went to see my OBGYN and she suggested an ablation, a D&C, and a tubal ligation.
I did all that, wept at the finality of things, and moved on.
A few uneventful months went by and I was grateful for light periods. I wasn’t one those lucky ducks whose flow became nonexistent, nor could I boast a “panty liner period,” but I didn’t have to skip swimming or avoid leaving the house any more. Success!
About six months after my procedure, I was getting my then-4-year-old ready for preschool when a sudden onslaught of pain knocked me off my feet. I couldn’t get up, didn’t trust myself to drive. I had no choice but to call my mom and ask her to take my daughter to school. When she walked in my house and saw me draped over the steps, sweaty and ashen, she suggested I contact my doctor. Once I was sure I wouldn’t vomit mid-sentence, I did just that.
No one at the doctor’s office seemed concerned about my imminent death, which surprised me because I was 90% certain I was about to meet my maker. They told me to “keep them posted if the pain returned,” and when it did the following month, I demanded to be seen. The Beastie Boys were right: we’ve gotta fight for our right to be seen by a friggin professional in a timely fashion.
Eventually I was diagnosed with whatever the fancy term is for excess scar tissue. Each time my uterus contracted (which happens a lot during every cycle), it pulled on the scar tissue that had formed as a result of the D&C, giving me the sensation of a magnificent stallion kicking me in the gut with rusty switchblade horseshoes.
And so it was decided: I’d have a partial hysterectomy. Since the tubal, I knew we wouldn’t be having any more babies, so why let a trouble-making uterus hang around? I’d keep my cervix and ovaries to avoid being catapulted into early menopause, but the uterus would go bye-bye.
I’m writing this about a year after the operation, and these are the things I still remember, which I guess means they’re important enough to mention:
- Despite having other medical procedures that required me to be sedated, there was something about this one that FREAKED me out. Maybe because I’m older, responsible for three children? Anyway, I wrote my kids a “goodbye note…” just in case. My husband thought I was insane. It’s fine.
- In order to cleanse the ol’ colon beforehand, I was able to use over-the-counter Magnesium Citrate, rather than chug the prescription BS. Much more manageable and didn’t taste nearly as awful. YAY!
- I had to have an IV in both hands because the procedure was done robotically and apparently that means two IVs. I don’t know. But I’m a bleeder and OUCH.
- Again, a stranger asked if she could shave me and then insisted she see proof that I’d done it myself. Good times.
- I had to stay in recovery for five hours. At first I was like JUST KEEP ME OVERNIGHT. But I learned the risk of infection goes up when recovering in the hospital, so I made peace with it and tried to pee as soon as I could. Normal bodily functions are celebrated post-op which is hilarious to me. SHE TOOTED, EVERYONE! YAY! Anyway, I begged to have the catheter removed every time I saw a nurse and I think my persistence paid off…or else I was too high to notice I’d actually waited the required amount of time.
- Peeing was difficult. My bladder wouldn’t empty completely, which kept us at the hospital for a couple extra hours. My husband is the most patient soul on earth and he kept telling me to relax. I wanted to shove my catheter up his nose.
- When I was finally allowed to go home, I was grateful I’d worn loose jogging pants and slip-on shoes.
- I only took the prescription meds for two or three days. The pain was the worst on day three.
- In contrast, day four gave me a glimmer of hope and I decided I’d just “clean up the house a little.” In retrospect, this was not a good idea. If you’re reading this and have been instructed to DO NOTHING for two weeks, please listen to your doctor and DO NOTHING for two weeks.
- I’d been worried I’d gain a bunch of weight because doing nothing means no exercising. Thankfully, I had no appetite so I didn’t binge watch Netflix and house ice cream as I feared I would. I slept. A lot. It was hard to focus sometimes because of the exhaustion. The procedure is an extensive one, and your body knows what it needs to recover. Listen to your body!
- Post-op sex? It hurt. It was uncomfortable and I was anxious and that made it worse. And I know I wanted to maim my husband for saying it, but just RELAX. It helps.
- Post-op pooping? Not so bad. I’d had flashbacks to the first BM after my c-section and I was SCARED. Stool-softeners for the win.
- Post-op check-up? This appointment was truly not a big deal, though I will admit I’d been worried. The only suggestion I have for the doctors is to meet with hysterectomy patients in a room that’s not adorned with pictures of babies. I was still pretty emotional during this appointment and it was a punch to the gut lying in my paper gown, gazing up at deliciously swaddled newborns. Hey, healthcare professionals: mental health matters, too.
In conclusion, I do not miss having a period. At all. I no longer have to schedule my life around my cycle and for that, I am grateful. I do still experience symptoms like PMS (Iucky, lucky family), sore breasts, bloating, but there’s zero flow and I’m not menopausal! I’d considered having a bonfire with my leftover stockpile of feminine products, but decided donating them was the more helpful thing to do.
Initially, I’d been sad about my childbearing years coming to a close, especially because it’s so permanent and hadn’t exactly been on my terms. But perspective is precious and I finally feel good about everything. Not only that, but I fully endorse the Final Uterine Farewell for every woman who no longer needs hers. This should honestly be standard practice: after kids or at a certain age, women have earned the right to end menstruation. We do not need our uterus and removing it is one less place for infection or cancer. TAKE THE UTERUS! Especially for gals like me who started our period so early! My partial hysterectomy was like a reward.
With my oldest daughter turning nine this year, I recognize her beginning is likely on the heels of my ending. I can only pray she doesn’t inherit the same monthly struggles, but if she does, I’ll ease her pain with promises of an eventual uterus evacuation. And chocolate.