This is a very vulnerable post for me, but as a doula, I see my clients in very vulnerable moments of their lives, so I decided I'd share these thoughts of mine with you anyway, in the hopes of helping someone find hope and healing.
When I was 36 I began to have excruciating pelvic pain. It was not just during my monthly cycles, but all month long. It was making me physically ill in many ways. My hair was falling out, large amounts at a time. I was having to take several naps each day just to make it through. I would nod off while driving (that was scary!), to the point where I stopped driving all together as much as possible.
After several months of suffering with this while I prayed for God's guidance and healing, I finally found help for my problem through an out-of-state specialist. I truly believed that God had led me to this specialist and trusted that he could help me feel better and be able to function again. I told the specialist that I very much wanted to keep my uterus no matter what. I was still young and didn't know how it would affect me to have it removed at that point in my life. However, due to the high amount of trust I had in this doctor and in the Lord directing my path, I agreed to leave the final decision up to him during surgery. If my uterus seemed to be in such bad shape that he thought it best to remove it, I would agree to it. But I continued to stress to him that I really wanted it saved, if at all possible. I honestly thought it would not need to be removed and that the symptoms I was experiencing were caused by issues I have had flare up from time to time for many years. When I woke up after the surgery--still in the recovery room, the first thing I asked was, "Was he able to save my uterus?" The nurses said that no, the doctor needed to remove it. I felt like I had emotionally been hit by a truck. I was filled with anguish. How could this have happened to me? It was so hard for me to grasp. I just sobbed my heart out right there in post-op!
The hormonal changes I initially went through were intense to say the least. I felt like I would imagine women feel like when they go through menopause and I still had my ovaries! I was told that most of the hormones are in the ovaries and that my hormones would be fine after the hysterectomy. They definitely did balance out over time, but that first year was very difficult.
I spent the next several years vascilating between living in denial about the hysterectomy and weeping and mourning over the loss of it. My stomach would feel sick and I would feel a deep sense of loss just thinking about it. I found it easiest to function when in my heart I denied it. I just simply pretended like I still had my uterus, so I did not have to feel the emotional emptiness I felt whenever I remembered it had been removed and I no longer had the possibility of ever giving birth to another child. Physically, after my initial recovery which was a long 6 weeks, I feel great. I was able to care for my family like I had wanted to before but hadn't been able to do. I had more energy, could drive again, no longer needed to take naps and my hair stopped falling out! So, in my heart I knew the surgery was necessary, but I just could not get past the emotional side of it.
Fast forward to 2018. I had a teacher in a class I was taking speak about the benefit of talking to our body parts before they need to be removed. Saying something like, "You've served me well, but now you're not functioning properly so you must go". It was kind of funny-sounding to me at the time, but then I had this thought flood over me that maybe it would help me actually deal with and move past my hysterectomy to "make peace with my uterus". Even to say that sounds funny to me. But what did I have to lose? After the class was over, in the quietness of my car driving home, I spoke to my uterus, thanked it for serving me so well in housing and nourishing 3 of my babies over the years. I wept for the loss of it. After that, I felt an overwhelming peace flood my heart. I have truly "made peace with my uterus".
Ever since then, I can endure the reality of what happened. I still think of it with fondness for the way it served me and my babies well! But I no longer need to pretend it's not gone. I know that any grief takes time from which to heal and I believe this was no different for me. We need to be patient with ourselves and allow ourselves the space to heal and for me this was just one way I was able to process my loss.
I'm sharing this story to help you realize that there is more to life than what there seems to be and that our bodies are far more complex than we often realize. What we go through matters and often affects us deeply. What you've been through has made you who you are. If you are suffering from things that happened to you in your past, you can find healing, too. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to grieve, even if others do not think the thing you're grieving is something they would grieve.
Has my story helped you in any way? If so, would you please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Karen Gartner is a birth doula in North Carolina with over 16 years of experience helping families achieve their goals for labor, birth and beyond. She also has 20+ years of experience helping mothers with breastfeeding. As a doula and mother of 4 growing children, she has a lot of wisdom to share with new mothers and clients.