When I was young and naive, I thought ladies like my grandmother were the only women who had hysterectomies. With all due respect, I believed these women were past their prime and having a hysterectomy was just par for the course once you hit a certain stage of life. Like I said, I was a teenager before I actually knew what a hysterectomy was, so I blame my hormonal brain for its ignorance. Little did I know that women of ANY age could have this procedure done, and quite truly, it’s not nearly as rare as you think.
Once I hit my twenties, a few people I knew — who were just a few years older than me — were having hysterectomies. I still thought it was a rarity, and I assumed these women were happy to get rid of their lady parts that were causing them all kinds of trouble. Once again, I blame ignorance on my unfair assumptions. It wasn’t until I was facing and recovering from my own hysterectomy in my late twenties that I understood the full range of emotions these women were feeling. I learned that not everyone elects to have this surgery…I certainly didn’t. I would’ve opted right out if I could have. I also learned that despite many women needing to have this procedure done for their health, not everyone is happy with the outcome, physically or emotionally. I also learned that it’s common to grieve your hysterectomy even though that may sound crazy to other people. It’s a loss and needs to be treated as such. I didn’t know what any of the sweet ladies who traveled this road before me were feeling until I walked in their shoes. Having a hysterectomy of my own made me so much more empathetic towards the women I knew who had had one. These surgeries cause a wide range of emotions for the women involved.
When you have a hysterectomy, you automatically lose your ability to have a child.
I don’t really think that fact really hit me until it was staring me in the face. No matter what age you are, that’s a hard pill to swallow. Even if you’re not planning on having more children, or are past your prime years to add a baby to your brood, it’s quite devastating to know there’s no possible way you can anymore. As ridiculous as it may sound, I dealt with the grief of this for at least a year after my surgery. It still hits me at times. I thought I was crazy for feeling this way as I had three beautiful babies. I never planned on having more, so why was I so upset that I physically couldn’t carry any more? I finally spoke with a wiser, older woman who had had the same procedure done, and she told me she felt the exact same way after hers. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders when she told me this. I always felt guilty for this grief since I was a mom of three. I didn’t have true fertility issues like many women do, but knowing I was no longer fertile was heartbreaking.
For better or for worse, part of your body is gone forever once you’ve had a hysterectomy.
If you lost a limb, you would definitely mourn for it. If you lost your sense of hearing or sight, you’d grieve for it as well. While the outcome of this surgery typically fixes many problems for the women undergoing it, it’s still a loss. No, you can’t see what’s missing, but you know it’s gone. As crazy as it sounds to miss your uterus, it’s an emotion many women deal with…trust me.
Oftentimes when people get sick, they feel like their body has betrayed them. When my body fell apart during my last pregnancy, I felt like it betrayed me. I was incredibly angry that it couldn’t perform the simple task of carrying a baby to term without losing its ever-loving mind and forcing me to have a hysterectomy. I carried a lot of anger around before and after my surgery. I still get angry sometimes and I’m three and a half years out. Anger is a part of grief, and let me tell you, it’s a very strong part of it.
I know we don’t typically think of hysterectomies as a life changing surgery like we do mastectomies, heart surgery, or brain surgery. We don’t often think that the women having them done are sad or upset about them either. It’s also easy to forget about the physical and emotional healing involved once we’ve dropped off dinner for the patient and they’ve reached their six week recovery time. As I said before, I was the exact same way before I had my procedure done.