Of Hysterectomies and Granny Panties

This is my surgery face! Ridiculous hats are required when checking into the hospital.

{note: I wrote this awhile ago – it’s just taken me some time to decide when I was ready to post it} 

“Your uterus is a mess.”

That was the first thing the surgeon said to me when she walked into the room where I was waiting patiently, trying not to cry. The second was, “This is going to be a very difficult conversation to have.” Great. Way to make me panic, doc.

Most people assume that as a woman who has made it to 40 without having kids means I’m anti-kid, but in reality it’s more like I was anti-having kids with anyone other than my current boyfriend. I love Jonathan so goddamn much that within a few weeks of falling for him, my brain was all, “Hey! I want to have this guy’s babies!” followed by a “WHAT. DID. YOU. JUST. SAY??!!?”

But the thought has only grown more and more important since I realized that if we were going to do this thing, a decision had to be made soon—since my reproductive lady parts would basically be expiring in a few years. Exploratory talks with my family doctor about birthing babies seemed promising. She was optimistic that when the time came, everything should be good to go…uh, until she discovered something foreign in there, which resulted in many (very long, and very scary) tests, and then, unfortunately, a visit to a specialist.

Still, I went into the surgery consultation fully prepared, or so I thought. My Google self-diagnosis pretty much matched what my regular doctor had told me. I had a large fibroid—a growth that is thankfully, NOT cancerous—that was causing all kinds of tiredness and pain and a myriad of other super fun and TMI to mention here things, but I thought I had figured out that it could be removed with the simplest of three available surgery options: embolization (wherein they cut off the blood supply to the fibroid, shrinking and killing it).

So that’s what I was expecting to hear when I walked into that appointment. Unfortunately, I found out that I actually had TWO very large fibroids hanging out in my lady parts. One was as I thought, partying it up on the outside of my uterus and doing really awesome things like getting twisted and causing me pain. The other, though, was the major troublemaker.

This guy was all wound up inside and outside the entire length of the back wall of my uterus, stretching it (which I guess is why I looked like I was kind of pregnant. Who knew? I thought I was just fat) to capacity and squishing up all the organs down there. It’s kind of like that large, obnoxious drunk guy pushing his way up to the front at a rock show who ends up smashing a bunch of people against the stage and ruining everyone else’s good time.

But even after the surgeon said that, I was still holding out hope for the second option: a myomectomy (cutting the fibroids out). Which, you know, would work, if this thing wasn’t IN the entire wall of my uterus. Because, see, if they cut it out, that means the wall of my uterus is just…gone. They can’t really fix—there’s no way to reconstruct a uterus. It would be unstable and probably burst and cause a whole host of other problems. Plus, fibroids can actually grow back after myomectomys. Lame, huh?

Which brings us to the third and scariest option: a hysterectomy—removal of my uterus entirely. Which means that I will never be able to give birth to a baby. But—as my surgeon explained, the uterus I had was bad news and wouldn’t be able to carry a baby to term anyway, and also getting pregnant would most likely put my life in some serious danger.

It’s funny how you spend a long time thinking about something you might want to do, and then when that thing gets taken off the table completely, you really really really want to do it. My surgery was scheduled pretty quick, so I only had about a week of solid crying before I had to get over the idea of loving a little one that Jonathan & I made together and carrying it myself.

My brain knows that ultimately this surgery was a good thing; it will end all the issues I’ve had over the last 4+ years (or maybe longer, because every time I talked to the doc, I realized that things I thought were totally normal were NOT, at all). I won’t have any more chronic issues with pain, and I’ll have more energy than before, so maybe I will actually, you know, leave the house more often and quit canceling stuff because I feel like crap.

My brain also knows that I should be beyond thankful that this was a solvable thing, and not something much scarier and unknown (re: the Big C). It’s a routine surgery that’s done all the time, and hundreds of thousands of women have had it and come out on the other side feeling so much better.

But my heart. Oh  man, my heart. My heart just doesn’t quite understand. Even though I’m lucky in many ways, one of which being I got to keep my ovaries—so I can still produce eggs (for a few more years, anyway) and have them extracted and frozen for implantation via a surrogate later—I still can’t quite wrap my heart around the fact that I will never be able to give birth to a baby. I will never get to walk around glowing and eating strange combinations of foods, or break my boyfriend’s hand and scream at him while I push, or hold a little replica of both of us to my breast and feed him or her.

These are the kinds of things that lead to long crying jags, especially if I see kids on the bus or street, or if a new mom is talking to me about their adorable kiddo. Yes, I know there is surrogacy and adoption and fostering and all kinds of other avenues I can take, but my heart can’t really take thinking about or listening to that right now.

I’m 3 weeks into a 6-week recovery, and while my physical pain has definitely lessened and I can already feel a difference in my body from before, I know I’ve still got a long way to go with the emotional stuff.

That said, the recovery has not been without some laughter. A few days before I checked in to the hospital, I went on a retail therapy shopping spree in which I purchased WAY too many cute pajama bottoms, matching super-soft tees, comfy fleece vests, fuzzy socks and slippers, and two hats obviously meant for children (a raccoon and a hot pink owl).

And, hilariously, when you have an abdominal hysterectomy like I did, you cannot wear your regular underwear because it’s too restrictive and the waistband will hit you right in the most sensitive spot. Let me tell you, there is nothing more hilarious (or dead sexy) than being forced to switch from hot pink bikini underwear to giant “body tone” Granny panties.

I’ve also found that one of the hardest things is telling people what happened. It’s totally a double-edged sword. If I don’t speak up, I risk having a breakdown the first time someone jokes around by asking if I’m pregnant when I don’t order a drink, or says, “So when are you and Jonathan going to have kids?” And if I do, people are going to treat me extra-carefully, which may mean they won’t want to tell me they’re pregnant or planning a family. And I really, really, really don’t want that to happen.

I want all of my family and friends to be able to share their joy with me about all things baby! I really do. I don’t want to be “that girl” who’s too sad to appreciate that babies are awesome and making all my ladies giggly and excited and happy. There are just going to be sometimes when I get a little more emotional about it than others, but I promise you, I will NEVER begrudge you that right to your happiness, or try to stifle it in any way. The last thing I ever want to do is make anyone feel bad.

And of course, there are days when I feel like I don’t even have any right to complain about this or to be sad, because so many other people are going through things that are SO much worse.

It’s just the other days that are hard, even though I know it’ll get better.

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9 responses to “Of Hysterectomies and Granny Panties

  • shriespangler

    Amie. This brings so much feeling to the forefront of my brain and heart. You’re awesome for putting this out there, and awesome for saying it with such heartfelt honesty. We lurv ya. And if we ever have babies maybe they can come visit you in the summer?!

  • Suzy

    Wow Amie. I knew you’d had some kind of health ‘issue’ going on, but I had no idea (and didn’t like to ask). You’re so incredibly brave to post this. Such heartfelt writing can’t help but bring a tear to my eye. Thank you for sharing. It must have been hard to write.
    I’m sad for you, that you’re having such a horrible experience, and the outcome, which must be so incredibly hard to deal with. Thank god you have J to help you through this.

    Sending you loads of love.
    xo

    • Amie

      Thanks, Suz! I have really been overwhelmed with the love and support coming to me. Mostly I hope that other ladies will read this and gain strength from it – or just know that they aren’t alone in the way they feel.

  • yelahneb

    There will be bad days, and worse days. But it will get better, and we’re here for you, for what it’s worth.

  • tygerlyn

    Honestly I read this a few days ago but it took me a while to respond because there are no words to convey how very much I wish life wasn’t such a shitstorm sometimes. Thank you for sharing.

  • The 2012 Clothing Experiment « Daily Mutilation

    […] I seriously buy new pajamas about every 2 months. And since I went on a GIGANTIC pj buying spree before my surgery, I don’t need any new ones for about 5 more […]

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