Imagine your body like a living room. Pictures hung on the walls, flowers in a vase, photography books arranged on a coffee table centered on a plush rug. The gentle breeze of a fan tickles the flower petals and sunlight glints off the glass in the frames. Now, imagine a hurricane blows through your home. Frames ripped from the walls, vase spilling water onto the floor, rug bunched in the corner. After three hurricanes, you can’t find the picture hooks to replace the frames on the wall, the petals have been stripped from the flowers, and the vase is shattered. The rug is in the neighbor’s yard. Witness, if you please, the havoc three births have wrought on my body.
My “living room” is in shambles. I feel as if someone has juggled my organs and put them all back out of order. While walking, sitting, reaching, I feel like someone is punching me in the gut. I can’t jog even a few steps or stand up too quickly without grimacing from the tugging and yanking of jostling innards. Lots of moms talk about peeing when they sneeze, and I never had that issue so I thought I was better off than most and things would improve over time. Instead, things have gotten much worse.
I spoke to a physical therapist who informed me all her expertise could not ultimately “fix” me, but she could make me slightly less uncomfortable after about year of constant work. When a person whose livelihood depends on my business throws in the towel, you know things are bad. My doctor agreed and suggested I think about a surgical fix. There were a couple other options that were described as “this will make you smell bad all the time” and “you could work on it for a year and not improve at all, but also give yourself several bladder infections” that I did not find appealing.
Surgery is drastic, and the unappealing options were just to kill time until I was sure I didn’t want any more children, because the surgical option could not be undone. We have known we wanted three babies for years, and have been so fortunate to have three healthy kids filling our home and hearts with love and joy. We know kids are expensive, college is expensive, extracurriculars are expensive, and houses big enough to hold multiple children are only getting more expensive. We are finished having children.
It’s easy to be certain when you can change your mind. It’s less easy to make a permanent decision. Even a vasectomy can be reversed, but a hysterectomy cannot. I had to sign multiple forms certifying that I understand I cannot have more children once this procedure takes place, and while wondering who on earth has sued doctors over this mix-up in the past, I started to cry. Of course, I know that without a uterus I can’t have children, and I know I probably can’t handle more kids (or more pregnancies, because I always seem to have an emergency with each kid). But to sign a form that states in giant block letters I UNDERSTAND I CANNOT HAVE CHILDREN AFTER A HYSTERECTOMY, it seemed set in stone.
Men complain about being “neutered” and feeling less masculine after a vasectomy, and let me tell you, I am not here for it. Nothing is removed, for crying out loud. And you can undo it if you change your mind! Plus, you limp home after an office visit and you’re back in action after one week. All you whinging man-babies can absolutely step aside, because every equivalent procedure for a woman is a huge ordeal and exponentially more painful. I mean, for a woman to have a child, she has to throw up for three months, gain forty pounds, watch varicose veins appear on her legs, have miserable sleepless nights from the bowling ball on her front crushing her organs and hurting her back, and oh yeah, push that pot roast out her once dainty little pita pocket. For a man to have a child? A little back rub, a few kisses, and then like a sneeze, only better!
Honestly, I’m having a hard time with my decision. I’ve done research and it looks like you don’t absolutely have to give up your uterus right away in order to have your organs surgically reshuffled to their correct locations, but if you don’t go full-enchilada, there’s a chance it’ll all start falling in on itself pretty soon and you’ll be back in the OR again. Plus, even if you don’t have the hysterectomy and just go with the reshuffling, you still can’t have babies or that kid will blow out all the careful stitches your doctor sewed in there to keep everything in order.
I’m proud of my kids. I read a lot of historical fiction before my sons were born, and when we found out we were having boys, I thought hell yeah, I should have been a monarch. An heir and a spare! Logically I know this is nonsense, but I was high on hormones at the time. My sweet little girl, who is so far the biggest, chattiest, wildest of the bunch, rounded out our family, and I know I don’t have the correct level of anxiety to have more slices of my heart walking around outside my body. It’s too much worry, too much concern, too much heartache.
Nothing has ever made me feel more loved, needed, wanted, than when my husband suggests we have more kids. He never asks for anything, won’t tell me what he’s craving for dinner, refuses to tell me what kind of toothpaste he prefers, rarely comments on the cleanliness of our home, and would certainly never complain about my decor choices. He’s not one for chatter, but when he even jokingly says, “how about one more?” I feel my heart fill to the brim. I know how much he loves our three babies and I’m so grateful I could give him that joy. He agrees that three is going to keep us plenty busy, but if I am permanently unable to give him more children, will he subconsciously hold me in less esteem? When he can’t even joke about finally getting this parenting thing right on our fourth try, will he need me less? What if someday he feels our family isn’t complete and I can’t have more kids? Will he find someone who can?
It’s silly. There are women who can’t have children at all. Women who needed hysterectomies because of endometriosis or cancer before there were able to bring three sweet babies into the world. My husband loved me when I thought I couldn’t have children because of my autoimmune disease. Not once did he suggest we bring in a sister-wife to pick up my slack. I don’t know why I feel like my worth will be diminished without this one organ that I’m not even going to use anymore. Is it something I’m telling myself or do I get this message from society? I don’t bring in any income, I don’t save lives, I don’t even take care of the planet properly because I constantly put non-recyclables in the recycling bin. I make babies. If I can’t do that, what is my value?
Right now, I’m so uncomfortable that my uterus no longer brings me joy, and so in the spirit of Marie Kondo, I’m going to thank my uterus for the gifts it has given me, and let it go. Not without many, many tears, but let go I must. The end of an era. The culmination of a season. If you’re reading this as soon as it’s posted, I’m in the operating room right now. It sounds like my uterus can’t be donated in this region, but that really would have helped me, I think. To know my baby oven would go on to someone else who needs it and to hopefully bring them some of the joy we’ve been so blessed with in our home.