I have been embroiled in a love/hate relationship with my uterus since November 1976.
It was a lovely fall Friday as I recall, or as close to “fall” as it gets in Sparks, Nevada, when I first became truly aware of its existence. The tumbleweed was at its autumnal peak as I sat in the principal’s office at my tiny little religious school, doubled over in pain and waiting for my father to pick me up from school. “We think she may have appendicitis,” the teacher told my dad as he put me in the back of the car to take me home to rest. But emerging from my bedroom a few hours later, looking like Carrie on prom night, it became instantly clear that it wasn’t my appendix that had burst.
Since we’d just moved across the country from the rest of our family, my mother, proud as a peacock about my induction into womanhood, rushed to the phone and called my grandmother back in Philly to have me relay to good news. “Grandma, I just got my period,” I told her after some prodding. “That’s wonderful dear,” I recall her reply. “Just so you know, though, you don’t have to call me every month. From now on it’s only news if you miss one or when it ends.”
In that first “womanly” weekend, puberty hit me like a ton of bricks. I think I went from a training bra to an underwire by the time I returned to school the next Monday. “How’s your stomach?” my teacher asked when I returned. “Fine,” I replied, although I really wanted to answer: “I’m on the rag, moron. Now, get me some chocolate.”
For the next year, I was in excruciating pain every 28 days. By 7th grade, the doctors had me on the pill and by 8th I was the go-to-info-girl for the classmates who had just started menstruating. When the most popular girl in school was surprised with her first period in the middle of class, the teacher (a guy mind you…blech!) pulled me aside and dismissed us both from Bible study so I could convince her she wasn’t dying and show her how to use a pad. My fearless attitude over helping her scrub her skin-tight, bloodied white 1978 jeans in the church kitchen sink got me an invitation to her “cool girls only” sleepover…to this day, it still wasn’t worth it.
Despite its early inauguration, this uterus of mine has never managed to get its act together. It’s given me years of painful cramps and “Psycho”-worthy moments. It made my 30s torturous, letting me get pregnant over and over only to pull the rug out from under us at the 12-week mark. Not once, not twice, but FIVE times before Evan was finally born. Then another four “Telfon pregnancies” before Ben came along. Yes, being as persnickety as it was, it insisted on my having preeclampsia, weeks of bed rest and early/emergency C-sections both times. But once it allowed me to successfully carry the two greatest sons ever conceived to term, all was forgiven.
This P.I.T.A. organ apparently has a wicked sense of humor. It didn’t want me to carry 9 out of 11 of my pregnancies, but it’s very enthusiastic in its support of this huge-ass cluster tumor it’s decided to impregnate me with. I look, and feel, 5-months pregnant. I’m anemic. Some months, it makes me faint. Sometimes it hurts to walk. And now it’s sprouting friends. So, it’s time to go.
Before all of you have finished breakfast Tuesday morning, I will have bid a less-than-fond farewell to my girl-gizzards. You would think that it was a no-brainer decision, but trust me, it wasn’t. I’ve been told time and time again that I have a “guy brain,” but it got very girly when it came to making this decision. Logically, it made perfect sense to agree to a hysterectomy. At 46 (yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m 46), I had no intention of having any more children. I’m in pain. I’m bloated and ballooning, with a main tumor that’s bigger than a newborn’s head and shoulders. “Cut that sucker it out” seems perfectly logical. But somehow, despite myself, there’s more emotion than logic swirling in this “guy brain” lately. Will I feel less like a “whole” woman when it’s over? Will I go bald and spout a beard? What lies ahead?
Fortunately, I have great friends, including one who went through this whole shebang years ago. We’ve known each other since high school, and I instantly knew I could turn to her for advice and comfort, despite the 3,000 miles between us. I asked questions that were extremely personal in nature, and she readily answered them with ease, support, and unbelievable humor. “We still got our boobs and a clit, right?” she said. How can that not make you smile? Funny how people you’ve only seen once in the past 20 years can shoot to the top of your “faves” list with once single sentence. Love ya, M.
Being the selectively anal-retentive lunatic I am, I’ve filled our deep freezer with soups and casseroles and washed/ironed every article of clothing in the house lest the Stanley manfolk become Ramen-dependent Clampetts during my hospitalization and recovery. Generous neighborhood moms are on alert for kiddie car rides. And my mom is chomping at the bit to help cook/clean/care at a moment’s notice.
I’ve been accused of being overly frank and open about things in my life. But that’s how I roll. I could shy away from subjects that many would consider embarrassing or uncomfortable, but that’s not my style. Way I see it, unless I’ve done something wrong, there’s no shame in answering people’s questions or being upfront about your life. Need to talk childhood trauma? Gimme a call. Female troubles? If I can be of some comfort, you’ve got my number. Lucky for me, there’ve been people along the way that could do the same for me. They’re cutting me hip-to-hip and yanking out my giblets tomorrow. I’m gonna hurt, I’m gonna get emotional…and I’m gonna get over it. Plato and his posse thought uteruses ruled the bodies and brains of us broads. ὑστέρα, schm-ὑστέρα (loosely translated “uterus, schmuterus"). The support of friends, family, loved ones and online simpatico strangers (props to hystersisters.com) are what you need to get you through…not organs and tissue.
So I'll see you on the other side, people.
(Just bring good beer)