“I don’t need a uterus to have kids in my life,” I declared. “I’ve got 15 nieces and nephews; I’ve got a roommate that is young enough to be my son, I run a charity event for non-profit that deals with foster kids and adoption. If I decide I want a child, I think I can figure something out.”
It’s not the first time I’ve said it in the past few weeks, but this time I was saying it to my HR contact at work. I’m scheduled to have a hysterectomy at the end of the month, and am trying to work out how soon I can get back to work and off short-term disability. It’s not so much that I’m a workaholic, but I’m not really interested in dropping to 70% of my current salary.
“Don’t rush your recovery,” she cautioned. “Even if you physically recover, there is an emotional toll that overcomes you once your uterus and ovaries are removed. A lot of women don’t anticipate the grief of giving up motherhood as an option until it’s already gone.”
I understood what she was saying, but deciding whether or not to have kids was a decision I had to make back 7 years ago and I feel like I did my grieving then.
I had gone in for a routine check-up. The nurse practitioner was taking the normal vitals: height, weight, blood pressure. She took my blood pressure twice, actually, and then left the room – quickly returning with a crash cart and telling me to relax, which only made me more nervous. My blood pressure was 171/118. I looked at them confused – I felt the way I always felt. But evidently this wasn’t good.
As the nurse practitioner prescribed the much-needed medication to get it back in to the safety zone, she asked me if I wanted to have children. Because this med and pregnancy could not mix. I cried. Not that I wanted to get pregnant, but that the choice was being taken away from me. My life was in a place where nothing was certain – everything was in flux, and I just broke down for a bit there in the doctor’s office.
Yes, ma’am. I had already done my grieving. I was able to joke with the HR contact, convince her I was fine, and we got off the phone both laughing.
Later that night, a voice on the TV caught my attention. This psychologist was talking on a news show about having a mastectomy.
“My friends told me I would go through a mourning period, but I just brushed them off. My femininity was not defined by my breasts; I didn’t need them to feel empowered. I had counseled people in the past through their post-surgical depression; I knew what would happen and knew I would be fine.
And then I woke up, and my breast was gone, and I mourned.”
So now I wonder if maybe I’m wrong. I really don’t expect to be sad about it – I’ve kind of gotten a Spartan attitude about my body parts – get rid of it if it’s causing a fuss. On the other hand, not having my own children has allowed me to focus on so many other things I wouldn’t have time for: rescue dogs, charity events, The Geeks, etc.
But I don’t mean to dismiss it all so quickly. I can understand that feeling of phantom loss like when a soldier loses his leg, but still feels the pain or like the leg is still there. I just can’t focus on that. It’s counter-productive to where I’m heading.