The summer after I graduated high school, I was ready and excited to start my adult life. I got into a great university, I was finally going to be out of the house and on my own, and I got a supracervical hysterectomy.
It doesn’t get brought up a lot in conversation, but every time it does, the look on peoples’ faces are usually a mix between surprised -- i.e., horrified -- and condescending pity.
Then they say something like: Oh, surely you didn’t have to do that? What kind of doctor would approve such a life-altering operation? You’re so young you don’t know what you want yet. What if you want kids later on?
I get it. I really do, but let me back up to the beginning so you can get the whole picture. I was born in 1993, to my then-17-year-old mother. I’ve always been quiet, reserved, and introverted. I’ve also come to notice a pattern in my life. I’ve consistently been ahead of the people in my age group.
When I was 4 years old, my pediatrician frequently told me to “chill out” because I was stressed from keeping my emotions bottled up. In first grade, I remember the teacher putting on “Teletubbies” and thinking it was stupid show, even though all of the other kids were sufficiently engrossed. And the adults in my life trusted me enough to include me in their conversations.
Well it turned out that I was also ahead physically, too. I was the tallest person in my class until fifth grade and had already developed mad birthing hips that made Hula Hooping impossible. I started my growth spurt when I was around six and had size six feet that were attached to awkwardly long legs that made P.E. class torturous – to say the least.
As I wandered gracelessly through elementary, I had hit all of the significant milestones, except one. When I was 9 years old, I went to the bathroom, pulled down my jean skirt and floral panties and saw a rust colored stain on my panties.
Thankfully, my mom already had the dreaded puberty talk with me, so, unlike other girls, I knew I was probably not dying; although I expected that a tidal wave of blood was supposed to come out of me everyday for about a week. Thankfully that wasn’t so. I put carefully folded toilet paper in my underwear and went about my day.
When I got home I told my mom, and she went and bought me several packs of those huge, awful pads that make you feel like you’re wearing a diaper. She reassured me that the bleeding wouldn’t be as bad as I anticipated. And it wasn’t, for a while.
I was around 10 when my periods were starting to become regular -- they also regularly stuck around for about 10 days. My flow started to become increasingly heavy and incredibly painful. Everyone knows that cramps suck, so I took some Midol, rallied and got on with school. The rest of the year was fairly normal, until it wasn’t.
My cramps became unbearable enough that I had to miss several days of school, and, although it wasn’t apparent to me at the time, my bleeding was far more extensive than normal. Finally my mom decided that it was time for me to go the OB/GYN. He put me on birth control and said to come back if the heavy bleeding continued. For about a year it helped tremendously. Again, until it didn’t.
Over the next few years -- from the time when I was 11 until the time when I was 16 -- I was put on every kind of birth control under the sun. The pill, the patch, shots, NuvaRing, nothing seemed to help, and when I was around 16, I was finally referred to a specialist.
I felt like I could finally see the light at the end of the, proverbial, tunnel. Finally, I was able to talk to, not only someone who listened, but someone who had been through the exact same thing that I had been going through.
At that time I was bleeding for about four weeks at a time. I would maybe get six days of relief before it started again. In addition to everything else that was going on with my uterus, I started to get a different kind of pain. An ultrasound was ordered, and it turned out that I had a golf ball-sized cyst on my ovary.
The specialist that I was seeing suspected I had endometriosis and ordered an exploratory laparoscopy. When I had my laparoscopy, it turned out that my insides were covered with lesions. My doctor got rid of all that she could, and my recovery went smoothly. After that, my periods were finally normal -- with the help of birth control -- and I thought that I was fixed.
When I turned 17, my symptoms began to reoccur and I went back to my specialist, who suggested another laparoscopic surgery. This time they found endometriosis, adenomyosis and a uterus that had been severely damaged by the combination. This time the surgery didn’t help. I had started to bleed constantly -- I had no relief for months on end -- and was in a lot of pain.
At the time, my doctor asked if I wanted to have a hysterectomy. I had the same reaction that everyone does when they hear the word associated with someone so young. I felt that I couldn’t give up so early; after all, I was only 17. What if I could salvage my reproductive system at some later date? Is surgery my last resort? Can I get a second opinion? I did and that doctor came to the same conclusion. That year my pain was at an all-time high, and I had even passed out from the pain a few times.
I waited for what seemed like an incredibly drawn-out semester, and went back to my doctor and told her that I wanted the hysterectomy. We scheduled the surgery for a couple of weeks after I had graduated from high school. It wasn’t quite as simple as I had anticipated, and I did have to have a few procedures done to rule out any problems with my digestive and other systems beforehand.
I also had to go see a psychiatrist who told me that I would no longer be able to have kids and asked if I understood that -- literally, the appointment took five minutes.
The time came, and I got my hysterectomy. Everything was gone. I had no uterus, no ovaries and no chance of having biological children. All that was left was my cervix.
As for the recovery, it wasn’t a big deal and I was back to normal in a couple of weeks. Well, I was almost back to normal. My hormones were out of control and the littlest things would make me cry.
Nobody actually comes out and asks, but I have a feeling that they think that I shouldn’t have had the surgery and that they wonder if I regret it. I don’t, not at all. I wish that I could have had the experience of pregnancy, and I worry that future partners may have a problem with my barrenness, for lack of a softer word. I do know that I’m much happier without the pain and bleeding and suffering.
I chose to get it done so that I could have a fresh start in college. I chose to get it done because I was in so much pain. And I chose to get it done because I know there are other ways to have kids. I’m adopted and have always wanted to adopt, healthy reproduction system or not.
I, and countless other women, go through so much, health and other. I know it’s cliché to say, but we only get one chance to live life, and I chose to end what was, essentially, unnecessary suffering. It was my choice. I take ownership of my own body, and I’ve learned to love it despite its imperfections. My body is uniquely my own, and I am the one who gets to decide what to do with it and how I feel about it.