25 January, 2019

A No Kidding Menopause: The emotional issues (Part 2)

(Part Two: Emotions around my hysterectomy)

When I finally sought help, and needed to undertake investigations then surgery, I wondered how I was going to feel about still more scans/procedures etc focused on my reproductive system. The first step was another scan for fibroids, ten years after my last, traumatic scans, and as I’ve only ever had bad news from an ultrasound, I was ready for any emotional reaction. But I actually found it a routine procedure. I had much less emotionally invested in this scan than I did for my ectopics. For once I did not hope for good news, and the news I received was, on the scale of bad news, actually fine. These scans are never pleasant experiences, but at least in this case, I wasn’t beset with wild emotions.

The OBGYN’s office with the Wall of Babies, on the other hand, was like a slap in the face. After the most unpleasant and humiliating pelvic examination I have ever had (and I’ve had quite a few in a teaching hospital), I stood up to put my clothes on, and was confronted with the sight of all these babies. The timing of it was awful. My guard was down, because I’d been dealing with this issue in a very matter-of-fact way. As I mentioned in Part One here, I had been deliberately not thinking about it in fertility terms. But then, suddenly, I saw the wall. Not only was I reminded that I had been through great trauma and loss when I’d been trying to have children and had last been through some of these traumatic pelvic examinations, but I was reminded that I was not in the club of grateful mothers sending photos of their babies. After an examination that had made me feel vulnerable, the Wall of Babies made me feel even more so. I immediately felt “less than.” I hadn’t experienced those feelings for a long time. (I wrote about it here, and the comments section has a lot of interesting points. I was particularly appalled at the doctor who not only has a Wall of Babies, but a Ceiling of Babies too!) I wish I’d said something. I still think about sending a note to him, or a copy of my previous post.

Once I recovered from that moment (and it did take a while), the news that I was to lose my uterus was not devastating for me. It was a means to an end, and there was no doubt this was necessary. I’d said good-bye to my once-hoped-for fertility over ten years earlier, and my uterus was just an anachronistic remnant of that. As I said to a nurse, it had never been any good to me, so it may as well go. I didn’t mourn its loss, and perhaps because I’d never blamed my body for my infertility, I didn’t hate it either. It was simply a problem to be solved.

However, that doesn’t mean that emotions weren’t involved. I remember lying in the hospital a few days after my hysterectomy, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, after my husband had visited and gone home, and everything was quiet. I had the window open, heard people in the distance, and thought about all those mothers celebrating Mother’s Day. Feeling alone, feeling the absence of children, is common on this day for many of us. Usually I manage to arrange the day so I can ignore it. But that afternoon in hospital I felt doubly low, briefly resentful that my uterus had neither delivered children, but had also caused me to be lying alone  in hospital.

That feeling didn’t last long, thankfully. And ultimately, I had fewer negative emotions around my hysterectomy than I had perhaps expected. Part of the reason may have been because I knew I was lucky. After all, I had my hysterectomy at an age which was unsurprising. But it was all a reminder that our equilibrium can be lost, even for a short time, because of our past experiences. Fortunately, it was also a reminder that we survive these episodes, that they don’t last long these days, and that equilibrium returns. 


  1. Ooof, that image of you, alone in the hospital on Mother's Day...what a punch to the gut. I have to say that I love my GYN, because he is literally JUST a gynecologist and specializes in menstrual disorders and reproductive choice, so there is ABSOLUTELY NO wall of babies, and no visibly pregnant people, anywhere. It is not a temple to pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding like one practice I went to for a couple years and hightailed it out of. I get that that's part of the business, but good lord it's not ALL of the business. I haven't lost my uterus completely (yet), just the lining, and I felt much the same way as you -- good riddance, you didn't do me any good. Of course now the darn thing seems to be seeking revenge. I love how you are taking the lid off of all aspects of menopause, thank you!

  2. A hysterectomy over Mother's Day -- oy. :( Insult to injury...! I know you've written about it before, and it's some years ago now, but I still want to give you a hug!

  3. The image of you alone in the hospital on Mother's Day, after just having a hysterectomy... Well, that made my heart sad. I'm grateful the "resentment," as you called it, didn't last long. Thank you for so bravely writing about this extremely important women's health issue.