05 October, 2021

Learning to let go

I chatted to someone the other day about my hysterectomy. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time, and it was interesting to look back. In particular, to think about the emotions surrounding it, as well as the physical effects. Before the operation, I remember wondering how it would affect me emotionally. I was lucky in many ways. It was ten years since my infertility journey had ended, and since I had begun living a No Kidding life. Ten years during which I had come to terms with my life, and embraced the wonderful parts of it. Ten years, during which I had become menopausal, and had realised that I did not want to be pregnant any more. As the person I was talking to said, I had wanted to be to have a child five years earlier.

In those first five years when I was no longer trying to conceive, I went through a lot of emotions about my cycle. At first I was bitter, and hated the appearance of my period, especially when it was painful or became heavy (something I was lucky not to have experienced before). After a year or so though, I realised that what I was going through was what every woman went through – whether we wanted children or not, whether we had them or not. I appreciated that. I appreciated being normal. Along with all women my age, I was facing the end of one part of my life, and the beginning of the next.

Unfortunately, society has trained us into thinking that this is when we might feel worthless, unattractive, washed up. Fortunately, in the 4-5 years before I began facing this, I had done a lot of thinking around what was my worth, how society valued women, and whether I bought into that. The answer is, of course, that I had never bought into that. I’d always chafed against the idea that women’s biology created their value to society. I’d been a feminist since I was four! But there’s something about infertility, about the inability to have children, that gets you sucked back into those old traditional, pronatalist views. You start questioning yourself. But then you start answering those questions in the way you always would. At least, that was my experience. I denied the little voices in my head, and denied the voices of society, which were so limiting, and just plain wrong.

Those first five years were the critical time when I had trained and retrained my brain to accept and then embrace my reality – the reality that there would be no miracle* baby and that I would never have children. I’ve talked and written about this a lot, because it was the main thing that helped me heal, even though it was painful at first. This self-training has also helped me gain control over other thoughts since then. I realised only subsequently that it was, effectively, cognitive behaviour therapy. Self-administered.

When it came time for my hysterectomy, I was keen for it to be over, but I was nervous at the same time. I was nervous that some of those thoughts around self-worth, about feeling like a complete woman, might return. But you know what? They didn’t. Or if they did, they were swiftly banished. Sure, my uterus was gone, but – aside from the freedom from bleeding – I didn’t feel any different emotionally. Its absence didn’t make any difference to my life. And as I sit here, I don’t feel any different either. As usual, the anticipation was harder than the actual outcome. And the freedom? Well, the freedom is still fabulous, seven years on!

Note: I wrote a series in 2019 about menopause (including hysterectomy), the physical and emotional issues. You can find all my menopause posts – including ones written leading up to my hysterectomy – here. And posts about banishing those negative thoughts are here.




 

* as much as I hate that term! I feel it judges if you are worthy of a miracle, somehow “blessed” and all those who didn’t get their miracles were left wanting.

2 comments:

  1. I love this. I was just talking about hysterectomies with my best friend, who has utterly debilitating periods and absolutely nothing is helping, and this is her last option. She asked me how I felt about it and I had nothing negative to say. At all. Now, her uterus was home to her three children at one point, but she's come to grips with the end of its usefulness there. I told her mine was an exorcism, that I was worried I'd have complicated feelings but really I felt a sense of relief mixed with a tiny bit of revenge. Probably not the healthiest, but for such a relatively small organ it had caused me so much physical and emotional pain, so good riddance. I honestly don't know anyone who had a non-emergency hysterectomy after the possibility of children was over and regretted it. Every single person has said it was freeing in some way. So unfair that women get the organs that betray us regularly.

    Strangely, I also felt that my worth as a woman intensified when I rid myself of my uterus because it was no longer something in play. When people said "oh, you never know, you could still get pregnant" I had the ultimate comeback -- "I DON'T HAVE A UTERUS, THANKYOUVERYMUCH." I personally felt like I could let go of so much more once that piece of my body was gone. Kind of aggressive, but I could make peace with my body afterwards. :)

    I'm so glad that you have fabulous freedom and you could shut up those awful voices that tell us we're not enough.

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  2. Terrific insights and advice.

    I've been thinking about pronatalism a lot lately in some adoption reform work I'm doing. I'm trying to tease out my internal desire to be a parent from society's expectation that I do so.

    I love your thoughts on training your brain to heal from the loss. So applicable in other areas, too.

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