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After my hysterectomy, I feel free

"Here I was, waking up in a recovery room with no uterus, 14 years ahead of schedule."

hysterectomy

In the operating room, I cried.

"I'm sad," I announced to the over-bright room, and a nurse appeared in the space above my head. I looked up into her eyes. I couldn't remember her name. "I'm sad. I know it's silly, but I'm sad because my uterus was the first home for my children, and now you're taking it away." I had meant to give my stomach a ceremonial rub before this moment, to offer up some sort of prayer or ritual of gratitude, but somehow in the lead-up to surgery, I had forgotten.

"Please," I begged the woman in the multi-colored hairnet, "please give it a pat for me before you throw it away."

"Before we send it off," a nurse on my other side corrected with a laugh. They held my hands, one on each side, as I wept for the first "imperfect" home my babies had ever known.

Imperfect. "That's a very awkward uterus," I once thought a heavily-accented doctor had said to me as he conducted a diagnostic ultrasound. It took me days of Googling to work out that he'd actually called it a very "arcuate" uterus. The ultrasound was meant to find a reason for my preterm delivery the year before.

My first child had come eight weeks early, spending three weeks in the NICU and it turned out that my misshaped, arcuate/awkward uterus was the cause. My second baby came only six weeks early, with a week in the NICU, and the third and fourth babies made it nearly to term.

My uterus stretched a little more with each baby, though not without months of contractions along the way. Between all the pregnancies combined, I spent a cumulative year of my life on bedrest.

And now, my uterus was filled up again, this time with a giant fibroid.

I probably wouldn't have had surgery just to remove a fibroid, but they'd also found a suspicious cyst on my left ovary. The cyst had to come out in case it was cancerous, so while they were in there they would also be removing the fibroid-filled uterus, too.

"I'm going to give you some medicine to relax you," came the anesthesiologist's voice from somewhere behind my head.

"What time is it?" I asked, and the person answered.

"Is it benign?" I said.

"Yes."

"Did they leave my right ovary?"

"Yes."

"Can I have an ice chip?"

The weird thing about all these questions was that I didn't feel like they were actually coming out of my mouth. "Can you hear me, when I talk to you?" I asked, not quite believing the answer.

When I was 12 and first started my period, I decided that I couldn't wait to be 55. That was my one life goal: to make it through all this bloody business and come out on the other side.

It wasn't just the mess or the pain. It was, somehow without being able to articulate this to myself at the time, the idea of being sexually uninteresting to men that I craved. At 12 years old, when I could not yet remember the abuse I'd endured many years earlier, I had some vague idea that fertility made me a target. To be post-fertile would be to be free.

And here I was, waking up in a recovery room with no uterus, 14 years ahead of schedule.

I know what I need to do, I thought in my anesthesia-induced haze, as I remembered my young self and all the girls like her. I'm ready to mother the world.

Obviously, the babies I incubated in my uterus still need me. They are 14, 12,10 and 8, and I have no intention of relegating my responsibility to them. And obviously, 10 weeks from now, I will continue to be sexually available to my husband. Some women even report that their sex lives improve after hysterectomies.

But it was symbolic, the removal of this organ that had caused me so much grief for me. From the terrible cramps and monthly puking of my adolescence to the bedrest and the NICU stays of my baby days to the fibroid symptoms as of late.

I'm incredibly grateful for the incredible people that my uterus gave me. But with my uterus gone, I have more room—more room in my body, more room in my heart, more room in my life. My children already show signs of someday becoming independent creatures, of needing less of me. And so, I stride into the future now, even though I once envisioned it at a set age of 55.

I'm 41. I have no uterus. I am still a mother. And I am free.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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