Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Feminine gore, and gratuitous use of the word "vagina."

Something's on my mind, and I want to talk about it.  It's girl-stuff related, and I don't know how in-depth and gory I will want to get, so just be forewarned that I will probably write about vagina things, and all that entails.  So you should read at your own risk.  And if you're my dad, or an easily grossed-out cousin or something, you should skip it.  Because I have a vagina.  And I'm about to talk about it.

When we're young girls, approaching adolescence, getting our periods sounds like the coolest thing in the universe.  All those mysterious products reserved only for women.  And only for women of a certain age.  Pads and tampons and special washes and all sorts of fantastic and mystical things...it's like joining an awesome club, and getting a bag full of kickass party favors.  We can't wait.
And then it happens, and it's still pretty cool, I suppose.  For a while.  And then we start realizing that this monthly bleeding shit comes with cramping and depression and stained clothes and ruined swimming trips...and we start realizing that we're going to do this every month for the next forty years...and the "new" starts to wear off.  And then we're pretty pissed.
For me, it was days on end, lying in bed, doubled over in pain, and eating ibuprofen straight from the bottle like Smartees.  For me it was a thousand pairs of adorable underpants, tossed in the garbage (ok...eventually tossed in the garbage).  For me it was month after month of emotional outbursts, and irrational depression, and hoping against hope that it would all just go away.  "Menopause is going to be THA BEST EVAR."

And then, resignation.  We finally accept that this is reality, this is nature, this is womanhood.
And something else begins to take place.  We begin to finally see our places within the life cycle, and all of this somehow becomes
ok.  We are able to accept the bleeding, accept the pain, accept the emotional imbalance, and know that this happens because it must.  Because nature needs this of us.  Nature asks this of us.  And so we do it.  Some of us even become thankful for it.

Of course, that's just my take on the situation.  That's how I felt as I navigated menstruation, and I assume that, at least on some level, it is similar for most women.

I became familiar with the idea of my cycle.  I became familiar with the idea that I would experience this grand and powerful thing monthly, and that eventually I would graduate into another mysterious club, for those women who have "survived" menses, and had moved up to the next level of womanly maturity.  I became familiar with the idea that menopause was my next step, and that I would go there when my body, and nature, were ready for me to do so.  I would receive my period-diploma in the form of hot-flashes, mood swings, and finally the secession of my menstrual cycle.  

For the last year, give or take, I have found myself deep within the appreciative stages of my cycles.  I celebrated what it meant to house a uterus.  I celebrated the children I had created inside of me.  I appreciated my body for the marvelous machine it is, blood, cramps, and all.  I began treating myself with love and tenderness during my moontime, taking care to give my body what it needed.  I sewed beautiful cloths for myself, and stopped using toxic bleached cotton to collect my menstruation.  I felt earthy, crunchy, and damn satisfied with myself.

My uterus.  She is a chicken.  
And then things got...weird.
Things got painful.
Things got lumpy.
Things got...too bloody.
Becoming "in-tune" with my body gave me knowledge enough to know that something wasn't right in there.  I took my painful, bloody and lumpy self to the gynecologist (who I had not seen since she delivered my now seven-year-old daughter.  Oops.)

She pressed my belly.   She poked my uterus.  She sent me for ultrasounds.  She sent me for blood tests.  She patted my hand and told me not to worry, that she would find out what was troubling me.  I resisted the urge to cry in her arms, and went home to worry instead.

She found that I am free of cancer.  Which is an immediate relief.  She found that what ails me is not necessarily dangerous, nor will it become immediately dangerous.
This is good news.

What is not good news is that the "cure" for this series of shitty events, for these lumpy bits of fuck that have invaded my body, is not really a "cure" at all.

It's a hysterectomy.

It's the removal of this beautiful organ, whose value I have only begun to appreciate.  The removal of this beautiful organ, that gave life to my children.  The removal of the organ that has reminded me monthly for two decades that I am woman, I am powerful.

The removal of my femininity.

This is not true.  Femininity does not come from a uterus.  I know this.  Lovely women in my life are without their uteruses...er...uteri?  Women who have had surgeries to remove them.  Women who were born male, and identify mentally as female.  Young women and old women.  Lovely, beautiful women, who live their lives without that part of themselves.  They are feminine.  Without their wombs.

But I am struggling.

The gore, and the specifics:

I could have an ablation, which is essentially the removal of the lining of the uterus.  This is a temporary fix, however, and I would likely experience symptoms again within a few months, and have to have the hysterectomy anyhow.

I will be able to keep both ovaries, which should prevent menopause, and any hormonal horror-shows that tend to occur with a "complete" hysterectomy.

I will also be able to keep my cervix, which as I understand it, is something for which I (and anyone having sex with me) should be grateful.

The surgery will be performed with a DaVinci robot something-or-other, which enables the Dr. to make just a few small incisions, and operate remotely.  Like fucking Nintendo.
Which is cool, I guess.  It means they don't have to slice me open like a science-class frog, and yank my organs out with their bare hands.  I like that.  And I like Nintendo.  I'm good at Nintendo.  But no matter how many times I have rescued the princess, there is always that one time where I fuck up, somehow, and die.  There is always that one time where my brain says "jump" and my finger on the B-button says "lol, no," and I kill defenseless little Mario just inches away from victory.  The idea of my organ extraction resting on the video game skills of my surgeon is slightly horrifying.

And, because the incisions for this procedure are so tiny, my over-sized, tumorous uterus won't fit thru them.  The method of extraction then becomes horrifying.  The only way to get the severed uterus, and her tumorous friends out of me, is to grab it with what is essentially a tiny meat grinder, chop it up into bite-size bits, and pull it thru one of the incisions.
To treat such an incredible organ in this manner, is one of the main reasons I am hesitant to do this.  My babies came from there.  Because of this part of me, I have two sweet children, who lived inside of me, thrived inside of me, safe and surrounded by the comfort and warmth of my precious uterus.  And now, because it's being an asshole, I am going to sever it from my body, grind it into sausage links, and yank it out of me to be tossed into the medical waste bin with some guy's cancerous testicle, and some vain woman's liposuction refuse?  Now who's the asshole?

Babies are no longer a possibility for me.  After our daughter was born, I had the baby factory medically disabled, and we went about our merry way as a family of four.  So I realize that there was never the possibility of making a new one.  But my uterus was there, intact, and still reminding me monthly that it was there, keeping me female, and waiting patiently for its retirement.  I settled on that.  Me and my uterus were comfortable with that.

And now it has to go.  My expectations of twenty more years of monthly girl-dom have been shaken.
And my irrational fears have begun to take hold.

What if the Dr. misses, and stabs my intestines with her robot machine?
What if there's an earthquake while those things are inside me, and I'm razored to death from inside?
What if not having a uterus somehow magnifies my depression tenfold, and I end up a raving, bawling lunatic?
What if I am never able to enjoy orgasms again?
What if my vagina emerges from this surgery as a useless, dry cavern, and every sexual partner from now until forever decides, "uh, no thanks"?
What if I experience a severe escalation in migraines because of this?
What if I gain another fifty pounds, and become dependent on one of those Wal-Mart obesity scooters to get around my house?

What if my precious husband, whom I adore beyond measure, suddenly decides I am damaged, and unattractive without all my important parts, packs his bags, and abandons me without so much as a backward glance.
No, thanks.  I'd rather...anything else.  


The fear and the grief are normal.  I know, because I have searched every weird corner of the internet, looking for women who have felt likewise.  They all seem to have grieved, in one way or another.  And I am an asshole.  I have children.  I have a choice, and I don't have to decide immediately because cancer is eating my body.  I have time.  I have the ability to wait, if need be.  Until my body decides to forcibly expel this organ itself, or until I'm hospitalized for anemia, I can keep my decision on hold.  Some women are not so fortunate.  Some women are stranded, childless and cancerous, saddled to a decision that nature makes for them...hysterectomy or death.  I am fortunate.  Well, relatively speaking.

But there is fear, and there is grief.  If it makes me an asshole, then I'm an asshole.  I am afraid.  I am sad.

I like my uterus.  I like being a woman.  I even like having a period.  Ok, so if you ask me that while I am in the throes of brutal cramping and bloody vaginal gore, I will probably give you a different response.  But for now, in the twilight of my time with my uterus, I like having a period.  Losing it makes me sad.  Losing it in such a brutal, disrespectful manner makes me sad.

And now, this, because it made me lol...

My uterus.  She is a comedian.  


  1. I've known a couple of women who have had this done. They were both terrified. And neither had had children. So there were some big decisions to be made.

    But after all was said and done, both of these women are greatly relieved to have had it done, and have no complaints. One woman said the relief from years of pain was amazing. She didn't realize how much she had been suffering, until the suffering was over.

    Good luck to you. I wish you courage and strength...whatever your decision may be.

    1. Thank you so much. These are exactly the kinds of things that I need to hear right now. Thanks for commenting!