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February 09, 2009

Hysterectomy Memories

Health I had a hysterectomy when I was close to 40.  I almost never think about it; it relieved decades of cramps and clots and leaks and misery, I I had two kids and knew we couldn't afford more if we stayed in Manhattan, and my doctor had made it clear that I had no choice - the cells looked like they might turn into something dangerous.  So why think of it today?  I stopped by BlogHer recently and landed on a post by mamaneena about her own surgery and her thoughts and prayers as she awaited anesthesia. 

Of course, it brought back memories of those days.  For some reason I was terrified that I'd never wake up from the anesthesia.  Not rational -- didn't matter.  I was afraid I would traumatize my sons.  And I did NOT want visitors, especially not the kids.  I didn't want them to see me weak and in pain and drugged. 

The afternoon before, we went out for a late lunch and then we checked me in.  My husband and the boys surprised me with a teddy bear in a sweater vest and bow tie.  They all solemnly hugged it so I would have their hugs with me as I waited.  And then I was alone in my room with my bear, sad and scared and worried.

Of course, the surgery went well.  Since, as my doctor said, I wasn't nursing a child, he kept me pretty well medicated so the pain was minimal too.  Late in the day, my husband showed up with both boys.  I was furious. I didn't want to upset them and wasn't sure I could be their real "mommy" with all the medication.  I went along with the visit though; my husband seemed convinced that it was necessary.  They were so sweet, offered gentle hugs, played with the bed controller and, generally, were wonderful.  As they were leaving, I asked them if everything was as they thought it would be.  My younger one, who was six, said "No mom.  I thought you would be all bloody."  Clearly, my husband was right.  They needed to see that I was OK.  It was a real lesson.  I have always believed in telling our kids the truth; this over-protective instinct was not typical.  Clearly it was also misplaced and I've always been grateful to my husband for ignoring my wishes in their interest.   

Anyway, my recovery was uneventful and I have never regretted the surgery.  Neena and many others speak often of the sense of loss they felt; I don't know why, but I never had that feeling.  I did have one dream about the theft of my "magic purse" but that was it.  I loved being pregnant; even loved giving birth which almost no one believes.  I'd done several stories on unnecessary hysterectomies, too.  But I knew it had to happen, and, although I regretted never again experiencing either pregnancy or child birth, it was clearly the right thing at the right time.  I guess, reading the recollections of others, that I'm really lucky and it's intriguing that, as I consider the loss of that which allowed me to bear children, my primary memory is of their response.  I guess that proves that mommy instincts, as we all know, come from the heart, not the uterus.

Cynthia Samuels is a writer, social media and internet consultant who also writes at her personal blog  Don't Gel Too Soon.

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