This post shares my almost year-long experience in preparing for and recovering from my hysterectomy. I hope it can help, and give hope, to someone else struggling with pain and bleeding issues, or faced with this decision.
Let's rewind about a year. . . .
My periods were getting longer and longer, heavier and heavier. I felt so old. My entire body HURT. All the time. My fertility app didn't even know what to think any more.
it shouldn't look like this. at. all.
After discussing my treatment options with my doctor at great length, I mulled over and prayed about my options for 9 long months. And during that process, these are the things I learned while preparing for my surgery, then having and recovering from the hysterectomy. . . .
I tend to overthink things, but in this instance, I'm grateful that I took my time. . .
. . . first and foremost, to make sure my intentions were pure. As a devout Catholic, this was crucial. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't having a hysterectomy to opt-out of the NFP way of life, because it suddenly got too hard (HA!) or I just didn't feel like messing with it any more. No, I researched, and I prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed.
My life was dictated by my uterus' whims, and my family was at it's mercy as well. And then I wondered if I should just suffer, you know, all martyr-y and everything. Um. No, it was time to cure my body, in an ethical manner, and this fell under the principle of Double Effect. I made the appointment.
. . . to grieve. I'm not gonna lie: I bawled -- all weekend long -- when I packed up Henry's tiny onesies, knowing that I would never, ever need them again. There was something very final about that. It was hard.
. . . to get used to the idea of how -- and how much -- my body was going to permanently change. Sure, life without periods would be nice, but I had to wrap my mind around living without my uterus.
a few weeks before the surgery -- uterus very swollen and inflamed,
and very, very painful
You see, I think the uterus is a glorious organ -- holy, almost -- in its power, its cooperation with God in its life-giving service. I've housed fourteen souls within the walls of my womb, and nourished ten children until their births into this world. This significance isn't lost on me, and I didn't relinquish this power and beauty lightly.
But on the flip-side, my uterus had begun to dominate my daily, weekly and monthly schedules, especially in the latter months. There were days, almost weeks, when I couldn't leave the house. I had to rethink trips to the gym, postpone outings, replan wardrobe choices. Many days were spent lying in bed, because I was simply too sick or in too much pain to do anything else. The negatives began to greatly outweigh the positives. My health, my family, were suffering. I was ready.
I Googled (but learned when I'd had too much!) and asked questions about tests, procedures and outcomes. I reached out to friends who had similar experiences. Listened. Read some more. And made sure I knew the risks -- and that I was willing to accept those possible risks and outcomes. I was.
Be sure to check out HysterSisters. An AMAZING resource for before, during, and after hysterectomy. I can't recommend this resource enough!
Of course, once I had made up my mind that I wanted the surgery, I wanted it RIGHTNOWPLEASE. But I had to have ultrasounds and an endometrial biopsy -- extremely painful, by the way, and a horribly scary wait for the results -- plus a mammogram and my yearly exam. I (and my doctor) had to be very well-prepared!
My support circle was small. Intentionally very, very, very small. Not because I felt that my surgery was something shameful or something to be kept a secret, but because I had very little physical, emotional, spiritual or mental energy at the time, and I needed to be able to count on -- without a single doubt -- those few people to come through for me and my family in our time of need. Choose your support system carefully. Make sure they're the ones that will be there no matter what (mine were.)
(I love you . . . you all know who you are! And thank you again!)
my loved ones spoiled me
This category falls a bit under the Time and Research categories. The more time I gave myself, the better I could mentally and emotionally prepare for all the coming changes.
I had also wanted to prepare a lot of freezer meals, have the house sparkling clean, have homeschool lesson plans laid out for several weeks ahead, but let's face it -- I felt like utter crap and I was exhausted. And we were broke from paying for all of my tests, and doctor and surgical deductibles up front, so buying weeks' worth of extra groceries ahead of time was out of the question. So I lowered my expectations, and I fell back on my great support system: my loved ones fed me and my family, my mom cleaned my house, and the kids took a few weeks off from school. It was all OK. Everything worked out just fine.
The results, please.
I had uterine fibroids in the endometrium and on the fundus, an inflamed uterus (no cancer, praise God!) and my uterus had firmly attached itself to my bladder, most likely from all of my c-sections (adhesions,) which caused serious pain, cramps and other issues. I also thought I was going to have to have a bladder sling, y'all, but funny how when a 3-month-pregnancy-sized uterus lifts off and detaches from your bladder, you suddenly feel SO MUCH RELIEF.
5 days after surgery -- and feeling AMAZING
And then More Time.
Take time. MORE TIME. Take every single second / minute / hour / day / week of your recovery and follow doctor's orders to the very minute detail! I know you have a job / family / event / whatever. I DO TOO. But you only have ONE chance to heal, and ONE chance to heal the right way. Please, please, please if you take nothing else away from this post -- rest, recover, and rest some more after surgery. YOU are worth it.
when I was cleared, we took short walks as
recommended by my doctor
So, to sum it up. . . .
If you're considering a hysterectomy, and can take some time, can make some time,
to gather your support circle,
and to prepare. . .
Research and look at all of your options, risks and side effects. That made this decision and transition so much easier for me (and therefore, easier on my loved ones.)
I know that having a hysterectomy is a very personal, intimate decision for each woman to make, and each woman has her own reasons to make it. I simply wanted to share my experience, as well as my reasons, especially as a Catholic, so as to not give scandal or misunderstanding. My reasons were solely for my health -- not for "birth control" or limiting family size. My health (physical, mental and emotional) has vastly improved, and my family is already blessed by my improved health.
I also want to offer hope (but no medical advice, of course!) to anyone going through a similar situation. Please seek help if you're in pain. I suffered for years -- YEARS -- because I thought that this was my lot in life, that here were no options for me. I was wrong. I am open and willing to answer questions about my experience in the comments below or via email (just click tab above.) Hang in there! God bless!