As of this week, I am exactly 78 grams lighter. I can tell you the exact weight down to the last gram because that’s what my surgeon informed me my uterus weighed after he removed it.
If you had to define what it is to feel like a woman, what would you say? Is it your breasts? Long hair? Being able to walk in high heels? The ability to multi-task? Or is it your uterus?
I’d never really thought about defining my femininity by my reproductive organs. Yet on receiving the news that I would need to have a hysterectomy after an on-going, agonising battle with endometriosis, and having exhausted other possibilities, I felt ridiculously relieved that this uncooperative part of me was soon to be gone.
Until I went online.
Despite the assuredness that I had about this decision for my body, when I clicked on a whole bunch of websites decrying the fact that having a hysterectomy makes you ‘less of a woman’, I started to have some strange doubts. Would not having my uterus now mean that I wasn’t really a real woman? That the essential ‘core’ part of my female-ness was an empty void, which meant that I too was an empty space of a lady? (And for your information, no, the surgeons don’t insert the medical equivalent of No-More-Gaps inside you once they remove your uterus. Which, as my husband hilariously suggested, could be called Feminafill).
I even bought a book celebrating the ‘sisterhood’ in an attempt to try and connect with my womanhood if my uterus was no longer where it should be. But when I reached the chapter where the author described her own battle with endometriosis and decided to forego a hysterectomy and embrace the pain and excessive bleeding in order to feel the power of her feminine side, I thought, ‘I don’t fucking think so.” Excruciating, debilitating pain does not a woman make.
The internet is full of great stories and support groups for women like me that have had to make the choice to end their physical suffering and with that decision, the consequences of not being able to reproduce. I was one of the lucky ones, having completed my procreation duties and having already been put ‘out to pasture’ in the baby-making sense. (In addition, hubby had had the snip several years back, and that only cemented the view for me that not having a uterus was no big deal. If his sperm were being sent into the ether of his nether-regions, so could my eggs).
The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the uterus is pretty straight-forward. Noun ~ The organ in the lower body of a woman or female mammal where offspring are conceived and in which they gestate before birth; the womb.
Or as my surgeon describes it, “a muscle sac for holding a baby.”
I must admit, I’ve never really thought much about my uterus except for renaming it the ‘Womb of Doom’ every month (or every ten days, or whenever it decided to expel itself with some truly heinous accompanying pain). I am, however, incredibly grateful at the awesome way my uterus kept my daughter safe and sound for 40 weeks while she grew into the awesome kid she is. But for some reason, we women seem to focus more on our vaginas, or ovaries, or fallopian tubes. Our uteruses are really an after-thought that spend three weeks a month (on average) building up their own version of Trump’s wall, only to dispel it in liquid form another week later.
So would I really miss it? Not really. I’ve kept my ovaries, which is an important thing for women to keep – if possible – as we grow older, as we need the hormones to help with bone density and other things. And who wants to go into menopause any earlier than we have to?
Of course, there are the women out there who don’t have the luxury that I had of completing their families, and who need a hysterectomy before they have had the chance to have children. That’s an incredibly sad situation to be in, and I am in no way denigrating their awful lack of a choice. There are great support groups and materials for supporting women forced into a procedure they do not want, but have to have.
But for me, being womb-less won’t be an issue. No more periods, no more pap smears, and most importantly, no more pain. And hey, I got a 78g weight loss out of it too. Bonus.