I sat in that cold, vinyl chair and stared at my legs stretched out in front of me. They were covered with a rough textured blanket. My feet, poking out slightly from the bottom, were being hugged by a pair of kacki booties embossed with the hospital’s name in non-slip decals. I sat there. Alone.
I could almost hear the clock ticking away the minutes. I knew the nurse would be back momentarily to take my blood and administer a dose of something meant to calm my nerves. I looked down at my hospital gown. It resembled some color of grey with a tiny design that wove together two colors that didn’t seem to coordinate and didn’t seem worthy of remembering. One of the buttons on the shoulder was broken. It allowed my left arm to remain a little more exposed than the right. This made sense to me considering the left arm was outstretched, supporting what seemed like a massive IV system, and quickly absorbing whatever fluid was in that bag.
The curtain to my small, outpatient, pre-surgery room was left open just a crack. I could see nurses, doctors, and several other hospital staff walking by quickly. They spoke in normal tones about other patients, some of whom I remembered from the waiting room. They talked about family waiting, doctor instructions, bathroom habits,and what needs they happened to voice. I listened to all of it. I listened as a way to distract myself from my own fate. A fate that I had chosen and a fate that was no more than minutes away.
At that moment the nurse entered the room escorting my anesthesiologist who took just a moment to explain his role. I nodded my head, not really listening because I figured I had already signed some form or another explaining all this and then some. I told the man when he was finished that he was the same doctor that administered the epidural that helped me bring my daughter in to the world just eight short months ago. I knew I liked him for some reason. He excused himself and told me he would see me soon. The nurse checked my fluids and told me my husband would be back in a minute.
He pushed the curtain aside and I immediately smiled. My husband. He instantly smiled back and quickly moved to the small chair positioned near my vinyl seat. He took my hand in his and looked right at me. I felt safe. I felt calm. This man, this wonderful man that chose to take his life’s journey with me; this man that eagerly fathered my three, beautiful children was with me. I didn’t need any medicine to calm my nerves. My mate had calmed my soul.
Then it was time to go.
The nurse came through the curtain and informed my husband that the waiting room was down the hall. She untangled my IV cords from the armrest of the chair, removed my blanket, and helped me stand. It was immediately crowded in that tiny room. The nurse moved out to the hall first. I followed, more for the fact that she was maneuvering the IV drip stand that was attached to the stick in my hand than for the fact that I wanted to go with her. I turned to my husband, kissed him,smiled again, and told him I would see him soon. He said that he loved me and, as I turned, I knew he was watching me walk away.
We took an immediate left through two large, double doors and began the long walk to OR#4. The nurse was silent. I wasn’t sure if she was expecting me to carry the conversation, but all my thoughts were focused on what was about to happen to my body. I was twenty-nine and about to lose my ability to menstruate. I was having a hysterectomy.
Just days before the scheduled surgery I started my period. It was heavy and it was painful. I almost felt as if this was Mother Nature’s last hurrah before I went under the knife. Having one last period certainly did nothing to remind me what I would be gaining by having the hysterectomy. But, it did everything to remind me exactly what I would be losing.
Never again would I be able to carry children in my womb. It would be gone. I would never again feel my body grow as it supported and nourished a life. I would never feel those tiny kicks that were doing their best to say, ‘Hello, Mommy.’ I would no longer be able to watch the calendar in anticipation of those days God has granted as my most fertile. I would be barren, my womb gone and my body empty.
Never again would I experience the numerous symptoms of PMS. Though they certainly couldn’t classify as pleasant,they at least enabled me to justify that extra scoop of ice cream. Never again could I blame my tight pants or extra weight on the water and bloating of ‘that time of the month.’ I was losing something that, though some might disagree, played its part in defining me as a woman.
I suddenly had a flash of memories sweep over me as an even bigger reminder of exactly what role menstruation had played in my life. I thought about being nine years old and getting my first period in gym class. I remembered my mother’s sarcastic reaction and my grandmother crying as she told me I was now a woman. I remembered the first time I ever leaked through my pants at school and had to walk home in the snow with my coat tied around my waist. I thought about making out with an old boyfriend and his frustration that my period was keeping us from doing more. I remembered my first visit to the OBGYN and how I had to explain that my desire for birth control was not due to an active sex life, but rather a means to control the long, heavy, and painful periods I was having. I even recalled the first time my period was ever late and how I knew in my heart that it was due to the conception of my daughter.
I suddenly felt angry. In the midst of all my feelings, emotions, and memories many people in my life seemed to dismiss the weight of my surgery and my trepidations about it. Those that knew of my surgery refused to acknowledge any downside. “You’ll have no more periods!” “You’ll never have to worry about birth control and pregnancy again.” “Oh, who care’s if you’re losing your uterus! You’ll never have to buy pads and tampons again.” Yes, all those things were true and worth recognizing. But, my heart was not quite ready to see the positive side to all this. I needed my time to mourn.
We turned and entered the OR. I was asked to climb onto the operating table and position my legs and arms just so. The nurses smiled at me and commented on how young I was to be having this surgery. I just smiled and quietly began praying. I asked for The Lord to watch over me and take care of me during this risky and vulnerable time. I prayed that he would be with me and bring me through this surgery safely. I needed to come through this. I still hadn’t finished my roles as a mother and a wife. Despite my feelings of losing part of my womanhood, I couldn’t ignore the fact that there were people whose lives and well being depended greatly on me.
I then took a moment to quietly express my gratitude. I was grateful to my doctor for his compassion, knowledge, and ability to help me understand the medical need for this. I was grateful to my husband for giving me the opportunity to bring three amazing children into our lives. I quietly thanked my children for giving me the chance,everyday, to nurture and mother them as they grow and discover the world. Then, I expressed my gratitude toward my period and my body. I was grateful for having the opportunity to experience ‘the curse’ as I did. I knew this would help me to empathize and show kindness the day my own daughters are forced to accept womanhood for themselves. Though my periods were ending well before Mother Nature intended, I knew that what I had experienced and what I had gained was, indeed, a gift. For that, I was truly grateful.
At that moment I felt the warmth of the medicine in my veins.
When I woke later I was no longer bleeding. My periods had,literally, stopped. Forever.
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