I am a 34-year-old woman of reasonable good health and debatable sound mind, and in February of this year, I had a hysterectomy.
I say “reasonable good health” because I’m okay now and was okay for most of the time before my hysterectomy, but in order to get my hysterectomy, I had to develop fibroid tumors (most people just call them fibroids but in fact they’re actually tumors and people take you way more seriously if you say “fibroid tumors” rather than “fibroids” because regular women’s issues are just meh but tumors are serious) that were extremely enormous and extremely painful, and they couldn’t just take out the tumors without taking out the entire uterus.
Plus a few other things, like both fallopian tubes and my cervix.
(They left my ovaries, in case you were wondering, because I have a hard enough time acting like a normal person without going through menopause in what is still technically my early 30s.)
It’s fine — I’m not in excruciating pain anymore, I don’t have a watermelon-sized mass in my abdomen (and not one of those small personal-sized watermelons, either, because I asked), and I didn’t want to have kids, anyway. But I feel the need to share details about my hysterectomy with people, and to be honest, I kind of like talking about it.
Reason 1: Hysterectomies make people uncomfortable.
People are fine with other surgeries, such as appendectomies and even purely elective cosmetic procedures, but they tend to get a little squirmy if you mention a hysterectomy. Really, if you mention anything that has to do with your Catholic area, as I call it, because excising a bilious exploded appendix or injecting poison into one’s face are completely understandable, but if something so much as exists anywhere near your vagina, well, you might as well go live in your village’s shame yurt until you learn to quit whining and start making babies.
“It’s fine — I’m not in excruciating pain anymore, I don’t have a watermelon-sized mass in my abdomen (and not one of those small personal-sized watermelons, either, because I asked), and I didn’t want to have kids, anyway.”
People get even squirmier if you only mention a procedure “around here” while gesturing towards your pelvis in a vague sort of circular way, because to be honest, a lot of what goes on inside women’s pelvises is a fucking mystery to a lot of people, and when we don’t know the facts, we conjure up our worst fears. Could be fibroid tumors, could be a Womb Burster alien. We just don’t know.
The point is that people need to grow the fuck up and chill the fuck out about women’s bodies, because heads up — if we could shoot Womb Burster aliens at you, we certainly wouldn’t still be making 70 cents to the dollar, I’ll tell you that much.
Reason #2: Some people just don’t want kids, and that’s okay.
My Twitter bio contains three words: “a barren woman.” I’d chosen that a full month before my surgery, and was counting down the days until a) I got my monster uterus removed, thus saving me from unrelenting pain and b) I could finally use that bio honestly. I mostly think it sounds funny, but also I like being upfront about what everyone is dealing with.
“People need to grow the fuck up and chill the fuck out about women’s bodies, because heads up — if we could shoot Womb Burster aliens at you, we certainly wouldn’t still be making 70 cents to the dollar, I’ll tell you that much.”
I am not maternal. I will not suffer your childish behavior (unless of course it’s about farts because, um, hilarious). I am aware that, without the ability to bear children, I am not what many people consider a traditional woman to be. Which is fine with me, also it keeps a lot of creeps out of my DMs.
And now, when people ask me if I have kids and do that same sympathetic head tilt that you’ve done to, say, a monkey that gets its ass stuck in a tire swing at the zoo, I can say no and be prepared to answer their next comment — which is always always always “it’s okay, you’ll have them someday” — with “actually no, not since they took my uterus.”
Who is the “they” in this situation? Doesn’t matter, that’s none of their business.
Reason #3: Hysteria — it’s not just an awesome Def Leppard album.
In the olden days, women were commonly diagnosed with a condition called hysteria, which was characterized by, among other things, insomnia, nerves, mouthiness, not cleaning the house right and being horny. Back then, the source of hysteria was thought to be the womb, and common cures were terrifying mechanical dildos, being committed to insane asylums or getting hysterectomies. We can blame Plato for this, as he claimed that the uterus was an independently-mobile entity, which could wander anywhere within a woman’s body, causing trouble and generally grossing everyone out.
“I am aware that, without the ability to bear children, I am not what many people consider a traditional woman to be. Which is fine with me, also it keeps a lot of creeps out of my DMs.”
While the blame for hysteria was on women, the moon was considered to be a contributing factor, as both periods and the moon followed 28-day cycles, and anyone who can count to 28 should be a medical doctor, right?
Obviously we now know that hysteria as a diagnosis is sexist and just plain junk, but let’s be honest: hysteria is a cool word, and anything that puts my body and the moon into a sort of symbiotic friendship sealed by blood (and possibly werewolves?) is badass as hell, plus you know that Stevie Nicks is probably very into the moon and all of that sacred feminine stuff.
Reason #4: Women have to advocate harder for their health, and everyone needs to know that.
When I went to the ER just after New Year’s for pain so severe that it woke me up screaming and made me vomit, the doctor who treated me wheeled up to my bedside and said, “I ain’t gonna lie to you, this thing’s not new. It’s been cookin’ in there for a few years, at least.”
Not only did I want to invite him to my next birthday party, but also I felt humiliated that I hadn’t known sooner. Because that’s what a lot of medical professionals kept asking me. “How did you not know?”
Well, I didn’t know because nobody told me. In the three years that I’d described my period as “going insane after I turned 30” and my cramps as “debilitating,” not a single doctor ever mentioned fibroid tumors, even though these are classic symptoms. As is weight gain and a distended abdomen, but again, no one thought to diagnose the real problem. Instead, I was told to lose weight, so I did. Then I was told to lose belly fat. Then I was told that, welp, sorry, periods just go crazy when women get older. Shrug! I’m actually surprised no one twirled their finger around their ear and made the cuckoo face at me.
Not even the urgent care doctor I’d seen the day before I went to the emergency room had any fucking clue, and he gave me a pelvic exam. So not only did he give me no useful information, but I basically paid $100 to get fingerbanged by an old guy wearing a grease-stained Mickey Mouse tie while I was on my period. Nearly 40 percent of hysterectomies in the U.S. are performed because of uterine fibroid tumors, and no one — not even the doctor with two digits in my birth canal — said a fucking word.
“Keep complaining until somebody sticks an alien wand up your cooter to take pictures of your useless goddamn babymaker. Make yourself heard.”
After I’d been diagnosed, I had to wait nearly two months to have surgery (my tumors weren’t killing me, but a lot of other women’s were and understandably, those took priority). During that time, two friends went to their doctors to voice concerns about weird periods, and although both were initially dismissed (one doctor said “ultrasounds are expensive, you know”), both were found to have fruit-sized cysts on their ovaries. One of these friends had to have the ovary removed. She wants to have kids someday, so hopefully the ovary that’s left isn’t a lazy one. Fingers crossed, hyster-sisters!
The point is that I tell people about my hysterectomy because women need to stand up for themselves. If you know something is wrong, say so. Keep saying so. Even if your doctor pooh-poohs your concerns and thinks you’re just being dramatic or that you’d feel better if only you went below your recommended BMI, don’t stop saying so. Keep complaining until somebody sticks an alien wand up your cooter to take pictures of your useless goddamn babymaker. Make yourself heard. You’ll save yourself a world of pain and a lot of stupid fucking questions.