I’m Here for the Transplant
“Oh… she still has her ovaries.”
Those were the first words I heard a nurse say as I started to wake up in recovery from surgery a little over a year ago. There were two nurses standing at the foot of my bed, and I don’t think either of them realized I could hear them. I was scheduled to have a myomectomy, but wound up having a hysterectomy instead. I suffered from uterine fibroids which are [usually] benign tumors that are actually pretty common in women (one in four over the age of 35); however, fibroids disproportionately affect African American women and are often hereditary. And unfortunately, I come from a long line of women affected by these little suckers. I’d had them since I was 19 and after a difficult pregnancy and the birth of my daughter, my symptoms began to worsen.[sws_pullquote_left]I was hurt. I was actually in mourning. I felt like something had been stolen from me and not just the ability to carry a child, but some version of the life I envisioned for myself.[/sws_pullquote_left]
Now, let’s get back to that recovery room. Even through the haze of waning anesthesia, one thing was clear to me- I would never be able to give birth again. I knew a hysterectomy was a slight possibility, but I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. And over the next few weeks, I did what I usually do when I’m confronted with something I’d rather not deal with… I go in to “So, what’s next?” mode.
I started researching hysterectomies. Were my other organs going to shift? Was I likely to go into early menopause? Was this like losing a limb, where sometimes I might actually feel like it’s still there? (No, seriously, I felt like that.)
Then, I started exploring other alternatives to having another baby. At 33, how many eggs should I still be able to produce and what were my odds of having some harvested and frozen for later? Excuse me, it costs HOW much to have my eggs extracted and frozen?! Was I a good candidate for adopting a baby?
And then I started investigating how other women in similar situations were coping with this change. An important note: There’s a whole community of hysterectomy support online- my personal fave is www.hystersisters.com where I also discovered the etymology of the word hysterectomy. (It’s pretty interesting.) And apparently, last fall, the first uterine transplant was performed in Sweden!
Anyway, every time one of my girlfriends asked me how I felt about not having any more kids, my standard response was “I’m a little sad, but I’m really just happy to be healthy…and I’m feeling better already.” Ok, that was somewhat true, but here’s what else I was thinking…
“I’m a single parent, and adoption is VERY expensive, and so is surrogacy. I really wanted my daughter to have a sibling. I should have had the surgery earlier and maybe things wouldn’t have been so bad and my uterus could have been saved. What if I fall in love with a man who wants children of his own, and I have to explain that I can’t give him any?”
And then I was angry. I was angry that because of those stupid fibroids I had never even had the chance to have a “normal” pregnancy. I’d spent most of it cooped up on bed rest and gone into pre-term labor three times because of them. And since my ex and I split when I was six months pregnant, I didn’t know what it was like to have a supportive partner in all that. And now, all my chances for a do-over were gone! Yep, I was mad! And I was hurt. I was actually in mourning. I felt like something had been stolen from me and not just the ability to carry a child, but some version of the life I envisioned for myself.
I’ve had a year now to get used to the idea. The feeling of loss is still there to some degree, but I am certainly not the only woman in history to have a hysterectomy. Nor am I the only woman in the world who can no longer have children (think menopause). And there are so many women who suffer from infertility… which makes me truly thankful for my Gabby.
So here’s the bright side. All of the difficulty I experienced before was worth it because Gabby and I both made it through, and I have always had the support of my family. My future husband may show up with some kids of his own, and if not, he may not care that I can’t have anymore. And if what I’m really after is the experience of loving and caring for a child, I can be a foster parent. And I am indeed MUCH healthier and happier.
All is not lost.
Have you struggled with a similar experience? Leave me a comment and we’ll commiserate.
Taralyn Caudle is a freelance writer and Huntsville native who returned to her hometown to raise her beautiful and energetic daughter, Gabby. When she’s not nurturing the talents of her budding artist, she can be found on the hunt for good food, good music, or a good deal on a pair of shoes. Practically possessed by politics, purple, and Prince, she loves alliteration (obviously) and has been known to quote music lyrics in everyday conversation, from Hall & Oates to
Kanye West Kendrick Lamar. Her current philosophy on life: a little bit of sarcasm and a whole lot of laughter never hurt anybody.
I am 34, married, and a mom to 5 kids. While I am SO thankful I was able to have 5 children, I went through a period of being very sad that I could have no more (whether I wanted to or not). But I didn’t have Fibroids, I had stage 3 Cervical Cancer. I went through early menopause due to the external and internal radiation I had to endure. At the time I was only 32, and it was so sad to me to not have a choice in ending my pregnancy days. I just want to encourage you to trust the Lord for your future. You NEVER know what could happen within 5 years. Thank you for sharing your story.
p.s. I LOVE Hystersisters! I have been a member for years!
Wow, Katie! First of all, let me say what a blessing it is to have you share experience as a cancer survivor… and fellow Hystersister! I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you were sad about not having a choice in ending your reproductive life. That’s it, isn’t it? It’s not just about a piece of you that’s gone, it’s about not having any control over when it’s over. Thank you again for sharing and for the encouragement!
First of all, thanks for being super brave and sharing your story, Taralyn. That was a beautiful, heartfelt written piece. I ache with you, knowing that my stepson will probably be my only child. It really is a grieving and mourning process as you give up those dreams for future children. Sometimes for me its hard to read the pregnancy articles, etc here on RCM. So it’s nice to know I’m not the only one out there feeling this way and to see a post describing the other side. I’m still struggling to find the best way to deal with it, but like you I keep focusing on “All is not lost”. I have a beautiful 7 year old son and I’m so grateful he’s in my life. Thank you for your post and for being full of awesome.
Lexie, my heart goes out to you. I wrestled with writing about this for months, but I knew I wasn’t alone in this. Writing about it is my own brand of therapy, I suppose. Thank you for being so open and for being a kindred spirit.
We never know what life is going to throw our way do we? Bless you for sharing your journey. It’s one so many other moms have been on in one way or another. My husband and I recently made the decision that this second child will be our last and even though I am mostly joyous about this (I am 38 years old after all!) there is a small part of me that has to admit each baby outfit my little one outgrows makes me sad.
That time comes for us all and I imagine it is especially heartbreaking when it’s out of your control. You obviously have a gorgeous daughter (<3 that picture of the two of you) a great attitude, and a stellar support system. Thanks for sharing so that other moms can know they aren't alone.
Thanks, Jen! I really appreciate RCM for providing me with a safe, supportive space to share my story.
First I would like to say Thank you Rocket City Mom for having an outlet for women!
Secondly thanks Taralyn for sharing your story. I recently went through a miscarriage and am coping with the loss of having seen my child with no heartbeat. BUT I am healing with the help of wonderful friends and a very supportive husband and God’s grace! I also have a baby named Gabby! She is the joy of our lives and has given me an even greater outlook on life. Because you shared your story, it made me want to share mines, so thank you!
Meka, first of all, thank YOU for sharing your story. I can only imagine the kind of loss you’ve experienced. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you as you continue to heal. I’ve learned that it’s an ongoing process, but thank God for our Gabbys! I wonder… does your Gabby live up to her name as well? Cause mine barely stops for air sometimes!