I would say that the rocky relationship between my uterus and me began in middle school when we were first officially acquainted. I don’t know what I thought a period would be like, but I was not adequately prepared for cramps so painful that they caused me to miss out on social events, entire school days, and sports practices. Sometimes the stomach pain was so intense that I would throw up. I just assumed that this was a normal part of being female and clung to the hope that things would get better after I had children.
Well as luck would have it, I struggled with infertility for several years. I was officially diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” but I have a sneaking suspicion somehow my uterus is to blame! Thankfully, with lots of prayers, medications, and painful procedures, we were able to have some very precious and very expensive babies!
As annoying and disruptive as my monthly cycle had always been, things escalated 3 years ago. Five days after delivering our fourth and final baby, I started to bleed uncontrollably. I actually hemorrhaged about half of my blood volume in a short amount of time and nearly died. As they rushed me off to emergency surgery, I vaguely remember hoping that they would be forced to do a hysterectomy so I would no longer have these issues. However, the surgeon was able to stop the bleeding with just a D&C and the strained relationship with my reproductive organs continued.
Instead of my period getting better after having kids as I had hoped, it became longer and heavier. It would show up out of nowhere, with no rhyme or reason and consisted of huge gushes of blood whenever the spirit moved it. I basically lived in fear for two weeks out of the month and had feminine hygiene products stashed in every bag, purse, jacket, lunchbox, and every possible compartment in my car. My secret stashes led to many awkward questions from my kids, like the time my oldest opened the sun visor and a tampon fell out and hit him in the head! Luckily, he assumed they must be some kind of make up so I just never corrected him.
Two years ago at my annual check up, I mentioned to my OB about how heavy my periods had become. My lab work showed that my blood count was 23 (normal is 36-44). This explained why I was always tired, constantly cold, and had developed an annoying habit of chewing ice that drove my husband nuts! Because of my cervix being too narrow (I guess my uterus wasn’t the only one to blame), I was not a candidate for an ablation and my doctor suggested a robotic hysterectomy.
I know people can be apprehensive about surgical procedures, but I was thrilled. My uterus had served its purpose, it had grown and housed 4 babies for me, and now it was time for her to peace out!
I showed up on the day of surgery, had all of my labs re-checked, signed some consents, and I was off to surgery in no time. Now I would love to tell you that everything went perfectly, but I did have a very rare complication with my kidneys where they randomly stopped making urine during the procedure (they are next on my naughty organ list). They had to call in urology and by the time the doctor got there, everything was fine and the operation was able to be completed.
After I got home from my surgery there was definitely a weird sensation of my organs trying to find their way back home now that one of their friends was suddenly missing, but I was not in any real pain. I never had to take any of my pain medicine and the tiny little incisions that were made on my stomach are hardly visible now.
The reason I share my experience is this: I hear so many stories from friends about how they struggle with horrible cramping or heavy periods and how it negatively impacts their lives. It reminds me of the last beach trip we took before my hysterectomy. I was in bed, crying from the pain and my husband had to take the kids to the beach for the day without me. They came back with exciting stories, beautiful pictures, and I had missed all of it.
My surgery has dramatically changed my life and it is the best medical decision I’ve ever made for myself. I am no longer missing out on life, and I’m not constantly exhausted because my blood count is finally normal. The ice habit has been harder to break, but at least now I can chew ice while wearing my first pair of white pants!