A few minutes later, the nurse came into the room and announced that they were ready. Without any warning, the tears came swiftly and in abundance. My husband hugged me and I couldn’t let him go. I can remember repeating “I can’t do this. I don’t know if I can do this.” We both cried and friends and family gathered around for a time of prayer. One of the ladies at my church had knitted me a prayer shawl and the nurses were kind enough to allow me to take it back with me.
I finally let me husband go and he gave my hand one final squeeze and they wheeled me out the double doors. Once in the OR, they moved me to the table. A nurse with kind eyes and a sweet smile peered over me and said that my doctor was on the way down so they could go ahead and give me the sedation or I could wait to speak with her if I had any questions. I had loads of questions going through my head so I wanted to stay awake.
Before I knew it I woke up in recovery with my prayer shawl laid gently across me. My first thought was what kind of truck had hit me and the second was “oh no! I fell asleep before my doctor came in!” The recovery nurse asked my pain level and I think I said 100. She let me know that they had to do a full incision so I would be very sore and would probably stay a couple days. I don’t know how long I was in recovery but it didn’t feel like very long before I was wheeled up to my room.
Family and church family had already gathered so I was greeted with friendly faces. While I was greatly appreciative for the support, I definitely was not in an entertaining mood. Most of the day went by in a haze. By late afternoon, my doctor came by to check on me and brought pictures from the surgery to show me.
She explained that she was hoping to have been able to do the surgery laparoscopically, but once she saw the damage, she knew that she couldn’t without risking damage to my kidneys. Adhesions had wrapped around my ureters. My bowel was adhered to the back of my uterus. My left ovary was swollen to the size of my uterus. Endometriosis and filmy adhesions filled my abdomen. All of this damage just one year after excision surgery. She also stated that had we not scheduled surgery, I would have been in emergency surgery within a month. She and my mom talked about the peace that extent of the endo found during the surgery offered as it would have been really hard to accept the need for a hysterectomy had endo (or adhensions) not been present.
Then she asked if I had any questions. So I rattled off my list, such as would I need to start mammograms early? and when would I need to get a bone scan? I told her that I had really wanted to ask her these questions before surgery but I feel asleep too fast. She laughed and said that I had asked, but she knew I wouldn’t remember! I laughed because I had absolutely no recollection! She let me know that she would be at the hospital all night so I could page her if I had any questions before leaving.
Besides not remembering talking to my doctor, the most shocking thing for the day was the numbness around my incision. After surgery they had an ice pack on my abdomen so I thought that was why I was so numb but when a nurse came in to check, I asked her about the numbness and she said that it could take weeks or months before I would get feeling back. So I guess it wasn’t the ice! That was definitely something I wasn’t prepared for but it made sense. In a six inch incision, they slice quite a few nerves.
The rest of the hospital recovery went as well as a recovery could I suppose. The anesthesia made me really sick so it delayed my going home by a day. The hot flashes and night sweats came quick and with a vengeance. TV got old really quick. Thank goodness for my dear friend who bought me a stack of magazines and a word find book which kept me occupied when pain kept me awake. I watched way too many infomercials (and actually ordered Turbo Jam for after my recovery). I thought I’d die the first time I had to “go” to the bathroom.
The hardest part of my stay was having to walk the halls. It wasn’t until my second day that I realized what floor I was on. I don’t live in a big town so they try to group patients as much as they can on weekends so I ended up on the maternity ward. Serious as a heart attack. I was one door down from the nursery. So it was the first thing I saw when I walked out my front door. Reality hit. I would never visit there. My family would never gather outside the window looking for the baby with my eyes and my husband’s nose. The words “permanently incapable of bearing children” echoed in my ears. My heart was shattered.
Four days after surgery I was released to go home. Recovery was slower than I had anticipated. I stayed fatigued and hot. I don’t think I put on real clothes for weeks. It took forever to get dressed to go to my post-op appointment as I couldn’t find anything that didn’t touch my incision. When the doctor had told me to plan to be out eight weeks, I thought she was nuts, but I needed every bit of that eight weeks to regain my strength, physically that is.
The truth is that it took me much longer to heal mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I felt completely alone. No one understood how I felt. I questioned my womanhood as well as my faith. We dove into the adoption process so I hoped that it would keep me distracted from the pain. Eventually I came to understand that what I had experienced was a true and real loss and if I ever wanted to heal from it, I would have to let myself grieve and feel the anger, bitterness, and hurt. It was only then could I be open to healing.
Of course this is not to say that the pain or grief never returns. I am truly blessed to have become a mother through the miracle of adoption to a beautiful little girl who I would not trade for anything in the world and who I love more than words can describe but it doesn’t replace my loss which most people don’t understand.
So here are some things that I hope you learn from my story. First, find a doctor that you can completely trust and are completely confident in. Second, realize that a hysterectomy is more than physical which is typically the only angle your doctor is seeing so factor that in when making the decision of whether or not to have a hysterectomy. And third, a hysterectomy is a true loss and you deserve to let yourself grieve. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Allow yourself to feel the loss so that you can in turn experience healing. Do not deny yourself that crucial piece of recovery.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.