“Maybe this is just the level of chronic pain your body needs to get used to.”
It’s been 2 years since a gynaecologist told me that, and yet I still struggle to shift it from my mind. Every time I have intense cramps, a period two weeks after the last or another scan finds nothing, I find myself thinking, “Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill.” But I know that’s not true.
For the last 5 years I have had intense pains in my pelvic area, it can happen around my period but it can also happen any time it fancies ruining my day. In that time I’ve seen 4 different gynaes, been tested for PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and endometriosis and had countless scans. In the last 3 years alone I’ve switched birth control 4 times (combined pill, contraceptive injection, IUD and back to the combined pill before I gave up). And you know how I mentioned periods? Well, my cycle ranges from fourteen days to forty-eight days.
As it stands now, I am without birth control and I’ve been prescribed Gabapentin to take daily, typically used for epilepsy and nerve damage (that’s how bad the pain is). I finally convinced my GP to refer me to another gynaecologist. The last straw I was clutching at was Adenomyosis. I had a lot of similar symptoms and it was the only other thing I and my GP could think of. I was warned that I probably wouldn’t be able to have any of the typical treatment for it as its usually controlled by birth control. My only option would be a hysterectomy. He quickly followed this up with, “But I doubt they’’ll give you one.” I was expected to be upset about the possible cause of action and told to really research before I went in with that intention. But this is what I’d wanted for months.
My appointment with gynaecology was not pleasant, my suggestions and feelings were completely disregarded and when I said outright that I would not be opposed and in fact wanted a hysterectomy I wasn’t taken seriously at all. This didn’t shock me; at twenty-seven years old I knew that nobody would think I genuinely wanted to give up my “right” to be a mother.
I was told I was being irrational and emotional, jumping into it without thinking it through properly even though I’d already explained my case. I was point blank told that there would be hardly a chance of them giving me a hysterectomy as I was “too young.” This was repeated after almost every point, “you’re so young”, as if to illustrate that I was being childish. I was asked to consider my life in a few years time and told that this wasn’t reversible; as if I expected them to be able to reinstall my womb when I wanted a baby and then take it back out again. Then came the one that angered me the most:
“What about your partner?”
“What if you meet a man who wants children?”
When the feelings of a fictional man were being put before my physical and mental health, I knew there was no winning. At this point I explained two things: 1) I don’t want to have children naturally as I have hereditary illnesses and 2) I’m bisexual and may not actually end up with a man. It’s an awfully prehistoric, not to mention heteronormative, viewpoint to have. Like a law universally acknowledged that a woman with a womb must be in want of impregnation.
In a biological sense, a lot is put on a woman’s ability to reproduce and have children. You are portrayed as less of a woman if you don’t have children and pitied. Being unable to have children is seen as one of the worst things that can happen to a woman — and I’m sure it is for those who desperately want to conceive. I’ve seen the struggle and grief my friends and family have gone through and I want them to be the loving incredible parents I know they would be. But I don’t want that. I have physical and mental illnesses that I risk passing on and I couldn’t in good faith do that. I couldn’t put my children through the pain I’ve experienced from a young age for my own need to be a parent. If, when the time comes, I do want children I’ll look at other options — adoption or surrogacy — but that’s a long way off.
The truth is it does sometimes hurt that I’ll probably never have children naturally. But it’s a decision I made a long time ago. And when I’ve had so many problems with my reproductive system I should expect to be taken seriously and not resign myself to the fact that I’m going to have to keep fighting for something that will continue to affect my life in every way. I know that if it was a problem with any other part of my body it would’ve been dealt with years ago. Meanwhile I hear stories from women who had to suffer for twenty-plus years and didn’t get hysterectomies until they were over forty-years old.
So I keep fighting. I keep asking doctors to investigate. And I keep pushing for what I know I want — even if doctors think I’m too naive.
Update- 14/03/17- I wanted to let everyone know that I was finally listened to and on 18th April I will be getting a hysterectomy! Thank you all for your support and suggestions.