It’s been 82 days since I had my uterus and all its appendages removed in what my surgeon and I have affectionately dubbed “not your grandma’s hysterectomy.”
Once removed, my fallopian tubes and uterus were found to be so ravaged by endometriosis that my specialist was confident I never would have naturally conceived a child. The disease had also compromised my bowel to the point where we required a second surgeon to shave off layers of it and stitch it up. They even prepped me beforehand for a possible ostomy. I didn’t need this, but they had to leave a little of the disease inside me, just to keep things spicy.
Of course, we knew all of this definitively only after they’d completed the surgery, which may be why before they would consent to operate, they made me see a counselor and write a letter proclaiming my certainty that I didn’t want kids and would not regret my decision. They couldn’t know that my chances to procreate were so minute without going in, so instead, they needed to know that I was completely okay with the fact that I’d never bear a child of my own. And in some ways, I was okay with it.
I’ve written about this before, but I’ll sum up. Having children was always on the periphery for us. Something I assumed I would do, because I grew up on the prairies where marriage, house, and offspring is the natural way of things (although not necessarily in that order). My partner and I talked about it often, although it usually went something like this: You ready? Nope, you? Definitely not. Okay, so maybe revisit in a year? Sounds good.
It wasn’t just that we had chosen careers that even the best parents admit are nearly impossible to balance with family life; it was also that we weren’t sure we were really kid people. I often cringe when we’re seated near the family section while eating out, and I generally avoid spending time with my friends’ children or kids with whom I don’t have a familial connection (I do admit to totally adoring my nephews and nieces). We just had never had that thing that people talk about, where they are filled with a deep longing for a baby. It never seemed like the right time, and as the years continued to pass I wasn’t sure I could imagine ever feeling any different.
The problem with having to write a letter stating my absolute acceptance of impending sterility was knowing that if I hedged at all, I may not have been allowed to go through with it.
I can feel you out there, with your responses prepped and ready, so let me jump in before you blurt them out. There’s no right time to have kids. You’ll love them when they’re your own. There are many different kinds of parents. It’s the most fulfilling thing you’ll ever do. If you’re on the fence, just go for it — you may regret it if you don’t.
The frequency with which these statements are made could lead one to believe that they are hard-and-fast truths, although I seldom believe in a constant state of universal truth.
It seems to me that a more accurate truth is the perpetual flux between the good moments that these statements are born of, and the less-good moments that foster the exhaustion, frustration, and all-around stress that accompany parenthood. I believe you can simultaneously contain absolute and boundless love for your children while still wishing for more personal time, more sleep, and less responsibility. But what do I know? I’m the childless, barren asshole making statements from her computer keyboard.
The problem with having to write a letter stating my absolute acceptance of impending sterility was knowing that if I hedged at all, I may not have been allowed to go through with it. I have a hard time understanding why it’s possible for me to know that the surgery was the right decision while still acknowledging that I may someday feel some regret. It was an acceptable margin of risk for me, although I guess it wasn’t for the Canadian medical system, which is litigious in legendary measure. It needed to be black and white, which meant reducing it down to an impossible point of certainty.
I was told I was considered “a high candidate for regret” primarily because of my age and the fact that we didn’t already have a child of our own. I remember being told that if I cried during an appointment, we wouldn’t be able to discuss the prospect of a hysterectomy because it reinforced the narrative that I wasn’t certain or emotionally on top of things enough to make this kind of choice. When I broke down in an appointment after it was agreed that I needed surgery of some kind, my partner jumped in to vehemently remind the doctor that tears of relief over the prospect of not being in such pain anymore were just as valid an expression as tears of regret.
So I wrote the letter. I reduced this complicated and tricky concept to a missive on how I regretted being in agony every day and not being able to live my life to the fullest. On how I’d never wanted to be a mother.
I told the truth. I lied.