When a Hysterectomy Closes the Baby Door, You Cope with Humour

On May 6th, 2021, I found out non-essential and elective surgeries were postponed for the month of May because of the rising number of COVID-19 in Manitoba. These postponed surgeries include hysterectomies.

This post contains the real word for “Mother Nature’s Bill” and “Crimson Tide.” Plus the real names of body parts rather than “hoo-ha.”  
“So, are you sexually active?” asked my gynecologist.

I tilted my head, pressing my lips together. Stifling a giggle. “I’ve had sex … and I remember sex.” We both burst out laughing. I said “I’m basically a virgin.” 

Humour is my coping mechanism. I’ll laugh if I can’t find a street. If I almost lock myself out of the house. If I walk into a wall. I’m the one who couldn’t stop laughing because I was stuck in the Arborg Coop’s car wash. 

This was a little different though as I sat on an exam table naked from the waist down with a thin piece of paper over me. I felt humour would break the ice as I awaited my third pelvic ultrasound.

My ultrasounds have never been the “fun, happy, you’re having twins” kind. If they were, I’d have the cast of The Sound of Music and their backups. Instead it’s thyroid nodules and two unnamed uterine fibroids.

The fibroids were the size of grapes in May 2019. However, I hemorrhaged in December 2020 – and another ultrasound revealed, according to a distracted doctor, “Your fibroid grew … nothing in the report about two fibroids … you’ll need a hysterectomy … take these pills … goodbye.”

However, the ultrasound at my gynecologist’s office revealed a walnut and peach. They’re connected – or conjoined – and the peach is spreading outside my uterus. Isn’t that peachy? We discussed two options. A myomectomy, which removes the fibroids – but he couldn’t guarantee the fibroids wouldn’t return. The other option: a laparoscopic supracervical partial hysterectomy with ovarian conservation.

When a fibroid is burying itself into your uterus? And it’s the size of a six-week fetus. It’s time to bid your uterus adieu.

Since my gynecologist isn’t removing my womb, I asked if I could carry a baby? Well, they’d have to reconstruct the uterus, and I couldn’t use my own eggs because they’re too old – ahem – so I’d need a donor egg or embryo.

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Yep, that’s my womb. The bottom right side of the screen gives an indication of the size of the peach.

I stared at my womb on the ultrasound screen. It would never hold a baby. Just press against clumps of tissue and blood vessels, and whatever else make up fibroids. I took a photo of my vacant womb and said, “Well, I knew I’d have twins,” and asked him for name suggestions. Then I cried. He apologized for upsetting me, and I said it was okay, That it was just confirmation of what I knew. Then, I cried again.   

In fact, I cried the entire way home. I cried when I entered the house. I cried in the shower. I stopped crying when I called my parents and former partner. Then I cried when I hung up. I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. I wanted to be left alone. I just needed to be sad. Then I’d be fine.

That night, my former partner – and designated visitor – showed up with takeout. “You’re not fine.”

I broke down, blubbering for over an hour about kids, babies, cupcakes with initials, tent forts, nursery themes, and baby names.

However, by the weekend, I was in a better frame of mind. My pity-party was over, because I need this surgery. These fibroids have been depleting my iron stores to the point of anemia. I didn’t skate last season because I couldn’t risk an accident. I have the energy of a marshmallow. 

The medication the doctor at the hospital gave me took away some of the pain. Before when I had my periods, it was a monsoon. I still go through an entire package of overnight pads – during the night and day – it’s an improvement. My back would feel like a spinal forest fire. Now it’s down to lightly toasted. Pelvic pain is common with fibroids, but I feel like a human wishbone. Cramps? For the last two years, it were as though someone chose my uterus as a shooting location for Jaws 5.

When I had the weekend to digest the words, “We’ll schedule your hysterectomy,” I thought about the pros and cons. Realistically, there isn’t a con, because there can’t be a con. My paternal Baba had my dad when she was 43. Part of that used to give me hope. Like Tully Hart from the Netflix series Firefly Lane said, “It’s just nice to know you can …”

The pros? I’m smashing through that white after Labour Day rule like Kool-Aid Man. And I’ve wanted a white figure skating dress forever. As a teenager, it was me against the other competitors and Mother Nature.  

After my hysterectomy, I know I’ll be emotional. Realizing the door to the nursery has closed forever. I wanted to be the mom who sent her children to school with cupcakes on their birthdays. Who’d set up a fort in the living room and read them bedtime stories. Who’d make green pancakes on St. Patrick’s Day. Teach them to tie their shoes, and their primary and secondary colours, and the alphabet before kindergarten. Enter them in figure skating and make them a rink at home. 

But, who knows? I also could’ve been the mom who made them cereal for dinner. Or that mom who forgets her kids are at daycare – and forgets which daycare.   

You can’t have an expectation about how your life will or should turn out. Just put the situation into perspective – and there’s your reality.

I might feel sad next time I fill out an MRI form and answer the, “… is there a chance you could be pregnant,” question. Or maybe I won’t. 

I just know I won’t have my period.

Author: Tammy Karatchuk

Freelance Reporter, Storyteller, and Photojournalist. Author of memoirs and contemporary romance. Former Edmonton Journal figure skating reporter, Edmonton Shaw TV broadcaster, and 680 CJOB (Winnipeg) reporter and weekend anchor. My frosted side includes pageantry, modelling, acting, and sometimes figure skating.

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