February, 2017 marks one year that my mom had her hysterectomy, but I can clearly remember the journey to that day. It had been years of pain, of trying alternative medicine, which unfortunately didn’t yield any results, and the few ones that did, their relief was only temporary…max, three cycles and we are back to ground zero.
It had been years of trying to convince my mom to go under the knife and be done with it, once and for all. And she would say, “Bawo l’obinrin se ma wa ti ko ni pe.” Meaning how can you call yourself a woman when you’re incomplete. In her mind, the removal of her womb meant the removal of a part of her body that gave her womanhood. She didn’t want to hear of it. A myomectomy didn’t seem attractive, as the thought of the fibroids coming back wasn’t something we wanted to deal with. So, it was out of the question.
However, her period in January, 2016 instilled so much fear in her. It was so bad, she didn’t think, she could survive another month of aunty flo with that fibroids in situ, so, she agreed to the hysterectomy, that had been pitched several years back. And you know what? When the doctor told her afterwards that she wasn’t going to be having a period anymore, she was overjoyed. And I laughed at the same woman, who had been talking about being an incomplete woman…well, as they say in our local parlance, she don jam wetin pass am and seen that, having a womb doesn’t really define her womanhood.
On the part of my sisters and I, we can’t really express how it feels to know that our mom doesn’t have to go through so much pain, because aunty flo is in town. It was so bad, we all waited with bated breathe for the witch’s arrival and hoping against hope that she wouldn’t need a doctor’s attention. Now, that’s off the table and she’s looking great. She’s no longer pale and skinny.
Outside of my family, I got into a conversation with a new friend of mine and she had shared how she was worried about her mom, who incidentally had also had an hysterectomy, again due to fibroids issue. She was feeling poorly in health then and my friend was so worried, that it was affecting her work. But that’s not the point, what was is the resistance that her mom had put up to any mention of surgery.
Rather than undergo a hysterectomy, she choose to fast and pray. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with doing that, it’s just that, it prolonged the period of time, she was in pain. In the end, she resorted to surgery and when I met her, I didn’t know, she wasn’t a complete woman, the very same thing that my mom had parroted. All I could see was a woman, who was still so in the loop of things regardless of the absence of some of her internal organs.
Meanwhile, let’s see how hysterectomy affects a young woman in her prime reproductive age. Even though, my mom and friend’s mom talked about being an “incomplete woman” without their uterus. How does the lack of a uterus affect a woman, whose reproductive life is at its peak?
Tonia is such a woman, she had to undergo a hysterectomy at 31 years of age, after countless other surgeries failed to address the endometriosis, she was suffering from. It became imperative to get it done and over with.
What she did not expect was the aftereffect of knowing, she was now minus a uterus. Consciously, she knew what the process was all about, that it would bring considerable relief to her, that it would put a final stop to the risk of re-growing endometrial cells outside of the womb. She knew, it would mean, she would never be able to have a child by herself again. She thought, she had accepted all this, accepted the fact that she would only be a mother of one, that the absence of pain would make everything fine.
What she wasn’t prepared for was the sense of incompleteness that overwhelmed her; the feeling that her husband and family treated her differently, because she no longer had a womb. She was so sensitive to nuances and felt less than a woman after the procedure.
If given another opportunity, she would have preferred not to do the surgery and continue with the eternal pain that came with it. Mind you, her husband didn’t stop being intimate with her, a concern that she had, nor did their marriage suffer, because of it, but her mind played games with her all the same.
And she’s not alone in feeling this way, as shown in a study on hysterectomised women. The study found that most women found hysterectomy a crisis that prompted them to examine the connection between sexual reproductive organs and their gender identity.
Although the uterus itself is only a fraction of a woman’s gender identity, its presence (or its absence in this case) is part of how she relates to the world around her. This is especially true concerning her intimate relationships.
The study stated that the quality of relationships plays a significant role in whether a woman is able to maintain or reclaim gender identity after the surgery.
An expert explained that romantic partners could either reinforce or calm a woman’s fears surrounding the loss of sexual attractiveness post-hysterectomy.
Cultural and societal background also play a role in this as some respondents to the research found they no longer felt they measured up to appropriate cultural standards for sexual attraction, including maintaining a youthful appearance, a slim figure, and physical flawlessness.
A woman’s perception of losing sexual attractiveness is compounded when sexual dysfunction becomes a reality following surgery and this is a real possibility after hysterectomy.
Whatever be the case, a hysterectomy isn’t the end of life and shouldn’t be. And as it can be seen, the after-effects are different for different women but honestly, it will be nice if women stop placing so much value on a body part, and allowing that body part validates a woman’s whole existence, just because the society, says, she has to have it to be considered a woman.
We now live in a changing world, one where you don’t necessarily need to have a womb to be a mother.
Just my two kobo! 😉
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