In keeping with this week’s reflective mood, today we share a poignant and moving post from Woman at Forty contributor Tricia Amiel. Tricia’s a teacher and a mother, and a few days ago she had a hysterectomy…
It’s nearly the midpoint of my final year before turning forty. Now, this great project has been interrupted by a strange loss. To put it tritely, I’ve said good bye to a part of my person that has, in some ways, defined me, as a woman, a progenitor of life. The first home to my children. About four days ago, I had a hysterectomy.
Once the cervical biopsy came back negative, the rush of control I’d felt at making the decision to have a hysterectomy quickly crumbled, the pieces swirled and washed away in a flood of embarrassing emotional attachment; it was, and I’m still embarrassed to say it, as if I was turning my back on a friend. Setting her aside because she was sick, and I just didn’t want to deal with her pain. I questioned my motives, cried in my friends’ ears, and in my doctor’s office during our pre-op meeting.
It was easy enough to make peace with not having more children; my only real loss was that I would never have the experience of telling a beloved husband or partner “I’m pregnant!” and having him say, “Oh, honey!”, gathering me up in his arms and treating me like someone so much more precious than any other, the mother of his child. My pregnancies were not that way, or even close to it; in fact, the second one pretty much decided that my marriage was over…but so what? I have wonderful children, and I started early; my older son a mere six days before my twenty-first birthday. Too young for the hospital’s complimentary bottle of champagne, we celebrated over a steak dinner and ginger ale in champagne glasses, naively joyful, in spite of not having lived the aforementioned fantasy at the beginning. I have been a mother my whole adult life, and coming to forty, single, I have no problem imagining a life that is about finishing up the job of motherhood and focusing on career, travel, relationships, selfhood. Still, a part of me grieved over the loss of possibility; in my last love affair, there had been slight talk of a child. It wasn’t going to be a choice anymore.
Worse than any of that though, was going through this process of making peace with my decision alone. Alone is a word I use with some hesitation here because I don’t want to seem ungrateful to the friends who consoled me, comforted me, listened to me cry, kept checking on my emotional and physical well-being. But I was confronted again by that lonely place that friendship cannot touch upon, the knowledge that you really can only ask so much of friends, who have their own lives and families to attend to. They couldn’t be at my doctor appointments, or hold my hand late at night when my thoughts tortured me, when I worried and worried and worried about the management of my household, my students, my life, while I was in recovery. And of course, my mother is gone from me. But my friend, Lois, cried on the phone with me the day before my surgery because she couldn’t be there for me, knowing instinctively that I didn’t want to wake up and not see the face of someone who loved me. I received message after message of love and well wishes, friends telling me that they were thinking of me, praying for me, pulling for me. In the end, I was surrounded, engulfed by loving words and kind gestures of care, almost more than I could bear.
Four days ago, my friend, Angela, drove me to the hospital at 6:15 AM, and stayed with me, cracking jokes and making me laugh, until I was all decked out in my hair cap and surgery gown, a lovely lavender ensemble. She took my picture. She told me I’d be okay, and I believed her. My doctor, ever cool and confident, talked with me, again running through the possibilities with my warm hand in her smooth, cool one. She looked in my eyes, and I told her the thing that Angela had made me believe; I was okay. “You’ve made some peace with this?” she asked. I had.
I said good-bye to yet another piece of my old life, one that was causing so much pain and distress, inhibiting my well-being. Inside of me, I imagine not an empty space from which something was lost, but room for my own growth. Here, at the midpoint, there has been no loss; just more room for more me.
Photo: I asked Tricia to send a photo along with this piece. She sent this beautiful picture of herself and her son, and these words – “I’m attaching a picture of myself at 21, a young mother with my then 5-month-old firstborn. It seems appropriate since before all this, I thought I knew how very blessed I was to have had my sons; only now, the blessing is so much deeper, having said good-bye to that part of myself that made them possible…”