Five Things I Learned After My Hysterectomy Before 40

Lady Things' very first ever guest columnist on the life of a uterus-less lady.

Editor's note: Hello old friends! This week, in a crazy twist, we have a guest column. I met Stephanie Carey at a work conference and, full disclosure, she works for one of Willamette Week's vendors. But this story isn't about that at all. Stephanie is a funny, cool person, with a funny, cool podcast, who has had a lady experience I have not had, which is interesting because she's super down to talk about in an open and honest way. Here's her story!

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By Stephanie Carey

In the summer of 2015, I made a life-changing decision. Chronic pelvic pain and years of suffering meant my uterus had to go. Sounds simple enough, right? Experiences pain. Removes source of pain. Lives life.

Not so fast. I had a lot to learn.

1. We live in a mom culture.

I get it. Trust me. I do. And I also believe moms absolutely should be celebrated, honored, appreciated and respected. But womanhood does not equal motherhood.

As I sit here and write this, I'm getting ready to go to a family party where there will be a Slip and Slide. I am giddily excited about the thought of watching my niece and nephews slip and slide in the dirt and subsequent mud while I sip on a beer. I do not have to take any of these delightful children home and bathe them, care for them or be responsible for them. This makes me happy.

I was recently inspired by an interview, on a parenting podcast of all things, by one of my professional heroes, Terry Gross, host of NPR's Fresh Air, about why she chose not to have children. I'm not alone.

But just as I take giant steps forward in owning my existence on this planet as a non-mom, I also get slapped in the face with reality. A cab driver on a work trip recently asked if I had a husband and children. I said, I'm married and we have dogs. He said, "Oh you will have a baby." I said, "No, we won't. We are happy." But he wouldn't let it go. "You are smart, successful beautiful woman. You will have a baby." I bit my tongue from saying, "No sir, I cannot have a baby. I have no uterus." But instead I just stayed quiet. When he dropped me off at my hotel, he said, "I see you next year and you bring your new baby."

He meant well, I'm sure. But the fact is, I can still be a marvelous woman without a baby, just like Terry Gross and all the other women who have gone before me.

Hoorah. (Or something like that.)

2. Not everyone will be as comfortable with the subject matter of your uterus.

Just as I was getting super comfortable with my lack of uterus, I learned that it makes other people uncomfortable to bring it up. Apparently, "What have you been up to?" "Oh, not much. I did evict my uterus last summer" doesn't go over with everyone.

But why should it be taboo? I mean not everyone needs to know my business, although as you can see, I'm a fairly open book. But words like uteruses, vaginas, vulvas, just don't go over in most conversations. (Fun fact: when I met Lizzy Acker at a work event, I brought all of those things up and she loved me more.)

3. I had a major case of Tokophobia (the fear of pregnancy and childbirth).<

Ok. I'm not going to lie. Realizing this is AH-mazing. Apparently I've been miserably and almost always unreasonably worried about getting pregnant. Take the following scenarios:

Gets nauseous:

Old me: I'm so pregnant. How much have I had to drink the past month?

New me: Oof, probably drank too much last night.

Boobs feel a bit tender:

Old me: Obsessively pushes on boobs, therefore making them more sore, and counts nine months to find out when my life will be forever destroyed.

New me: I'm so thankful that got to keep my ovaries so I could experience this hormonal fluctuation right now.

Has sex:

Old me: What if we get pregnant.? What if my IUD doesn't work and the baby comes out and hands it to the doctor? How long until I can take a pregnancy test? Am I running low on my stock of pregnancy tests? Presses on uterus, and wonders how many little asshole sperms are trying to latch onto me like parasites.

New me: Blank thought bubble.

4. Tampons everywhere

That's all. I just find tampons everywhere. They mock me. They remind me that when I needed them most they were nowhere to be found, but now that I don't need them. TADA! They are in every purse pocket, work bag and bathroom drawer I own. I can't get rid of them. I think Kotex is stalking me because I denied them at least 8 more years of business.

Sorry Kotex.

5. Picking up blueberries

Through the process of finding (the world's most amazing) pelvic pain OBGYN, I also found myself in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy. Having been a runner, I'm not new to PT. Stretches, weight lifts and maybe some sonogram activity over sore joints are all very familiar to me.

I had no idea what to expect when I was prescribed PT for my pelvic floor pain. After filling out a stack of paperwork about peeing, pooping and having sex, I met a nice stranger who then asked me a series of other uncomfortable personal questions. Then she gave me a gown and told me everything off below the waist.

Um. What?

I quickly scanned the walls looking for official signs of certification.

As she felt inside the walls of my vagina, pressing the muscles to stretch them out and ultimately relieve the pain, we chatted casually about our weekends and our pets. She was about three muscle layers into my vagina telling me about her dog that won't stop jumping the fence.

Was this real life?

Then she sent me home with a print out of pelvic floor exercises, and a website where I could buy a dilator to work on the muscle walls of my vagina in my own time. Ugh. I can barely get to the gym. Now this?!

Ok, so what I've learned is that our bodies are connected systems. (Yes, I do have a college degree in which I took basic biology to obtain.) But when you have chronic pain from cramps, your whole body responds. Your pelvic floor muscles basically go to crap. Your vagina shuts down. Your vulva can often times retreat like a turtle's head. And you need to very gently, and often a little painfully tell your body that it's going to be okay. There is a whole world of passionate pelvic pain care takers ranging from doctors and nurses to physical therapy specialists. All they do is see sad vaginas every day. Bless them. And if you live in pain, please, please find one of these good people.

And lastly, ladies, my Physical Therapist (who is awesome and whose dog has not stopped jumping the fence) taught me how to do a proper kegel. And now I share this wisdom, no copay necessary.

It's as if you are picking up a blueberry. And hold.

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