I was twenty four years old when I went into labor with my first child. My water broke as soon as I woke up that morning, but after that labor was slow. After nearly 23 hours my doctor decided we should do a Cesarean, because the baby was stuck and wasn’t descending through my pelvis the way she should. I was so exhausted that I agreed right away and they whisked me off to the operating room. Everything seemed to go fine, and after a few days in the hospital we were sent home.
Exactly 14 days later I bolted out of bed in the middle of the night, feeling like my water broke all over again. I rushed into the bathroom to find bright red blood filling my pad and underwear. I called out for my fiancé and told him to get my mother, who lives with us and is an emergency room nurse. She saw what was happening and quickly called an ambulance.
In the E.R. the doctor inspected me and I felt a gush of blood let loose from between my legs. The nurses were racing around, trying to get blood from the blood bank but it was taking too long. The technician panicked and didn’t understand their orders for O-, the universal donor blood. Finally they got me hooked up and pushed the cold fluids into my body. I was shaking uncontrollably from the chill.
My doctor showed up, looking so sad and scared. They called in a surgeon and I was taken into the O.R. so they could put a medical balloon in my uterus in the hopes of stopping the bleeding for long enough to air lift me to a bigger hospital. They also would do a D and C inspection to see if there was a piece of placenta left over in my uterus causing the bleeding. I awoke from the surgery and my doctor said that I was still bleeding and there wasn’t time to take me to the city. They put me under again and cut along the barely healed line where the C-section had happened. When I woke up I no longer had a uterus, but the bleeding had finally stopped.
I was in the ICU for a few days. I can hardly remember. The pain was unbearable and I had to constantly be on the heaviest pain medications. The maternity nurses came in and helped me with a breast pump in the hopes that I could resume breastfeeding soon. Once I was a bit more stable I was able to go back onto the maternity ward so that I could keep my two week old baby by my side. It was hard to believe that this little baby would be the only one I had, but I was still so grateful to have her and be alive.
Breastfeeding was a challenge after all my body had been through, but we kept up with it. I couldn’t hold her in our normal cradle position because of the pain on my torso, so breastfeeding required lots of pillow arrangements and baby rearrangements. The nurses were very zealous in their support of breastfeeding, which was good because otherwise I would have given it up. My daughter had to be supplemented a few bottles of formula a day at first but slowly my milk came back and by the time she was three months old we were on all breast milk again.
It was really hard once I got back home (about a week later). I couldn’t believe that I had a hysterectomy. I was overcome with grief at times. Holding a newborn baby makes you think you could do it all again in a heartbeat, but that was never going to come again. I was still in a lot of pain. Because the surgery was an emergency procedure they didn’t have time to really make sure I would be comfortable. The skin around the surgery site was completely numb, though right where the numbness stopped there was a stabbing nerve pain. As I write this, six months later, my skin is still a little bit numb, but the pain is long gone.
In the first few weeks back at home I spent a lot of time looking at adoption agencies. It helped me to think that someday I could help out a little baby or child who needed a home. It took about a month before I could sleep next to my fiancé again. The surgery site hurt so bad that I was afraid to sleep next to him, for fear of him brushing against my stomach and accidentally causing me pain. It was good to be next to him again though, it was a step towards our normal life again. The doctor okayed sex about 8 weeks later, though it still took me some time before I was comfortable being intimate, and it was even longer before I could truly let go of the fear.
I went to a counselor a few times to help me let go of the anxiety that was constantly with me. It really helped to talk to someone about it, someone who was completely disconnected from my family and friends. Journaling my feelings helped me a lot too. I never held onto any anger at the doctors for what had happened, but the fear from coming so close to death still gripped me. Nightmares of it happening again plagued me, and I was left with a shadow of grief and fear. I was so grateful to be alive, yet a piece of me was gone.
Now, six months later, I feel normal again. Going for walks and getting strong helped me realize that I could depend upon my body. Journaling helped get the fears out of my head and onto paper, where it could be contained. I am so thankful to be alive and united with my beautiful little family.
Now available on our online store and all other online book store’s. In My Own Words: Women’s Experience of Hysterectomy is full of many other real-life stories from women the world over.
Other people’s stories help women feel less isolated. They show that they aren’t going mad, missing the point or stupid.