Last week was infertility awareness week and I read so many heartbreaking stories about women struggling with infertility. I didn't share my own because my own infertility story is one I am still grappling with because I am not sure I have a place in that conversation.
Doctors had warned me for years that if I ever had a hysterectomy, or at the time I was pushing for tubal ligation, I would immediately regret my decision. This was the biggest stumbling block for me to puzzle through when I was confronted with being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive presentation of hyperplasia without any of the predisposing conditions for the disease. Though I have always felt comfortable with not having biological children, the horrific thought that those doctors could be right plagued me.
Learning post operatively that I most likely never would have been able to have children anyway gave me relief. I found that I did not grieve the loss of my fertility, but rather the lost health that I had suffered because of doctors who were so convinced that if I had children I would be cured of my ailments.
The one emotion that I did not expect to feel was overwhelming guilt that I did not feel grief about the loss of potential motherhood. I felt for the first time that there was something wrong with me as people gave me their condolences, many of them asking if I had managed to save any eggs-a procedure that I have found out many people do not know much about and an impossibility for me due to the state of my ovaries and financial status. I felt an acute hyperawareness of the expectation that people had for me to feel the loss I did not feel. To be entirely fair, motherhood is something a lot of people want to experience, and the loss of fertility can be so extremely hard to deal with.
At the same time, I began to understand the difference between not wanting to have children, and not being able to. In some ways it is a relief for me, but in other ways there is a certain discomfort with that. Overall, I've been sitting with this guilt and investigating it. I started a garden as an outlet for nurture and it quickly has become a large part of my coping mechanism.
I made this image one morning with a bok choy plant I had been trying to grow from clippings. I didn't know what I was doing, or that I should remove the rot from the plant, but the plant itself seemed so poignant. Decay and life coming together with my guidance. They give you the same mesh underwear when they take your uterus as when you give birth.
A hysterectomy has allowed me to find places of peace within myself I never expected to find. My anemia has improved so much since surgery and I've been able to drop down to the lowest dose of iron available. I also find that having a lower amount of hormones in my body has allowed me a much more level head than I've experienced in the past. My life goals seem so much clearer, though that could be the amount of bed rest and isolation I've experienced over the past year. I'm able to more easily accept parts of my identity I've ignored and neglected over the years with forcing relationships and gender expressions, such as exploring my gender identity and queerness, and finding that I am so much more fulfilled by my creative practice than I have ever been. I am enjoying the combined complexity and simplicity of life more than ever and finding that living in this body is not as terrifying as it once was now that I've accepted how it is in its entirety.
This is part of a book project named Vessel I will be releasing in September through Fifth Wheel Press. It is a marked shift from Where the Red Flowers Bloom, but within the same realm of content. I'm still struggling to figure out how to say what I want to say, as this is an intensely personal and highly emotionally charged topic, but I'm slowly allowing the work to be what it is and sharing my experience through it.