Smithies on Uteri – Hysterectomy, the Pill, Miscarriage, & Abortion

27Mar12

While sifting through the Google reader that I keep of all the Smith alum blogs, I stumbled across some incredible words from Smithies around their uteri. In light of all the discussion going on about rights and bodies, I thought it would be meaningful to share these personal stories. In my mind, these are the grown up versions of the stories we told at Smith — those conversations we had around the table in the dining room, long after brunch was over, or sitting five to a twin bed on a random Thursday night. These are those same stories of strength, pain, freedom, and passion, but in the context of adulthood.

From Sun Runner ’97, a story about how her uterus made her life miserable and the operation that set her free (emphasis added):

By November 2006, I had been poked, prodded, procedured, and pill-popped to the extreme, with no relief or explanation. I was having periods that lasted two, three, or four weeks with mere days between bleeding episodes.  I was an emotional wreck from the hormone war inside me (I was on estrogen, progesterone, levornogestrel…). My whole life revolved around what was going on in my nether regions. Everything I did—from what I wore each day (the darker the better) to how long it took me to towel off after a shower to the sheets I chose to put on the bed (never the white ones)—depended on the state of affairs downstairs. My uterus had made my life miserable for a year and a half, and in November 2006 it launched its final assault.

Warning: everything from this point forward may be Too Much Information for some to handle. Proceed at your own risk.

[read the rest here]

From Liza ’91, a story about going on birth control at age 13:

I suffered such severe menorrhagia that I began blacking out every time I stood up, or had to walk up stairs. No exaggeration. I would stand up, and my vision would go fuzzy and dark from the outside in; and, I usually had to clutch the handrail on the stairs, so that I wouldn’t collapse and fall down.

After 3 weeks, I was no longer able to hide what was going on from my mom, who took me to my first gynecological appointment. They gave me a massive dose of some kind of hormone to stop things, and told us that if I could not keep them down for 24 hours, I would have to be hospitalized.

14 hours later, at around 4 am, I threw up with the kind of drama that I can only describe as exorcisian. Mom rushed me to the hospital, where I got a blood transfusion, a lot of drugs, and finally the ability to stand without fainting.

And when I left the hospital, the doctor gave me a prescription for birth control pills. (And iron supplements.) The birth control pills were to make my body both menstruate, and STOP menstruating. On a regular, appropriate schedule.

I was no slut.

[read more here]

Noelle ’05 writes about her miscarriage:

Today is the spring equinox. It is also the anniversary of my miscarriage.
For a year, I have found myself talking about miscarriage over and over again. For one thing, like birth and other body dramas, the experience of pregnancy loss seems to benefit from the act of storytelling. For another thing, when you have a four-year-old child, one of the only topics of conversation with other adults seems to be, “Are you guys thinking of having another?”
And instead of just saying, “Yes, we’re thinking about it,” like a normal person might, I always launched into the whole saga of how I miscarried in March, and how awful that was, and how long it’s taken to get my health back on track.
People were, for the most part, very supportive—if a little taken aback. But the secret that I uncovered in opening up about my experience was that miscarriage is one of those things that no one talks about, but everyone really wants to talk about once someone else brings it up! Almost everyone I spoke to received my story by sharing one of their own—and it wasn’t just friends and relatives who opened up about their losses. One of the first things I learned about a new acquaintance was that she had a miscarriage between her two children. A friend’s mother nodded sadly and said, “I had one. It’s hard.” The nurse who cared for me in the ER had two.
And finally, Cait ’10 writes about the painful, graphic experience of working in an OB office and assisting with D&C procedures, and how it affected her stance on abortion:
You know how I know so much about what goes on in women’s heads who are choosing abortion?  Because I spent an entire summer assisting at a myriad of obstetric and gynecological procedures, about three-quarters of which were D&C’s (Dilation and Curettage).  […] Early on Monday mornings, I would show up to the OR and change, shivering, into my scrubs.  I would tie my hair back while I looked in the mirror, and I would tell myself that if those women out there could be brave enough to face what they were facing, I could damn well walk out there and help them as best as I could.  I held the hands of women as they were prepped for the procedure.  I sat with them in the OR waiting bay before they went in, and listened to some of the hardest stories I’ve ever heard.  I watched procedure after procedure, until I could predict which instrument the doctor would pick up next.
Each procedure took about thirty minutes, start to finish.  Thirty minutes, and the groggy woman would be rolled out the door, the doctor and nurses would leave, and it would just be me and the janitor, cleaning up.  I was part of the clean-up crew.  Of the fetus.  After each procedure, the doctor would wordlessly hand me the basin into which he’d just deposited the contents of a woman’s uterus.  The first time he did this, he only looked at me seriously and said softly, “Make sure it’s all there.”  After each D&C, it was my job, and mine alone, to very carefully examine the contents of the bright orange BIOHAZARD container and look for recognizable parts of the human being that would grow no more.  A hand, a miniscule foot, shreds of placenta – all were good indicators that the procedure had been performed correctly.  I would check, swallowing hard each time, then seal the container and leave the room.



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