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Staring down a hysterectomy: Giving thanks and moving forward

When your childbearing days are over

Several months ago I learned that, at 34 years old, I need a hysterectomy. Now I sit, several days before surgery, and try to process what this surgery will mean for my life.

I always thought that I would be the mom with the horde of kids, flying around town in my Suburban. I imagined dressing the pack like the Von Trapp children, spending my nights sewing and my days baking pancakes.

My first baby was born when I was 29 years old. Benjamin was 10 lbs and I delivered him vaginally at 42 weeks. It was the perfect storm of awfulness.

I pushed and pushed and pushed for about three hours. That little (big!) guy just would not make his way out. I pushed until I was delusional. The epidural paralyzed my legs and nothing else. I went to the gates of hell and sat on a bench for a while and pushed some more. And every time, while I was pushing, his little head would start to poke out and then go right back in when the contraction was over. It was defeating. It was sweaty. It was painful.

Finally, the doctor arrived at the hospital and asked if I would like her to use forceps. In my blurry, confused state I begged her to get that baby out. She was a small woman and, as my husband describes it, she put all of her might and weight into pulling my boy out.

When Benji’s head finally tore its way out, the room erupted in chaos. With the baby only halfway delivered, nurses flooded in and leaned up on each side of the bed. The doctor muttered under her breath and I sobbed in agony. All I remember is bright spot lights and many hands. He was so big, you see. They didn’t know he was going to be so big. The doctor warned, as she shifted Benji’s position, that they might have to break his clavicle to get his shoulders out.

In his first act of grace toward his desperate mother, Benji slid his shoulders out without a problem and a nurse placed his beat up, chubby little body on my chest. Welts and bruises covered his misshapen head. He and I looked at each other and wailed in grief – both not knowing what to do with the physical trauma just endured.

The next five years were heavy on the childbearing for me. I had a miscarriage that required a D&C. I was slow to recover. Then I had my beautiful rainbow baby, Theodore. He was 9.5 lbs and delivered at 39 weeks (a breeze compared to his hulk of a brother). Then lastly, I had my sweet little 8.5 lb baby Mara last November.

While each birth was easier than the last, I knew that I had some troubles down there that I would need to face eventually. I had some obvious prolapsing and things were not functioning correctly in the pooping department.

In May, I saw a specialist to understand the state of my body and what my options were. The doctor took one look at my undercarriage and let out a big “humph”. Turns out things were worse than I realized.

Apparently, during that first delivery, my herculean effort pushed out more than just my beautiful Benji. My body held on the best it could for the subsequent children but with each, the prolapsing worsened.

After a few minute of poking and prodding, the specialist gave me the news. “You need a hysterectomy and a rectocele repair and several other side projects,” she explained. “Your body has done all it can do to bring children into this world and it is finished.”

I stared at her dumbly. I was completely unprepared to hear the word hysterectomy. I finished the appointment and sort of stumbled out of the office and sat in my car for a while. So many questions. So many feelings.

Aren’t I too young for a hysterectomy? Am I really done having children? Why do I feel heartbroken and relieved at the same time?

Here is the thing though, since Mara was born I have been so tired. My body is not right. I need help. On top of that, my husband I mostly decided that we were done having children anyway.

I know I said that thing about the horde of kids and the Von Trapps and the Suburban, but I’m over it. I mean, I’m not over the children part, but I’m over the lending my body out to grow humans part.

It is different than I originally planned. I am different than I originally planned. This whole baby making thing is much harder than I originally planned.
I am conflicted, I am anxious, I am a bit teary.

I am also pretty excited about taking full ownership of my body back.

It seems as though my uterus needs some proper thanks, an official sending off. These beautiful people were not created without consequence. She was beat up and so much was required of her. I am not quite sure how to properly give thanks for that. I will try though, to give thanks and honor to my body.

So, I will sit here in the quiet for a few extra minutes and kiss my beautiful seven-month-old-baby on the head and breathe in the milky sweet smell of her head. I will press her fingers between mine and marvel at the wondrous thing that my body created.

I will give thanks and I will look ahead.

Written by Betsy Ryan

Betsy Ryan

Betsy Ryan resides in Watford City and is a recent transplant to Western North Dakota. She is learning to navigate her new landscape along with her husband and their two boys. Betsy writes for the McKenzie County Farmer and also shares her experiences in North Dakota on her blog,

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