One year ago today I went under the surgeon’s knife and had my uterus and cervix detached from, sliced up, and then pulled out of, my body. At the time I wrote about the complex and intense emotional journey that accompanied this procedure. Well, one year on, I thought I’d share some reflections…
Grieving the closing doors
In the piece I wrote a week after the op, “Journey of the Last Blood”, I reflected a bit on the closing door of biological parenthood, the finality of the fact that I’d never experience pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. It was quite a big thing to process, even if I had thought I was at peace with the decision to not go this route anyway. It was a shift from “probably not”, to “never / impossible”. For a while I really struggled emotionally seeing pregnant women, particularly those glowing with happiness in this state. A feeling made even harder when society’s framing depicts biological motherhood as the hallowed ideal of true womanhood. In fact there’s a general societal insensitivity towards women who cannot, for various reasons ever experience this.
A piece I shared on social media in July this year:
I have been dipping into #childless versus #childfree narratives on social media. Observant of my own reactions and emotions. I was essentially #childfree when I had agency in the decision. I have lived most of my life anticipating that I’d be a parent at some stage, but more recently consciously questioned that desire, increasingly at home in the decision not to birth children. However, when my biology stepped in, and that decision was taken out of my hands, suddenly all my principled certainty was shaken. Disempowered from the choice, I felt more #childless. Many childless adults grieve their lack of parenthood, shattered dreams and longings. But many parents also grieve their freedom. Reproductive choices are so huge, and at some stage may become irreversible. Often there is a lack of conscious decision making, and too often a lack of agency and empowerment to make those choices.
I am blessed to have children in my life. So perhaps I am neither #childless nor #childfree, or perhaps at times I am either or both. Please be sensitive to people around you and their sexual and reproductive realities and journeys. The story is not always simple.
I have done a lot of thinking and feeling about ‘womanhood’. These days, we are awash with offerings of women’s circles, workshops on sacred femininity, sisterhood spaces, red tent gatherings… I am troubled by some of these for various reasons. One, which I won’t go into now, is the creation of exclusionary spaces which necessarily exclude people outside of the man/woman binary, but that’s another conversation. Another aspect I struggle with is that there is generally a very womb-centric narrative. And now as a womb-less woman, this focus on the womb as a the seat of womanhood and female energy, hurts somehow.
The uterus has played a key role in historical narratives around the science of ‘womankind’, with conceptions of hysteria and so forth. But also in science around sexuality and sexual pleasure (I’d never considered the role of uterine and cervical contractions in the female orgasm before I suddenly had neither of these body parts — the fact that this topic never emerged in my pretty detailed homework and preparation for surgery says something about the very poor understandings of women’s sexual response, even today). With this weighty role that this body organ takes in our framing of the experience of being a woman, I did grieve the loss of my uterus. So much so in fact that I decided to honour the memory of it in the form of a tattoo.
I spent a while on the design, wanting to capture something about my lost cycle (hence the moon phases), aware of the fact it might seem a bit odd to have a uterus tattooed onto my body. I ended up having quite a remarkable experience, serendipitously stumbling across a female tattoo artist that had experienced her own womb related loss, and strangely enough had a similar tattoo of the moon phases across her belly. That hour or so I spent under her needle was incredibly cathartic, with the intense pain concentrated in this place on my body I was processing emotional pain around, marked by the small incision scars of the surgery.
Personhood and moving forward…
post from Women’s Day, 9th August 2021
inspired motivated supported
by the power strength beauty
of woman women womxn
shaking breaking challenging
expectations limitations boundaries
of what a woman can should be
place us in this category box
but we will shape bend stretch it
to fit our diversity
blessed to be surrounded by women of all types of power and strength
And how do we hold the children of today as they seek to navigate the world? What legacy are we leaving them, with our brutalised planet, choked with the plastic debris of our consumerism? Some parts of me wanted to grow a new life inside my body, and feel that joy and love. But looking at the world around me, I know that the best role I can play is holding space for those humans already here, some of whom have not been dealt the luckiest cards. It is said that a key to parenthood is hope. Well it’s hard to feel hopeful and positive about the future sometimes, but I’ll hold out and do my best for these young souls.
posted in April 2021, recalibrating my identity and understanding of who and what I am
“scruffy dusty sweaty, taped fingers, scratched legs, holes in all my clothes
womanhood comes in many shapes and flavours, mine tastes of grit”