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My Hysterectomy Gave Me A Freedom I Never Expected

Until age 45, I still felt a longing for a child. I was made to feel less than compared to mothers.

It’s something I could tell no one. Most of my friends and family had kids and I felt alienated from them.

Even at this late age, becoming a mother was still technically a possibility.

So when I was diagnosed with womb cancer not long after turning 45 and had to have an emergency hysterectomy, without even being allowed to give any thought to the total loss of fertility, it was traumatic.

I wasn’t given any options like a woman in her thirties would have — and I never would have imagined that undergoing a hysterectomy would give me a release in the years after. I never thought I would get to that point.

Post-radical hysterectomy (my omentum and 21 lymph nodes were also removed), it was excruciating to have to visit my gynaecologist, surrounded by happy, expectant mothers and those who just had their babies. Beautiful glowing moms and adorable infants filled the waiting area.

I was the only one there, sans womb. I have been made to feel (erroneously and cruelly by media and society) like an incomplete, defective woman — and in that waiting room even more so.

It was thunderously loud how alien I was. I felt deeply self-conscious and wished I didn’t have to endure this.

A younger patient would have had fertility-saving considerations or perhaps their eggs would have been retrieved and frozen before surgery.

But in the months that followed my hysterectomy, I finally and strangely felt free. Now that my hope for a child was totally and completely taken away, I wouldn’t have it dashed each year. I wouldn’t have to have that desire, that dream, that possibility hanging over me. I used to pray for children every time I blew out my birthday candles.

I envied those in other countries who had the option of freezing their eggs, having a baby on their own, or through a surrogate.

I even thought those who had a teenage pregnancy and were genuinely happy about their choice and had family support, were luckier than me.

I was already putting my whole heart toward all the babies in my life at the tender age of five. I was mesmerized by my infant cousin gripping my finger. I’ve always adored babies for as long as I can remember. I have always had a strong maternal instinct even though I didn’t birth any children.

My mom shared with me that at age one, I was already entertaining my baby sister by showing her my dolls or trying to make her laugh. I know at age two, I was already trying to carry her and found her to be the cutest baby I had ever seen. In contrast, I found myself to be quite an ugly baby. So my low self-esteem started early, though my loving uncles and aunts assured me I was cute.

Not everyone I knew liked kids, but it was a societal expectation that if you marry you must have them.

The biggest irony is that many didn’t want kids, but confessed they were having them out of obligation.

A colleague even told me she had to have kids, as her in-laws were expecting it, but that she didn’t want to lose her figure.

To me, that wouldn’t even be a consideration. Any sacrifice would be worth it, my desire for children was so great. *(Well, perhaps not great enough to agree to an arranged marriage. That thought revolted me. I had too many bad examples of it, including my own parents.)

Some choose to be child-free like my cousin, and I respect their choice even though society may not understand it and cruelly deride them for it. We are so backwards in this regard. She and her husband love children and do all they can to help orphans in Nepal. I admire them for their strong convictions and how they genuinely enjoy their life.

However, people like me, childless by circumstance — not for lack of yearning — are unseen and unheard, almost like we’re muzzled.

Our grief is something that doesn’t seem to be legitimate compared to someone who has lost a child to a miscarriage — or worse. That is why we remain silent. But it truly hurts to be marginalized and often we feel like weirdos for not fitting in. We feel judged and isolated.

Every time a taxi driver or any new acquaintance assumes and asks me how many kids I have, it’s like another stab in the heart. And then there’s that awkward look they give you when you say you don’t. It’s why I’ve become even more isolated as the years pass.

There are fewer people in my generation or earlier I can relate to. The often vilified Millennials and Gen Z seem to be a lot more understanding, sensitive, and inclusive and I love them for it.

After going through abuse myself as a child, all I wanted was to protect every single child in the world from any kind of harm. It was — and is —​ my ardent wish. That’s why I write about it — I will always be an advocate for the rights of children.

I knew I would be a great mum (overindulgent and protective but loving) because I learned from the best, my angel mom.

I have deep empathy for children and strongly believe in their rights as human beings. Every child deserves dignity. I didn’t forget what it’s like to be one and my long-term memory is strong.

I will never understand why an adult hitting another adult is criminalized as assault and the same is not the case when it’s a child. who is far more vulnerable. There’s zero logic to it and enrages me to no end.

Many out there do not deserve the children they are blessed with. I know kids with toxic parents who treat them like their property and demand filial piety and I find that utterly ridiculous.

I’m lucky in that regard; I’m just sad I can’t offer that to my kid. (Well, perhaps in another life or dimension, if there is such a thing.)

But I feel the universe had a way to make it up to me. I honestly can’t imagine loving my children more than I love my nieces. They have rescued me in so many ways, that I often wonder how I got so blessed.

I deeply hesitate to publish this for fear of being misjudged by those in my community who are not progressive and cling to superstitions, but I have to take the risk and speak my truth. I have to push past the shame and stigma that current societal norms impose upon me.

Perhaps I can make things better for women like me in the future. And I think men like me are in an even more marginalized group so I feel for them as well. Men who always desired to be a dad, but never got that dream realized due to circumstances out of their control.

People often talk about women having a biological clock, but I’ve never heard this mentioned about men. I know our society is very gender-biased. Maybe the non-binary movement will give us all more power. Beyond gender, I’m sure as humans, some of us just have a stronger need to protect and nurture.

This was very difficult to share, but I felt I finally could.

I hope I haven’t inadvertently hurt anyone. I just needed to be one of the voices of the marginalized. And not stay hidden.

It’s a lonely place.

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