Monday, September 27, 2010

What I want you to know: Emergency Postpartum Hysterectomy

Here's a post I submitted to Kristen at one of my favorite blogs: She's doing a series called What I want you to know - don't know if it'll get posted, but it was a interesting to write - so I thought I would share it here.

My name is Marilyn, I am 32 years old. I live in a small town on the Treasure Coast of Florida. I’m a high school teacher at a rural high school. I love my students, but my number one priority is my family. Outside my fabulous extended family, my family is made up of my husband of 9 years and my sweet 4 year old son.

The day my son was born was the best day of my life, the morning after – the worst. The short story is that after he was born, my womb refused to recontract and hemorrhaged blood. The doctors tried their best, but in the end the only thing that could be done to save my life was a hysterectomy. For the full story -
I want you to know is it’s lonely. It’s (thankfully) uncommon. It’s hard to get firm statistics – they don’t really exist anywhere that’s easy to find. I’ve seen some numbers @ 1 in 30,000 births. If the average woman has 2-3 kids it’s 1 in 10-15,000. It’s not often that I meet another woman who has had a hysterectomy (under the age of 50) and even more unlikely that it was a part of their birth story.

I want you to know that my pregnancy was healthy… there was no warning, no I didn’t drink, smoke, or eat unhealthy foods. I was actually in prenatal yoga classes. I read every book and ate (and didn’t eat) whatever they told me was best. What I want you to know… is that I don’t regret being such a stickler for those rules when I was pregnant. Some may say it proves that “those things don’t matter”. To me… it shows that they did matter – who knows – maybe I wouldn’t have survived.

I want you to know that I don’t blame my doctors. It’s been insinuated that my doctors made a bad choice in deciding a c-section was necessary. Some people assumed we would sue. I have even had someone refer to complications with c-sections, look at me and then say “well – you know how dangerous they can be”. I remember being stunned and thinking how callous and presumptive. In my case, the c-section was due to a concern at the amount of blood they were seeing with a vaginal birth. I believe the c-section allowed the doctors to first see the extent of the issues, and later when they went back in, a quicker way to attempt to save my uterus. I want you to know I believe my doctors saved my life.

I want you to know BLOOD DONORS save lives. I have heard (and was guilty myself) of not donating blood due to a mild fear of needles. I now realize how selfish that is. It took 20 people donating blood to save my life. If I could thank them each individually I would. They gave me the opportunity to be a mom to my wild and crazy boy.

I want you to know it’s not my son’s fault. People have asked if he was “a big baby”. He was not. To me, it seems a strange thing to somehow connect him to my complications. I have heard a student I teach say that his brother almost killed his mother when he was born. It makes my blood run cold to even hear that joked about. I believe that my body was not created to carry more than one child. God has a different plan for how our family will be formed.

I want you to know when someone says “I am not able to have children” to regale them with stories of how God can do anything is cruel, you may not know what you are talking about. I have had sweet people tell me stories about how their neighbor’s granddaughter was told she would never have children and she has had 4 perfect births after they just forgot about it. That’s nice, but I have had a hysterectomy. There is no womb for a child to grow in. I believe God CAN do anything. But to tell me that I could carry a child, is like telling someone who has had a leg chopped off that God will regrow their leg. While I believe anything is possible, I don’t think it’s probable.

I want you to know I’m still grieving. I have a gorgeous little 4 year old boy, but every day I grieve. I grieve for the sweet birthing story. I grieve for the fact that his birthday is always a difficult day, we rejoice in his day… but I am overcome by sadness and fear on that day. I grieve for my dream children. The children I dreamed of carrying and birthing. I catch myself gazing at newborns, and I grieve that I may never again hold a newborn child I can call my own. I grieve for the first weeks of my days of my son’s life when I was in ICU and unable to be with my sweet boy. I grieve the first weeks of his life when I was in a haze of pain and grief so thick I could barely draw breath. I grieve for my husband who very nearly witnessed his wife bleed to death in a gruesome and horrifying manner. I grieve.

There’s so much more I want you to know… but just know that I exist… this does still happen today in this miracle age of medicine, childbirth is still a risky venture.


  1. You are very brave to share your story. What's even braver is that you go out and live your life instead of having what happened to you define you. You share your story and your faith shines through. I for one am grateful that your grief has not weighed you down so much to keep you from participating in life. SO glad you joined our mommy group so soon after he was born and SO SO glad you were there when Ian was born--a big sacrifice, I know--and that's why I'm so grateful.

  2. I just googled "grieving emergency hysterectomy" because May 6 was the best day of my life, and May 7 was the worst...for the exact same reasons. My story mirrors yours almost exactly. I was healthy (running 3 miles 3x weekly, up til the week I had him), but I badly, it took 25 units of blood to ultimately save my life. Like you, I don't blame my doctors - they saved me! - but I am at a loss about why this happened...why to me. I feel quite alone. I know lots of women who've had hysterectomies, but very few are under 50, and none of them were in emergency circumstances over which they had no choice or control. And, like you, I already can't stand the "miracles can happen!" talk. Yes, God is huge and SO good (I'm alive to take care of my perfect son!!)...but I don't have all the parts. So unless a new uterus miraculously appears in my body... Until that happens, we can adopt, we can adore our son...but the family I dreamed of having is gone. Done. Thank God for being the God of new, bigger dreams. But I still really loved the dreams I had, and I'm not sure where that leaves me quite yet.

    Anyway, I want YOU to know how blessed and encouraged I am to have simply found this blog. I'm only two weeks past it all, so to read this from someone who's four years past just helps. I don't know you, but I actually do understand your loss, and I'm so glad you understand mine.

    And please feel free to contact me.

  3. My story also mirrors both of yours. I feel alone so often. While I am sad that we have had to find each other because of ths experience, I am glad there are others out there. I am still struggling through the anger and sadness, as I also lost my ovaries and am in surgical menopause at 26. I also try to write about my grief as a way to deal with it, but I find so many people do not understand. My family wants me to "get over it" and move on, but I am so far from that! I am thankful to be alive, but I am hurting and waiting for God's great peace to make me whole again.