It’s been two years since I had a hysterectomy and I still occasionally find a tampon or pad stuffed away in an old purse or the pocket of a rarely worn coat. I have donated most of my unused items, but the occasional surfacing of one that I overlooked always makes me pause.
I spent nearly 35 years practicing that habit, being prepared with tampons and/or pads. It hasn’t been hard to let go, once I realized there were no post-surgical complications. The liberation from having to buy and carry these items has been almost seamless. I embrace that freedom, that savings.
Perhaps the most annoying outcome of the surgery comes with folks trying to guess if I’m in menopause or not.
Feel warm? Hot flash.
Restless legs? Stomach ache? Fever? Chill? All menopause. It’s the same literal thing as telling me that all my pre-surgery symptoms were a womanly curse.
Why does a public absolutely squeamish about menstruation take such delight in assigning blame to our bleeding or lack thereof for everything? How do you diagnose me with a casual glance, then dismiss me to the pile of old women who aren’t going to benefit from actual healthcare? And all because of what you know about your Aunt Helen’s experience in 1986? Or what you read in a Facebook group?
And the suggestions. Drink herb and dirt tea. Scream primally. Soak in a bath with a curative podcast and organic bath bombs from the mall. Toss back wine by the cupful. Massage. Yoga. Vitamins. Supplements. Meditation.
Or I could simply take off a layer of clothing to cool myself down like most people who are overly warm do.
I do not discount the realities of menopause (or perimenopause) on the lives of many women, but it is an actual medical condition or cluster of symptoms tied to a medical condition rather than a catch-all diagnosis for the indignities that come with being a crone. And I believe you should expect that I am taking care of my reproductive health now as vigorously as I did when I signed up to have my uterus removed.
Rather than plie me with your opinions on my ovaries, do everyone a good turn and invest some of your money in organizations like Planned Parenthood that actually provide healthcare to women, trans folx, and non-binary neighbors like me.
If you think that’s uncomfortable, you should hear what I have to say about bowel and digestive health – now that will make you cringe. But my surgeon showed me that the uterus was wedged against the bladder and the rectum, providing some occasional necessary pressure to make both function well. He told me to expect to use a stool softener for the rest of my life, a small price to pay for my health. But not one tied to menopause.
I’ve resolved to bring that up when folx try to get all up into my reproductive system with their unsolicted ‘helpful’ advice and suggestions. Let’s find a tea for that! Kidding – I already have a tea. Of course I do.
To be clear – I am not in perimenopause or menopause yet, according to the doctor I trust to rip open my abdomen and remove the broken parts. He uses diagnostic tools like bloodwork and symptom discussion to reach that conclusion. I remain an ovulating cisgender woman with all the privileges and rights afforded to such.
We celebrate my two-year anniversary with Thai food and Netflix. And maybe some tea.