Not really a Handmaid’s Tale

I cannot have children. I no longer have the biological parts to do so. If our country suddenly decided to adopt the totalitarianism of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian Handmaid’s Tale, I would not be one of the enslaved handmaids (praise be). Neither would I be one of the enslavers, as I am not married and do not have a wish for biological children to raise. (I guess that would make me a Martha.) The thing is, it was not an unhappy accident that I lost the ability to bear children: it was my choice.

On January 25 of this year, I had a hysterectomy. My gynecologist, manipulating a robot, removed everything but my ovaries: my cervix, uterus, and Fallopian tubes. I am left with two small marks (originally four, but two have already disappeared) on my abdomen that I’m hoping will fade even more over time. The recovery was a bit more of a nightmare at first than I had anticipated, but the months passed quickly enough. I don’t have to worry about periods or birth control or Pap smears ever again.

I had wanted this done since before I even had my first period. I prayed that I would never get a period, or that if I had to, it would come late, say 16 or 18. But I got it at 14, and I was crushed and angry. I didn’t want kids! I wanted to adopt them! Why did I need this stupid thing if I wouldn’t ever use it?! You would think that I would get used to having a period, as it came once a month, every month, forever after. But I didn’t. I was always angry, every time it hit. I tried reframing it to myself after I heard in a class in college that women embraced their periods and loved them for various reasons, such as being connected with all women throughout history, etc. etc. But that didn’t last long. There was no reframing for me: I never intended to have children of my own, and I hated having a period.

After I became a foster parent and was even more turned off to having my own children (and even to the idea of raising any children at all, something that has yet to go away entirely), I became more upset each month. I felt imprisoned by something I didn’t consider necessary. I was desperate to find a way out.

By the time I had the surgery, I had had a period for exactly five months shorter than the time I had lived without a period. In terms of life, though, I had lived through much more in my conscious memory with it than without. That has since reversed. Everything I do now, I do without concern about period blood or tampons or cramps. I have been freed.

It’s hard to express my excitement without worrying that I will alienate people. Both men and women often desire biological children. To express an opinion to the contrary is to invite distrust, defensiveness, and sometimes even disbelief. To state even less ambivalently that it may be morally wrong to bring children into the world at all is to transform into a monster in people’s minds. In many ways, I am an outsider. I cannot be completely frank.

However, that’s not the point. The point is that I consider myself lucky, one of the luckiest, in fact. Not in a women-should-be-able-to-choose-and-be-released-from-the-patriarchy way, and not in a divisive and narrow way of saying that women who love their periods or people who want their own children are misguided, biologically-driven, confused, or wrong, and those who break from that spell are the only true thinkers, the true heroes of the world, but just in a way of getting what I wanted and being totally content with it. I am lucky to have that, as not everyone does. I also realize that makes me sound like a spoiled brat.

All I’m saying is that I feel like I’ve escaped something, like I was supposed to serve a life sentence but by some loophole was let out after a brief stay. I obviously don’t put much stock into the notion that ‘you were given something for a reason, so you better put it to good use.’ Some things we have to learn to live with, that’s true. But if there’s something I don’t have to live with, why punish myself? Why not get rid of it? Not all crosses are worth bearing, and I’ve got enough to carry without worrying about my uterus. That’s what I think, at least.

Blessed be the fruit.

May the Lord open.

Or, you know, please just treat yourself and others with respect and all that.

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