Sugar, Spice and Everything not so Nice
By Hannah | @TypeThreeGirl | Sept 18, 2018
What does it mean to be a woman? I had never given it much thought. I had two X chromosomes and looked, felt and acted like a girl. The question what made me a woman seemed obvious until a part of “womanhood” was taken away from me.
I started my period like any other girl in middle school, however, mine was different. The day I started my period I had no idea it would be the one and only period I would ever have. I know you are thinking, “awesome, no periods?!” wrong. I may have only ever had one period but, that period lasted for six and a half years. That’s right, you did not miss read. Six and a half years.
I missed most of the eighth and ninth grade but I was lucky enough to find a doctor that specialized in paediatric gynaecology that would work hand-in-hand with my hematologist. If you can name a type of birth control, I tried it. From the Pill to injections to IUDs - we tried it all. The bleeding had completely taken over my life. I was faced with the last ditch option of a hysterectomy; I was 17 years old.
My dream was to become a nurse and I did not see that happening if I was pretty much bed bound from bleeding, so I decided to choose my nursing career and end the bleeding. The physicians wanted me to wait until I turned of legal age to make the decision for myself. On July 12th, 2011 I made my decision and twenty-four hours later, for the first time in almost seven years, the bleeding stopped.
I started to realize the repercussions of the surgery and began to feel the effects emotionally. I would sometimes feel like I had aborted my future children; I would (and still do) fantasize about what they’d look like and I morn the loss of the opportunity to experience pregnancy; I wonder what it would feel like to have a child grow inside of me, to feel them kick, to watch your body grow and change, to buy maternity clothes, and to feel your child inside of you. I’ve come to the time in my life that my friends are having pregnancy announcements and Facebook is filled with new baby announcements. I am always bombarded with people saying “what about surrogacy?” and “it’s okay you can just adopt.” I know they mean well and adoption is a great option, however, it does not take away the kind of heartache you can feel in your bones that loss.
I am not the only woman to experience my loss and my illness is not the only way for a woman to loose her ability to bear children. Infertility can caused by any number of reasons and can rob a woman of this rite of passage. Endometriosis, cancer, polycysitic ovarian syndrome, and many other diagnoses can have this reprocussion that is so little discussed but has a huge impact on emotional well being.
All of this said, I return to my opening question, “What does it mean to be a woman?” I have struggled with this. If a man lost his reproductive organs he would feel emasculated, right? Is there a word that describes that for a woman? A part of you has to mourn that loss. It does not happen over night. In fact I never think it “goes away” I think you gradually learn to find purpose in being a woman in other ways. That part of me will never come back and the truth is it hurts because it does matters. It is part of being a woman. It is ingrained in our DNA. However, it is not the only part that makes us a woman. There is so much more. I am a woman because I am strong.
My name is Hannah and I have a vonwillebrands - type three - as well as Ehlers-Danlos and POTs. More importantly, I love anything girly, Harry Potter, and a good cup of tea (two sugars and a splash of milk). Growing up with a chronic illness is definitely not what I would’ve chosen for myself but I have learned that you have to play the cards you were given as if it were the hand that you wanted.