- Women's Health
w:Hit me with your best shot
I have been told all my life by doctors and by many other individuals that I have a high tolerance for pain. A week after giving birth to my oldest son, where upon I tore all my stitches, I returned to the doctor and without medication, was then cauterized. I opted to be cauterized as opposed to being re-admitted to the hospital, so I could return home to my newborn son. I had endured childbirth without medication, not because I enjoy pain, but because I feared medication might harm my child. My fear stemmed from my previous pregnancy, which I had miscarried when I was close to six months along. I had went into full labor with the first pregnancy, and in the process, hemorrhaged, and as a result, came very close to bleeding to death, before undergoing emergency surgery. When I awoke from my surgery, I was told I had not only lost my son, but that I had endometriosis, which as I had it explained to me, was a form cancer that lines the uterine wall, making pregnancy difficult, if not impossible.
“I don’t know how you managed to deal or cope with the pain for as long as you did or have.” The doctor said. “Why would you have ignored it and your symptoms? Which judging by the extensive scarring, you had to be in excruciating pain. It’s a miracle you were able to conceive at all.”
I had suffered from painful periods and heavy bleeding since the age of 10, but because I had never known anything other than what I knew, I assumed this was ‘normal.’ I was only 12 years old when my mother found me in my room crying, partly due to the pain stemming from my heavy bleeding/period, but mostly, as I told her, because I had a feeling I would never be able to have children. Being that I was so young and had always been highly emotional/sensitive, she told me to 'suck it up', quit being such a 'drama queen’, go out, and play. Oddly enough, I got almost the same reaction/response when I told her, on the day I suffered my miscarriage, that I had a feeling my baby had died in the middle of the night. It wasn't/isn't because my mother is heartless or was oblivious to my pains or me; she just never seemed comfortable talking about matters relating to or about sex, at least with me.
I was 19 when I married, and at times sex was extremely painful and at best, uncomfortable, but I suffered silently, because I didn’t want my husband to know-mostly because I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but largely because I felt so damaged and inadequate as a woman, as a lover, and as a wife. I assumed the sexual abuse I had endured as a child and the subsequent rape I had suffered through were the cause for my pain; I told myself, convinced myself, it was probably emotional scars and pain rather than actual physical pain. Therefore, I ignored and masked my pain, just as I had become ‘accustomed’ to doing. It wasn’t until my husband told me one night after we made love, that at times, it almost felt as though he hit or touched a ‘wall’ when he entered me.
“I’m sorry.” I said lamely, feeling the shame and embarrassment well up inside me. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“Don’t be sorry.” He said, sounding and appearing more concerned than upset. “I was just wondering if it hurt you, if I hurt you… Hard to imagine you can enjoy or take pleasure in sex if you’re in pain all the time.”
“It’s not all the time.” I said defensively, fighting the urge to run from the room.
I was by no means a virgin by the time we had gotten married, but I was not exactly sexually ‘active’ or having sex ‘actively’ or consistently, until I was married, therefore I was not aware that intercourse was going to be as painful or uncomfortable for me as it was proving to be. I had always equated sex and anything pertaining to sex to something shameful, secretive, embarrassing, and private. I felt embarrassed and ashamed seeing and discussing anything that related to sex, with family and or friends, so the idea of sharing it with a doctor, a perfect stranger, seemed ludicrous.
I was 27 years old when I underwent a complete hysterectomy, having been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian disease, whereupon I was told my ovaries looked more like heads of broccoli than actual ovaries. Thankfully, I was granted the gift of two wonderful sons, which I’ve been told are ‘miracle’ children, given the state of my reproductive system/organs. Nevertheless, I cannot help but blame myself and my shame and embarrassment as it pertains and pertained to my body. Perhaps if I had been more vigilant, aware, informed…perhaps if I had known or been more in touch with my body, not only as a woman but as a sexual being, I might not have had to suffer the emotional pains, never mind the physical pains, for as long as I did.
Women’s health issues are often as embarrassing, as they are complex, which can often make discussing them difficult, amongst friends and family, but this shouldn’t be the case when it comes to our doctors. Having spent the majority of my life being too embarrassed and ashamed to address my ‘issues,’ many might find it strange that I would choose this forum, as a means to discuss them and or share such ‘private’ matters, however, it is for that reason I have chosen to do so. Breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer, are often considered ‘silent’ killers, and for good reason, most women are unaware they are suffering from them, until it is too late.
So much, of what makes a woman a woman, or what makes a woman feel like a woman, occurs and takes place within and inside of her. Being a woman that was raised at a time and within a culture where women do not discuss ‘private’ matters, such as sex or any other bodily function that may not be deemed ‘ladylike,’ it amazes me and embarrasses me just how little I knew and know about the woman’s body; perhaps even more disturbing is how little my mother knows/knew, and she gave birth to six children, five of whom are females. Hopefully my sisters are more in tune with their bodies and informed about their bodies than me, but seeing, as I don’t discuss such private, personal, issues with them, I cannot say for certain.
One of my dear friends just underwent a double mastectomy, while my best friend, coincidently, suffered from polycystic ovarian disease and ovarian cancer, and had to undergo a complete hysterectomy at the same age as I did. One lost her breasts, while two of us, at the age of 27, lost the ability to have children. I may never be comfortable with addressing and or discussing certain bodily functions, and or situations, it seems far easier and far less painful to hide behind my keyboard and write about them, but perhaps by doing so I can prevent another woman from undergoing, enduring, and suffering, the pains that some of my friends and I have. For while I may have a high tolerance of and for physical pain, I am not as tolerant or equipped to deal with the emotional pain and scars that ensue as a result of ignoring those pains…some pains are just too great to bear. Personally, I’d rather suffer the pain and embarrassment of sharing my personal and private matters with strangers, if it means or meant that I could and or can help in some small way, someone else that may be suffering silently from her own pains-be they emotional or physical.