The Cross of a Hysterectomy From a Catholic Perspective
Summary: Some thoughts on hysterectomy from a Catholic perspective
Keywords: Hysterectomy, Surgery, Operation, Medical Necessity,
Catholic Perspective on Hysterectomy, Childless, Childlessness,
Fertility, Infertility, Sterility, Barren, Conceive, Conception,
Pregnancy, Child, Children, Woman, Women, Female, Mother, Mothers,
Mothering, Nurturing, Family, Family, Scripture,
Reflections, Feelings, Emotions, Thoughts, Advice, Support
If you're a Catholic woman carrying the cross of
a hysterectomy like I am, it can be a heavy burden, especially for those
of us who have never conceived. For years we may have struggled with
yet still held out hope for children. But after having had a
hysterectomy, those hopes have been forever dashed and we must accept
that we will never be like the barren women in
Scripture who were
ultimately blessed by
God with children (e.g. the formerly barren Sarai, Rebecca &
Those of us who have experienced a hysterectomy
may know what it's like to feel out of place around others with children
and to dread questions, awkward comments & pitying silence on Mother's
Day. Besides the potentially tough (and long!) recovery and challenging
physical consequences of a hysterectomy (not to mention subsequent
surgical menopause), many succeeding difficulties may present
themselves. For example, there may be a very great sadness at the
realization that one will never be able to have children, the guilt of
forever depriving your husband of children, the selfish concern as we
age about being left alone and similar concerns about our affairs when
we are sick and after our death. There may be a feeling of being out of
place around other Catholic families accompanied by our forever-to-be
unrealized longing for a large family, the unexpected tears, the
questioning of our self worth, the negative thoughts that can assail us
(e.g. when we ruminate over very bad people who were blessed with
children & when we see perfectly fertile women
aborting away their children), as well as other unwanted thoughts &
emotions. We may also fear that it was a punishment for past sins or
worry that others may think negatively about us. For a while we might
even hope that by some miracle we will be able to conceive somehow, even
without the necessary parts, yet simultaneously know that this will
never happen. Even if we have struggled with infertility for many years,
a hysterectomy may shock us with its sudden finality. And, of course, it
can be quite saddening for us to read in Holy Scripture how sterility
may be viewed as a curse.
Yet, the Bible has not left us comfortless. For
example, I take comfort in these passages from Holy Scripture:
Ps. 112:1-9: Praise the Lord, ye children:
praise ye the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord, from
henceforth now and for ever. From the rising of the sun unto the going
down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise. The Lord is
high above all nations; and his glory above the heavens. Who is as the
Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: and looketh down on the low things
in heaven and in earth? Raising up the needy from the earth, and lifting
up the poor out of the dunghill: That he may place him with princes,
with the princes of his people. Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a
house, the joyful mother of children.
Wisdom 3:13: Yes, blessed is she who,
childless and undefiled, knew not transgression of the marriage bed; she
shall bear fruit at the visitation of souls.
Gal. 4:27: For it is written: Rejoice, thou
barren, that bearest not: break forth and cry thou that travailest not:
for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a
And I also find these consoling:
Mt. 6:31-33: So do not worry and say, 'What
are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All
these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need
them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and
all these things will be given you besides.
1Pt. 5:7: Cast all your worries upon him
because he cares for you.
Sirach 16:3: Count not on their length of
life, have no hope in their future. For one can be better than a
thousand; rather die childless than have godless children!
I have also been helped by others' advice. For
example, when you are (inevitably) asked about children, you might like
the response I read online that "God hasn't blessed us in that way."
This response says both that childlessness wasn't your choice, and that
you consider children a blessing from God.
Once someone has been forced to undergo a
(non-avoidable, non-sinful) hysterectomy, I think we must accept it as
God's will. Even accept as a cross. Of course, a hysterectomy is a
radical option that is only morally acceptable under certain
circumstances. Mine was urgent, and was unquestionably needed to save my
life and no pregnancy was involved (I have never had the blessing of
pregnancy). I received the
sacraments before the surgery and discussed the matter beforehand
with the priest.
There was truly no other option possible in order to save my life, so it
was morally acceptable.
If someone has had to have a hysterectomy, I
believe it is helpful to think that God has another purpose for them and
to remember that children are a gift, not a right. I have read elsewhere
that we can be mothers in other ways. I think this is both comforting
and true. We call our priests father, yet they did not beget us
carnally. We can likewise be like mothers to others in various ways
without any biological component. I have had the privilege of knowing a
number of devout Catholic women who, for no fault of their own, were
never blessed with children. Their lives have great meaning and value,
and I have personally benefited enormously from their 'motherly type'
ways. And don't forget about the many childless
without children does not mean we cannot be holy. All good Catholics
should remember that they are children of God at all times, no matter
what crosses they must bear. Furthermore, we can use our 'untapped'
mothering skills to nurture and care for others in countless ways. Since
good mothering is sorely lacking today, these skills should be
appreciated. Also there is
which is a lovely option.
Finally, if you are struggling after a
hysterectomy, there are support groups online - but be very much on your
guard. Although there is a lot of help out there, much is not Catholic
and may even be anti-Catholic (and sadly many women may actually be
happy about being childless and may say very unCatholic things).
Although some practical suggestions can be helpful (assuming you can
safely avoid all bad things that may also be presented), be extremely
careful, my dear sister, as they can be so terribly unCatholic and can
steer persons in very wrong directions that you do not want to go. I
urge you to stick only to material that is suitable from a good Catholic
perspective. Maybe read holy
Lastly, I just want to let you know that other
Catholic women are in same boat and we care about you. I send you warm
greetings, a gentle hug, and wish you God's blessings.
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