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The Cross of a Hysterectomy From a Catholic Perspective

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The Cross of a Hysterectomy From a Catholic Perspective

By 'Theresa'

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 infertility 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 & Elizabeth).

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 contracepting & 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 husband.

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 saints! Being 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 adoption, 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 books from saints.

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.

Signature ImageSignature: By 'Theresa'


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