‘Birth control?!?!’ At 18, I was told I wouldn’t conceive. WELL, one little puck slipped past the goalie.’: Woman receives emergency hysterectomy at 23, ‘it still stings to think about’

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“In 2003, at the young age of 17, I married the man of my dreams. Immediately, we knew kids were in our future. We had both always dreamed of having kids of our own. Thankfully, our dreams were soon realized, and 3 months after our wedding, I was pregnant with our first daughter. My pregnancy with her was smooth. After all, I was only 18. I delivered her on a hot July day in 2004 via C-Section. A C-section was not in my plan, but this independent girl had her own plans. Everything went fine with her birth and we were delighted to become parents. We immediately decided that we really wanted more children, and soon!

Courtesy of Amber Gavin
Courtesy of Amber Gavin

I was encouraged after her birth to allow my body to heal completely before attempting another pregnancy. We took measures to prevent pregnancy, but to our surprise, I was pregnant just 10 months later. This pregnancy did not go very smooth. I had preterm contractions off and on starting at 32 weeks.

Courtesy of Amber Gavin

Finally, at 36 weeks and 5 days, I could not handle the contractions any longer. I was having them often throughout the day. My dreams of a VBAC were crushed that day, as we learned that she was completely transverse and sunny side up. She was nowhere close to being in prime birthing position. They did an Amniocentesis and determined her lungs were mature enough to have a C-section the very next day. My C-section with our second daughter did not go as smoothly as the first. My uterus had not healed completely, and the incision site was paper thin. For as young as I was, my doctor seemed surprised that I had not healed to the extent she had expected. Again, I was STRONGLY encouraged to wait awhile so that my body could heal before having another child.

Courtesy of Amber Gavin

Seeing as our new baby was early, jaundiced, unable to tolerate breast milk yet, unable to tolerate most formula, had acid reflux and colic for the first 15 months, we were completely in agreement. We were going to wait for years before having another child, if we even wanted a third one after this difficult second child.

I was given an IUD to prevent pregnancy. Everything was smooth sailing until May of 2007. I had excruciating abdominal pain, cramping, and excessive bleeding. I was getting hot flashes and mood swings. I was just miserable. I made an appointment to see my OB/GYN and she determined that excess uterine tissue had grown around my IUD and my IUD was severely infected. During a very painful procedure, it was removed. I was placed on high-dose antibiotics for weeks. We also learned of 2 fibroids the size of oranges were in my uterus, causing the heavy bleeding.

As soon as my IUD was removed, my first question was, ‘What about birth control?!?!’ She told me that with all the damage, and my hormones being out of control, it was not likely that I would conceive in the next 3 months, when we could restart birth control. We were still careful and used condoms to prevent pregnancy. Well, as luck would have it, one little puck slipped past the goalie, and baby number 3 was on his way that same month.

I was very nervous about this pregnancy. I knew my body had not healed completely, and I was high risk. I followed closely with a high-risk OB as well as my regular OB. This little baby was growing with very large fibroids. In every ultrasound, we could see them growing right along with our son. I developed gestational diabetes, which complicated everything.

When it came time for my C-section at 39 weeks, I was terrified. I was laying on the table and the surgery had started. Right away my OB/GYN said, ‘Amber, you will not be able to carry another baby without risking your life. Your uterus is in very bad shape. No more babies. Do you want your tubes tied? If so, your husband can sign the consent.’ I quickly thought about it. I had a family member with Post-tubal ligation syndrome and said, ‘No..do not tie my tubes.’ Within seconds, I heard the cry of my sweet little boy. They whisked him to the warmer, and I could hear some commotion behind the curtain.

They sent my husband and son to the nursey while they worked on closing me up. In my foggy head I heard, ‘Amber, we are having trouble getting your bleeding stopped. I need a verbal consent right now to perform a hysterectomy.’ Realizing my life was in danger, I immediately consented. Thankfully, at just the right moment, my bleeding subsided, and she was able to save my uterus. I did not want to be a 23-year-old in menopause.

After my son’s birth, my husband agreed to a vasectomy. It was our safest option. Unfortunately, my periods were miserable. I was dealing with ovarian cysts every single month. I spent 5-7 days each month on the couch, curled up in a ball with a heating pad. I dealt with them for 3 years until one November morning in 2011.

I woke up covered in blood. I had never seen so much blood. Panicked, I called my OB/GYN. She gave me some medication to stop the bleeding, but I was told this was a band aid on a much bigger problem. We set a hysterectomy date for February. I had no other options as those fibroids were now the size of grapefruits. My uterus could not handle the size of them.

Courtesy of Amber Gavin

Our plan for February was thwarted on December 23, 2011 when we could no longer control my bleeding with medication. I went in for a hysterectomy that day. 2 days before Christmas with 3 toddlers. I had major abdominal surgery. I was released on Christmas Eve, and slept through Christmas day. I was content with the fact I could no longer have children. We had made that decision when he had the vasectomy and were happy with it, or so I thought at the time. Besides, three kids in 3.5 years was a lot for any mom to handle.

Courtesy of Amber Gavin

I did get baby fever frequently, as friends I knew were having babies. I went through some hard times, wanting another baby while finally grieving the loss of my fertility. After a few years though, I really came to terms with being done having children. My kids were growing and keeping me busier than I ever imagined. I also developed severe migraines and was prescribed some medication for it. I took it with no problem every month.

One month, I went through an insurance change and I went to pick up my prescription. I was told it was denied by insurance. When I inquired as to why, they said it was denied due to the fact they had no proof I was not pregnant. I explained to the pharmacist that I had a hysterectomy. They contacted my insurance company who stated that there was a ‘pregnancy precaution’ on it for any woman of childbearing age. There was ‘nothing’ they could do but to override it every month. That was the first time I felt the sting. I should be able to have a baby! Everyone thinks I should be able to have a baby. Yet, I couldn’t. I felt the finality then, and it did not feel good. I recovered though and stopped thinking so much about it. For now.

Soon, my best friend was pregnant and asked me to take her maternity photos. I did a lot of research on ideas for photos and how to help coach her in labor, since I was going to be in the room. Shortly after, I received a diaper sample in the mail from Huggies. ‘Your bundle of joy is coming soon!’ it joyfully exclaimed on the front of the package. I laughed and said, ‘My bundle of joy just turned 7…wrong person!’ Even though it stung just a little, I let it go.

Courtesy of Amber Gavin

About a week after this happened, I got a coupon package in the mail full of, you guessed it, baby supply coupons! I was a bit peeved at this point, but figured my friend could use the coupons. The sting lasted a bit longer this time. I cried to my husband that it was unfair that I was so young and unable to have more children. He comforted me and assured me that we took the only action we could take, to protect my life. The following week, I went to pick up my prescription. I knew it would take a little bit longer so they could call for the override, so I planned on being patient. When I got to the pharmacy, the pharmacist tried to get the override only to find out that the insurance company would no longer override it without proof of my hysterectomy from my doctor. I sobbed the whole way home.

I sobbed from the driveway to my front porch where I noticed a little box. It did not give any indication of the content of the box on the outside. I opened it up and there were 2 sample-sized containers of Similac formula. ‘CONGRATULATIONS, MOMMY! Feed your baby the best formula!’ There were dozens of coupons for formula, car seat canopies, baby slings, diapers, pacifiers, wipes, Avent bottles…pretty much anything I would need for my new baby accompanied this formula.

Now, I will preface this by saying it was not my finest moment, but I LOST. MY. MIND. I called my insurance company first and the poor girl who answered the phone, probably quit when she got off this call. I screamed at her at the top of my lungs. I spilled out the entire story of my hysterectomy and recovery. She got a manager and I screamed at that person too. I was crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. Finally, I was told to pick up my prescription and that she had taken that precaution off my account. They were ‘sorry for any inconvenience.’ I remember I said, ‘YOU SHOULD BE! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED. I HOPE YOU ARE TREATED THIS WAY WHEN YOUR UTERUS GETS RIPPED FROM YOUR BODY!’ Again, not my finest moment, nor is it something I am proud of.

I then turned my rage onto the sample company. I think it was Proctor and gamble, but I do not remember exactly. A friendly voice answered the phone and I let loose Amber 2.0 on this poor soul. I accused them of hacking into my computer and stealing my address. I then accused them of buying my information from my insurance company. I screamed the worst verbal attack I could think of. I couldn’t handle my emotions. I was apologized to and assured I’d never receive anything from them again.

I never did have any other problems with insurance, and never received coupons again. I also never got served a restraining order, thankfully. I do hope that these representatives got a nice severance package, or a raise for dealing with me so professionally. They certainly meant no harm in sending these coupons, and it was not done with malice, but with kindness and generosity. I know this now, but at that time in my life, I was not able to see that.

I would be lying if I said I still didn’t get baby fever sometimes. Just last week, I dreamt that a fertility specialist implanted an embryo in the open space where my uterus once was. I am still a work in progress!

My daughters are now teenagers, and my son is 11. They are so much fun, and I am enjoying every moment of watching them grow and work towards their dreams. The part of me that wishes there could be just one more baby will never completely go away. But the way I handle it has changed in the 6 years since this incident.

I wish I could go back and change my reaction but since I can’t, I choose to give myself grace. That is what we all need to do…just give ourselves grace when we have less than perfect reactions. Give ourselves grace when we have less than perfect bodies. When we are less than perfect parents. When we are simply human.”

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Courtesy of Amber Gavin

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amber of Southeast Iowa. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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