“Childbirth isn’t all that bad.”

On Memorial Day when I was growing up in Oklahoma, we would place plastic wreaths on the gravesites of relatives in the country cemeteries. When I was old enough to read the dates on the tombstones I wondered why some of the females had died so young. I was hardly comforted when I overheard grownups say, “Bless her heart, she died in childbirth.” Although giving birth is a much safer proposition today, no one’s ever convinced me it’s a sure thing. The severe cramps I suffered from puberty onward added to my anxieties around childbirth. I questioned the wisdom of spending half my adult life suffering through my periods just to be able to have children I was less and less sure I even wanted. During my cheer-leading days, my periods were almost unbearable. I suffered horrendous hot and cold flashes and sometimes passed blood clots the size of olives. It was embarrassing and humiliating having to leave school, pale and in pain.
The bloating, the hot flashes, the bad moods were so extreme every month that I would actually consider suicide. Some doctors had the gall to tell my mother it was all in my head. As an adult, my cramps were still so bad I talked to doctors about having my tubes tied. Invariably, they did all they could to dissuade me, assuring me I would one day change my mind about having baby. They were wrong. At age 48, I had a hysterectomy. If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would have had the procedure when I was twelve.