There’s a reason they throw in that “sickness and health” clause when closing the marriage deal. Sickness and its accompanying stresses are no longer proprietary; they plague your spouse in tandem. Barring any Munchausen fetishists, one would think the stress of an emergency hysterectomy would be the last prelude to a sexy bonding experience. But life is full of surprises.
When we first learned the surgery was necessary and imminent, my husband and I both felt a combination of relief and dread. A few years after the birth of our youngest child, I’d developed adenomyosis, a painful condition where small tumors grow into the muscle of the uterus and cause incessant heavy bleeding. Some people with adenomyosis are fortunate enough to be devoid of symptoms, but my bout had worsened to the point that standard medical inquiries about the date of my last menstrual period had no answer — I had a single, debilitating period that went on and on with only the odd day off for months.
Needless to say, this became a huge bummer as far as sex was concerned. I rallied with gusto during easier days, but in the week or two before the surgery, I was bleeding so heavily, I’d become severely anemic and it was impossible to lead a normal life, let alone feel even remotely foxy. I could barely socialize or pick up my kids from school without having to rush home, change my dressings, and lie down. I couldn’t sleep through the night because I’d have to address my situation, and I woke up each day in exhausted misery.
No one is gleeful at the prospect of their nether regions being sliced, diced, and julienned, but my monthly curse had become a curse indeed, and I was grateful to know I’d eventually be relieved from its spell. That was the relief part of it.
Our sense of dread came from the impending logical nightmare of a hysterectomy. I’d just recovered from a surgery that had taken place two months earlier, and my husband had just gone back to work after six weeks of family leave. We couldn’t afford an extra set of hands, and in spite of a rare plea my husband made for help, all three sets of our parents wouldn’t go out of their way to help us with child care, coating an already undesirable situation with a layer of extra stress.
Fortunately, a friend took pity on us and volunteered to take our kids for the night so my husband could be by my side during the surgery. Who knew having your insides rearranged could be so romantic? The guy held my hand, cracked jokes, and kissed me tenderly right up until they wheeled me in. When I woke afterward, he was right there by my side. With the fetching, open-back hospital gown blending so well with my wan, green-gilled post-anesthesia countenance, it would have been very difficult for me to feel less attractive. But I didn’t care. His mere presence trumped any IV painkiller, and wouldn’t you know, in the least sexually enticing situation possible, I found myself consumed with desire for him.
Just as he came to visit the next day, our child-care savior and our kids fell very ill, and my husband had to go directly from holding my hand in a hospital room to holding our kids’ hair over the bowl. As he beat his hasty retreat, I began to sob out loud. I can usually find the humor in stressful situations, but vacillating hormones combined with the inability to be there for my sick children tossed me into a hard-core depression.