This is my story. I totally get that it may not be like this for other women. I believe in the power of stories, which is why I want to tell this one.
This is me on Saturday 15th April, 2017. Two days after my 53rd birthday, preparing to spend an evening drinking wine, laughing with friends and dancing our fucking socks off to loud, live rock.
Three years ago I was recovering from the urgent hysterectomy I'd had to have that February, following a winter of almost constant bleeding. It stopped the night I held my daughter and son-in-law as they birthed my gorgeous butterball of a grandson, and waited until I had encapsulated his placenta for her, and with permission buried a small piece under my tree, where my babies' placentas are, before returning with vengeance. (I like to tincture the leaves of that tree. I recon they will have sucked water up from that rich root soil, which will contain the essence of all of us...what a powerful healing that could be. Bit of Crone wisdom for y'all, right there)
I didn't want to have a hysterectomy. All my life I that was the one operation I didn't want to have. My mum had one, when she was 22, 23 years before I was born (work that one out) and I thought it was so cruel to take away such a precious and magical part of a woman. When I was a nurse in the '80s and 90's we hysterectomized women left right and centre. The youngest I saw was 25. Nobody was going to do that to me. Until they had to, of course.
August 2013, I'm going on holiday to Devon, and worrying about a placenta not yet due,which was bound to arrive whilst I was on my holiday.(It did) It got me to thinking about tincturing my menstrual blood for my menopause, for jewellery, to honour the deep, impossibly magical, synchronous mystery of my blood cycle, which I could not imagine life without. She was due, there would be one of the deepest tidal swells in the world and a full moon. I packed my tincturing kit.
But she didn't come. I laughed at the irony...late because of the holiday maybe. The lovely days crept by and I agonised over the thought that she had left me. Left me without the chance to say goodbye, without a last exploration of her muddy depths, or magical heralding dream (fireworks in the night, the hot, sweet dragon's breath, warm soft grass on my feet, soaked with blood, stained-glass windows blazing beauty with a midnight sun) That dream last year, of a spectacular, majestic sailing ship on a red sea...that ship has sailed...preparing me for the loss of her. more about menstrual dreaming here
Tide out, clear skies, we went down to the beach in the sunshine and looked out to the blue timelessness and played like a kids in rock pools with shells. Later we returned to our hotel and behind the old Victorian bricks and the sunny net curtains waving in the breeze we made hot and sweaty love, my safe place...on our holidays after all. How would love be without her? 'and the dry stone, no sound of water..' knowing I am no longer fertile? Desirable? Desiring? Dry, old? What lies ahead for this body that has loved and lost and lived and borne and suckled five babies? After sleep, we went back down to the beach, now under 10 foot of angry slate grey ocean below lowering clouds and a blood red gold sunset, and she came to me suddenly one last normal time. And I did get her into my tincture bottle, under the full moon through the window glass and old tiles on the shelf, sounds of the late night pub below. Human life, cells dividing all the time. Time.
Back home, two weeks later on a glorious September morning, I was on the floor cutting out designs when I thought I had spilled my coffee. My legs were hot, wet, soaked. It was my blood. They finally stopped it in December, in hospital, as yet another bag of some kind soul's blood dripped into my arm. And she had to go. So did my ovaries. More about my experience here
Straight after the operation, back home, I could feel the hormonal difference. My dreams were quiet, my upper body flushed, and my head ached. After a month or so, the headaches went, and three of nana's 'power surges' a day became my new normal. As my body healed I gave thanks for my habits of weight training and good food in the last few years, this helped me to get back to myself.
You'll never be able to weight train again said my surgeon. I returned to extremely gentle exercise 6 months later. Three years on and I'm slinging heaver lumps of metal around that gym than ever before...but I have learned to listen to my body, and to be careful with her. If I do that, and feed her well, she lets me dance through the night, stack torches on the rack at bonfire time, ride on a ZX9 at 150 miles an hour round the M25 at 3am with the other fucking lunatics, swim for hours in freezing sunny Devon coves with my crazy children, and dream new dreams. She is calm now, without the glorious drama on the high seas of hormones, but she is deep. I am still exploring the hidden depths now my ship is in harbour. I'm climbing those cliffs, and loving my new view.
And do we still make hot, sweaty love?
What a journey that was. Is. I couldn't lose my love life, I just couldn't, but I could feel that nerves had been cut. There was no pathway for my feelings to be felt. I would grow them again with time, with utter determination to not say goodbye to this part of me. The urgency of keeping this part of my life pressed like a weight. We got back to that at six weeks on my gentle, subtle, desperate insistence, just like years before, after the babies...six weeks...always the magical date. 'Am I hurting you?' Just like back then. No, no, I'm fine. So much to delicately negotiate in both our psyches, I couldn't be delicate with my body, it would just have to cope, which it did, and does. It isn't the same, my body has been through so much, too much, but it's deep, so deep to have such history. My feeling sensations is returning, my desire is returning.
So my secret is caring for my body, determination, belief in the power of the female, purchase a good vaginal moisturiser, or coconut oil which tastes nicer, and have at least 5 orgasms a week by yourself or with help, whether you need them or not, and soon you will. Read this book eat well and exercise. Find help from a holistic practitioner if you need. With love, to Crones and Crones-to-be. Your body shows your life history and this makes you truly beautiful xxx
Jil Wild Manning
Fertility & Maternity Reflexologist
Doula UK recognised Birth Doula