WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: An issue of control

Hubby and I wouldn’t have minded losing my uterus back then. We had two wonderful daughters already and weren’t in the market for more.

Three years later, we asked a gynecologist to put me on Depo Vera – or something like that. What I know is that it’s an injectable fertility regulating drug that I figured would be immensely helpful to me. The gynecologist declined on the grounds that I’ll run the risk of bleeding. No check up. She advised us instead to return to marking off the days on the calendar.

Now, mind you, I have always been on a 26-day menstrual cycle, so marking the calendar really wasn’t much of a problem. Just the same, with too much to do, I would have gladly gotten that off the list of things I had to think about.

These two experiences made me reflect that we’re a long way from solving the population problem in the Philippines. It sure opens up the question of who has control over women’s bodies when doctors deny us what we want and put us at risk of pregnancy. I was told that hubby or I might want more children someday, and even as we said we did not, would not, would never want more, they saw to it that I wouldn’t be handicapped in any way. They smiled at me indulgently, patronizingly – like parents who knew better than a flighty child.

I certainly did not want to engage the question of me being an oppressed female held hostage by the ethical guidelines my doctors lived by. It’s what one gets when one wants the services of a reputable health practitioner. And so for a long time I took the easy way out and just avoided doctors.

And then beginning two years ago, I’d been experiencing abnormally heavy flow every month, and it took me that much time to get past my aversion to a medical consultation. It was only when I found I couldn’t get myself out of bed one morning that I resolved to get medical advice.

Oh, I had enough warning- like, I used to walk up seven flights of stairs three times a day. Then it got so that two flights had me gasping for breath, my heart hammering away. I started taking the elevator, something that I openly disdained in the past since I could get to the classroom through the stairs faster than my students who eagerly lined up for the ride. Taking the elevator. Sheesh. How low can I go? That should have told me things weren’t all right anymore. Still, it took me three days before I actually went to see our family doctor who promptly sent me to my gynecologist.

When I got back from the doctor last week, I sat my daughters down and explained to them what the laboratory findings meant. I asked them how they would feel if Mama underwent hysterectomy.

“What does it mean, Mama?” asked Sage worriedly.

“It means Mama will have to go to a hospital for an operation to take out her uterus,” Liane explained.

“Which means you won’t ever have a baby brother or a baby sister,” I said.

“Oh, good. We don’t need one,” said Sage, relieved that I don’t have to die just now.

“Li?” I asked.

“I just want you well, Mama,” she assured me in an uncharacteristically sober voice.

The poor kids. It was exam week and Mama hit them with a whopper.

I definitely wasn’t kidding when I said I’d have gladly given my uterus away for Christmas. But my gynecologist doesn’t want to take it out yet. He wants to be very convinced that it has become my mortal enemy before he takes it away. From where he’s looking, it could probably be just a case of misbehaving that could be treated.

I do appreciate the thought. And in my more rational moments, I also appreciate the advisability of erring on the side of caution where something so drastic as permanent amputation is concerned. So I am stuck with a uterus that has been known to misbehave every six years and I don’t know when it’s going to start acting up again. Probably when it would be most inconvenient, when all my health insurers would have made me execute a waiver to exclude the cost to treat female related complaints from future claims.

In the Age of Choice, I certainly have very little. Rats. It sure is no fun being a girl. This definitely isn’t what I wish on my daughters. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to gail.ilagan@gmail.com. "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)