It was time and long overdue. I needed a hysterectomy. 

The pain, heavy menstrual cycles and extreme bloating had become debilitating, especially in the last year. After five myomectomies, failed in vitro fertilization attempts  and the welcomed surprise of getting pregnant with my 5-year-old daughter, my husband and I decided that we weren’t going to have any more kids.

As a Black woman in her 40s that was plagued by uterine fibroids for more than 15 years, I eagerly followed the recommendation of my gynecologist to have an abdominal hysterectomy, removing my uterus and fallopian tubes. My hysterectomy surgery was life-changing, but the road to recovery was also an eye-opening experience. 

The pains of uterine fibroids is a journey that many Black women know too well. My story, along with similar experiences from other women of color in my life, was my motivation for developing 21Ninety’s Youterus content. It was a topic that I knew needed to be explored more when I joined Blavity Inc. as the Associate Vice President of its lifestyle brands. 

My hysterectomy experience had its own challenges and wins. This procedure signified a rebirth for me. It marked the end of one part of my womanhood, while opening the door for something much better. From preparing for surgery to recovery, this is my Youterus story. 

See my pictures of my hysterectomy journey, uterus and scar.

Why Did I Need a Hysterectomy? 

In the year leading up to my hysterectomy, the symptoms I had been battling for more than 15 years intensified. The heavy menstrual cycles, stomach bloating and nagging aches in my lower abdomen were overwhelming. 

I was first diagnosed with uterine fibroids when I was 27 years old. Initially, I thought I walked this journey alone. It wasn’t until I shared my own journey with my aunts, cousins, friends and other Black women that I realized I wasn’t alone. Many other Black women in my life also faced various health issues surrounding these non-cancerous uterine growths. In addition to fibroids, they also faced other conditions, like endometriosis and PCOS. 

According to my gynecologist, fibroids are more prevalent among Black women. In my case, it caused considerable pain and fertility issues. Before giving birth to my daughter in 2018, I had undergone five myomectomy surgeries in an attempt to remove the recurring fibroids. Many of them grew back following those procedures. With each surgery, I hoped for lasting relief; however, the fibroids always returned, usually larger and more troublesome than before. Because of the previous myomectomies, when I finally became pregnant I needed to have a C-section in order to give birth. 

Now in my 40s as the mom of an energetic kindergartener, it became clear that managing the symptoms was no longer enough. The fibroids were impacting the quality of my life. The heavy periods and debilitating pains made the daily activities difficult, leaving me feeling fatigued. The heavy periods also caused me to have very low iron levels. After discussing all options with my doctor and husband, I made the necessary choice – have a hysterectomy to remove my uterus and the fibroids distorting it.

While the decision initially raised my nerves and anxiety levels, I knew this surgery was my best path forward to finally find relief. Years of dealing with fibroids had taken a toll on me and protecting my long-term health was the utmost priority.

What Type Of Hysterectomy Did I Have?

Dr. Aparna Dascha, my gynecologist, says there are three main types of hysterectomy procedures: vaginal, laparoscopic and abdominal. A vaginal hysterectomy involves removing the uterus through the vagina. A laparoscopic hysterectomy is a minimally invasive procedure where the uterus is removed through small incisions in the abdomen using a laparoscope.

For me, neither the vaginal nor laparoscopic method was an option because of the size of my uterus. The normal size of a uterus is compared to the size of a small pear. My uterus had grown to the size of a cantaloupe. 

With my severely enlarged uterus, I needed to have an abdominal hysterectomy, which is the most invasive type of procedure. During this open surgery, a horizontal incision was made in the lower abdomen, which is the same spot where I had my Cesarean section. 

The thought of going under the knife again after the five myomectomies and a C-section was  overwhelming, I was relieved to finally have a definitive solution after more than 15 years battling problematic fibroids. Although my gynecologist informed me that the recovery would be from four to six weeks, I found solace knowing that an abdominal hysterectomy would get rid of the fibroids and pain forever.

How Did I Feel Leading Up to The Hysterectomy?

In the weeks leading up to my hysterectomy, there were several preparatory steps. First, I underwent preoperative tests and blood work to confirm that the fibroids were the only issue. Once the fibroids were verified as the sole problem, my surgery was scheduled for Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

About a week before my surgery, I didn’t have any wine or other alcoholic beverages. I also limited over-the-counter pain medications, including my daily multivitamin. These precautions were to prevent any interference with the anesthesia and my ability to properly clot during surgery. 

Although I knew this was the right decision, the night before my hysterectomy was restless. My mind was filled with anxious thoughts,  as I tried to sleep. My last meal was at 7:30 p.m., which was a full 12 hours before my scheduled surgery time.The only thing that I was allowed to consume before the surgery was a clear, nutrient-based drink that my doctor provided me. 

The anxiety followed me, as I rode shotgun with my husband driving me to the hospital.  However, the moment I arrived at the hospital, a sense of calm came over me because I knew that my years of uterine pain and fatigue would finally be over. After over a decade of agony, this procedure finally would be my relief.  

Now, I must admit the anesthesia may have helped intensify that calm feeling and suppress my anxious feelings. However, when I woke up after the 90-minute procedure, the sense of calm remained. The only pain that I felt physically was a numbing pain and stiffness in my abdomen. The surgery, which my doctor anticipated taking three hours, was successful. With my ovaries still in place, my uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes were removed, along with the fibroids that plagued my life for far too long – and I couldn’t be happier. 

How Much Does A Hysterectomy Cost?

As my gynecologist shared with me, Black and Brown women make up the majority of hysterectomy surgeries that she performs.  The cost of the procedure can vary significantly depending on factors such as the type of procedure— abdominal, vaginal, or laparoscopic as well as what your health insurance covers. 

According to the information that my health insurance company provided, the average cost of a hysterectomy in the United States ranges from $12,000 to $30,000. I was fortunate that my insurance covered the majority of my cost, since I had the most invasive type of hysterectomy— an abdominal surgery. I paid about $2500 out of pocket, which included doctor’s appointments leading up to the procedure, the surgery itself, cost of an anesthesiologist, as well as medications to manage my pain post-surgery.

There are also hospitals and surgical centers that offer financial assistance programs or payment plans for women who are uninsured or underinsured.

What No One Tells You About Hysterectomy

During my two-day stay at the hospital, a cocktail of narcotic painkillers provided relief from the surgical pain, while ibuprofen and acetaminophen further eased inflammation and aches. To combat any potential issues with my bowel movements, I also was given laxatives and gas relief medication.

As I came out of the daze, I started to think about my life after the hysterectomy. I knew that during the recovery period, I wouldn’t be able to have sex and would spend my days on bed rest and not lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk. I also knew that having the procedure would mean that I wouldn’t have any more periods and my childbearing years were over; however, there were still a few unknowns. I wondered what my life would look like post-operation. 

 One thing I wondered about was my eating habits. I didn’t know how the medication and pain would impact me. After the surgery, my diet remained normal, but my appetite did fluctuate. At times, I had a crazy sweet tooth, craving cookies and cakes.

Another thing I worried about was entering menopause early. Since my ovaries were left intact, I didn’t plunge directly into menopause, as I initially anticipated. My doctor reassured me that change would come as mother nature intended, which was a relief. When she informed me that I would no longer need an annual pap smear that caught me by surprise. But, when I think about it, a pap smear tests the cervix, which is something that I don’t have after the hysterectomy. So, why would I need one?  

The expected post-operative swelling of my abdomen wasn’t a shock, but I wasn’t expecting my vagina to be swollen too. That lingering puffiness lasted around about a month. Simple actions, like laughing or coughing, became crazy trapeze acts, as my abdominal muscles strained against the fresh incision. I began trying to stifle coughs and giggles for fear of the stabbing pain.

The most unexpected issue after the hysterectomy was the nerve ending pain. Since my lower abdomen had been cut into, I experienced random, lightning bolt-like pains shooting through the vagina and left bikini line area. I contacted my doctor a week after my procedure about the pain, and she assured me that it was normal. The pain wasn’t constant, but when it struck, it felt like a million razor-sharp needles viciously piercing me. 

What to Expect After a Hysterectomy

A couple of weeks after my hysterectomy to remove my uterus, I was curious to understand what my body would feel like weeks after the recovery process. One of the biggest questions was what would fill the vacant space left behind. My gynecologist explained that the surrounding organs and tissues gradually settle into the area vacated by the uterus. I was relieved that there was no awkward bulging or protruding stomach and my abdomen slowly flattened out over the weeks following surgery.

Since I work from home, I was able to return to professional duties two weeks after surgery. I scheduled several breaks throughout the day to put my feet up and rest. As each day passed, I felt better and stronger. The random bouts of cramps, pelvic pain and general discomfort that plagued me before the procedure vanished. My energy levels increased and I was able to resume my normal activities, like running errands, going out to dinner and keeping up with my active 5-year-old daughter. 

Two months post-op, I was cleared to ease back into exercise, beginning with slowly walking longer distances. I would park about a quarter mile from my daughter’s school in the morning and walk her to class. Gradually, the distances increased and it motivated me to restart the “get tight and right” fitness journey. Since I no longer needed feminine products, I decided to donate all my unused pads, tampons and newly purchased boxes to a local women’s shelter. 

Because of my hysterectomy, I have a new-found freedom. I no longer experience intense pain, bloating, and heavy menstrual cycles. I have less fatigue in my daily life, and that’s incredibly liberating.