My mother’s womb was operated into me. Here are 4 things I learned about it after the transplant.
1. It was not noticed
Remove thoughts from the movie Alien. This was nothing like it. In other words, no uterus that fervently tried to break out of my belly. Most of the time, my new uterus lived peacefully inside me without making so much fuss of it. Physically, there was not so much difference to before. I would think that the uterus accepted its new destiny just like any other transplanted organ. As part of a new body.
However, this was groundbreaking research and the first time a woman could actually compare the experience of a congenital uterus with a transplanted. So maybe it was not so strange that people asked “does the uterus feel like your own?” I replied that it feels … quite natural. So yes, like my own.
2. It bled HEAVILY
My own period I remember as quite “kind”. I sometimes had a rather intense menstrual pain, which I got tablets for. The bleeding was a bit more abundant the first few days, as usual, but then ordinary panty protection served just fine to catch the last dripping. The bleeding I received after the transplant was f a r a w a y from nice.
The first seven days of each menstruation I had to keep myself indoors. I simply couldn’t be too far away from a toilet. The alternative would otherwise have been to bring a pack of extra pants. I worked out a system where I walked around half-pinched and once every half hour went to the toilet to ”drain” myself. What came out was a whole cataract. Such a flood of blood was enough to bleed through everything I had on me. On the plus side, I didn’t have any menstrual pain.
The doctors argued that it is likely that the womb bleeds more the older it gets (and that I might have had more abundant bleeding if I had my own uterus left). I myself am quite convinced that with my mother’s womb I also got her bleeding. Mom told me that in the end (on the way into menopause) she had such severe bleeding that she had to wear four sanitary pads at the same time when she was at work. And that wasn’t enough.
My theory was confirmed six months after the transplant, when it felt like the bleeding stabilized somewhat. It became a little more manageable. I believe that the mucous membranes of the uterus simply needed time to adjust to my hormones and that the first menstrual periods followed moms’ patterns.
Photographer: Lennart Wiman
3. It enhanced hormones
Hormones, yes. If you ask the doctors, they would stubbornly maintain that the uterus is not a hormonal organ. It is in the ovaries that the woman’s hormones exist. Which is exactly correct. However, I would say that the uterus is a larger supporter of the ovaries than you might think.
Without a uterus, I was rather clueless. I didn’t know where in the menstrual cycle I was, nor was I affected by it. With a uterus however, it was something completely else. Sore breasts, swelling, irritation, fatigue, cravings and depression fluctuated faster in the body than I could keep up with. Classic symptoms of PMS that should technically occur even without the uterus, were suddenly v e r y tangible. Anxiety and other mood changes were experienced both stronger and more intensely. My sweet clueless life had been changed to a long roller coaster of tricky hormonal conditions. If the ovaries were to be described as two speakers, the uterus appears to be a powerful enhancer.
After removing the uterus a second time, I can say that I overall feel much better without the uterus. In the past, I could, in between ovulation, PMS and menstruation, at the most have 4-5 good solid days per month. Now they are considerably more. The body no longer feels like a hormonal yo-yo. I am not a doctor, but for me it feels like you could help substantially women with difficult PMS problems – just by removing the uterus.
4. It did certainly express kicks
For a long time, the majority of the team believed that with a transplanted uterus, we could not feel pain, let alone kicks and contractions. They were wrong. Despite cut veins and cut nerve fibers, the uterus found a way to still express what it experienced. I felt when the gynecologist snipped a little bit wrong in the os uteri for the tissue samples. I sure felt every time the IVF doctor inserted the instruments to place the embryos in the uterus. And each time the doctors were equally amazed.
I knew my kids long before they came out. I felt their first kicks, their hiccups and other small movements and peculiarities that are still typical of them. I’m pretty sure I felt contractions at the end of pregnancy. I just did not know that it was in fact, the contractions I felt. Because the doctors were so confident that I would not feel anything, no one thought of asking or informing me about them.