Conversations from the Family Messenger Group

We Kramers are a pretty open family. My husband and I were always way upfront with the kids. They knew about sex and menstruation long before most kids ever knew. I always wanted to be upfront and open about it so when the time came for them to think about sex, they wouldn’t be afraid to ask about birth control. No, we didn’t encourage sex at an early age, and openly discussed abstinence, but we also weren’t blind enough not to think it would never happen. I also wanted the to not be afraid as their body changed.

We wanted our kids to be able to help friends who were afraid of talking to their parents. I remember driving by Planned Parenthood and telling my kids if they have a friend who needs birth control and they are afraid to talk to their parents, that is where they need to go.

Fast forward to now when we have two nurses in the family and three other kids who are used to our antics, our family message group can become quite interesting…and quite funny.

Being that my adult kids are all in the age range from 37 to almost 29, the conversations have started to lean towards, are you having more kids? Do you think you’re done having kids? How do you know you’re done having kids? and if you’re done having kids, what are you doing to do about it?

I am so privileged that long ago I talked with my kids openly about sex and now, they are sharing these conversations with me.

I am VERY open to it and often share my experiences and my choices with them. I do not in anyway push them to have more kids…I am a strong believer that I didn’t have my kids so that I could have grandkids. I had my kids because I wanted kids. I happen to be blessed that I can enjoy both.

On this particular night, the conversation was about surgery to prevent having kids. The kids were commenting right and left and I was reading from the sidelines laughing.

They were all talking about their experience as kids when I had a hysterectomy at age 38. Here’s a little of the back story…I had my fifth kid when I was 29. We didn’t plan on any more kids. My husband was wonderful. He quickly said, you have been pregnant, carried, and birthed all the kids. I’ll get a vasectomy. It’s only right. (what an awesome guy!!) He did and we thought it was all over.

Then my periods just got worse and worse. I was miserable. I would get migraine headaches on the second day. Ones that made me vomit and be sidelined in bed until I could sleep it off…and still for hours later would feel terrible. I would have periods that would last 21 days only to have 8 days off and then have my period return. The bleeding became so much that it was hard to control and still live a normal everyday life. The weird thing, I didn’t always get cramps, and even when I did, only occasionally would they sideline me. It was long periods, and heavy bleeding, but mostly the migraines that had me needing to be rid of my uterus.

I was put on birth control to stop my period. It didn’t work. I was told to lose weight. I did. It didn’t work. Finally, they sent me to the specialist. I was so ready to be done with it all. I got to the doctor and they did a vaginal ultrasound and pronounced that they didn’t understand what the problem was. Nothing was wrong. Maybe I should lose weight. Maybe I should go on birth control to suppress my period. AHHH! I was so upset. In the middle of explaining that I had done all of that, I became a blubbering crying mess. I remember telling the doctor, I’m not wimpy. I’m a farm girl and I can’t do this!

The doctor looked at me and said, “We have an opening for a hysterectomy two weeks from today, or we have an opening three months from now.” I said I would be back in two weeks…and I was. I have never for even one second missed my uterus. Good riddance.

Just to remind myself of why I signed up for the surgery, my period arrived a few days after the initial visit to the specialist…along with the worst migraine I had ever had. I puked several times from the pain and was in bed for an entire day. It was and still is unheard of that I nap. I spent an entire day in bed completely wiped out.

I remember Karl coming in and me explaining to 10 year old Karl why I was sick and that I was having surgery to hopefully fix it all. He was ten and learned more about menstruation and hysterectomies than any boy needs to.

Following the surgery, my doctor came to my bedside and apologized right and left. She was genuinely apologetic. After opening me up, they realized I had a lot of endometriosis outside my uterus and also realized that my fallopian tubes had wrapped around my bowel and all of it was causing the big issues. Thus, I had a full hysterectomy and they took everything. She took pictures to show me and asked permission so she could share them at an upcoming conference she was speaking at. I said YES. Anything to help other women be heard and to not have to go through what I did.

After I got home from surgery, I spent a few nights sleeping on the couch. Getting in and out of bed was hard. The couch was much easier to maneuver. Our oldest Kelli, 17 at the time, picked a terrible time to be late for curfew. Being I was sleeping on the couch she tried to sneak in….got caught and got grounded.

So back to the family message group….
As one of the girls was mentioning a hysterectomy, Karl said, “I never knew mom had endometriosis, I just knew “Mom took a nap, what the heck is she dying or something???”

HA!! That’s the total truth…he was so afraid that I spent the day in bed. I never did and still never do take a nap.

Kelli said, “I would recommend to your kids not to come home late while you are laid up. I’ve heard it doesn’t end well.”

She was referring to me sleeping on the couch and to her being grounded. HA!!

I don’t regret for a second having a hysterectomy…even at a younger age. I was so ready to be done with it! The best news is that the migraines completely stopped after surgery. What a blessing. Migraines are the worst.

I’m so thankful that the kids can share this with me and feel comfortable knowing I will support their choice whatever it is. I remember sitting in the specialist’s office and she was asking me about my family history in regards to my mom and sister’s history regarding periods and reproduction. My mom didn’t talk a lot with me about that. I knew she had a hysterectomy because she had a scar but I didn’t know much more than that. I have no idea why she had one. I felt sad that I never knew. I might have asked her had she lived longer. She died when I was 24 and I was in the middle of having my kids then.

Mom and Grandma’s, it’s up to us to normalize these conversations. You might not need to make it as open as a family message group with sons and daughters but at least be open enough to talk about it if they ask. I think my sons and my daughters have been better partners with the people they have been with because they learned to have open conversations about body function, reproduction, and understanding the opposite sex.

…and that was the conversation in the family message group. What a great bunch of kids!! They make me smile!

27 thoughts on “Conversations from the Family Messenger Group”

  1. Good on you! My mother never told me anything until I actually had my first period. Almost everything I learned at first about what was happening was from some pamphlets she got from the school nurse. Yours is a MUCH better approach!

  2. I was never regular and after two children decided enough was enough. My 6 week check up after the second hadn’t healed – I was told to rest. A month or so after that and the examination the doctor laughed and said ooh you have a pouch! I didn’t know what she meant, but it was my bowel. I requested a hysterectomy but she said nope, I might change my mind and have another. I’ve never changed my mind but nope they wouldn’t do it. Fast forward 34 years and I’m struggling with a double prolapse – and I would rather use a surgical glove and poke the darned thing back than go to a hospital, where I feel if I go in, I may not come out! Since I also lifted something heavy and went to the doc for a hernia, she said no, it’s a muscle. That was 2 years ago, it still troubles me and I’m considering being a private patient – then it costs an arm and a leg and we can’t afford it. My husband said we could re-mortgage the house, but in this day and age that would be ridiculous with costs as they are. Maybe I need a vet! LOL!

    1. Ana Marie Sweet

      It is very sad that medical personnel can be caught not listening to their patients. Even dentists do this. I just had a massive infection under a tooth finally taken care of after a year and two visits to the dentist who said, it is just “angry gums.” Sigh. My parents also did not believe in talking about anything important with the kids. Sex, money, life, etc. were all private. After my mom died, I found out that Dad (married 61 years) was her 3rd husband. That is how private their lives were.

    2. You certainly need a new doctor. You shouldn’t have had to live with something like that for all these years.

  3. I wish I’d had a mum like you, Jo! Everything was always so secretive and hushed in our home. The good thing is, it’s made me the complete opposite with my daughter and I’ve always been open about everything. You have a wonderful family, Jo.

  4. YAY!!!!! I had my hyst at age 45. I never had, nor intended to have kids. I had problems from my early 20s. Doc blew me off, nothing of note on a bimanual exam. Changed docs 3x. I’m an OR RN. I knew something was wrong. I finally made an appt with the oldest GYN in town. He ordered an ultrasound. It was so bad, the tech went and got him (couldn’t tell me why). He came in and told me I had horrible fibroids inside and outside and my uterus was the size of a large pregnancy from them. He biopsied to be sure it was not cancer. Then I got my hyst.

    As insistent as I was, docs wouldn’t listen, until him. WOMEN, we have to FIGHT for our health even in 2024.

    Yay for family discussions of health on every topic!!!!!

  5. I had migraines from age 12. I also had very difficult periods after my kids were born. We tried all the doctor suggested to no good so I had a hysterectomy when I was 30. I have never regretted it but the migraines didn’t stop until I was in my 70’s. I wish I could have talked with my kids like you did but it wasn’t done when I was a young mom. My kids are in your age group and, yes, they do talk openly. Sometimes more openly than I’m comforted with!

    1. It’s great you have such an open family. My mother was extremely coy about sex or anything like that. Consequently I grew up feeling a certain amount of shame about it all. I overcame that enough to marry a similarly awesome guy who had the same attitude as your hubby, that is, he got a vasectomy because he figured I’d done all the hard work with pregnancy etc. I’m glad you got your hysterectomy in the end, but angered by the fact that you had so much trouble getting to that point. I also note the comments of another lady who also had problems getting doctors to believe her. Why do us women have to fight tooth and nail simply to be heard and believed??! I have heard many stories like this over the years: women not being believed, having their concerns dismissed, and being treated like either hysterical nutcases or hypochondriacs. It’s not good enough. I keep hearing that we need to fight to be heard, but I say we shouldn’t have be put in that position in the first place. We shouldn’t have to fight to be heard. It’s just not good enough and needs to change.

  6. My sister says she wished that she had talked openly with her kids like I did mine.
    I had breast cancer at 48, and a complete hysterectomy at 50. I had always had migraines. When I started on Tamoxifen, to stop estrogen production, the migraines stopped.
    It was my gall bladder that no one wanted to take out. Unusual symptoms, like projectile vomiting with no warning. My surgeon also apologized to me after the surgery.

  7. Okay… I was laughing so hard while reading this. “Is mom dying since she’s taking a nap?” Hehehehehe…..sounds so much like my boys!
    I was in the same boat. Started my cycle at 11 and had the massive cramps, major bleeding, and passing out from the pain from day 1 till it stopped at 55. Went through all the birth control garbage too…I had my kids in my 20’s and begged my ObGyn to do a hysterectomy! They wouldn’t because they said I didn’t have any medical issues and I was young. I didn’t want any more kids, but they swore I might change my mind in the future and refused to do it.
    But, since I would pass out, I had to explain to my boys at a young age why it might happen and for them not to panic, especially if I was bleeding heavy and might leak…they would think I’m bleeding to death! It’s hard to explain that to a 4 or 5 year old. But, I’m glad I was open with them because they are both very sympathetic with their wives. Open door policy about sex is definitely the way to go.

  8. I’m a pretty modest person and am tremendously uncomfortable with people discussing their menstrual cycles and such in public. My daughter was doing so one evening while we were in a taco joint, and I wanted to dive under the table!! I mean, it’s all a fact of life, but I have always believed in keeping it in the family, not in a taco joint!! And, I wholeheartedly believe in an open-door policy about sex, but I’m sure the neighbors wouldn’t appreciate me educating their kids about it! That aside, I remember my ex-husband telling me once that a woman’s menstrual cycle was probably every man’s greatest mystery in life. And, besides that, he said, it made men miserable! Yeah. It made WHO miserable?! I had my hysterectomy at age 25 – after 5 pregnancies and 4 births in 5 years. I had a 4th-degree prolapse, and nothing else was going to fix it. I lived in the Deep South at the time, and many women there were hell-bent on making me feel like I was “less than” because I’d be giving up my uterus and depriving my husband of future children at such a young age. My response to them was always the same: THEN LET HIM MARRY SOMEONE WHO HAS A UTERUS! He didn’t. And, I’ve never regretted my hysterectomy, not for a nanosecond.

  9. SusanfromKentucky

    I had monthly migraines from the time I started menstruation. It ran in the family, my mom and her aunt both had them. When I had my son at 32 (my only child), they got REALLY bad. I was having them for weeks at a time and had to lay in a dark room and try to be still so I wouldn’t vomit. That’s hard when you have a baby to take care of! My parents, in-laws and husband helped with him. Finally, I went crying to my doctor and he said they were having some success with a beta-blocker called Inderal. Once I started taking it, the migraines stopped. I was weaned off it later and haven’t had a migraine in years.

  10. Fortunately for me, after having miserable periods and being so sick, thought I was going to die, had a partial hysterectomy at 19 years old because of endometriosis. My parents knew something was wrong and got me to a young Gynecologist. That was in 1960. Did not have children, but that was okay.

  11. I love the openness your family has. You have done a great job creating that. I also think that since they are so close in age it is easier for them to relate and be open with each other. My sister had a similar experience as you did. The night before her surgery the doctor reminded her that it was “elective.” After surgery he told her about the same thing as you were told. My mother had cancer at age 35 and was given a 1 in 1000 chance of surviving. Thankfully she survived and lived to be 84, but we never really knew what kind of cancer she had – ovarian? We knew something to do with female organs. Things like that weren’t talked about back then and of course being young, none of us ever thought to ask her.

  12. I had to advocate for a hysterectomy in my late 40’s. When you are grocery shopping and your cart is full of super tampons and maxi pads, it’s time. To her credit, I guess, my Gyn kept exploring other options but finally I asked, “can’t I just have a hysterectomy?” And I did, and it’s the best medical decision I ever made. That uterus was my friend and produced two wonderful babies, time to move on! Your post hysterectomy story about the missed curfew was hysterical! (couldn’t resist that).

  13. I, too, had severe “external” endometriosis & was given a choice at (barely) age 30 – a TOTAL hysterectomy or be dead in 6 months (I had 2 small kids & a workaholic husband at the time). Had I known how much better I’d feel, I’d have had my hysterectomy the same day I had my youngest.
    P. S: we explained to the (small) kids that Mommy was “getting fixed” like our Golden Retriever has & they told everyone they saw “Mommy’s getting ‘fixed’!”. Lol!

  14. I had my surgery at age 36 and what a relief. My endometriosis was terrible too after having 4 babies. My periods were as long as yours and I was anemic. I felt like I was hemorrhaging each month. I had teenagers at home and they knew what was wrong, I was in bed all the time. I remember living in Idaho and social workers wanted to do a sex education class and the principal said no. Over half of the senior girls were pregnant. Of course if you read the news about Idaho now, you understand why he said no. I’m glad your children are so open about sex now.

  15. I’ve been the same kind of mom with my kids—their friends came to them for actual sex ed as they knew my kid didn’t know, they could get the answer from me! It was uncomfortable at first for me, I was never taught anything and I paid a price for ignorance. I wasn’t going to let that be my children’s story too. I think teaching sex actually makes them less inclined to do it too young. My kids all waited much later than their peers and have treated sex with much more respect than their peers too, and we aren’t a religious family, just values and morals—no Bible beatings in my home. I’m glad to hear my family isn’t the only one with very open dialogue! Way to go Jo!

  16. Know how you felt. Doctor told me when I was 15 years old I would probably end up with a hysterectomy. Yikes I did not even have a boyfriend. We I was 16 I met this terrific guy, married him when I was 18 [we have been married for 54 years in October] spent our first wedding anniversary in hospital with a miscarriage followed by another two. The baby thing came ok as we had 3 under three. Every miscarriage and birth, bleeding and migraines worsened bringing home a premmie baby after having a tuba ligation wasn’t fun and didn’t help the problems. When she was 18 months old, and I was 24 years old came the hysterectomy and I haven’t looked back. Many years later I became a grandma at 41. The next year my 21-year-old son died as a result of an accident and 14 months later our 19-year-old daughter died from an asthma attack. [I occasionally feel cheated that they never left me other grandies to love]. The elder daughter went on to have a total of 6 children aged 30 down to 15. Our first granddaughter made me a great grandma at 61 and has given us another 2 great grandchildren. We are awaiting more great grandies in due course.
    I’m still waiting for my mother to tell me about the facts of life {I’m now 71 and she passed away when I was 35} guess it’s too late now.
    blessings from Australia to all who read this.

    1. My son is a vasectomy Dr so we all laugh about how many he does. His son made the joke–what does a vasectomy Dr get for Christmas? A nutcracker! My Dr laughed at me when I told him I thought I had PMS. Well I suffered for 20 years. God gave me a wonderful easy menopause .

  17. I am going to add to this conversation. I always had terrible periods, heavy, long, migraines, vomiting, and diarrhea. When they would ask how many pads I used for a period, they would say that was impossible. We desperately wanted children so I hung on. I had two D&Cs to try to improve things. Finally, here comes menopause and I struggle through that. About a year after I had finished all signs and symptoms, suddenly my hot flashes and periods were back worse than ever. The gynecologist found that I had endometrial cancer. I didn’t know that this type of cancer even existed. It is one of the most common gynecological cancers and is the most easily treatable as long as it is caught before it breaches the uterine wall. So, I had both my uterus and ovaries removed. The cancer had only reached the middle layer of the uterine wall, and surgery and monitoring was all I needed. As it turned out, one of my fallopian tubes was twisted from endometriosis. The other and the ovary on that side were cystic. There was necrosis from the cysts. I also had fibroids and polyps. I should have had surgery years before I did. The reason for me adding this to the stories is EVERY WOMAN WITH HEAVY PERIODS OR ANY KIND OF BLEEDING POST MENOPAUSE NEEDS TO BE SCREENED FOR ENDOMETRIAL CANCER. It is kind of uncomfortable to have the sample taken, but early detection makes such a difference. I was lucky. Please take care of yourself and be lucky also.

  18. I don’t recommend removing all your female “stuff” as a method of birth control, only as a last resort. There are other, easier ways to solve the problem! But what I want to know is how many more grandchildren you’re likely to have. Who’s having more children???

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