Performing Healing: Stitching the Autoethnography of a Pandemic Hysterectomy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


I propose a chapter that presents autoethnographic creative writing, drawings and a series of hand-embroideries as a personal and introspective performance of my changing relationship with my maternal, reproductive self, following a full hysterectomy. Within it I will both mourn and celebrate my womb; exploring its loss and the impact of surgical intervention. I will also reflect upon the role of writing, drawing and quiet, contemplative stitch in helping me to know and understand my new maternal self.

Last year I was diagnosed with a large benign uterine-tumour, or fibroid. This had a huge and surprising impact on my view of myself as a woman and mother. The first Covid-19 lockdown meant this operation was postponed, so by the time it was removed I was over 6-months ‘pregnant’ and as such my relationship with my womb, the carrier of my babies, became a negative one. Along with the pain, I struggled particularly with ‘looking pregnant’ when I was not. Without my womb, I worried if I would I still feel like a woman; would I age, what would the menopause feel like, and would my mothering instincts change without oestrogen coursing through my body?

In the months leading up to my operation I suffered an anticipated loss of maternity, which I documented through drawings and words, seeking solace and knowledge through the process of making and privately performing my concerns. Throughout my subsequent recovery I continued to draw and write, going on to stitch a ‘womb diary’ and a series of embroideries remembering my children as the foetuses who grew there. This process has brought closure to my loss and has enabled me to move forward as a ‘woman without a womb’, who I now realise, is no less a mother than before.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerforming Maternities
EditorsKate Aughterson, Jess Moriarty
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


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