I am nine days out from having a partial hysterectomy. They left my ovaries, but they took my cervix, uterus, and Fallopian tubes. These past nine days it has felt like they took out all of my internal organs, played soccer with them, put them back in, and filled me with a bunch of air and sealed it tight inside me with some glue.
I’ve spent too much time with all the focus on my lady bits — insane periods, crime scene bathrooms, cramps, and backaches that left me immobile. My periods were always long, seven days, but they’d grown to two weeks, sometimes more. I was on birth control, but I would start menstruating in the middle of a pack of pills. I was tired, worn-out. I was sick of taking pills, sick of surprise periods, sick of the pain, and I needed it to stop.
My OB-GYN suggested I consider a hysterectomy, unless I wanted more children. Once I recovered from the fit of laughter (two boys of my own and a stepson is plenty for me, thanks), I agreed it was time.
I had done research on the laparoscopic hysterectomy, and everything I read was encouraging — less downtime, pain, and scarring. I bought a book on how to prepare for surgery and promote my healing. I read online forums with comments from women who’d had the procedure. Mainly, they gushed about living in “period-free blissland.”
Period free? Sign me up!
I made sure leading up to surgery that I ate healthy, exercised, got rest. I meditated, repeating positive affirmations in my head: “I will have a safe and successful surgery, and I will heal easily.” I drank bone broth (because health), green smoothies, took probiotics, and drank kombucha (because insane). I tried to be the epitome of Zen, but there was a huge part of me that was scared.
Despite my preparation, I wasn’t truly prepared for what was to come. My doctor had told me if everything went well during the surgery and post-op, I would be able to walk and urinate without issue and could go home that day. He said some women do. He also said some women feel great a few days later. Some of them don’t even need pain pills.
I assumed I was going to be one of those women. Then reality bitch-slapped me and put me in my place.
The surgery went great. I walked. I peed. And I kept my tired ass in that hospital bed the rest of the day and overnight.
In case you’re not “some women,” here are a few things you might want to prepare for so that you don’t feel bitch-slapped like I did.
1. You might wake from surgery shaking like you’ve just run a 300k. Now, I’ve never even run a 5k, but I imagine the shaking I had would be what I would experience with a 300k. You’ll be in twilight land and hear them say, “Let’s give her some Demerol for the shaking.” Then a blissful calm will envelop you, at which point you’ll wake, look at the nurse and tell her how pretty she is. “You’re so pretty. Have I said how pretty you are? Wow, you’re pretty.” I think she was flattered but also a little creeped out.
2. You’ll soon realize you have so much air inside you, you could single-handedly blow up enough balloons to rival the house in the movie Up. And it won’t come out! This isn’t just “gas” — this is air inside your body cavity. They fill you with air so that your organs will shift, so they can see and work inside you. Once they’re done, they just seal you up like a big human balloon, and you have to wait for your body to absorb the air. Enter pain meds. They’ll inject beautiful, Blissland medicine into your IV, and all is right with the world for a bit.
3. Peeing will take like 10 to 15 minutes. Plus, you need to move into approximately eight different positions in order to get it out. I found having my husband lift my feet off the floor and hold them up was the most helpful. Bless that man.
4. If you’re a coffee drinker, drink some caffeine as soon as you can to avoid the caffeine-withdrawal headache! Mine morphed into a full-blown migraine, which had me begging for them to hurry and get me migraine meds. Ahhh, meds.
5. Everything might hurt — for more than a few days. I felt like something might fall out every time I stood up. Rest assured, nothing did.
6. It might hurt to eat. I developed some ridiculous stomach cramping when I would eat anything more than broth or a smoothie. It might have been the Tylenol and Advil, so I stopped that pretty quickly. But hey, I lost weight — 4 pounds in a week, which is a record for me. Sigh.
7. Let’s get real about this: pooping. Oh my god, this was by far the worst. I couldn’t go. I needed to, and it hurt so badly. I’d been taking the stool softeners, but no luck. So my husband went and got a fiber drink. Again, no luck. My husband went and got some suppositories. A little luck. Then my husband went and bought Milk of Magnesia. That plus some light walking on the treadmill (walk, walk, walk if you can!) brought a little more luck. Then my husband went and got an enema and prune juice. Bingo! Basically, my husband bought the entire store section of bowel remedies in three days. Bless that man (again).
8. You might look a little pregnant. I am guessing I am about 4 months along. Bloat, inflammation, plus not using your ab muscles (hey, did you know you use your ab muscles for like everything?!) makes for a small non-baby baby bump. It will go away, but have some loose-fitting clothes on hand.
9. Finally, have a support person. Really. Find someone who can help you because you’ll need it. My husband was my person, and if there was an award for best husband, he would win it. That man helped me off the couch, made me food, got me water, rubbed my shoulders when the pain from the gas was searing. He listened to me cry and rubbed my head. He fed the dog. He helped me shower, drying my legs because I couldn’t bend over. He was my hero, and there aren’t enough words or gestures in the world to let him know how thankful I am for him.
I removed parts of me that have caused pain, frustration, and inconvenience for a very long time. I removed parts of me that bore two beautiful boys — the parts that created them, carried them, put them into my arms. I removed parts of me, and my body is working to make me whole again. What a friggin’ miracle we are!
Nine days out and today I feel human. I still have some slight pain, but I’m on the mend. I looked in the mirror last night, taking in my five small incisions, my bloated belly, my sallow skin, my makeup-less face and messy hair, and I swear to you, ladies, I was amazed at the beauty. It’s beautiful what my body is doing. My body has been through something major and traumatic, and it’s healing. It’s working for me, doing awe-inspiring things to get me back to 100% health.
If you’re going down this road, my main suggestion is to be kind to yourself. Know that you might be like “some women” or you might be just like you. You’ll have your own story, your own recovery, and everything that happens will be just what is supposed to happen to you. Be gentle, relax, sleep, take the pain meds if you need them, and let people help. Let them bring you food, go to the store, or hold your feet up in the hospital so you can eek out a few more drops.