Saturday, August 8, 2015

Surgery story

I had a dream a few nights ago that I had twin babies. A girl and a boy. And then they died. And I sobbed. Morbid, I know. I have fairly realistic dreams, however I'm not one to really delve deep into the meaning behind them. If I have a dream about snakes I really don't consider it "a powerful symbol representing the awakening or continuance of spiritual growth" (as it says in "The Dream Book" that we read for book club a few years ago). I just know that I am terrified of snakes! I think my dreams tend to take the details, detritus and incidentals of the day and turn them into dreams as my brain works through them and decides what to keep and what to throw out....things I've read or watched, conversations I've had, people I've spent time with, thoughts I've been thinking. So a lot of times I will know exactly why and how a particular dream came to bizarre as it may be.

In this case, I'm pretty sure I know why I dreamed of babies dying. I had a hysterectomy two and a half weeks ago. It was a planned and needed surgery. Without going too far into TMI territory, let me just say that my uterus among other parts of my innards were basically falling....something that is not uncommon and also hereditary. (My mother, two of her sisters and her mother had this exact same problem and subsequent surgery.) My doctor told me many years ago that this was happening and that at some point I would need to have a surgery to take out the uterus and to repair things. This past June at my yearly exam my doctor informed me that the insides that were slowly but surely falling had indeed made it to the pelvic floor and it was time. Though it wasn't an emergency or in any way critical to have the surgery immediately, looking at our family schedule Bryan and I decided that sooner rather than later would probably be easier seeing as this summer was a bit light as far as vacations and other such commitments go. So I scheduled the surgery (four procedures in all) for three weeks later, July 21st.

In talking with my doctor, my mother and other friends who have had a hysterectomy I started to prepare myself for what to expect in terms of recovery. One friend told me to prepare for the emotional aspect. Having a hysterectomy meant of course the removal of any chance of ever having children again. And as a woman, would the loss of this reproductive ability make me feel less feminine, even if at a subconscious level? Would I grieve even if I already felt like my family was complete? I didn't give too much thought to this aspect of recovery. Because though I know that many woman are faced with a hysterectomy before they are ready, for reasons such as cancer or endometriosis damage, etc and grieve the loss of more child bearing years...this wasn't the case with me. We already had a delayed caboose baby. There is a 6-year gap between Lilian and Brandon as it is and Lilian is now 8-years old. I'm nearly 42-years old. I've known for a long time that our family is complete. I did not expect to have any emotional angst with having a hysterectomy. On the contrary, I was rather excited about the prospect of chucking the birth control pills and tampons!

But when I woke up in tears after dreaming that my twin babies had died, I knew immediately that at some level my body was indeed grieving. Now don't get me wrong...I am not sad. I don't want to be pregnant ever again. I have felt incredibly peaceful about being done having children for quite some time now and have no qualms whatsoever with officially ending my child bearing years. But it was rather interesting to discover that somewhere subconsciously I was saying goodbye to that part of me.

As far as the surgery itself, it went well. I was nervous, but who wouldn't be? There are always risks any time you undergo general anesthesia. I had Bryan and my father-in-law give me a blessing before going in and petitioned my family for prayers (including my sweet missionary girl in London). It took three tries to get the IV in my arm that morning (the bruises have finally just now faded). Unsurprising really, considering I do have wimpy veins, but still...ouch. Being wheeled down the hall in my hospital bed clad in my very fashionable hospital gown, blue hat and compression socks I felt a little like I had entered an episode of Grey's Anatomy and was delighted to find when I mentioned it to my nurse that she too was a fan. It was nice to have a bit of a lighthearted conversation to take my mind of my nerves before entering the OR.

General anesthesia is just weird, isn't it? This is the second time I've undergone anesthesia and though this time was better, I certainly don't love it. You're completely unconscious but you aren't truly resting like you would be had you been sleeping. Like the snap of a moment you are lying on a bed in the OR and the next second you are groggily waking up in an entirely different room. It's so disconcerting! And waking up is hard...I could barely keep my eyes open and kept dozing back off even as I was feeling like I should try to be more aware. I felt so incredibly out of it as they rolled me down the hall and into my recovery room. Bryan was there and I think I wiggled my fingers at him somewhat feebly before falling asleep again. The nurses came in every 30 minutes for the first few hours to take my vitals which would wake me up and each time it felt a little easier to keep my eyes open for a little longer.

Eventually I was able to carry on a more coherent conversation with Bryan, who was using my sleepy time to read a book, even though I told him he could go home as soon as the surgery was done. After all, I's not like we just had a baby in which he would want to stay so he could bond with his child. He smiled at me and said he wanted to stay because I was more important even than a baby and he was happily willing to give up his day at work (regardless of looming deadlines) to be with me, to help in any way he could. Whether that be feeding me ice chips, calling the nurse for me when I needed more drugs, searching for my iPhone in my bag when I wanted to send texts to the kids at home, but most importantly for moral support. And though I would've been fine without him there (my nurses were excellent), I have to admit it was incredibly comforting to have him there reading his book on the couch at the foot of my bed.

(My sister Melissa asked me if I was stoned in this selfie. haha. At the time I was trying to take a silly sort of wide-eyed is-this-crazy-or-what? sort of picture to send to Rebekah and to the other kids so they would know that all was fine. I texted it to my sisters as well. But looking back on it later...maybe I was still a little out of it? Because yeah I look, well...drugged at least! Realistically, not a single one of these hospital pictures are the least bit flattering and I'm having a hard time even posting them.)

My parents came to visit later that evening. And after they and Bryan left, I expected to get a good nights sleep considering I was still rather sleepy. That did not happen, however. I could not get comfortable. My lower back ached something fierce and I could not change positions other than to move my bed up and down. Between the IV, pulse/ox monitor, catheter, oxygen tubes up my nose and the pressure cuffs around my legs I was hooked up to so many tubes and wires that I couldn't roll to one side or the other. I got so bored...not being able to sleep but in enough pain that it was hard to concentrate on reading...that I found myself at 2:00 AM timing how often the pressure cuffs swelled up and squeezed my legs (to ward off blood clots). Just in case you are interested: every 15 seconds one cuff would blow up and squeeze my leg. After 10 seconds it would release and then 15 seconds later, the cuff on the other leg would start up. I was so miserable! Finally at 5:00 AM I called my nurse and begged for something stronger as far as pain meds go. My own fault really, I had been trying to hold off on the percocet and manage with just ibuprofen. I was worried the percocet would make me dizzy and nauseous. But by 5:00 AM I was rather desperate. And the percocet ended up becoming my new best friend. Sight dizziness but no nausea and finally, blessed sleep!

Bryan came to pick me up around 11:00 AM. It was heavenly to get rid of all those wires and tubes! I was incredibly weak, but after changing into my own clothes and picking up my prescriptions at the hospital pharmacy, I officially checked out and the nurse wheeled me down to Bryan's waiting car. Home was much more comfortable than the hospital and I settled into my own bed happily. The next few days were filled with plenty of naps, a lot of reading, binge watching "The Good Wife" on Amazon Prime, and reading chapter after chapter of Harry Potter to Lilian. I felt good enough to putter around the house more and more each day, though I would get tired incredibly quickly and have to sit or lay on the couch. But I had expected this. I tried really hard to not overdo or push myself too hard. I had heard many stories of people feeling better after the first week and jumping back into real life too soon...and then landing themselves back in bed, their recovery then extending longer than it would've normally. I didn't want to be that person. So though at times I felt a bit like a drama queen or like I was milking my recovery status as I sent my kids to find their dad to make them dinner, etc, I stayed down.

Day 6, I took a shower and decided it might be nice for morale to actually put on a bit of make-up and dry and straighten my hair...which ended up taking so much out of me I had to take a nap as soon as I was finished!)

Like I said before, it's now been two and a half weeks. I've been to see my doctor for my 2-week post op visit. He told me that the surgery itself couldn't have gone better, and that it looked like my recovery was pretty text book as well. He said that I was fine to ease back into normal life carefully but to listen to my body and rest when needed. No heavy lifting, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, etc. along with a few other restrictions for 4 more weeks. And so here I am. A hysterectomy is a pretty major surgery and boy howdy, I can feel it! But it feels really good to start getting back to myself, even if I won't be 100% for a few more weeks. It's nice to get out and about....I didn't drive a car or even leave the house for nearly two weeks. Interestingly enough I was not stir crazy. On the contrary, it was actually really nice to be more or less forced to just be still. I was not itching to get out of the house...I really enjoyed having the guilt-free time to read, sleep, and just be. After the crazy year we've had up to this point, this surgery has given me time to rejuvenate which I think was very much needed. But as wonderful as it was to be still for a few weeks, it is nice to little by little get back into the swing of things, and though I am still weak and a little sore, I am indeed on the mend.
Much thanks and kudos to not just Bryan but also Julianne and Brandon and Lilian. Julianne took over all the daily carpooling of Brandon to gymnastics and Lilian to her summer art class. She also ran errands for me, picking up odds and end things from the grocery store, and cooked her fair share of dinners for us all. Brandon mowed the lawn, vacuumed the house, emptied garbages and other household chores. And Lilian was my gopher, running to and fro to bring me things when I asked for them and tried her hardest to be a little more independent and do things for herself that normally she would've asked me to do. They all took such good care of me!


Lori said...

So glad you are on the mend. I'm so amazed at what is even possible with modern medicine and to know that you are fixed up and getting back to yourself is awesome. Love, love, love you, and don't worry if it takes a little longer to feel emotionally back to yourself than it does to feel physically right. After stomach surgery I remember nearly six months until my mind had wrapped around the invasion and the subsequent healing process. Take it easy on your brain as well as your body, okay?

Shauna said...

Sounds a lot like the recovery from a c-section. I did four of those and I always felt like I was about 200 years old afterward because my body ached so much and I got tired so quickly. Working up enough energy to go to the grocery store the first time always felt like an accomplishment! And between you and me, I had no problem siting my doc's instructions in order to get out of the vacuuming, sweeping, etc. Not only did it get me out of housework for a few weeks, but the first time I vacuumed after the first c-section I was completely caught of guard by how much I hurt afterward!