What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Recovery from my tubal ligation was both easier and harder than I thought it would be, given what I’d been warned about beforehand and what I actually experienced. It was definitely a reminder that your mileage may vary when it comes to recovery from surgical procedures, because different bodies respond in different ways.
On the day of surgery, I basically went to sleep as soon as I got home, periodically emerging blearily to burrow deeper under the covers. Moving around was definitely uncomfortable once the hospital drugs started wearing off, so I turned to the vicodin and hardcore ibuprofen Dr. Thorough had prescribed.
Better living through pain management!
This was pretty much as expected, and by the next day, I could move around fairly comfortably and in fact discovered that either lying prone or standing up was the way to go. Thankfully, I didn’t have much of an anesthesia hangover, thanks to the propofol. I did notice some sore throat and raspiness from the intubation, but it resolved within a few days.
Sitting, which involved basically folding the surgical site into itself, was not comfortable. So I spent my weekend lying in bed, basically. I lost myself in the delights of Dance Academy, watching wholesome Australian youths jeté around screen and get into relationship drama.
What I noted was that while I didn’t actually feel pain most of the time, I would find myself getting irritable or uncomfortable. I’d get so restless that no position would feel appropriate, and as for lying on my stomach: Forget it. Once I finally figured out that this was my body’s way of indicating that it was unhappy and would like another vicodin, surgical recovery started going much more smoothly.
I also discovered that things like standing up in front of the stove and getting out of bed were unexpectedly challenging. You really have no idea how much you use your abdominal muscles until they’re angry at you, and mine were really, really angry. I would get twinges of pain if I moved too quickly or in the wrong way, or if I stood up at the stove too long. I had to be slower and more careful as I dragged myself around the house.
Lying on my right side was the most comfortable position to be in, which is where various friends found me as they dropped by in the first few days after surgery1. By Monday, I was supposed to be “back to regular activities,” as the surgeon put it, but that wasn’t quite the whole story.
I could walk, yes, but it was more of a shuffle than a full on walk. Driving was uncomfortable because of the placement of the seatbelt, and being driven was equally uncomfortable because I still had to sit, which still didn’t feel so awesome, and there are a lot of dirt roads in my neck of the woods (including the one I live on), so driving pretty much anywhere involves being jostled over a series of potholes. Which, SURPRISE!, is not very comfortable when you’ve just had abdominal surgery.
Two things I couldn’t do: gardening and yoga.
You never really think about how much bending and core work is involved in gardening until you try to weed and then almost collapse in tears because it feels like someone is sticking a hot poker into your abdomen. It was about all I could do to haul the hose around and water my plants, staring angrily at the weeds that were sprouting every which way but Sunday, and then glaring at the deer, who of course were eying my ornamental plants instead of all those yummy weeds.
These fawns hang out in my yard screaming for their mother a lot, because apparently they don't realise they're supposed to stay in their little nest during the day.
As for yoga, forget it. I tried doing a sun salutation about 10 days out and almost fell over. Anything involving my core muscles hurt, and as it turns out, you use your core muscles for most yoga asana! Who knew!
Consequently, I found myself getting super cranky. Yoga is one of the ways I try to calm and regulate myself. I really do feel better when I’m doing it regularly, because it gives me a chance to clear my mind and focus. And my friends like me a lot better when I’m doing yoga regularly, because I’m not snapping at them constantly.
I also found myself getting irritated with the temporary loss of flexibility and strength that inevitably comes with not being able to do any kind of serious exercise for several weeks. My whole abdomen started to turn into a mushy jello pudding, not that it was rock-hard to begin with. It didn’t help that I accidentally shrunk a frock in the wash and had a brief moment of “Wait, I cannot have gained this much weight in two weeks, it’s not possible,” before realising what had happened.
One week after surgery. Colourful bruising!
In short, I was surprised to find myself experiencing some body image problems because of my forced inactivity after surgery. I felt frumpy and grumpy and wibbly and wobbly and unpleasant, and felt like this body that I’ve worked so hard on was slipping away. Even as I understood on a rational level that I’d be able to engage in physical activity again soon, and that a few weeks off doesn’t mean you’re back to square one, especially if you’re walking and talking chances to move around while you can during those weeks, I still felt like a slug.
And I really wasn’t expecting that. It made me angry and frustrated that a lot of my clothes didn’t fit – and that I couldn’t wear anything with a waistband because it hurt – and I kept trying to push myself, hurting myself, and then getting upset all over again. I plan to try a gentle yoga routine this week to see if my body’s ready yet and ease back into things, but I’m also trying to adjust my expectations. It’s okay to feel out of shape and funky after surgery, and you don’t need to bounce back immediately.
Two weeks after surgery. I have mosquito bites bigger than that.
It helped that on my two week anniversary date, I went to visit a friend who’d had an emergency C-section several months ago. Nursing her son on her lap, she looked comfortable in her body even though it was still soft from the pregnancy and her inactivity after surgery; and she'd had a much more intensive surgery and recovery than I had. She talked about how frustrated she’d been with being laid up for weeks, and how she’d only just started getting back to regular activities. We compared scars2 and ate ribs from a cow they’d slaughtered earlier in the day.
“I know eventually I’ll be back to normal,” she said. “And my son was totally worth it.”
She reminded me that sometimes the things we want come at a cost, and in both our cases, that cost was having to do some physical conditioning after surgery to get back to where we were before. We both have our whole lives ahead of us, though, so really, what’s a few months of feeling out of shape when compared to all the awesome things we got out of it?
1. J receives special commendations for being willing to deliver tapioca via bicycle at midnight when I sent him a whiny text. Return
2. I haven’t showed y’all the scar at my pubic line because I can’t seem to take a picture of it that doesn’t verge on the pornographic, but it’s about an inch long, versus her C-section scar, which is, uh, you know. Big enough for a baby to come out. Return