I had a hysterectomy. It’s still a little surreal, to be honest. I’m going to share a bit about my experience in getting to the point of a hysterectomy, as well as my experience with the surgery itself, and my recovery thus far. Please note that this is not medical advice, and should not be considered such. I am not a doctor, and am not diagnosing or treating here. I am simply sharing my experience and what has worked for me.

My journey toward a hysterectomy began after my youngest was born. She turned 2 a few months ago. When she was still an infant, I felt like my uterus just never went back to what it was supposed to after she was born. It didn’t feel like it was in the right spot and didn’t feel like it was the right size. I also dealt with discomfort, and sometimes, pain. I also had some spotting on a few occasions. Of course, as is the case for most people and with most doctors (and this isn’t even a dig, as I really do like my doctor, and in her defense, she’s not an OBGYN and did order a transvaginal ultrasound for me to look at my cervix), I was told that’s not actually possible. Since I had the wand ultrasound and everything with my cervix came back fine, I pretty much dropped it. I mean, I had wanted information about my uterus, not my cervix, but I saw the futility in trying to pursue that.

 

The pain continued to worsen, but not horrifically. Enough that I was worried that it could be something scary, though. I found a new OBGYN (I wasn’t a fan of my old one, which is why I didn’t go to her with my uterus woes. I hemorrhaged a month or two after having my daughter, and her office didn’t care. Wouldn’t see me. Told me to set up an appointment for six weeks out. I already wasn’t a fan, but that sealed it for me), and she is incredible. She immediately scheduled an ultrasound, one that looked at my uterus. Sure enough, my uterus was notably enlarged. She told me that it was probably adenomyosis (basically endometriosis, but rather than embedding outside of the uterus, the endometrial tissue embeds into the uterine wall), but that the only way to diagnose with certainty is to do surgery to take a sample. Since my pain, at that point, wasn’t horrific, I opted to not do that. She told me that typically hormone birth control pills are prescribed for adenomyosis. I declined. I think, in general, hormonal birth control is horrible. Messing with hormones is likely why so many women have so many health issues, but also, when I was on birth control pills, I bled nonstop. Nonstop. It was awful. And I tried several different kinds. I had horrible side effects with the paragard, as well. I’ve also spent MANY years working to balance my hormones and have my body work as effectively and normally as possible. So, there wasn’t a chance in the world that I’d risk all of that to “try” birth control pills.

We basically left it as wait and see. After a few months my pain worsened and became more frequent. Then I started getting wrap around pain. I did a ton of research, and found that my best, and pretty much only, bet was to have that bad boy removed. The thing is, most women who suffer with this and endometriosis have a huge fight on their hands to try to get a hysterectomy. Many doctors just won’t do it (so much for body autonomy, eh?), and even if they will, often insurance will stop it dead in its tracks (so great how insurance companies, not doctors, make medical decisions). She seemed pretty unphased by my asking. She scheduled an exploratory laparoscopy to look and see what was in there. Once it was scheduled a nurse called and went over things with me. She mentioned that the doctor would be burning any endometriosis she found in there while she was exploring. That got me thinking that I’d rather have my hysterectomy and endometriosis (if she found any) burned at the same time, not have two separate surgeries with two separate recoveries. So, I scheduled another appointment to ask for a hysterectomy straight up. I took my husband with me for support and to stand up for me if there was pushback (I’d had a LOT of pushback from my old OB about my VBAC and various other things, and for some reason when my husband was there and stood up for me, she didn’t push back), even though I’d had nothing but great experiences with this doctor. So many women are told no that I wanted to be prepared. To my delight, there was no pushback at all (have I mentioned she’s AWESOME?). And she had her office start the scheduling of the surgery!
Recovering with my littlest one
Now, when you know you’re going to have surgery, and you have to wait weeks to find out your date, and there’s just a lot of time, you start to second guess your decision. But my body decided to make it crystal clear for me by rapidly increasing the pain level and duration. I was having constant pain. It never stopped. It ebbed and flowed in intensity, but it was always there. I also started having trouble with my bladder and bowels, and thought it was either my monstrous uterus pressing against them, or endometriosis. So any time I’d start to second guess myself, my constant pain and inability to use the bathroom were great little reminders that I was doing the right thing, even though recovery with a two year old in tow would be a bit of a challenge.

I had my surgery. It was a much shorter surgery than she expected, as there wound up being no endometriosis. It was a laparoscopic robot assist vaginal hysterectomy, also removing my cervix and fallopian tubes, but leaving my ovaries. My uterus was more than double the size it should have been, and was “boggy,” or squishy. My uterus was sent in for testing, and thankfully no cancer or anything else scary was found. After surgery I went to a recovery room. Laparoscopic hysterectomies are outpatient surgery, so I sat in a chair with the most glorious hospital gown that hooks to a tube and heats the entire gown, while I waited for my husband to arrive. To my happy surprise (surprise mostly because I was drugged and forgot that my dad was coming), my dad walked in with my husband. I can’t even tell you how happy I was to see them!

I was nauseous, but I had a neat little patch behind my ear for nausea, so I didn’t wind up vomiting, which was great. I did have a hard time eating, though. After a while, the nurse informed me that if I couldn’t get my pain level lower, use the bathroom, eat and keep it down, and get hydrated, I’d have to be admitted and spend the night. I was devastated. My doctor came in to visit and let us know she was advocating for me to be released. The nurse increased my IV drip to try to hydrate me. I slowly worked at eating a fruit cup. Finally, the fruit cup was gone, my IV bag was empty, and I successfully used the bathroom! I was free!

Recovery has been a bit of a trip. My doctor did a great job of getting the gas out, and I walked a decent amount the first couple of days after surgery, so I wound up not really having any gas pain. When I had my appendectomy five months ago, the gas pain was unbearable in my shoulders, and lasted a solid two weeks. I am so grateful that I didn’t deal with that this time around. That said, I’d convinced myself the recovery would be about the same. It’s not. It’s not the same at all.

 

I knew I’d be swollen and bloated, but I didn’t expect to feel so fragile and like my insides could just fall out at any moment. I absolutely hate having anything touch my abdomen, so a compression belt wasn’t even on my radar. Except…the feeling didn’t go away. After 3 days of feeling like that, I ordered a compression belt. It was a game changer. I can’t even believe what a difference it makes. My swelling went down dramatically using it for just one day. And it helps SO much with pain/soreness. I thought it might help a little with the swelling and help me feel more secure, I wasn’t expecting the dramatic results with the swelling, and definitely wasn’t expecting it to alleviate pain the way it does. I wear it all night every night, but only wear it for a few hours at a time during the day. When I get sore, I put it on and it helps immediately. (photo is 1 week post op)

Aside from the bloating and soreness (the pain really hasn’t been bad at all), recovery is kind of a bear. I’m incredibly wiped incredibly quickly. I need to lay down to recover from showering. I’m only up for a few hours at a time, at most, and just sitting around exhausts me and I have to lay down. I can’t lift anything. I can’t drive. I’m sore. If I dare do anything even remotely physical, I wind up completely wiped and extra sore. It’s frustrating and I feel like a giant burden all of the time. I’m incredibly lucky to have my parents and my aunt helping with my two year old. They watch her during the day while my husband is at work. They also pick up my older daughter from school every day. It is very frustrating and almost embarrassing to not be able to do anything, but I am so, so thankful that I have the support and help that I do. I don’t know how anyone could have this surgery with a toddler without having help like this.
My two year old has been frustrated with my not being able to pick her up, and my 10 year old worries about me constantly. My husband is doing EVERYTHING, and I don’t even know how he does it all. He’s amazing. And is the most supportive and encouraging partner, ever. I know he’s exhausted and frustrated, but he always treats me with love and kindness, and is always accommodating my needs right now. I feel like an infant, really.

As is typically the case, this is quite long winded. But the moral of the story here is that adenomyosis is pretty brutal. My hysterectomy went very well. My recovery is very, very slow, but going well. And GET A COMPRESSION BELT IF YOU’RE HAVING A HYSTERECTOMY. Yes, I just yelled that. But the compression belt is magical and you need it and your life will be so much better with it, trust me. Now, I try to patiently wait while I recover. It will be nice to get some energy back, hopefully sometimes very soon. For now, I’ll respect my body’s limitations and spend my days resting and healing.

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