1) The post-anaesthesia thirst
Omg the thirst! My mouth felt dry for at least three days after my surgery, and my teeth ached a little for about a week when eating.
Every time I tried to hold a conversation with someone my mouth would dry up, resulting in a rather drunken sounding Imogen.
2) The “am I awake or asleep?” recovery room hallucinations
While drifting in and out of my cosy morphine haze I became convinced spirits were passing by my bed every time I closed my eyes.
I’d “see” shapes and outlines and wondered who they were and what they were doing. Just let me rest, dammit!
3) Speaking of sleep...
After the initial post-anaesthesia wake up I didn’t catch a wink for over 24 hours. Perhaps it was the painkillers or perhaps it was sheer relief at being alive (I *may* have told the anaesthetist over and over that I was afraid of dying in theatre), but I just couldn’t sleep at all the night of my surgery.
Instead I lay wide awake in my hospital bed, talking (not out loud, I hasten to add. Hospitals are noisy enough as it is!) to my body and showering her with love.
4) The gas pain
Oh. Dear. Lord. During laparoscopic surgery your abdomen is pumped full of gas to make it easier for the surgeon to see everything (and avoid accidentally damaging anything as they work).
You’re “deflated” at the end of the operation but chances are you’re still gonna have some of that excess gas inside your poor bod upon waking. Initially I thought I’d lucked out - I felt fine! Until it came time to get out of bed and move my body.
All of the gas still in my system decided to settle along my right ribcage, making it absolutely excruciating to sit up/lie down/get in and out of bed. My first night home I slept sitting up because lying down meant a rather unnerving crushing sensation across my right side, resulting in an inability to breathe.
So, yeah, that wasn’t very nice. The good news is the gas soon eases and I found forcing myself to get up and walk around really helped lessen the pain.
5) Um... aliens?!
I have a history of sleep paralysis and I’m guessing the general trauma of surgery combined with strong painkillers kick-started it again.
This time it’s taken on an alien abduction flavour; feeling as if I’m being taken against my will by a bunch of greys to a spaceship for regular post-op medical check-ups. The horrible thing is, I’m “awake” but can’t move, and it feels SO real.
From a psychological POV this probably isn’t the hardest of dreams to analyse...
6) The catheter
If there was one thing I was afraid of pre-surgery it was the dreaded catheter. Here in the UK the policy seems to be to insert a catheter during surgery before removing it super early the next morning, in theory granting you a good night’s sleep (lol ok but have you ever stayed overnight in an NHS hospital? It’s LOUD, guys. Super loud).
I was terrified of going into urinary retention and lo and behold... that’s exactly what happened. I do want to emphasis that this is rare and not the norm, so it’s just a case of bad luck on my part rather than something that commonly happens to everyone.
Retention sucks balls and having an indwelling catheter for three weeks isn’t exactly the highlight of my year but I soon got used to it and have come to accept my pee bag as a necessary - yet annoying - accessory until my “can I pee now?” appointment on January 3rd. Fingers crossed!
7) The bellybutton
I have four incisions from my laparoscopy - three along my bikini line (including a slightly bigger one in the middle through which “we removed all of the endo tissue”) and one inside my bellybutton.
All four incisions were glued shut with Dermabond, this super strength surgical glue that acts like stitches while your body heals. My bellybutton looked kinda weird from the get-go; completely glued shut. Until two weeks post-surgery when it suddenly appeared to be opening, triggering. minor panic attack and thoughts of “are my insides going to fall out?”
My doctor kindly explained that no, my insides aren’t at risk of falling out as there isn’t actually an open wound (and even if there was I’m pretty sure my organs would be safe).
My bellybutton is simply opening as a normal bellybutton would (as in, our bellybuttons aren’t usually glued totally shut, right?) The actual wound is healing nicely, thankfully. And while it does look a little different to how it did before, I’m happy to report my bellybutton is beginning to look pretty much the same as ever.
8) The “I love my body so much” self-compassion
I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve never loved my body as much as I do now, and this is absolutely true. Bloated, incisions, catheter, unwashed hair, dark circles under my eyes - seeing myself in the mirror for the first time post-surgery was something of a shock.
I felt vulnerable, unsteady on my feet, tired, overwhelmed. I couldn’t help but love on myself. I couldn’t help but say to myself “you're so brave. I love you. You made it. I’ve got you. We’re going to be ok.”
And the body love hasn’t stopped since, which is something of a surprise considering how difficult I’ve found it in the past to accept my bod exactly as she is.
9) The energetic release
Surgery isn’t just surgery; it isn’t just going in and excising adhesions and cysts. It has an energetic component, an element of energetic release and surrender, and I found this super interesting in the days after my op.
During my first night in hospital, awake and euphoric (thank you, modern medicine) I suddenly felt a rush of energy pouring from my wombspace into the room around me. And as the energy poured I saw and heard myself screaming a primal, earthy, passionate cry - it felt so good. So, so, so good.
Like I was unburdening all sorts of energy that had been tangled within the endo snaking its way across my ovaries, bladder, ureters, uterus.
Finally there was space for such energy to step forward and find its way out; memories, experiences, relationships, conversations, traumas, grief. Cascading into the world, ready to be transmuted into something pure, cleansed, new.
10) Alllll of the emotions
I cried a lot post-surgery. Like, a lot a lot. Random things would set me off; made for TV movies, anything to do with hospitals, adverts.
Most emotional of all was the way in which I could sense my body was still in shock after the operation. My mind had caught up and processed events - I knew, for instance, that I’d had a general anaesthetic and that I was safe throughout - but my body didn’t quite understand, and she was afraid.
I first noticed this when a doctor came to check on me the morning after my surgery and I visibly - yet unconsciously - flinched when he asked to look at my incisions. I noticed it again when I got home and burst into tears at the realisation that my body was saying “but why did you let this random woman open me up and move me around? It hurt! I’m hurting! Why would you do that? How could you let this happen?”
What followed was a lot of time spent reassuring my body, consoling her whenever she felt afraid, explaining to her why surgery was necessary and a good thing - even though it was scary at the time.
Fellow endo sister? I’d love to hear your discoveries and post-surgery revelations. Much love to you, sweet friends.
Artwork by @nubianhoneyherbals.