Not In Jersey: My Abdominal Surgery Part 2 My Abdominal Surgery Part 2 - Not In Jersey

My Abdominal Surgery Part 2

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Last week I gave you all the background as to why I had abdominal surgery on April 15. I do want to clarify some things and answer a few questions from the comments of that post.

Firstly, while yes, it was totally rude when the volunteer at the 1/2 marathon asked me how far along I was, it wasn’t completely her fault – I admit that I did look 4-5 months pregnant. And as much as my friends tried to reassure me that the reason I looked pregnant was because my body had carried 3 children, it was still a hard thing for ME to deal with. So although I joked that it was this lady’s fault that I decided to have surgery, the fact is I didn’t do it to protect myself from other people’s thoughts, I did it so that I could feel good about myself and so I could feel comfortable in my own body.

A lot of people also commented that they had no idea that abdominal separation could happen. Like I said last week, it is totally normal for your abdominal muscles to separate while you’re pregnant – that’s how they make room for the baby to grow. They should also return to normal after the baby is born. And even if your muscles remain separated, it doesn’t mean you need surgery.

According to Be-Fit-Mom:

Widening and thinning of the mid line tissue occurs in response the force of the uterus pushing against the abdominal wall, in conjunction with pregnancy hormones that soften connective tissue. A mid line of more than 2 to 2.5 finger-widths, or 2 centimeters, is considered problematic. Diastasis recti can occur anytime in the last half of pregnancy but is most commonly seen after pregnancy when the abdominal wall is lax and the thinner mid line tissue no longer provides adequate support for the torso and internal organs.

A small amount of widening of the mid line happens in all pregnancies and is normal. Diastasis recti occurs in about 30% of all pregnancies. Some postpartum women's mid lines close to less than 2 finger-widths spontaneously, but for many, the tissue remains too wide, causing problems.

The separation between my abdominal muscles was measured at 5 cm.

Be-Fit-Mom also explains how to tell if you have diastasis recti:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  2. Place one hand behind your head, and the other hand on your abdomen, with your fingertips across your midline-parallel with your waistline- at the level of your belly button.
  3. With your abdominal wall relaxed, gently press your fingertips into your abdomen.
  4. Roll your upper body off the floor into a "crunch," making sure that your ribcage moves closer to your pelvis.
  5. Move your fingertips back and forth across your midline, feeling for the right and left sides of your rectus abdominis muscle. Test for separation at, above, and below your belly button.

There is a whole technique dedicated to fixing diastasis recti through exercise. It is called the Tupler Technique and you can read all about it here. I did know about this website before deciding to have surgery, but I didn’t try out the technique, so I can’t say whether it works or not.

Most people also commented that they can’t wait to see my after pictures. Well, I can’t show you much yet because I’m nowhere near healed or ready to show off. There will be a sneak peak picture though, so keep reading.

Surgery

For those who know me, it is probably surprising I decided to go through with surgery. I’m so scared of anesthesia that I’ve been avoiding have my impacted wisdom teeth out for years. I managed to make it to the day of surgery without much anxiety just by not really thinking about it!

I had two surgeons involved in my surgery. One of them is a good friend of Dave and myself. Having him there definitely made me feel safer, although I was still concerned about what I might say under anesthesia. So when the nurses were taking me from the pre-op room (which was a long room shared by all the patients in pre-op that morning – a young girl was having surgery on her leg and she had a stuffed animal, which made me wish I’d brought one of my own) I told them to ignore me if I said anything strange. Then I mused that maybe talking about saying strange things was actually the strange thing I might say. That’s the last thing I remember.

When I woke up, there was a nurse feeding me ice chips and applesauce. Soon after I woke up, Dave came in to see me. And soon after that, they had me up, dressed, and out of there. Before the surgery I had put on support tights on both legs, so they were left on. I also left the surgery center with my abdomen wrapped in a binder, which is like super strong Spanx made out of the type of thing a cloth arm sling would be made out of. I also had two drains attached to me. Dave got the pleasant job of emptying the drains and recording how much gore was coming out of me. Luckily he is not squeamish at all. When I got into the car, the radio was discussing the Boston Marathon bombing, which had just occurred. So while I obviously knew about the bombing, my own situation caused me to be a little bit unaware of the current events unfolding that week.

DSCN3070Recording the drain output.

At first, walking was very difficult because I was getting dizzy and nauseous. When I first came into the house from the car, I had to sit down on the bottom of the stairs in the house. Zachary ran to get me our throw up bin – how thoughtful! When I felt better I moved into my room and into bed. I slept a lot at first. I would wake up and beg for more pain medication and then go back to sleep. I read blogs on my phone and replied to texts from my friends, but I was kind of out of it and may have missed a few things! I had medicine for pain and nausea and antibiotics. Eventually I had to take stool softeners as well – fun fun! I didn’t need the nausea medicine for very long. I stayed on the pain medication much longer than I expected to. I had wondered if this surgery would be similar to a c-section in regards to recovery. Well, in this case the incision is much bigger, I have experienced a lot more pain, and I definitely am finding the recovery to be harder.

DSCN3069My nightstand, the pharmacy.

Recovery

I had very little appetite after the surgery. I would take a few bites of food and be done. By day 2 after surgery, I had a bad headache, most likely due to not eating and possibly due to caffeine withdrawal. That night, I woke up with a headache and was freezing. I was sure I was suffering from infection, but I didn’t have a fever, thank goodness. After breakfast and coffee on day 3, I felt better.

One of the side effects I’ve been having is hot and cold flashes. I started sleeping with a 2nd blanket at night. Speaking of sleeping, I’m a stomach sleeper who has been sleeping on my back for over a week now. I guess I’m getting used to it. Taking medicine requires swallowing pills. On day 5 after the surgery I swallowed wrong and had a huge coughing fit. I almost died. Ok, not really.

I was told not to shower. My doctor’s nurse sort of hinted to me that I could shower if I wanted to. If my doctor had her way, I would not have showered yet. Instead, I have showered four times since the surgery. Before my first shower, I took off my support tights – and I still have lines on my thighs where they were digging into my legs!  I get out of breath easily and showering was difficult the first two times. The 3rd time felt better. By then (day 10 after surgery) I had my drains out, so that was helpful. I was also able to try out Ivory 2-in-1 Hair and Body wash, which I received from Influenster. I figured it would be good to only have to worry about one product while I was trying to shower quickly. This soap worked to wash and condition my hair, as well as clean my skin, without leaving it dried out. I was impressed. Once I can use my regular products again though, I will probably keep this in the guest bathroom for guests.

DSCN3071

Speaking of guests, my parents were with us the entire first week after surgery. They drove my carpools for me and took over all of the kid care. I barely saw my kids that week, except when they would march into the bedroom to say good night to me each night. They all did better than I expected them to with understanding that I couldn’t do the normal things I do, especially in that first week. Simon would come in and tell me he had to leave me alone. Zachary seems to have learned to get himself dressed (he always knew how but didn’t want to). Gabbie is pretty much able to take care of herself and she knows what she needs to do. On day 8 after the surgery, she told me I looked better than I did when I first got home. Well, I’d sure hope so! After my parents left, my friends watched Zachary after school and Simon went to back up day care as well as after school care at his regular school. He then went over to my friends’ house as well. My friends covered carpooling for me and cooked dinner for me each night. I feel very lucky to have so many friends who checked in on me often and made sure I had what I needed!

I have been back to the doctor 4 times since the surgery. (The surgeon who is our friend came to the house to see how I was doing but I’ve had office appointments with the other surgeon). On day 7 I had one drain taken out and on day 9 I had the other taken out. On day 9, the doctor also pulled off the steri-strips. On day 8, my pain changed over to severe itching. I still have pain, but the itchiness has taken over! The incision itself itches, as well as the skin surrounding it. The weird thing is that I can’t feel my skin when I touch it. I knew I would be numb, but I expected it just to be on the incision site. Instead, I can’t feel most of my abdomen. However, I can still feel the itching. I HATE itching! I’ve started taking Benedryl to take the edge off and my friend gave me some Eco Coconut Kefir to put on the incision site. She says coconut helps with inflammation and itchiness and has antibacterial and antiviral properties. I also had to pick up yet another prescription which is a cream meant to heal burns. The center area of my incision is peeling and seeping blood, which is of course very pleasant (sarcasm). So I have to apply that cream and then cover it with a gauze pad.

Now

Although I’m totally coherent now and even able to laugh without too much pain, I do still feel pain when I move around. The itchiness is also very bad. I tweeted with Katie from Runs For Cookies and she said her itchiness lasted like a month! I cannot deal with itching for a month!!

Tomorrow will be 2 weeks after surgery. I really want to be off pain meds so that I can stop needing to depend on my friends for rides to the doctor and to drive all my carpools. Today is the first day I woke up and didn’t reach for the pain meds. I will try to deal. The pain is not that bad anymore.

And for what you’ve all be waiting for…wearing the same pajama shirt and taking a mirror picture. Can you see the difference?

beforeafter

If you have anymore questions for me, leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer next time I update about the surgery!