This blog series is meant to document my decision to be surgically sterilized, and my experiences afterward. However, because I also had an IUD removed, this series will double as a journal of that experience in tandem. If I don’t cover something, I’m happy to answer questions via comments.
Friday, 24 February 2017
Because I elected to have my IUD removed at time of surgery, I was advised not to have unprotected sex for at least seven days prior to my surgery date. Daniel and I haven’t purchased condoms since I got my IUD in 2015, so we decided to take one for the team and just tough it out. Because sperm can live up to seven days inside the body, the idea is to avoid any complications. One rogue swimmer is enough to fuck you up if it manages to get around your defenses. This isn’t extremely relevant to the surgery itself, but for anyone reading who also has an IUD and wonders about the process of removal, this is something to expect.
Wednesday, 1 March 2017
I don’t shower everyday. It’s wholly unnecessary and not very good for your skin and hair. They tell you you can shower the night before surgery, so long as you avoid lotions and perfumes, so I just showered on Wednesday and made sure my hair hair felt good enough to last me a few days. As of the present (Saturday), my hair is only just started to get a little greasy, but I don’t see myself taking a shower soon. Just doesn’t feel okay yet.
Thursday, 2 March 2017
1945: Last Meal
I was told I could not eat or drink after midnight the night before my surgery, so I decided to go down fighting.
My sushi buddy picked me up and took me to our local revolving sushi bar, where I made it my mission to eat entirely too much. Then, because we just hadn’t had enough already, we went to Starbucks to get our sugar on. I was stuffed by the time I got home and started getting ready for bed, but nothing could quench my thirst. I dehydrate easily, and not being able to have a drink of water again until after surgery was what scared me the most. I sucked down a mason jar full of water in the minutes just before midnight, and sent myself to bed.
Friday, 3 March 2017
0200: Can’t Sleep
I was so thirsty. To make matters worse, the pain disorder in my legs kicked up, and I couldn’t even take a Tylenol to try and take the edge off. It may also have been nerves, though the only thing I was worried about was getting there on time, and my boyfriend getting there on time. I’d put Daniel on my paperwork as my ride home and I was convinced they’d turn me away if he didn’t make it to us from work on time. Getting anesthetized and cut open for the first time in my life? No big deal. Someone not being punctual? Nightmare.
0700: On the Road
My friend and her mother, hereafter referred to respectively as Natasha and Brenda, picked me up early. Again, I am plagued by the fear of not being on time. Like my employer told me I can show up anywhere between 0800 and 0845 and I still clock in every morning at precisely 0820. I’m ridiculous.
The surgical center is only a few miles away from my apartment, so we were an hour early. Because I am a big weenie at the most random times, I didn’t want to go into the waiting room until Daniel got there. Brenda got impatient and went in without us to ask about a restroom, then came back out and lured Natasha in by telling us they have a Keurig in there that does hot chocolate. Because, ya know, the girl who’s not allowed to eat or drink anything is just gonna love sitting in the same room as one of those.
0800: Still a Weenie
I finally went into the waiting room. They didn’t harass me. The Nursing Assistant did ask if I was the 0830, but when I said I wanted to wait a bit longer for my boyfriend, she said that was fine. I ended up waiting until 0820, signed a few forms (one of which I corrected, which will come up in a future blog), showed her my driver’s license, insurance card, and paid my copay. With insurance, my copay was $250, which is huge fuckin’ steal and I can’t wait to get the statement for how much Cigna covered. Thank you, Obama.
0829: “Well, look who it is!”
Daniel maintains he was on time, if even by one minute. They called me back as he was walking in. A Registered Nurse took me into an exam room and had me change into the sexiest of patient robes. I was told my handbag could be given to Daniel for me, but I was told to put my clothing and shoes into a bag. I also had to remove my piercings, which is still ruining my life because I can’t get one of them back in. For this reason, I will be recommending in a future blog that one always brings a safe holding container for one’s jewelry. I sent a picture out to Natasha and Daniel in the waiting room, of me pouting in my gown.
Natasha’s a comedy wizard with Photoshop.
For what felt like roughly the next hour, I mostly chilled out on a bed in my ugly gown and shockingly comfortable socks (the kind with the little grips on the soles), while the RN, the MD assisting my own doctor, the anesthesiologist, the Operating Room Circulator (a professional who supervises and manages the operating room to ensure safe and sterile standard), and eventually my own doctor came and went, asked me questions, and made sure I knew what to expect the closer we got to surgery time. The MD who assisted my GYN, by the way, was a gorgeous young Black woman and I could barely speak straight when she asked me questions. Damn.
Natasha and Daniel were brought in from the waiting room once I was done changing and my IV was in place, so I did have people to talk to while I waited. By then I was starving and dying of thirst and I wanted to get going. The nerves were finally starting to get me, and the wait just dragged. I will note, however, that the IV was the overall worst part of the entire experience. Like, the whole experience overall. I hate needles and I have dry veins that roll. Thankfully my RN listened to me when I told her this, and she took deliberate measures to make sure she had a fat blue vein before she went in. After that it was just awful to have a needle taped down on my hand. I hated it.
Here’s a precious picture of Daniel keeping me in good spirits, and sharing a rare smile with a camera in the room.
I told my doctor I didn’t care what they gave me for pain so long as it wasn’t Percoset (suicidal thoughts), but I did request something for anxiety, to which she obliged. She didn’t prescribe me much, so hopefully any Mirena crash I experience is mild. As I type, I have yet to experience any typical symptoms of crash, but if I have anything to report, I will.
P.S. The RN told me my hemoglobin was 14.2, which is the highest she’s seen. So, ya know, eat that.
My surgery was scheduled for 1000, but I wanna say we got going early. I was covered in two blankets (the OR is kept chilly), and wheeled away. Once I was in the OR, everything went at the speed of light. In those short three minutes, I can see how someone could panic. Everyone moved with quick, efficient purpose, and I had to split my attention between three or four people at once. “We’re gonna move from that bed to this one now”, “Make sure you lay like this”, “No, like this”, “You’re gonna feel some warmth in your arm now”, “I’m gonna put a mask on you now”, “Name, age, and date of birth one more time, please” (they make you repeat that A LOT), “Deep breaths now”, etc. All at once. The last thing I remember is breathing once through the mask, the warmth in my arm, and then I woke up in Recovery.
1000 – 1100: While I Was Out
Laparoscopic Bilateral Salpingectomy is pretty straightforward. I was also scheduled to have an IUD removed, so they did that first, and I’m glad I was out for it because insertion feels AWFUL. Essentially they use a long, thin tool which is inserted into the teeny weeny opening of the cervix, the little plastic anchor is “grabbed”, and because it UNfolds to be inserted, it simply folds again as it’s being gently pulled out, and then it’s gone.
Photo Credit: https://www.drugs.com/pro/mirena.html
As far as the surgery part, first they make a small incision in your navel. Don’t worry, it’s not IN your belly button. They actually cut just above the knot, and use the concave of your inny (sorry, outies), to give the scar a little camouflage. Through this incision, they inflate your lower abdomen with gas in order to feed a camera in and make sure they have enough room to fiddle around in there without nicking anything they don’t mean to. When Natasha had hers done, they did nick something enough to cause a bleeding issue, but were able to stop it. In my case, however, there were no mishaps and next to no bleeding, even where expected.
Two more incisions are made in the lowest part of the abdomen. For those of you who are slenderer than I am, these incisions are pretty much right over where your ovaries are, on either side where your underwear waistband might be. I have a foopa roll, so mine are low on the roll, almost looking straight down at the floor. The good news for me, because I am a thicker woman, is that I was able to leave in yoga pants, whereas most women find they are unable to wear anything but dresses or sweats without a great deal of discomfort.
Once inside, your uterus is pressed gently aside, your fallopian tubes are isolated one at a time, separated from your uterus and ovaries, and pulled out through the incision. Boom. No more tubes. I didn’t ask if they seal off where the connections were, so I don’t know the answer to that one, but I would assume they don’t. I mean, where would the eggs go if they couldn’t leave the ovary and such? I’ll have to ask and get back to you. I’M NOT A DOCTOR.
Here are some fun images of my insidey parts. I wish I could explain them, but as far as I can tell, the big lump in the top left hand shots is my uterus (high and tight, bitches!), the pale wiggly line is my tube, and the little red bulbs are my ovaries.
After everything is done, they seal your incisions (all of them shorter than an inch long, maybe even less) with surgical adhesive. Mine feel like patches almost, whereas I think my friend Jessica’s were more isolated to the actual cuts, like literal globs of glue. Anesthesia is discontinued, and you are wheeled into a recovery area for about the half hour it takes for you to come around.
Fun Fact: I asked if I needed to pee before I went under and they said no. Afraid I’d pee the bed, I asked vaguely, “But what if I…”, to which they quickly explained I’d have a catheter. It didn’t come together until then, but this is why they make you pee after you wake up. I’ll explain that next.
1130: “Can you hear me now?”
I woke up to a new nurse asking me a few mindless questions to assess how the anesthesia was wearing off. I remember coming right back to clarity, but feeling very slow and sleepy. Daniel was with me, and she was giving him some last minute instructions while I had a chance to hear them as well, but she made sure Daniel understood it was on him to remember them, because I might not. At the time, I remember thinking I’d definitely remember everything, but I don’t remember asking Daniel to take this picture. Apparently I insisted I needed it for my blog.
Coming off of anesthesia is weird. I can remember what happened in the sense that I can lay it out to you in the order it happened, but the details and the emotions are a blur. I remember I was itchy between my legs, and suspected I was bleeding. I remember there was a little blood on the bed sheets when I stood up. I know they handed my clothes back to Daniel and he helped me remove my surgery gown and get back into my bralette, shirt, panties, and pants. They told us I would need to go to the restroom and make sure I could urinate. I always wondered why they make you do this, but I think it must be because of the catheter, because I remember distinctly that my urethra felt like it was “opening back up”, after maybe being opened opened weirdly and then sort of collapsing a bit in a few places after the obstruction of the catheter was removed. Once I did pee, it was a clear sensation of “going back to normal”.
Someone does need to help you with all of this, and Daniel was volunteered before he even understood what was happening. Luckily we’ve been together four years and have a healthy level of intimacy, so he didn’t chicken out. He stood with me in the bathroom while I peed and applied a pad to my underwear, and just to give me a giggle he said, “This is my worst nightmare.” I don’t close my bathroom door all the way at home and he hates it, so I really had to try not to laugh when he said that, because it was really like a slap in his face.
I was offered something to drink, and the nurse really tried to press apple juice on me, but as I was told not to take my daily antacids, the last thing I wanted was something that was guaranteed to make me sick. We were still waiting to see if the anesthesia would give me any lingering nausea, which is very, very common. When I refused the apple juice, the nurse very sternly told me I could have water now, but that I did need to have something with sugar soon.
They tell you to expect to be held for up to an hour while anesthesia wears off, but I must have been making good progress because they let me go home almost right after I proved I could pee. Walking was a sluggish affair, but having Daniel to hold onto made me feel better. I was wheeled out to the exit in a wheelchair and allowed to wait while Daniel brought the car around, and he was allowed to bring it right to the passenger door to help me in. Everyone was very nice, fast, and professional. It was a very positive experience and if I ever need surgery again, I might just request the same facility because damn.
1230 – 1630
It took us nearly all god damn afternoon to get home. Between the one errand I wanted to run while we were right nextdoor to another place, getting dicked around at CVS for almost an hour before they told us they couldn’t process my shit, and finding/getting things to eat and drink, by the time we got home we wished we were dead. Daniel had officially been up 24 hours when he was finally able to lie down and sleep, and he had to be back at work in just 5 more hours.
The nurse’s insistence that I have some sugar was satisfied with Naked juice, which I love.
I was starving and dying of thirst and couldn’t help myself. Once I had things to eat and drink, I was ravenous. Daniel tried to tell me to slow down in case I puked, but I know my body, and I didn’t experience a whisper of nausea. Natasha hates me. She puked ALL DAY after her own surgery, and here I was eating two meals in a row from Jack in the Box and Panda Express and barely stopping to breathe. I hate fast food, and I don’t eat animal products, so I ended up with french fries and noodles and spring rolls and I inhaled it all. I stayed that hungry for HOURS afterward, and no amount of liquid could satiate me.
I couldn’t feel my incisions yet, but I could feel the gas. See, it dissipates upward, so you feel the most horrible deep tissue pain and cramping in your shoulders and chest. Because I experienced an AC separation injury to my left shoulder this past summer, it was particularly terrible, and I didn’t have my prescription in hand for over an hour after we got to leave the hospital.
For the rest of the day, the worst part was being so dry. Like puckered. The worst cottonmouth of my entire existence, and I couldn’t take the edge off of it no matter how much I had to drink. Even now, more than 24 hours later, I’m still guzzling nonstop. I finally got some coconut water to mix with my tea to reclaim some electrolytes, and it helps to eat so that the liquid doesn’t go straight through me, but I’m still thirsty, my lips are miserable, and I’m full of phlegm from being so dry. The good news is I didn’t spike a fever, which is something they tell you to watch for. If anything I was running a few degrees too cool for about the first 12 hours.
1800 – 2200: That Night
I couldn’t sleep. Again. They say you’ll be exhausted, and they’re right, but you’re also supposed to be able to sleep and I just couldn’t. Even if I could have fallen asleep, I would have been up every hour to pee anyway. I just lay there and played games on my Kindle while Daniel slept, and wondered why my incisions weren’t bothering me yet.
When I finally got a look at my incisions, I gently palpated the areas with freshly washed hands, looking for signs of discomfort. My bilateral incisions don’t feel like anything, but my navel is very noticeable. It’s sore and tender and I can’t even get a good look at it because my navel is essentially glued shut by the liquid bandages.
It’s hard to get pictures of them yet, but you get the idea. Here’s a cuter shot of Daniel and I, finally in bed. I’m nestled into my horseshoe pillow so I don’t roll in my sleep, so he’s finding a different way to “cuddle” me.
Saturday, 4 March 2017
0400 – Present
I think I slept a couple of hours, but that’s it. I didn’t take another Narco because pain pills make me wary since my bad times with Percoset, but the pharmaceutical grade Ibuprofen they gave me seems to be taking the edge off of the shoulder pain, which has finally vanished completely as I type. I wanted to stay in bed like I was supposed to, but my navel incision is becoming more and more noticeable, so I’m in my armchair in the living room while Daniel sleeps. It’s just easier to get up from sitting than from lying down. The weirdest part is having to hunch when I walk while cradling my fat rolls so my incisions don’t wobble when I move.
I also ate again — tomato sandwich, Nissin Ramen, and pudding — and I’m about to go take my temperature again because I feel warm. I still can’t get the jewelry back into the cartilage of my right ear, so Daniel agreed to take me to my piercer when he wakes up. I may ask them to re-do them at the next size up; maybe having a wider hole to work with will make maneuvering the jewelry less of a pain in the ass. But those are complaints for another time.
I don’t have to be back to work until Thursday, and as tempting as that much time off is, I might go back Monday or Tuesday if I really have no reason not to. Depends on how my incisions look and feel by then. I’m still waiting for the follow up call from the surgical facility, which is standard procedure.
So far, so good.