WARNING: This post contains graphic details about my hysterectomy and hysterectomy recovery. Read at your own risk.
Why I Needed a Hysterectomy
I was diagnosed with adenomyosis back in 2012. After 36 years of faithful service and nine completely uncomplicated pregnancies (and one complicated birth), my uterus seems to have gone into overdrive, causing me pain that ranges from annoying to should-I-go-to-the-ER-right-now and am-I-actively-dying?
Over the past nine years, we have moved up the ladder of treatments, starting with the least invasive and a whole lot of “waiting and seeing”. Unfortunately, I carry Factor V Leiden, a blood clotting disorder, which means I cannot take any type of estrogen or estrogen-containing medications.
Earlier this year, out of options and dealing with periods that made me consider taking a crime scene clean-up course, it was decided that a hysterectomy was the only treatment option left.
My arm after a simple pre-op blood draw.
So what about pre-op jitters?
To be completely honest, I had none. My only experience with surgery was my very traumatic c-section in 2010. At the time, my one and only concern then was that my baby come out alive and well. So despite the fact that I woke up in excruciating pain (there was no time to give me a spinal, so I had a general anesthetic only) and painful recovery, I assumed that a planned hysterectomy would be a different experience altogether.
Thanks to The Virus Which Shall Not Be Named, Chuck was not allowed to wait with me during pre-op. He sat in the car in the parking lot and rejoined me for about 10 minutes before they wheeled me back to the OR.
Waking Up After General Anesthesia
I awoke from the surgery with a deep and pronounced ache in my abdominal area. The medical staff was quick to give me more medicine through my IV. Waking from anesthesia is always a strange experience. I remember talking loudly about how I had a lot of LEGO at home…I heard the nurses saying I had a “rough wake up” from anesthesia. I remember them saying in the recovery room that my breathing had been fast and shallow, so they needed to keep an eye on it.
I remember being wheeled to my room and asking the nurse pushing me a lot of questions, including how long he had been a nurse (I have no idea why I asked that…but for the record, it was 15 years). When I heard him say he was taking me to room 216 I asked if he had read The Shining and he told me he had. “Good thing you’re not putting me in room 217” I said.
Pretty sure the man thought I was crazy.
And that, my friends, is why we don’t do drugs.
Laparoscopic Assisted Vaginal Hysterectomy and Rectocele Repair
My hysterectomy was done laparoscopically, leaving three incisions in my abdomen (four if you count my belly button) and a rectocele repair. The rectocele isn’t something I would have sought treatment for alone (I honestly didn’t even realize it was there) but decided to have the repair done since I was already undergoing surgery. That required stitches in the back of my vaginal wall.
The surgery took just over three hours and while the hysterectomy was done due to adenomyosis and fibroids, the doctor also found endometriosis and significant scar tissue causing issues.
Hysterecotomy Recovery- The Big Day
My biggest complaint when they rolled me into my room was rectal pressure (this was caused by the rectocele repair, and would not be there if I had only had a hysterectomy. It felt like I needed to empty my bowels urgently. They let me sit on the toilet as soon as I got into my room. Then I nearly passed out and almost vomited and the nurses didn’t like that, so into bed I went.
The other pain I experienced was a painful urge to urinate…I had a catheter in, so didn’t actually need to urinate, but my bladder felt painfully full. This is something I remember clearly from my c-section. They were giving me plenty of drugs for the pain, which soon calmed to a manageable ache and I dozed on and off. Chuck arrived at some point. Apparently, he had been waiting hours after the surgery, but I was oblivious to this.
Hysterectomy Recovery Day One
I slept well the night of my surgery, despite being in the hospital. By the time Chuck went home for the evening, they had removed the catheter and vaginal packing (yes, this hurt. I had the nurse stop a couple of times to let me catch my breath, but it was a relatively quick process and the pain was shortlived). So, I wasn’t hooked up to any machines and the nurses just came in to take vitals and give me drugs. And, unlike after my c-section, I didn’t have a baby to breastfeed and take care of.
I found it incredibly difficult to urinate. I finally got out a few drops that night before bed. Learning to pee again after the catheter took some time.
Night One: IV Drama
The pre-op nurse had trouble getting the IV in the first place (a pretty common issue for me). My entire inner arm was bruised up from my blood draw the day before. For surgery, they attempted to put the IV in my left arm, left hand, right arm, and finally got it placed in my right hand. At some point in the middle of the night, when the nurse was flushing my line and going to give me pain meds, I commented on how much just the flushing hurt. Turns out the IV wasn’t in the right spot and the skin was puffy and full around the area. By the time I got home, I had bruises on both hands from IV attempts.
The nurse attempted and failed to place a new IV, so got another nurse. Nurse #2 also attempted and failed and called Nurse #3 who brought in a scanner to see the veins under the skin. She too failed and went to call Nurse #4 who was swamped. They finally made the decision not to try again more until morning. This was fine with me, but the one downside was missing that dose of IV meds. This meant I was in more pain in the morning, but they gave me 10 mg of oxycodone and some ibuprofen orally, and the pain subsided by mid-day.
At no point was I consumed with pain. It was there, but not to the point where I had to concentrate on it or writhe in pain.
I was doing great in the morning and the doctor came to check on my and I was discharged by 9 am, before Chuck even arrived for the morning.
Once home, I went straight to bed. I took oxycodone, Tylenol, and ibuprofen around the clock for the next 24 hours. Urinating was still difficult and I never felt like I was able to quite empty my bladder, but at least it was working again.
I drank a ton of water and juice, took stool softeners twice a day, and ate a ton of dried apricots. I also took a few walks around the house. I slept on and off most of the day.
Hysterectomy Recovery Day Two
Day two of recovery was much like day one. I took my meds around the clock and drank plenty of fluids. Urinating was getting easier, my body was finally getting the hang of it again. I was still unable to read or knit (no doubt from the drugs) and watched movies, browsed the internet, and napped on and off.
Hysterectomy Recovery Day Three
By day three I was taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen three times per day, and taking 5 mg of oxycodone at bedtime so only so I could sleep and not have to wake up to take more pain meds during the night.
Urination finally felt normal. I started enjoying the ease of going pee and kind of wished someone would give me a sticker on my non-existent potty chart.
I had my first post-op bowel movement on day three. Because of the rectocele repair, I had stitches in my posterior vaginal wall. This bowel movement took a long time. I didn’t push, just took it slow and easy. I had some solid poo followed by tons of soft stuff from the stool softeners. It was a little bit painful and the softer stuff made me sick and dizzy, I think the shock to my system. After the bowel movement, I felt fine.
Hysterectomy Recovery Day 4
I have felt better each day, but this was a real turning point. Day 4. I was able to urinate and have bowel movements with no drama.
Tylenol and Ibuprofen took when I got up and again in the late afternoon. I continued to take tool softeners twice per day. I also drank lots of fluids and ate dried apricots. I took 5 mg of oxycodone before bed.
For the first time I sat in bed and put together a LEGO set, read a bit, and walked around the house.
90% of my pain and discomfort have been rectal pressure from the rectocele repair. My laparoscopic incisions are sore to the touch but have never hurt. I can walk around at an almost normal pace, with no hunching over.
Recovery Day Eight: Post-Op Appointment with OBGYN
My first post-op appointment was on day eight after the surgery. Everything looked perfect. My four abdominal insicions are healing well. Now it is just a matter of waiting another 6-7 weeks for my body to heal. The doctor said it would be 2-3 months until we see how well I feel and what my new normal will be.
I am very optomistic about how I will feel once fully healed.