Today is April 22nd. It has been 3 weeks since I had my third bottom surgery, what was meant to be a haemorrhoidectomy to remove Gilbert. I actually wrote this blog about a week after surgery, when I was still angry and in pain, but what I wrote was . . . well let’s just say my anger came through a lot, and I thought maybe it best I wait a little while longer before I write about this one, just to see how things went and hopefully paint a slightly better picture.
This surgery was hard. The hardest so far. It was the most invasive, the most complicated. It has been the most painful to recover from and it has been the one in which I have reached my lowest lows. It has been a struggle.
But the good news is that 3 weeks down the track, I am not crying in the toilet! Neither am I pain free, but things are a hell of a lot better than they were. And, like the pain of labour fades from memory, the pain of recovery is also fading. So in a way maybe it was lucky I wrote this all down when I did, so I can share with you just what it was like.
I wasn’t planning on a third surgery. You would think, after my first two surgeries, and vials of botox, that I would have the bum of a 20 year old by now. Firm, pert and in perfect working order. Sadly, that’s not the case.
While there seemed to be a small improvement after my first two small procedures where botox was injected into the fissures to help them relax and hopefully heal, within a few weeks the fissures would re-open, the haemorrhoid would bulge and swell, and I would be in horrible pain for hours after each bowel movement.
I suffered through it for a while. I didn’t want another surgery, I couldn’t see how it would help, but, as the duration of pain after each trip to the toilet increased to over 6 hours, for my sanity, something needed to be done.
So, once again, I found myself pants down on the examination table at the proctologists, holding a cheek up, having my bottom examined.
There are two types of haemorrhoid. Internal and external. The internal ones often go about their business without causing you too much grief. They are quite far up the rectum, and apart from a bit of blood on the toilet paper, but you could go for years without knowing they are there. But, sometimes, they decide to say ‘heeeeeey’ and swell up, causing pain and discomfort. External haemorrhoids are located just inside the anus. These are the bastards that pop out when you poo, hurt like buggery and swell up with each bowel movement. They are too painful to push back in, and they can cause a lot of pain.
One guess which type I was lucky enough to have. Both of them. Fuck it all.
So, it was decided that the only way to get rid of Gilbert, as I had affectionately named it, was a haemorrhoidectomy. Surgery. Again. For the third bloody time in less than 6 months.
I thought it would be a walk in the park this time round. I knew the drill. Knew about breastfeeding Ziggy, about drinking litres of water and taking every laxative under the sun. I got in touch with my beautician and booked in to get everything waxed off. I mean hell, if I was going to have a team of people up in my bottom, I was at least going to look my best.
I was scheduled in for Friday morning, first on the list. AJ took the day off to look after Ziggy, and we were set. But a walk in the park it was not. It started with the call from my anaesthetist, the routine before surgery call to touch base and discuss the procedure. The only thing he needed to know about was my bad reaction to anaesthetic, and as this had been managed so well during my previous surgeries, I was pretty confident it wouldn’t be a problem with this one.
He had my notes and was happy to do what had been done previously. Choice. Then, he said ‘oh, but you’re breastfeeding aren’t you, you’ll need to pump and dump’.
Erm . . . no. I had been through this already with operation 1 and 2. I explained to him that as per the advice given at my second surgery, breastfeeding Ziggy after the procedure was fine. Anyway, I didn’t even own a pump any more. He seemed a tad confused, but said he’d look into it for me. Well, there was little I could do about it, it was the evening and I had to be at the hospital at 7:30am the following morning.
At the hospital the next day, he came to see me. He had done some reading up on the drugs I would be given, and yes, I was right breastfeeding Ziggy was fine. I knew this, but I felt annoyed that the knee jerk reaction was to advise a breastfeeding mum to pump and dump. As if it’s a simple thing to do. As if you don’t have a hungry baby to look after as soon as you get out of theatre. But I tried not to let it bother me too much.
The nurse bustled in. My bloody pressure needed taking, my vitals needed recording. I was feeding Ziggy when she came in, so I unlatched him and passed him to AJ. This was when AJ made the momentous mistake of yawning. ‘You’re not allowed to be tired’ she said to him. Oh hell, well that set the tone for the rest of her visit.
AJ and I were discussing when he would come back to the hospital after surgery. I said I’d txt him when I was out, and if Ziggy was asleep, to let me know and I’d sleep too. But if Ziggy was awake, to bring him up for a feed. The nurse of course overheard this conversation.
“Oh’ she said, ‘You’ll be expressing and discarding your milk after surgery before you feed him won’t you’.
This is where in my earlier writing of this blog I got a bit angry in my writings. Used some choice words. A few !!’s. I’ve toned it down a bit in this edit, but suffice to say, I was pretty pissed off. No I won’t be expressing. I won’t be dumping. I will be recovering from surgery, and then I will be feeding my son. The nurse wasn’t convinced and she tried to talk me out of it, but I stood firm. I don’t know why there was no communication between her and our anaesthetist, and it both saddens and angers me that every breastfeeding mum goes through this muddle of information before surgery – no wonder I hear from so many mums that tell me they suffered supply issues after surgery.
I think though, she got AJ worried. Planted that seed of doubt that maybe I wasn’t able to feed Ziggy after surgery. He went out and bought a tin formula, so he could feed Ziggy after my surgery. I was not at all happy with this decision, but I was about to be wheeled off into theatre and I couldn’t be bothered. Fine, I said, just whatever.
On the operating table I tried my joke cracking to calm my nerves. They hadn’t put any numbing gell on my hand this time, so it was needle straight into undullled flesh and I was freaking out a little bit. I really do hate needles. I started counting back from 100. I got to 85 and looked at the anaesthesiologist worried because I was still awake. He laughed and told me they hadn’t actually started the anaesthetic yet. And then I felt the familiar cool rush in my hand, the room started to spin and the next thing I remember I’m waking up, throat dry, head sore and busting for a pee. Surgery done.
The recovery team are amazing. They are such a lovely group of people, and they look after you with such care as you slowly wake up from your drugged slumber. All I was concerned about was getting my iceblock. It’s the highlight of my surgery, But, as I lay there, one other need became more and more apparent. I was desperate for a pee. They offered me a bedpan, but I know from experience that my body will just hold it until it hurts. A bedpan is too much like wetting the bed, and I just can’t relax enough to let it happen. So I played ‘big girl’ and told them I felt better than I did in order to get back to my room and to a toilet.
Back in my room, and bladder taken care of, I txted AJ. Ziggy had gone back to sleep, without a feed. He refused the bottle, refused formula, had a small waah and went to sleep. Good kiddo! So I went to sleep too. The surgery grogginess hadnt gone away and it was easy to drift off. I woke up feeling like shit. I felt nauseous and I was in pain. The nurse came in and gave me something in my IV for the nausea, then we started talking pain meds. She offered me Tramadol, but said she wasn’t sure if it was okay to take while breastfeeding, so I asked for another option. She offered me codine, I but as it causes constipation, I wasn’t sure it was the best option after the surgery I had. She argued that I had laxatives, so it didn’t matter, but I stood firm. There was no way I was taking a constipation casing medication! She finally offered a painkiller, that I can’t even remember the name of, but that they give to mamas after C-sections. Unfortunately it was unable to be prescribed to me, but I could have it while I was in hospital. That was fine by me. I was hurting so bad. But I wanted to be with it enough to look after Ziggy when he and AJ came back.
They came back around lunchtime.I had tried to eat something, and was busy regurgitation my jelly and soup into the toilet. I felt like shit. I fed Ziggy, then asked AJ to take him back home again while I slept.
After I woke again, the surgeon came to see me. Things hadn’t quite gone to plan in my surgery. What was meant to be a simple haemorrhoidectomy, getting rid of Gilbert, had morphed into a more invasive procedure. I had internal haemorrhoids that needed banding (a bit like what they do to lambs nuts to make them fall off) and my fissure was ripped open again, so, instead of taking out my external haemorroid, they cut it into a strip of tissue and used it to repair the tear. My bum had been through a lot. I tried to focus on what he was saying, but I was so groggy I just nodded and then went back to sleep.
AJ and Ziggy came back again later that afternoon. I still felt a bit off, but I wanted to go home. I would rather be unwell on a mattress in my lounge than in the hospital. So they unhooked me from my drip, gave me a wad of prescriptions and sent me on my way.
AJ bought the mattress in the lounge for me, and I spent the evening with my boys, watching TV, popping painkillers and feeling terrible. I hurt, I was nauseous, I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry, sleep, wake up and everything be better.
That night was hard. For both of us. We had been bed sharing with Ziggy but with all the drugs I was on, that was out of the question. It was so bad I was taking Tramadol and Panadol and I was still in pain. I had read that Tramadol peaks in the system 2 hours after taking it, so I was trying to anticipate Ziggys feeds and take my medication accordingly, but he was doing his usual – I need to be fed 6 times a night – business.
I was in too much pain to pick Ziggy up out of the bassinet each time he needed feeding. So AJ and I swapped sides. He slept next to Ziggy and every time Ziggy woke, he would lift him out of his bed, give him to me, wait till he had fed and fallen asleep again, and put him back in his bassinet. We did this all night long. It was a tough night.
That day after surgery was the worst. AJ and I were exhausted. I was in a stupid amount of pain. I had said to the surgeon back at the hospital how scared I was of going for my first poo after surgery, and he had said to me ‘oh, it won’t be that bad, we’ve put a local in there and it should be okay’. Well, that was the biggest understatement ever made. I had to bite my lip to stop from screaming. It was agony. I cried and cried and afterwards, I could hardly move. Just getting from the toilet, to the bathroom, then back to my mattress felt like a marathon. I had to hunch over and slowly limp my way down the hall.
AJ and I were struggling. I couldn’t do much more than lie on my side, but Ziggy was crawling all over the place and needed constant attention. AJ was exhausted. I was exhausted. So we took turns. I would sleep, he would entertain Ziggy, then we would swap. It was hard work and by the end of the day we were shattered. So much so, that when AJs mum called to ask how we were, we were honest. We didn’t say ‘oh we’re fine’’ as we usually do. We said ’we’re struggling, and we don’t know how we’ll cope when AJ goes back to work’.
AJs mum came and stayed with us for 3 days. She was a godsend. I don’t actually think we would have got through it without her. She left on the Tuesday and AJ took the rest of the week off to help me. There is no way I would have been able to do it by myself. By the middle of the week, I was feeling a bit better, but only as long as I didn’t have to go to the toilet. Once that happened, I was as good as useless for the next 5 hours or so. The pain was intense. The banded haemorrhoids throbbed and throbbed. The repaired fissure was exposed flesh and was super tender. I could hardly wipe my own butt. I had to shower after each toilet trip to keep the area clean. It is something I never want to have to do again, I would rather give birth.
Now, three weeks down the track and things are a bit better. I no longer bleed when I go, and I no longer have to take painkillers. It is still painful, to go for a poo, and when the urge comes over me I basically have to stop whatever I am doing, biff Ziggy in the cot with a toy and bolt to the bathroom. But it is 100 x better than it was one week ago, two weeks ago. And I hope that things only get better from here.
I’m still taking fibre supplements daily, I’m eating a lot of roughage, bran, chia seeds, kiwifruit, feijoas, oh how thankful I am that it is feijoa season. I’ve had to stop Kangatraining for a while, which sucks, as I really miss those ladies. But I need to take it easy and spend a bit more time taking care of me. Because if I don’t take care of myself, how on earth can I take care of Ziggy.
So team, there you have it, sorry its taken so long to get a blog post to you all, but I didn’t want to send this one off without being able to tell you how things are going for us now. Fingers crossed this is the last bum post.
Please note; if you are breastfeeding, and you have to go for surgery, look at your options. There is often a knee-jerk reaction to anything (drinking, certain foods and activities, medicine etc) while breastfeeding, and I have found some of the information is outdated, or just old wives tales.Kellymom is a great source of information, as is The Milk Meg, your local lactation consultant, your midwife and your doctor.