Post-Op Observations

I had my operation on Wednesday. As far as we can tell it was successful. We’ll have to wait and see how much of my pain it has solved. In the meantime, here are a few observations, (some old, some new):

Sinks are too low. 

The NHS is a really, really good thing.

The post-surgery pain is not as bad as I was expecting it to be. The contrast to the pre-surgery pain is not huge. 

My children are amazing and so patient.

General anaesthetic is a very strange experience. 

After you come round it can feel like you’re asleep and awake at the same time.

Drinking tea when you’re lying down is a bit tricky.

The site of a cannula can hurt as much as the site of the surgery on the first day.

Physio exercises are unbelievably hard. 

Typing one-handed while lying down takes a frustratingly long time.

There are a lot of kerbs to walk up and down on a lap round the block.

Why Aren’t You Angry?

Second blog post of the night, while I distract myself from looming surgery. 

I came across this blog: Feminist Female Comedians Agree There Are Different Kinds of Rape

At first I was speechless. 

Then I was depressed. 

Then I was angry. 

(Short aside: The previous emotions don’t get replaced they get added to).

There are so many things to criticise, point out or rant against that I’m almost not sure where to start. I see from the comments that a reassuring number of people have known where to start and have written their own blog posts and made their own observations. I’ll add one or two of my own. There is a sentiment almost expressed at the beginning that I agree with: “Why can’t we just be people?”  Unfortunately she immediately undermines this sentiment with everything she says next. She treats women like idiots and men as rapey animals who can’t help themselves. 

Here’s a comment from Laura: “…there’s some dude that’s gonna want to fuck you.”

A key word for me in that sentence is ‘want’. A guy can want to fuck someone all he likes, and that is a very different thing to actually doing it without consent. That then turns from ‘fucking’ into ‘raping’. 

Here’s another comment from Laura: “You gotta be careful and it’s up to you to own that responsibility and keep yourself in safe situations.”

Arguably it is also up to the man to own the responsibility not to do any raping. 

And here’s the question, there are many, many people who agree with every word these ‘feminist’ comedians said; why aren’t men more angry about this? Why aren’t men appalled at being portrayed as animals (literally in this example) who cannot use reason, emotion, intellect, decency when confronted with the female form? 

There is a quote that went round twitter this week, from a mum whose son had had some sex education at college. It was this: ‘Consent is too low a bar. Hold out for enthusiasm’. 

What a fantastic sentiment. Hold out for enthusiasm. 


The Eve of the Op

So the operation is tomorrow. 

I am finding this quite difficult to get my head around right now. I felt very wobbly yesterday. I hugged my 4yo’s teacher goodbye as she’s leaving at half term, so I won’t see her again. My friend’s mum hugged me in the playground and offered to walk my 4yo home from school whenever needed. The ball of overwhelm in my tummy surged up and tugged at my bottom lip. I had to make stupid faces at my 1yo to keep it in check. 

Today, I feel calmer and it all feels less real. 

I can’t quite imagine what it will feel like to have constant pain right in my core. I imagine it will feel different to the sharp spasms of pain that I have now and it feels scary and unreal all at the same time. So if I could fast forward to a fortnight from now, that would be quite nice. 

I am hopeful, I am worried about how I will cope and how my children will feel, I am scared, I am hopeful again. 

Teaching Consent to a 4 Year Old

My children do not have to hug daddy, kiss granny, snuggle mummy, give hugs to aunties or indeed engage in any physical activity they don’t want to. 

This can be quite hard. If I want to give my 4yo a goodnight kiss and she decides that she doesn’t want one I feel like I’ve missed part of the evening, if I drop her off at school and she decides she doesn’t need a hug I feel a bit like I’ve missed a step. I am not alone in feeling like this. I have heard many variations on a theme, both to my daughter and to other children around me: 

‘But you have to kiss daddy, you’ll hurt his feelings.’

‘Give grandma a kiss, she’s driven a long way to see you.’

‘Go and hug aunty, she’s brought you a present.’ 

‘Oh, well if I don’t get a kiss I won’t bring you a present / read you a story again.’

Just think about those sentences in the context of a teenagers life whilst flirting for a second: ‘I’ve bought you a drink, so you have to kiss me.’  See how wrong that sounds? The idea of kissing someone so that you don’t hurt their feelings, or kissing someone so that they don’t feel they’ve missed part of their evening becomes problematic when we’re talking about meaningful consent among teenagers (or older). 

I struggle to understand how we expect our teenagers to hit 13, 14, 15 etc years old and suddenly have the confidence to say no, when we’ve been overriding their wishes when it comes to physical contact for years and years. 

My daughters will never have to kiss or cuddle anyone unless they choose to and I will always back them up if they choose to say no. My 4yo knows that kissing (and hugging, holding hands, tickling etc) is only fun if everyone *wants* to do it. 

Those Pesky Self-Esteem Issues

Dear daughter of mine, have some of my self-esteem issues neatly wrapped up in some tears. 

Or not. 

So, as mentioned on Thursday, I was feeling a bit fragile. And as also mentioned on Thursday, by midday it felt like I had about 6 things to write about. One of them was to do with getting dressed. 

I needed to look smart as I had a presentation to give. So I put on some clothes and looked in the mirror. I winced. The outfit felt wrong. The clothes had been bought pre-bad back and pre-pregnancy and I felt fat. My 4yo came in and said ‘Oh I like your top mummy’ just as I started taking them off again. 

She asked me why I was taking my clothes off again and I knew I didn’t want to tell her ‘because I feel fat and bleurgh and the shape is all wrong’. So I said ‘because they’re not quite right for my meeting.’ Thankfully it was one of those rare moments when she didn’t ask ‘why?’. 

It’s similar to when she watches me putting on make-up and asks why I do so. I don’t want to answer ‘Because I feel smarter / prettier when I do’. In fact, even admitting that here feels a little strange. 

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a bit teary on some days when no clothes quite feel right, when feeling confident is just that bit too elusive, but saying it out loud is hard. And saying it loud to a 4yo feels wrong. 


The Risk of Paralysis

So Thursday’s overwhelmy day ended  with me coming home to find a letter from the hospital. 

“We are reviewing our processes around how we send letters…It has been drawn to our attention that the enclosed letter may not have been sent to you…please accept our sincere apologies.”

The enclosed letter had not been sent to me. It was from my surgeon summarising our meeting. 

“I have indicated to her that there are risks, which I have quantified at about 1.5% to include infection, haemorrhage, bladder and bowel dysfunction as well as paralysis. She understands that there is no guarantee that surgery will work and in particular there is no guarantee at all that it will help her back pain.”

Not the letter I wanted to receive that evening (or ever). 

I know that every surgery carries risks. I know that they are small. I also know they are severe. I also know that there are unspoken risks, such as my emotional reaction if it doesn’t work or goes wrong. 

As the surgery date gets closer, I find I am having to consciously not think about it too much so that I don’t cry. I am glad that I have organised so many of the practicalities further in advance so that I don’t have to think about them now. I find myself wondering if I am doing the right thing, and yet when I think about not doing it I feel almost more panicky, because although the pregabalin is keeping the pain under control, it is still always there and there is too much I can’t do. 

So I’ll take the risk, but try not to think about it too much. 

Up, Down, Twist, Lean Over, Bend, Repeat

Today is an overwhelmy sort of day. It’s 8.40am and already I feel there are about 6 blog posts I could write, all with a different focus. So if I get my act together there may be 6 different posts by the weekend. 

I have been lucky for a couple of weeks. The pain has been manageable. I feel like the pregabalin has kicked in properly and I can move, walk for 10 – 15 minutes at a time without wanting to cry, I have managed my 4yo’s start at school without needing my crutches, and I have been able to manage the 2 childrens’ bedtime on my own, (bathtime is still too much unless they seriously need hosing down). 

This has made me wonder whether this is what it will be like after the surgery. The pain management clinic has warned me about the 2 things wrong with my back and surgery only fixing one of them. The twinging, stabbing, shooting pain will go – though that is precisely what has been dampened. Is this as good as it will get but without the drugs? Or will I be better than this? It’s an overwhelmy sort of question at the best of times. 

This morning I was rushing too much. Aware that I had not got enough work done yet over the last couple of weeks for my handover before the surgery, needing to dress smartly for a presentation later, needing to get my clingy 1yo to nursery etc. I sat to put my clothes on and suddenly, sharply gasped with the pain. I had forgotten to be careful about my movements. 

I feel like I’m holding myself together, but only just. I was undone by the drop off at nursery for my 1yo. She’s struggling a lot with not having my 4yo there with her. She doesn’t understand the change. 

Getting her to the breakfast table meant leaning over to undo her car seat, bending to get her out of the car seat, lifting her and carrying her into nursery, bending, twisting and lifting again to get the car seat into the nursery so that my husband can do the pick up. Then kneeling down by the children’s table, unable to put clinging, heavy 1yo into her seat to eat.  I sat and cuddled her for far longer than I normally do.  When she looked at me in distress and burst into tears, so did I. 

I did finally manage to leave her and drive to work. I popped into the shop on the way to get breakfast and lunch. I decided to have cheese and cucumber rolls for lunch. When I spotted the cucumber on the bottom shelf my heart just sank. 

An overwhelmy sort of day.