Silver Clouds, Big Mercies and a Cup That is More Than Half Full

I have felt fed up today. My back and leg are hurting, little things that I know are little things felt like a hassle and decisions felt really hard to make. 

I know I still need to be patient and no doubt the pain management clinic will help in ways I can’t quite imagine yet, but the continuation of pain is disheartening. I knew before the operation that the back pain may not be fixed, but I shall confess to believing that it would be more fixed than it is. I thought if I did everything right (doing all the physio and all the walking, and no lifting etc) that I might have had a pain free day by now.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to take my 4yo ice-skating any time soon, but I hoped I might be able to do some hula hooping, or hop scotch, or running around the park and those things are feeling like a distant dream. 

However, there is one thought that consistently undermines any attempts to feel sorry for myself: and that is ‘thank goodness this happened with my second pregnancy and not my first.’ 

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Interlude

Hello, 

I’ve been hiding. 

It’s 6 weeks since my operation. I am walking. I am doing my physio exercises. I am listening to audiobooks and I am talking with all the wonderful people who have come to help. 

I have not been blogging. Turns out that lying down typing and apparently having welcomed the Norovirus into our house was not conducive to writing. I would think up blog posts while out walking, and then just not pick up the laptop, at all. I think I felt the need to hide myself away a little and simply recuperate. 

Everyone in the house has been ill. It started with my 4yo, then my husband, then my friend caught it, then my dad, then my sister and finally my 1yo. Somehow I was spared. Small mercies – I did not have to work out how best to throw up without wrenching my back. I did however have to sit somewhat uselessly by while my 1yo was sick and distressed and frightened, which was awful. 

I have been to my follow up appointment with my surgeon, who calmly informed me that the disc he operated on was completely calcified and had turned to bone. It’s possible that the other 2 discs which look a bit dodgy on the scan are in the same condition, but he didn’t look at those, so we don’t know. He is pleased with my progress, assures me that the leg pain I am still getting is normal and won’t fully go away for another month or so, and that I am likely to still need the pain management clinic to help me with my ongoing back problems. 

It was a bit of a shock to realise how far my discs had degenerated. I’ve not quite fully got my head round what this means for life and mobility and general wellness. I guess this is the journey to find out. 

 

*A short aside, during my time off blogging, a blog I nominated for an award at the Blog North Awards did in fact win, and her blog is absolutely worth reading – heartbreaking and beautifully written: http://www.wifeafterdeath.wordpress.com 

Walking a Different Way

I’ve been doing lots of walking since my operation. I am told this stimulates the nerve that was being squashed for the last 2 years, and so this is a good thing. I have walked round the block (a lot), I have walked to and round nearby parks and I have walked along the Fallowfield Loop, which is nearby. It’s a lovely walk, lots of trees and is pedestrianised and flat. The pedestrianised bit is great because it means I can listen to my audiobooks without passing traffic making me miss essential parts of the storyline, and the flat bit is great because have you noticed how many bumps, lumps, stickyuppy bits and weirdly angled pavements there are? 

Then yesterday I came across this news story: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/image-released-hunt-serial-phone-6184422

It turns out that a young man is targeting women and girls walking along said flat, pedestrianised route to steal their mobiles. 

On today’s walk I found myself feeling suddenly nervous as I approached the loop and walked past it instead. I walked to the park and walked round that instead. I found myself walking a different way because I felt too nervous to walk down the path away from the traffic. I found myself justifying my choice to myself; that feeling nervous was not a way to relax into trying to walk further; that with my headphones on I couldn’t hear when someone was coming up behind me; that being mugged for my phone or starting in surprise would not be good for my back, let alone my nerves, that…. [insert your own reason here]. 

I feel angry that not only is he taking phones from girls and women, he is also – of course- taking confidence away from us, and not just those he has targeted. This is not a new observation nor a new occurrence. I want to say ‘fuck you’, but instead I’ve changed my route. And as much as I understand my own reasons, I feel kind of disappointed with myself. 

My Body, Our Life

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since my operation. Initially I felt quite good. The sharp shooting pain had gone, I am doing more walking. The last 2 days have been harder. I am hurting a fair amount – my leg is aching (travelling down from my back and hip), standing is hard work. 

I have to remind myself that there is still swelling from the operation, that you can’t compress a nerve for 2 years and then expect it to bounce back in 3 weeks and basically just to be patient. I am being diligent about my physio exercises and going out walking every day. I am not lifting, or twisting or bending. I am not playing with or cuddling my children enough, I am not standing up or sitting for long – in short I am doing everything the surgeon and team told me to, to help my recovery.  I also had a good sob this morning when it all felt a bit overwhelming.

Lovely people are asking me how I am doing and how my recovery is going. It is really nice to know how much people (both people I know, and also strangers) are rooting for me. But I don’t really know the answer yet. I can’t seem to fit my emotions or my physical recovery into a ‘crap’ or a ‘fine’,  they seem to be sitting in between the two and waiting to see what happens. 

Being this diligent isn’t possible without masses of help. Family members giving up time to come and stay; to play with the kids, to do the lifting, the driving, the cooking the cleaning… My husband to be on hand even more than usual and to bear the brunt of the parenting, the family life, the money earning. It’s hard work all round. 

I’m being asked a lot how I am doing. I’m not sure how often people ask him how he’s doing. I know his primary concern is for me, but it’s not just about me. It’s my body and I have to go through the surgery, the recovery and the pain, but it’s our life as a family and the effects go beyond just me. 

Mummy, Will You Play With Me?

I have become adept at playing while sitting or lying down. 

Did you know that you have a Handosaurus? In fact, I have 2, and my 4yo has 2, which makes a whole family. To play you simply need to ‘walk’ your hand across a surface, making sure you keep your middle or index finger up in the air to be the head. Then you do silly voices. You can role play in this way for really quite a long time. 

I also have a finger pirate. He (or she) takes a little more work as you need to draw a face on your finger (don’t forget the eye-patch) and then speak in pirate: ‘ha-haaar me hearties, there be buried treasure here!’ and then off she goes around the room to look for whatever item you decide is the treasure (it does help if your house is not too tidy).  

We can play verbal hide and seek too. I close my eyes, she hides. I then remain lying down and wonder loudly where she might be. I suggest places and if she is silent she is not there. If she giggles I have found her. And start again. I now count in German so that she will at the very least be able to count to ten in another language. Educational and fun, see? 

The trouble is (it’s confession time), I often find playing rather boring. Even if I hit upon some ingenious playing ideas (as you can see from the above, I’m quite the expert), after ten rounds of it in 10 minutes I get a bit bored. The 10th time I am the prince wondering who the princess is who has left me a slipper in my bed I want to do something else. My 4yo is rarely ready to move on when I am, and so the tough part is often not the sitting or lying down restriction but my brain, and trying to make myself sound enthusiastic and play the game for as long as she wants to, rather than as long (short) as I want to.

I don’t think I am alone in this. I see it all the time at museums that kids are playing happily and are completely absorbed and the parent or carer is attempting to move them on to the next incredibly exciting thing. I have often wondered why parents do this when their child is clearly so happy in the activity they have been taken to, but it is hard switching off your needs and focussing just on the child. And this is before we get to balancing 2 childrens’ needs at the same time. 

 

I miss you anyway.

Hello dear reader,

I’ve neglected you this week. This is because writing while lying down is both tedious and difficult. But here, a short update on how I am doing. I am mostly doing pretty well. I am not hurting as much as I anticipated (largely due to the fact that I was anticipating a great deal of pain) and I am able to move reasonably well.

I am determined to do everything right. So I am doing my physio exercises, and having been told to walk as much as possible, I really am walking as much as possible. This means I walked for an hour and twenty minutes today, and two days ago went for two hour long walks. It feels good to be walking again. It hurts, but it’s ok.

It is hard to shut off the worry. The shooting pain has stopped, but the pain at the bottom of my back is still very much there. I don’t know if this is the pain that will stay or whether this is from the bruising and the healing after the operation. There is no way of knowing yet so I am trying not to think about it.

The hardest thing is being here but not here at the same time.

At home I can only lie down. My 4yo is happily playing with the various family members who are here to help and understands what’s going on. My 1yo does not. She does not like cuddling lying down, but clearly can’t fathom why I don’t just pick her up when I am standing. It will be a long time before I am allowed to pick her up and even sitting playing is a way away. 

I can look at my children from less than a metre away and miss them terribly.   

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.