The 5 BEST Things about Major Surgery

Today, a friend of mine is going in for surgery and it made me start to remember all of the things that I thought and worried about before each of my 5 major surgeries in the last couple of years (see A Brief Timeline of Crazy if you just went, “wait, WHAT?”)  I can go on and on about how scary and difficult and painful surgery is (wouldn’t that be a fun blog to read?!) but I realized that no one really talks about the good parts of having misbehaving organs ripped out.  So here it is…

The 5 BEST Things about having Major Surgery

  1. The Binge Watching- TV shows and movies on Netflix, Amazon On Demand, Hulu, etc. were practically designed for someone in the hospital or in recovery.  My suggestion is to pick a show that you have never seen before that is already 6 or 7 seasons in and then just marathon it.  Personal favs include Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl but I am really sophisticated and cultured like that, you may be more of a West Wing person and that’s cool too.  I wouldn’t recommend Lost though because with all the drugs in your system you will probably get really…well, I think you know where I’m going with that one! Which leads me to…
  2. The Drugs- I have a bizarrely high tolerance to pain meds, but even I got to a point when I started professing my love for the nursing staff giving me the drugs.  Apparently I kept telling my Dilaudid-wielding nurse, “I love you, do you know how wonderful you are?”  This got a little awkward for my husband who was standing there, especially since it was a male nurse!  If you are lucky you get a magic device- the pain pump (my favorite was filled with Dilaudid but Morphine is pretty good too.)  Don’t be a hero, you don’t get any points for not pushing that button, use this liberally and enjoy.
  3. The Love- Your friends and family will come out of the woodwork to shower you with cards, emails, texts, flowers, gifts, jewelry (ok, maybe not jewelry, but if you have a friend in surgery- please consider it.  Nothing says “Get Better Soon” like a pair of diamond studs!)
  4. The Help- Again, at no other time in your life will people be so ready and willing to help you.  Everyone says, “Let me know what I can do.”  Don’t make the mistake I did and just think that is an empty line.  Most people that say this truly do want to help (and if they don’t- too bad, they offered, if they didn’t mean it that’s on them!)  Seriously, let your loved ones know what they can do.  Here’s a list of possibilities- grocery shopping, dishes, pick up dry cleaning, make you food, buy you food, watch your kids, do your laundry, bring you magazines, get your prescriptions, or just come over and keep you company for awhile when you can’t leave the house and are going stir crazy.
  5. The Perspective- I think this is the biggest one.  If you survived a major surgery (or many surgeries) you will probably come out of it a little different.  You don’t know just how much you can live through until you go through it.  The worst of the pain, the hospital stay, and the recovery feel like forever.  But then one day, you wake up and realize that you are starting to get back to yourself again.  You think, how in the world did I get through that?!  And you start to understand that just maybe you are stronger than you ever gave yourself credit for.  Maybe you have a little more appreciation for the good things in your life.  Maybe you hold your loved ones a little tighter because you realize just how precious your life and health are.  Maybe you will one day be able to give support and compassion to someone going through a tough time in a whole different way because you get what it is like to be really down.  Maybe the whole process helps you realize just how many people love you and who your true friends are.  And maybe, just maybe, you have some killer new bling to go with your new look on life.

If you are about to go into a major surgery right now or know someone who is, remember that even the hardest things in life eventually pass.  Enjoy the downtime while you have it, I feel like I’m speaking in cliches here, but the world moves really fast most of the time.  I don’t really believe that everything happens for a reason.  But I do believe that things happen and you call on every bit of strength you have to deal with them, and that you can then choose to find something good that came out of it all.

I can’t say that I enjoyed any of my surgeries or sicknesses, but I can say that I truly appreciate all the love that people showered on me, the knowledge that I have more resilience than I ever dreamed of, and that I am overwhelmed in gratitude that I am alive, on the mend, and able to hold my husband and daughters every night.  Oh and Gossip Girl, I really enjoyed getting to watch that show in a continuous marathon- when you are on drugs and don’t take a break between episodes it is even more crazytown!

When recovering, you never have to get dressed!
When recovering, you never have to get dressed!

Maternity Jeans Manifesto

I believe in Maternity Jeans.  They are an underrated and underused miracle of modern fashion.

I jumped into the world of maternity pants early because with a twin pregnancy, I was unable to button my jeans at about 10 weeks.  The first time I went to Pea in the Pod and slipped into a pair of those pants that look like normal jeans but have an oh-so-comfortable stretchy waistband, I was in heaven.  Now, I need to confess that I have always been adverse to pants with buttons (the reason that yoga pants and maxi dresses are basically my uniform.)  Seriously, my husband can attest to this, every time I sat down I would subtly reach under the table and unbutton my jeans and then button them back up before I stood.

I refused to go full pajama jean (although I did consider it) but then I discovered maternity pants.   The magical thing about them (besides no buttons) is that they fit when you are at your skinny weight and also fit when your stomach is a huge beach ball.  At the end of my pregnancy, I was wearing XXL maternity tops and even those were too tight, but my amazing jeans still fit.

I had a c-section with the twins and then a hysterectomy 6 weeks later (see Brief Timeline of Crazy for reference) so I continued to wear the stretchy top jeans for months after pregnancy.  I was “lucky” to loose the baby weight fairly quickly due to the awesomely fun combo pack of breastfeeding twins and an increasingly worsening flare of ulcerative colitis.  But still I held onto my “magic pants.”  About 8 months after having the girls, my husband finally staged an intervention and I tearfully gave away my stacks of maternity clothes and started wearing my old jeans again. Sigh.

Flash forward to February 2014.  I had just had an operation to remove my colon and was fitted with an oh-so-stylish ileostomy bag.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, essentially I had a piece of my small intestine sticking out of my stomach and a sticky bag thing that I put around it to catch stool while I healed enough to go back into surgery and have my newly created j-pouch (kinda like a fake mini-colon made out of small intestine) reattached.  Now, please stop with the fawning over me here, yes my life is glamorous, I know you want to be me, but that is not the point of this particular post.

It was difficult to wear pants while I had the bag and then one day I had a stroke of brilliance (seriously I think a lightbulb went on over my head.)  So back I went to the maternity store.  I grabbed several pairs of jeans and began trying them on.  They were as comfy as I remembered and were perfect to stretch over the ostomy bag.  If you are woman with any type of ostomy, please consider getting some.  They don’t dig into the bag, they go all the way over it and provide an extra layer of protection, and they help keep it flat so it doesn’t show under clothes!

I gleefully made my way over to the buy the pants and this was my conversation with the lady at checkout:

Her:  Nice choices.  When are you due?

Me:  Oh, I’m not pregnant.

Her:  I’m sorry, will you be needing a gift reciept?

Me:  No thanks

At this point the woman gets an obviously puzzled look on her face, so I decide to have a little fun.  I lean in and say very mysteriously, “I need them for medical reasons.”  And then happily leave her stumped trying to figure out what kind of medical condition would cause a skinny, non-preggo girl to need maternity pants!

The pants served me well during the months that I had an ostomy bag and the months after surgery when my belly was still far too tender to wear anything else.  And then I got to a place where I could totally wear normal jeans again.  I started to think that maternity pants and I had a good run, but it was time to give them up.  But then I thought… F that!  I have been through so much in the past few years, if I want to wear maternity pants for the rest of my life I am going to.

If people think I’m weird, oh well, wouldn’t be the first time.  As women, we are so often putting fashion before comfort, but here’s a chance to wear something comfortable and cute!

Never been pregnant? So what!  There is no law saying you have to be a slave to the jeans button, pregnant women don’t have exclusive rights to maternity clothes.  I say we stop calling them maternity jeans and start calling them “Happy Pants.”  Hey, I know a lot of men who would probably love some stretchy topped jeans- no more unbuttoning at Thanksgiving, you can still eat as much as you want without wearing sweats.  Happy Pants for Everyone!!!

So if you see me out and about in jeans, you can give me a little wink, cause you know “Natalie’s Secret.”  Those sexy designer pants I’m wearing go all the way up to my boobs and I am proud of it!

You wish your pants were this awesome!
You wish your pants were this awesome!