If the saying “Poop or get off the pot” makes you uncomfortable, then I suggest you log off now. This is all about uncomfortable poop. You’ve been warned. (This is the part where RJ walked out of the room cringing, begging me not to post this. Ginny, I’m guessing this is where I leave you too.)
Politics, religion, white or wheat or gluten free bread… So many big divisive issues. But there is one thing I believe few will admit to openly, but everyone can agree on. Taking a nice, healthy poop is one of life’s sweet pleasures. You feel lighter, cleaner, energized and (lets be honest) accomplished. You walk out of the bathroom with a slight spring in your step, and feeling powerful… maybe even proud.
Children, bless their hearts, have robbed me, one by one, of so many of life’s sweet pleasures. (Yes, yes, they’ve also added millions of life’s sweet pleasures but that’s not what this is about.) In the process of forming and then “rocket launching” three children (my OB’s description of my births, not mine) I have suffered many an injury. Of course there is the standard ‘cross your legs before you sneeze’, there are the “tiger stripes” (stretch marks) accompanied by extra squish, the better to hug me with… There was even the nerve damage that had me temporarily in the depths of hell. But then, there were THE ‘ROIDS.
Hemorrhoids just sound gross. As a kid, I didn’t know what they were, but I knew it was something old people were embarrassed about. When I learned that it was basically your bum falling out, I was horrified. Also, lets be honest, a little curious… I mean, what does that even mean?! But of course I was never so curious that I would actually try to find the answer, because HORRIFIED. Now, knowing what I know, I think a Google search of the word should, by law, also turn up results for therapists to help you process any images you see.
But then, thank you blessed little babies of mine, it happened to me. Keeping hygienic, thankfully, wasn’t an issue as mine were mainly internal. But being robbed of a quick and healthy evacuation was quite depressing. There went that spring in my step. That power. That PRIDE! With each child the pain and constipation got worse. Food waste has to go somewhere, though. So instead of coming out, it packed itself onto my hips and thighs. Glorious. Add insult to injury. Thanks.
After Flora was born I was thrilled about the prospect of reclaiming my body one piece at a time, starting with my derrière. I clearly remember the surgeon casually saying that recovery would be painful for about a month, but oh, how a sitz bath would make things right! I’d be good as new and a happy crapper in no time!
I had just miraculously formed a perfect human being out of my own guts and then launched her out into the world with the power of KEGALS! Basically, I was invincible. This would be nothing.
HOW WRONG I WAS.
If I ever see that surgeon again, there is a high probability that I punch him him in the throat. Or maybe just break down and sob. In my post-baby-pre-surgery haze, I didn’t fully absorb the description of the surgery. It had sounded perky! I remember words like umbrella and relief! Afterwards, the visual description of it would haunt me. First, they would insert a long tube into my tailpipe, whose purpose was to gather all of the internal vessels that were so painfully inflamed. Then they would send up an umbrella that would pop out of the top and CLAMP down on said vessels, shearing them off, and simultaneously staple around the full circumference. (I just had a nasty shiver pass over me as I typed that.)
Surgery happened on a frozen December morning. In the murky waters of anesthesia, I swam towards consciousness, unaware of anything but how cold I was. Shivering uncontrollably, I tried to open my eyes, scanning for help. Through the haze I saw a nurse beside me looking at a computer screen. YES! Someone with unlimited access to those splendidly sterile hot blankets that wrap you with sunlight and joy! I didn’t yet have access to my voice, but I turned my head to her in pleading desperation, sure that she would bring me the lifesaving warmth of those scratchy, sterile bits of heaven.
With the bedside manner of a spooked porcupine, she maintained her glazed stare on the computer and snapped “Stop shaking!” Yes, obviously this was a thing I was doing for fun. Clearly it was my attempt to spoil her solitaire game. She held her gaze on the monitor. I continued my rebellious shiver. A few minutes later she growled “Seriously, just hold still.” In retrospect, I realize she was the perfect greeter to welcome me at the gates of hell.
A moment later, I forced Nurse Porcupine to look at me by exuberantly vomiting the remnants of my optimism. The following hour felt as if they had frozen me in that critical moment when babies were crowning – intense pressure – combined with the fiery sensation you have after a week of diarrhea; RJ Calls it “Sting Ring”. For added intensity they included the feeling of having a regular sized bladder full of one gallon of tiny liquid knives.
Because of her graciousness and our close bond (or hospital regulations), Nurse Porcupine accompanied me to the bathroom, no less than a dozen times, where in spite of the gallon of tiny liquid knives and my determination to expel them, I was continually incapable of urinating. In my medicated state, my soul was shattered by this. Shattered. After each failed attempt I returned to my hospital bed to puke or shiver. As you can imagine, this endeared me further to Nurse Porcupine.
That would be the least of my troubles.
I was discharged and sent home as the anesthesia was wearing off. The combination of wonky head and anal agony was enough to make me regret every bad decision I, or anyone I knew, had ever made. I prayed with fervor, begging forgiveness for that time I lied when I was 8, for that time I was rude to my Sunday School teacher, and for not always picking up litter when I see it. I begged forgiveness for humanity.
Somehow there remained a sliver of optimism that I would be okay. It took me a couple of hours to realize I couldn’t feign wellness at dinner with all of the Bishopric and their wives. While RJ went to dinner, indicating that I was home with the children, Valerie came over to make sure the children and myself stayed alive. All I remember is laugh-crying. That’s it. Sometimes amnesia is a blessing.
Now for recovery, there’s a few background pieces of information that will help you fully appreciate what I experienced. The aftermath of childbirth, how Millie and I developed empathy for each other, and then don’t forget my description of the first hour after surgery.
Any woman who has given birth understands that there is no fear like the fear of the first poop after birth. A semi-truck has just driven itself through your body, crashing on its way out, leaving you bruised, swollen, bleeding, and nothing in its rightful place. Then you’re supposed to let a car drive through the debris, without an epidural, and hope it doesn’t kill you. You’re sure it will. Much more could be said on this matter, but just remember FEAR AND PAIN.
Now, let’s back up about one month. Georgia and Millie were downright pumped about having a baby sister. But everyone warns you that kids will show signs of stress when a new baby comes. Georgia was unfazed. Millie, who loved Flora more than anyone and was more cuddly than ever, suddenly became anal retentive.
In addition to my full-time job as milk-maker for Flora, I took on the side-hustle of being a Poop Doula for Millie. As soon as I noticed Millie’s not-so-subtle signs that she had one coming, I’d pull back my hair, kneel down, and start coaching, usually while still nursing. There was the delicate art of encouraging her to the toilet. Millie had become easily spooked and very resistant, so I attempted every form of persuasion known to man to coax her to the toilet. By the time she was willing, it was nearly always because her body was in crisis mode. But as I learned from sleep training her as an infant, there is NOT A SOUL on the planet with a stronger will (or sphincter) than Little Millie Bea.
Once she was on the toilet, I kicked into labor coaching. While she was red-faced and screaming “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!” I was cheering “You’ve got this, Millie! Here it comes! PUUUUUUUSHH!! Thats okay, we’re almost there! You’re crowning! PUUUUUUSH! HURRAYYYYYYYY YOU DID IT!!!!! YAY MILLIE! ICE CREAM FOR EVERYONE!!!” Then I would hold her as she trembled and cried, recovering from birthing a baseball made of pain.
For about two months, and then sloooooowly, slowly slowly diminishing over the next few months, there was not a single moment that I wasn’t intensely aware of my rear end. Every. Single. Second. For months, without any relief, I had that crowning/sting-ring sensation, and LIVED in that first-poop-post-childbirth fear.
Sitting was tricky. Getting around was awkward. Even strangers were asking why I was walking funny. When people dug hard enough, I would eventually tell them why. Nearly all of them blushed and stopped asking questions. Their embarrassment was cute. Perhaps I should have been embarrassed. Prior to this surgery, I thought motherhood had stripped me of any remaining dignity I had ever had. Now I know you can actually go into dignity debt. I am now dignity bankrupt.
Millie, having been on the receiving end of my doula/birth coaching, was now qualified to be on the giving end. A few times a day she would follow me into the bathroom and cheer me on “You tan do it, Mommy! Dood job! You deeeyittt!” while I cried and shook. I would instantly jump into a “sitz bath” where the pain would subside from a 10, to an 8, and all three of my daughters would be present to witness my sobbing. Thankfully, I had already relinquished my privacy and dignity, so instead of being mortified by this, I was actually impressed with their empathy! They called me BRAVE! and TOUGH! and cheered me on. God bless those precious little creatures.
I’m glad we took a handful of pictures because I have no memories of Christmas. All I remember from that month was pain. Surgery destroyed me. Or maybe it made me invincible. After that, nothing fazed me.
In January I went under the knife again, to remove pre-cancerous growths from my cervix. Easy.
A week after that, an artery blew in my cervix and I began to hemorrhage in the middle of the night. I was passing hamburger sized clots and joking with the medical staff as they put me under for emergency surgery. They suggested I stick around to rest a bit, but I checked myself out, took a shower and nursed Flora, and went immediately to Morgan to listen to my amazing Mother in Law speak in her ward. So worth it.
Four weeks after that, I had an emergency appendectomy, after which my oxygen and blood pressure wouldn’t rise and I had to stay in the hospital. RJ brought Flora to nurse and I remember relishing that moment, that I was able to support life, even after my own had been at risk twice in a month. I left the hospital and went to my niece’s baptism and the next day we blessed Flora. All of this before she was four months old.
And then, slowly and quietly, normalcy returned. I could once again prepare REAL meals for my family. I was allowed to lift up my kids and shop at Costco again! I could keep up with my chores again. I could walk without people thinking I was trying to hold a grapefruit between my thighs. I COULD EVEN GO TO THE BATHROOM WITHOUT CRYING! Glory be. Life was good.
So was my hemorrhoidectomy worth it? Giving up all shreds of dignity, feeling as if my bottom was the site of a terrorist attack, and lowering my standards of living to nearly third world levels?
If you notice a spring in my step I guess you’ll have your answer.