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Surgery + recovery

I've written about this before, but after I had baby #4 2 and a half years ago, I had complications that required surgery. The surgery included a hysterectomy. We weren't sure if we were done having children (correction: I wasn't sure if I was done) and so we talked to my OBGyn about the risks of another pregnancy. He told us that the complications most likely wouldn't get worse during pregnancy, but that, while the pregnancy would be safe, it wouldn't be comfortable and that the complications would be worse post-partum. We had a tough decision to make: one more pregnancy or a hysterectomy? After a lot of late night discussions, we decided to try one more time. We had 4 boys and we were "going for the girl." We started trying for baby #5 when baby #4 was almost 6 months old. I got pregnant with baby #5 almost a year later.

From the beginning, it was a rough pregnancy. My morning sickness (all day sickness) exasperated my complications. We were told the pregnancy wasn't viable and that it was probably another molar pregnancy. It wasn't until 18 weeks that we got the all clear that baby #5 was healthy. And then the next ultrasound immediately showed problems and once again we were wondering about the health of baby #5-- our first girl! I was so excited that we were finally having a girl and terrified we were going to lose her, especially since I knew we would not be trying again if we lost this pregnancy. This was our last pregnancy. We had many appointments with high risk doctors hours away from our house and countless appointments with our OB, often with 4 kids in tow. When the perinatologist finally gave us the all clear and only wanted to see us for monitoring, I started battling pre-term labor from 27 weeks on. At 30 weeks, we were told there was no way I would be pregnant by the end of the week. I was given steroid shots and, after many, many trips to the OB and the maternity ward, against all odds, our baby girl hung on until 39 weeks gestation!

It was such a blessing she had longer to grow and avoided a premature birth, but the extra weeks of contractions tore apart my stomach on top of the post-partum complications we were expecting. Then, a week after delivery, I started feeling horrible. I was spiking fevers and felt disoriented and exhausted. My OB recommended admitting me, which I declined since we do not have help locally (and have 5 children). I instead made a follow up appointment with her for the following week. That night, 2 weeks post-partum, I started hemorrhaging. I was rushed to the ER for an emergency D&C. It took me much longer to recover from this delivery than even with baby #4 when I first started having post-partum complications.

For months after delivery I worked with my OB to set up my surgery. When we finally had a January date, I had weeks of pre-op appointments with my 2 surgeons' offices. I was told what the surgery should fix and what will feel differently afterwards and an idea of what I should expect from recovery. I was very nervous heading in to the surgery. We have 5 children and live across country from my family. However, my parents were flying out for 2 weeks to assist in my recovery and that made me feel confident we would get through. Everything was set for my surgery!

As the day actually approached, I felt sad about the hysterectomy. On one hand, I am so glad that I will no longer have menstrual cycles or have to worry about birth control. On the other hand, I would love to have more children. It is a silly thought though, since my body cannot support future pregnancies. I told my husband that it feels like I'm thinking about my body abstractly, as if in an alternate universe there is a Kimber without these complications that could have more babies. I know that there are too many risks for me to carry another baby, but it feels sad to close that chapter of my life that has dominated the last several years for me.

The surgery went very well. It was a laparoscopic surgery. They told me that I can expect a shorter recovery time with it. At almost 2 weeks post-op, I would agree with that assessment. I have not needed pain killers since the first week post-op. I had 3 procedures done and, for the most part, I've mostly just felt tired and uncomfortable. Any pain has been very well managed. It has helped resting between activities, especially using the heating pad while reclining. I'm so glad I've had family in town because for 2 weeks I cannot lift over 10 lbs. They told me nothing heavier than a gallon of milk, which means no picking up our 7 month old baby. After 2 weeks, I have a 20 lb weight restriction and then no weight restrictions after 4 weeks. My family flew home yesterday and I don't know how I would have gotten through without them. My husband's work set up a meal train for us and they brought us meals for almost 2 weeks! That has been such a help because on top of caring for our 5 children and our house, I have been recovering and been another person for my parents to take care of. I haven't done anything at all around the house with my parents here! After they went home yesterday, I really noticed their absence!

As for my complications, it is amazing what a difference I've noticed even while recovering. I didn't expect to notice things being better immediately, some as early as in the hospital! As the days have gone on, I've noticed more and more things that are better. My doctors had told me the surgery would fix those things, but it is just a whole different experience actually having those things fixed! Some of these problems I've had since after our twins were born over 5 years ago (babies #2 and #3), but most were after baby #4-- 2 and half years ago. It's crazy that after having these problems dominate my consciousness for over 2 years (and some for over 5 years!) that they can suddenly be gone, fixed. It makes me excited for how different things will be when I am fully recovered.

It has been a journey getting here, to this point. I am so thankful that I will never have to go through another pregnancy like our last one. I am also so incredibly thankful for our precious baby girl who came out of that! It was such a challenging time and I just look at her every day and think what a blessing and a miracle she is. She was our missing family member and now we are complete. I still have a couple weeks of recovery ahead of me and I'm sure this week will be tough, with my family back home and my husband back at work. But after getting through this past year, I know we can make it through anything.


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