I just made it through my first week back to work and wanted to spend a few moments reflecting back on the last three and a half months. So with apologies to the 18F project reflection template…
Goals for the last three months #
- Turn a penis into a pussy
- Rest and heal, maintain my mental health.
- Keep my blood pressure low and minimize the loss of muscle tone and flexibility.
- integrate the new body part into my sense of self
Progress we’ve made towards our goals, and what’s contributed to that progress [in the last 3 months] #
- Made it through surgery, advocated for my needs with my medical team during recovery.
- Made it through the first two months which had the worst pain of my life—successfully weaned myself off of pain medication.
- Established a sustainable dilation routine.
- Scheduled pelvic floor physical therapy
- Created a new morning routine that includes meditation and light stretches and am adding more yoga positions without pushing myself too hard.
- Successful orgasms!
The biggest challenges I faced [in the last 3 months/since our last reflection]: #
- While I’m glad I did it, deciding to manage the pain without opioids was exceptionally difficult.
- Post-surgery depression and anxiety hit really hard. This deserves its own post—even though this is supposed to be a joyful experience to be celebrated, any surgery is a trauma to the body.
- The first two months were slower than anticipated—I couldn’t reliably get to living room more than once a day until the end of the second month.
- Recovery was extremely lonely—you are stuck in your own body and mind and even if you have a regular rotation of helpers and friends coming through, the healing process draw you into yourself. While many people signed up to visit or join the weekly virtual brunch and dinners, very few people did. Almost nobody joined during the second month of recovery. It wasn’t until the third month that I was able to articulate that I wasn’t getting enough support to my emotional support signal group.
- Not being able to sleep on my side or any position other than on my back.
- With a wildly depressed metabolism, I lost 15 pounds in the first 6 weeks of recovery.
- Extremely low energy and terrible focus meant that even basic activities like watching TV or assembling LEGO were exceptionally draining
- Really and truly resting. It took me nearly 10 weeks to let go of all the anxiety and let myself rest.
- Eating. Eating was hard.
- Peeing and pooping. My pelvic floor is exceptionally confused about how a new hole suddenly appeared int the middle of everything.
Things we wish we’d had or known earlier / Things I miss from the before times: #
- My bladder misses its five-nine (99.999% reliability) SLA with my urethra.
- It took a while to realize I had to entirely disassociate from my body to make it through the first few weeks and the first month of dilation. Bitsy and I tried to co-regulate during the first two weeks after surgery and that made the pain harder to bear.
- Child’s pose and fully stretching my back. Seriously.
- How long it takes to recovery my focus—it is still difficult to cook because I completely forget the stove is on if I step away for 30 seconds.
What we’d do differently if we could go back in time to the start of this project knowing what we know now #
- Started looking for a doula earlier so I could have actually nailed down that support.
- Found a way to better articulate how intense my care needs would be.
- Not tried to change up my recovery meal plan after the Chen Mommy Kitchen delivery ended.
The most useful lessons or resources [from the last 3 months/since our last reflection] we’d like to share more broadly: #
- All the anxiety planning I did before surgery was valuable. All of it. And there were many things I wished I had time to prepare. But that doesn’t mean it was healthy.
- I learned how to be better receiver of intense care—it feels weird to say, but this is not something that comes naturally to me.
- Many of my post-surgery anxieties stemmed from childhood traumas that I understand much better now, and that has helped me learn to better articulate my needs and fears.
- As someone who had to grow up far too early, slowing down enough to properly rest and recover was a hard-won lesson.
- This piece on post-surgery depression from Autostraddle.