If you’re curious about my actual tubal ligation surgery, you can find a full breakdown of my hospital experience here. This post will pick up from the moment I returned home.
As expected, the actual day of surgery was a bit rough. It was extremely difficult for me to stand up or sit down by myself without a lot of pain & bit of blood, so I mostly just lazed around the apartment and watched Netflix. I had been prescribed anti-nausea & pain medication but I didn’t really feel like I needed either. My newly purchased heating pad, on the other hand, was a necessity.
More than anything, I was bloated & experiencing a lot of chest pain from the gas that they pumped into my abdomen during surgery. Although I was familiar with the pain because it mimicked my brand of anxiety attack, it also eventually tricked my body into full-blown panic. By the early evening, I started to cry and hyperventilate until Andrew (my partner) managed to calm me back down. I ate a little bit (even though my appetite was practically nonexistent) and took an Advil to help control the pain until bedtime.
In hopes of getting a full night’s rest, I had forced myself to stay awake all day. I asked Andrew to build me a nest in our recliner around midnight: heating pad, blankets, enough pillows so I wouldn’t roll onto my incisions, and all of my medicine/TV remotes/books within arm’s reach. I finally took one of my prescription pain pills and fell into a restless sleep, waking up every few hours to try and get comfortable.
Andrew went back to work and I was on my own (with strict instructions to call if I needed him). My day consisted mostly of Netflix & napping. I was still experiencing chest pain, but moving around on my own was a bit easier — even if I was still extremely slow. I also ate my first meal since surgery.
By early evening, I was getting bored and we decided to venture out to a friend’s get-together. I did pretty well at the party (only really struggling with a slouchy camp chair), but I was completely exhausted after a few hours and extremely glad to get home to my heating pad. Andrew helped me get into & out of the shower, I took another painkiller, and then promptly curled back up in my recliner-nest for a much better night of sleep.
Andrew had another day off, so we got to spend it at home together. (You guessed it, watching more TV. Yay!) I was continuing to feel better and move around faster. My chest still hurt intermittently from the surgical gas, but it was obviously dissipating.
The incision inside of my belly button started itching like hell, but that could have been exacerbated by the fact that I had a latex band-aid over it for a couple of days. I got fed up and decided to chuck the band-aids just to be safe.
Otherwise, the only truly notable moment was when Andrew & I were lying on the couch and he accidentally sent me into a giggle loop. This simultaneously hurt AND caused my menstrual pad to leak, which we only found more hilarious. Jokes on him though: he was the one who had to help me clean up, because I still couldn’t bend over.
Where is the mystery in our relationship, you ask? It is gloriously dead.
Aside from bending, movement was pretty much back to normal by Day 4. However, I came to the scary realization that I hadn’t pooped since the day before surgery — and I needed to desperately. I was bloated and gassy, but absolutely nothing was moving. In a panic, I asked Andrew to bring home a box of laxatives & hoped for relief.
That night, I decided to sleep in our bed for the first time (with a body pillow to help keep me from rolling onto my stomach). Unfortunately, sleep did not come easy. I was constantly getting up and going to the bathroom without any luck. My fear of painful post-surgery poops had been replaced by a fear of having to go to the emergency room with fecal impaction. Super sexy.
I called to leave a message with my doctor’s office and started doing some online research of my own. Apparently, a few days of limited mobility and a total of 3 pain pills had left me with killer constipation. I also discovered (too late) that we bought the wrong kind of laxatives: the ones that cause your muscles to move, but do nothing to soften your stool.
I spent most of my morning on the toilet because my body was cramping & straining involuntarily, causing me to worry about both busting my abdominal stitches and bringing back my hemorrhoids. Finally, I experienced what I can only describe as “the most painful shit of my entire life.” Crying & exhausted, I curled up in bed, canceled my work meeting for the day, and texted my partner to pick up stool softeners in case the insanity wasn’t over.
Day 6 was supposed to be my first day back at work, but I called in sick. I didn’t know yet if I would be constipated or have diarrhea, and I really didn’t think that I could handle being on my feet for 8 hours either way.
I did manage to put shoes on by myself though — which was a major win.
Days 7 & 8
At this point, I’m an overly-cautious mess. My wardrobe consisted strictly of sweat/yoga pants, and my purse was holding both my pain medication & heating pad. I also realized that what I thought was a normal speed at home was actually the speed of an elderly turtle at work.
There is good news though! Despite my frustrating slowness, I was able to do pretty much everything I had to — except for lifting heavy things. I was scheduled for approximately 13-hour days between both of my jobs (one with lots of moving/one with lots of sitting) and I never had to bust out the emergency coping supplies even once. By the time I returned home, I was both sore & exhausted but otherwise okay.
Even though I was nervous about how my abdomen would feel during orgasm, I couldn’t resist masturbation. And amazingly, there was only a bit of discomfort; no actual pain! With my fears behind me, I channeled my 15-year-old self and masturbated frantically for hours at a time. My partner & I also spent the next few days experimenting with positions that avoided contact with my belly. I was pretty much insatiable.
I never would have believed it, but my sexual health problems had all magically disappeared! Insertion no longer sent me screaming downstairs for my She*Pak. I started to notice a little bit of natural lubrication again. I could even use my beloved Good Clean Love without that horrible burning sensation. The surgery basically proved itself to be a fucking miracle!
Days 13 & 14
I went in for a follow-up visit with my doctor. When she asked how I was, I had to refrain from crying and telling her that I felt more alive than I had in months — maybe years. She took a quick look at my stomach, saw that my surgical glue had mostly fallen away but my thick incision scabs were still holding firm, said everything looked normal, and sent me on my way. It seriously took 5 minutes.
The next day, I got brave enough to try wearing jeans for the first time and tentatively lifting boxes at work again. Both were slightly uncomfortable, but completely manageable.
With a little bit of help from my own impatience, one of my scabs came away with the rest of the surgical glue. The incision was a little pink & puckered (definitely going to scar), but otherwise looked just fine.
Day 22 (or so?)
My other scab was stubborn. Eventually, I couldn’t stand it any more and simply decided to remove it myself. Attached to the underside of the scab was a small chunk of surgical glue. Removing it left a fairly large divot in my skin, but at least it was able to start healing properly.
Nearly 3 Months Later…
The divot has filled itself back up with scar tissue. It is definitely still more noticeable than the other side, but neither of the scars bother me (except for the fact that they are not symmetrically placed). I wear them proudly.
My period has not yet returned to its pre-hormonal birth control levels. I am still using a small Lunette cup with no overflow issues. I anticipate that this will change and that I will once again have super heavy flows & cramp-filled weeks… but I’m enjoying this while it lasts.
Although my sex drive has not maintained the initial state of over-excitement, there are still plenty of noticeable changes. I can use any lube that I want without discomfort. I can enjoy insertion (with toys or my partner) without even a hint of worry. And best of all, I actually experience arousal again; mostly responsive, but also occasionally spontaneous. I tweeted recently that every time I find that I have lubricated naturally, it’s like Vagina Christmas. I’m not used to it, but I’m fucking ecstatic each time it happens.
My overall emotional state is also much-improved. I am having feelings again, and even though that has been scary sometimes (Election Disaster 2016), I still wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I do find myself crying more, but it’s from the pure range of emotions that I experience — not the suffocating weight of anxiety & depression. I’m no longer walking around in a fog.
It may sound dramatic, but there is no doubt in my mind that this surgery saved my life… by both relieving my depression AND removing my ability to have children. I am actually in control of my life again and it feels absolutely wonderful.
Insurance Updates (On-Going)
Altogether, the surgery totaled $17,884.42. After insurance, I have still been charged $3,506.86.
When I called United Healthcare, I anticipated a fight over the details of the Affordable Care Act in relation to sterilization. Instead, I was informed that my tubal ligation was incorrectly coded as a bilateral salpingectomy. I have spent nearly the last 2 months playing phone tag with Indiana University Health, wracking up detailed notes from dozens of calls, trying to get them to change my billing code to reflect the surgery that I actually had performed. (And being mildly freaked out by the fact that if they did perform the wrong surgery and remove my fallopian tubes, how would I even know?)
As of today, I have been told that my case is finally in review at the hospital. Afterwards, they should resubmit my corrected claim to insurance. And at that point, I will find out if I need to file an appeal with United, citing the ACA. It’s proving to be a long, stressful adventure.
[I will update this as my battle for free reproductive health care continues.]