In the United States alone, there are nearly 600,000 hysterectomies completed annually. There are many more hundreds of thousands performed around the world. Reasons for having the procedure range from pain, heavy menses (periods), fibroids, cysts, some infections, cancer, etc. This isn’t an article to debate whether or not hysterectomies are the right choice. Typically, there is a long line of problems for the lady before she opts to be under the knife in one of the most awkward surgical positions known to humanity. Women of all ages are affected, including countless moms who homeschool. Having a hysterectomy as a homeschooling mom creates extremely unique challenges from emotional ones to physical ones. While I tend to write about working homeschool moms, today I’d like to share some of my experience on hysterectomies.
When I was pregnant with my third child, it became clearly evident that my body was not the birthing type. At 20 weeks, I was told I most likely had placental accreta–which can happen when the placenta grows into the scar tissue of a previous C-section scar. It has at least a 10% mortality rate for the mother and is a serious pregnancy condition. Thankfully, all turned out ok. I didn’t have what they thought. My uterus was just stuck to my bladder again from some pretty good adhesions.
So what does this all have to do with hysterectomies?
This history of mine is what lead me to my own hysterectomy the 1st week of September. In a nut shell, my pain and extremely heavy cycles had progressively gotten much much worse in the last couple of years. I was chronically anemic. This pain, which occurred all the time, made intimate time with my husband almost unbearable.
1.5 years ago I tried a Mirena IUD which seemed to help at first. However, it slowly aggravated whatever it was that was going on. The Mirena ended up flipping and tore my cervix! I also began having terrible pains and strange sensations mostly on my right side. Even after a year with no periods on the Mirena, I was still anemic. After it was removed (with great difficulty), I had an ultra sound done. It showed a mass (paraovarian cyst) next to my ovary and possibly some changes in the wall of my uterus.
I have history of a completely unrelated Cancer, but this scared me. That was it. Enough was enough. I opted to have everything but one ovary removed at the very minimum. I was tired of being in pain 80% of the month and generally feeling ill for the last year. My monthly “friend” was getting out of control. My marriage was suffering as well.
My surgery occurred September 3rd, the first week of homeschool…or at least the week it would have started. I had a laparoscopic assisted vaginal total hysterectomy with right ovary and bilateral fallopian tubes out as well. Thankfully, I did not have cancer. The ultra sound was totally off. Instead, an extreme amount of adhesions and scar tissue filled my abdominal cavity surrounding the uterus, bladder, and right ovary. My bladder was quite literally in a vice grip as was my right ovary! My ovaries both had cysts, however, my right ovary had “numerous” per the pathology report. This explains my pain and suffering for so long.
Since my surgery, I still feel the effects even now, and I expect not to feel myself for quite a while. It has strained school and family quite a bit. I have had two complications following the procedure, including a life-threatening emergency which resulted in emergency surgery and blood transfusions. This has set me back at least another 12 weeks on my road to recovery.
Hysterectomies are definitely something that should not be considered lightly. Besides the regular issues that come with this procedure, women who have to have any surgery while all the children are under foot have to deal with a very unique challenge, especially if things occurred during a scheduled school term. Taking it easy and basic survival is what has to be done for a while after surgery. While some bounce back quickly, I have not.
I have no awesome advice for getting through this. Survival mode is in full effect. There’s nothing awesome about it. But, I do have a few little trinkets of knowledge to pass on to all of you lovely ladies should you ever go through a hysterectomy while homeschooling.
- Just because you homeschool and you’ve EXHAUSTED ALL your options, don’t put off this surgery IF you truly need it. Don’t wait for Christmas break when you will want to celebrate or for summer which is in 7 months. Even though I’ve had major issues, I’m glad I didn’t wait. Fear of cancer on top of everything else was wearing me down. Waiting would have made things so much worse for me physically as well.
- Expect that one week of extra help at the house will not be enough – not by a long shot. My husband took off one week to help me. I was feeling surprisingly good when he went back to work. Even with my 12-year-old to help, when I was the only adult to manage the home, something clicked, and I was a total basket case. Take any and all help for at least 2-3 weeks. Get the kids out of the house if you possibly can so you can rest peacefully. Do not be afraid to ask for help.
- If you are part of a homeschool co-op, skip the first few+ weeks. Your body will thank you. While I did go to co-op after my initial surgery, since my second surgery, I have not gone back to co-op yet. It’s just too much. Thankfully, my co-op has been very supportive and has taken my kids under their wings. Co-op can be a lot and very draining. Just avoid it.
- Explain to your kids before your surgery date that you absolutely cannot do a thing for several weeks after surgery. This includes lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, bending over, sitting in laps, jumping, playing, etc. Your older kids will be your big helpers so it is necessary to mentally prepare them. My almost-13-year-old daughter has been a God send.
- Nausea – it happens and doesn’t go away. This isn’t the case for everyone, but it is common. Unexpectedly, I have had no appetite and intermittent nausea since my original surgery. It’s been alarming to me as I love food. I’ve lost 10 pounds, and I’m not a big person. Be prepared for this. Real broth and peppermint tea need to be stock piled like a Costco warehouse! Traditional Medicinals has the best peppermint tea (Here is a link to their peppermint teas). Essential oils like Lavender and Peppermint also help (I’ve found a set that includes these here).
- Homeschool – motivation will be gone. Don’t expect to be able to do even half of what you hope to do. I ended up only being able to complete 3 full days per week the last 2 weeks of September and 1st week of October. We’ve done nothing since my little emergency other than co-op. While it’s driving me insane thinking about this, Wendy with HHM has reminded me that this is one reason why we homeschool… to accommodate family needs.
- Gas pain. No one talks about this. But let me tell you, this is the worst part, and it will affect you for several days after surgery. Another reason to forgo homeschool for a while. This pain covers a broad area going even into the shoulder and rib cage and gets worse with sitting up. Shortness of breath because of the pain is an ever-present issue. It will pass, but it may not pass as fast as your doctor said it would. Hot drinks like peppermint tea, NO SODA, Gas X, walking, lying with hips elevated, and heating pads help with this.
- Rest and lay flat often. Do not sit upright for too long or you will hurt in the weirdest places. Walking is your friend (to quicken healing and prevent things like pneumonia and DVTs), but resting is too. Another reason to give school a break. Don’t beat yourself up and just rest. Netflix is very helpful during this time.
- Constipation. Just don’t let it happen. It will hurt more than your gas pain, and it will pop up several weeks after you thought you were all done with that. Gentle Lax (generic for Miralax) is your friend as is LOTS and LOTS of water, walking, and REAL food.
- Emotions Rage. I was happy to have this surgery, but even I have felt a weird sense that I am no longer a childbearing woman. There’s something odd about that thought. Throw this feeling into the mix of feeling sick and icky and worrying about problems, and you have the making for some very emotional days. If you feel like crying during school, just stop for the day. You need to cry it out and rest some more. 😉
- Your bladder will hate you with a passion. No one told me my bladder would hurt more than my surgery for weeks! I don’t have a UTI. I have an angry bladder. It hurts to empty it. After talking to my doctor and reading countless forums, I realized this is normal. Wish I would have known that. Urgency and Frequency issues are major problems after surgery! This improved for me after 6 weeks. Drink lots of water. It helps.
- Lastly, if you don’t feel right and you are concerned, advocate for yourself with your doctor. Don’t hesitate to call and call if there are questions and concerns. My post-op infection was missed for 6 days. My doctor also forgot to prescribe a prophylactic antibiotic when I was discharged from the hospital. This may have been part of the healing malfunction that caused me to have a completely torn incision from a cough 6 weeks after surgery. Advocate for yourself even if you feel that you are making a fuss about nothing. It’s probably not nothing. Post-op infections are serious business.
***In no way am I advocating for surgery. This is a very big deal and should be taken VERY seriously. It is not the best option for many. It was my last option after trying everything from western medicine to more holistic approaches. The above is not a complete list of helps. I’d love it if you shared yours below!***
Have you gone through a major surgery like a hysterectomy while homeschooling? How did that go? Any tips?