This blog seems to have about the same energy as I do these days! Oh well, it is summer and being lazy seems appropriate.
I should at least write about my Gender Reassignment Surgery seeing as I am now over two months post op. I usually try to meditate on posts to this blog first, but since that isn’t happening I think I will just “wing it” so at least something gets written!
The operation itself was simple in some ways. Dr. Brassard and his team have a well oiled machine and once I showed up at the door of the care residence, the lovely Asclepiade, it was just a matter of not running away. I did almost do that initially, when it all became very real to me that I was actually doing this. I had to take a little walk and think about choices and I gave myself permission to rack up those credit cards and run away to… well I was pretty much stuck in Canada as I don’t have a current passport. But Moose Jaw, maybe?
Instead I returned to the residence, had supper with the patients who had the operation the week before, and tried to not think about how I would soon be walking the “penguin waddle” like them. Before I knew it, the next evening I was at the clinic next door, settled into my bed with the redoubtable “Buttons”, my teddy bear who had put up with being washed and tumbled-dried at home, then stuffed into a carry-on bag for a 5 hour flight. All just to be with me. I have a lot more respect for that little bear now. He was solid.
He did have to stay behind in bed, on the morning of May 9, 2012, as they wheeled me away towards the operating room. I was the first surgery of the day, and throughout the next ten days I seemed to have seniority on my roommate, which I thought was appropriate, being her elder. I was surprised by how calm I was about the surgery. I suppose just feeling in such capable and knowing hands helped. And this was something I had worked hard to get and needed to do for myself. It was a good thing after all, even if it was far beyond the realm of my life experience.
I actually awoke once during the surgery, an event I didn’t recall until some days later. It was at a moment where the doctors were using a fair amount of force down there and I woke wondering what was going on. It only took me a second or two to remember I was supposed to be having surgery, and once I was satisfied that this was actually still in progress I closed my eyes again and didn’t wake until I was being wheeled into the recovery room.
The next 48 hours are a bit hazy. I remember the simple pleasure of eating chicken broth that night, how wonderful it seemed. I wasn’t in much pain, thank you magic drugs, and was happy to just cuddle Buttons and pass the time reading, staring out the window, texting, or trying to make my roommate laugh, because she told me it hurt when she laughed. I’m nice like that.
I was intrigued by the whole process more than anything. For the first night my legs were encased in cuffs that automatically inflated and deflated all night long, like puffing dragons, keeping my circulation going. There were bits and pieces attached to me, and people coming and checking on things once in a while. They had me up and standing the morning after surgery, then walking around a bit later in that day. I was sore and stiff, and a bit unsteady, but overall I felt good and was proud to walk around the clinic foyer with my butt barely covered, dancing with my IV pole.
Two days post-op I was moved back to the residence care and settled into my room with my roommate, who I was still trying to drive crazy. I’m nice like that.
The next few days were more challenging. The staff at Asclepiade are amazing, so caring and wonderful, but they are like drill sergeants when it comes to hygiene and self-care. There was so much to remember and worries of dire consequences haunted me as I went through my new routines. Each day brought one more threshold of healing – the packing off, the stent out, the catheter out, until after 5 days I was free of all the bits and pieces and dealing with just my own body again.
It really is an amazing thing they have done. It wasn’t pretty at first of course. In fact my body was angry. Someone messed around pretty good with things that had been, physiologically, working fine. My brain was having some trouble dealing with the changes too. After 50 years things were wired into me, so this has been a process of re-wiring and re-routing nerves and sensory signals.
I spent ten days post-op at Asclepiade, showing any and all my new parts. It was just what one did. We were all there, patients and staff alike, for the same reason. I had to remind myself when I flew back to Vancouver on May 18, that in the outside world people would not wish to see my modifications. I had to re-learn modesty, which probably has never been a strong trait in me to start with.
It was a very intense, transporting experience all in all. It took me weeks to start settling back into my old life on the West Coast. And I am still in the process of settling into my new body form, although one of the first emotional reactions I had to the body changes was how familiar it all felt to me. I’m not sure where that is from, that inner knowing I felt connect as I embraced my changes.
Some people have a moment of sheer bliss after surgery. I never really did. I think my last post in this blog may explain some of that. For me this surgery was never about making me anything but more comfortable in my own body. I had accepted I was already female years ago. GRS was not going to make me any more a woman than I already knew myself to be. Maybe to others, but not in my own mind.
There is a calm comfort in myself now. A settling of my spirit.
The more emotional aspect has been to the after care, to feeling some discomfort and lack of energy, and feeling less connected to the day-to-day world. I think that is true of many people who are healing or dealing with long-term health issues. There is a sense of falling out of step with the world. I thought I would enjoy it more, the peace, the excuse to laze around and read (which I am very good at actually). It has in fact been difficult to just let the healing happen. There is a vigorous regime of self-care for many months post op which gets old fast.
But it has all been worth it. It is so comforting to be on the other side of this now, to be healing and settling into the rest of my life.
Now I just have to live it, fully and completely, in harmony with my own body at last.