Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Laparoscopy Preparation and Packing List

Due to endometriosis and ovarian cysts I had a laparoscopy and bilateral ovarian cystectomy in June in preparation for IVF. I was petrified and had put the operation off for months in the hope that I would get pregnant and then not have to deal with going into hospital and have someone play with my ovaries! My mindfulness practice was indispensable in the run-up and on the day of the op and as it turned out the day was mainly relaxing! Dotted with moments of anxiety, boredom, pain and gratitude but on the whole relaxing. Before learning how to be mindful I would have written off the entire day (if not the weeks preceding and following) as horrible, time to be got through as quickly as possible and then forgotten. Mindfulness teaches you to split each day into moments and to observe rather than judge your experiences. Unless you are in extreme pain with no access to painkillers it is highly unlikely that an entire day can be excruciatingly awful. If you break the day down into moments you may find there is even humour and kindness in the day. I was looked after by a fleet of amazing nurses who, on seeing how scared I was, became my own distraction team telling me funny stories. There were parts of the day and night, as I ended up taking longer than expected to come round after the anaesthetic and having to stay the night, that were horrible but by focusing my breathing and the bigger picture, which is having a baby, I coped.


Paperwork - Your doctor should run through the whole procedure in advance and Google, the Infertility Network website and forums can be good to research and prepare a list of any questions to go through with your doctor.

Mindfulness - For me meditation really helped me to stay calm in the run-up and on the day of the op. I use various guided meditations and I also listened to Paul McKenna’s confidence hypnotherapy tape. I have put some links to free meditations and information on mindfulness on the resources page of this blog: 

Affirmations - I love affirmations, they make me feel better when my head is all over the place, I used the following in the weeks before and after my op:

“Every hand that touches me is a healing hand.”
“I am so proud of you, you are so brave. I know that you are scared, but this is the right step to take towards pregnancy and becoming a mother.”
“My body is getting stronger and healthier with every breath that I take.”
“My ovaries and womb are perfect.”
After my op: “I have nothing to do today other than to heal and to be happy.”

Emotional Freedom Technique - I used tapping with the set up statement:

“Even though I am scared of the operation and of losing control, I deeply and profoundly love and respect myself.

Check out this website for free videos and information:

On the day - I got up early to have breakfast just before the start of the fast time. I had a bath and washed my hair so I didn’t have to worry about it for a few days after my op. At the hospital I asked for numbing cream on the back of my hand before the anaesthetic. You need to put this on an hour before going to theatre so ask when you first arrive on the ward and preferably in advance.

Packing list:

Ipod - I packed my iPod full of guided meditations, funny pod-casts and my favourite music. I listened to it continuously from leaving home until going to theatre and then once I woke up.

Pillow - Mainly to put over your belly under the seat belt for the car/taxi ride home, but I also used mine under my knees in hospital as this position allows you to relax the muscles in your abdomen.

Socks - Preferably with the non-elastic tops to allow for correct blood flow. My acupuncturist also recommends these while trying as anything that stops circulation to your feet will also be impeding your abdomen.

Overnight bag - Even though you will probably just be in for the day I would recommend taking everything you need to get a good nights sleep even if it is to just grab a couple of hours shut eye in the afternoon. Hospitals are very noisy and very bright. I was so pleased I had packed an eye-mask/earplugs/nightie/toothbrush/face wipes/tissues.

Peppermint tea and wind ease tablets - Some ladies experience pain from the trapped gas that they pump into you to separate your organs. This was my main complaint after my first lap when I was 20 but this time I started popping wind settlers about an hour after I came round (on the go ahead of the nurse) and did not have any pain at all from gas.

Maternity Trousers - If you have not heard me say it before I’ll say it again: If you have endometriosis, IBS, are going through fertility treatments, surgery or just don’t like anything tight on your belly get yourself down to H&M and buy yourself some maternity trousers. My Mum-to-be jeans are now my favourite item in my wardrobe, why would I ever go back to muffin tops when these look like regular jeans with a big fabric belt that can be covered by my top! Either these, jogging bottoms, yoga pants or a big sack like dress so you have nothing tight on your belly to go home in.

Slip-on shoes - You will not be wanting to bend down to do up laces.

STs - There is a chance you may have some light bleeding afterwards and they request that you do not use tampons.

Phone and charger - I thought that you are not allowed to use phones in hospitals but you can on the wards and it was really nice to be able to text my family and friends after the op to let them know I was okay.

Pen and paper - I find journalling very healing, you can also use it to jot down any questions for the doctor, and notes about any prescriptions etc.

Food - Since I’m following a gluten-free diet and eat extremely regularly I took my own food and asked them to put it in the ward fridge. Be aware that your throat maybe sore due to the anaesthetic so easy to swallow foods are good. Listen to your body when you feel like eating as some people are sick with the first food after anaesthetic. Take little nibbles and wait a few minutes to see what your body wants. I also took boiled sweets to suck on and herbal teas.

Water - I usually drink filtered tap water, but I found after the anaesthetic I was really sensitive to the chlorine in the water so wish I’d taken my own bottled water as you have to drink a lot when you come round to re-hydrate your body. Again I would recommend sipping  small amounts of water constantly rather than having to drink full glasses on demand if your blood pressure is too low for you to be released.

After the op:

Pain relief - Don’t be afraid of asking for painkillers if you need them, do not wait until you are in pain, as soon as you feel uncomfortable ask for some. I try not to take painkillers normally, but in this scenario you need them in order to allow your body to relax and heal. I would also recommend keeping a personal record of what you have had at what time as one nurse was convinced I had had a full dose on the last round when I’d actually been missed and was in need of relief.

Walking - They will encourage you to get up and walk around ASAP to help move the gas out of your body. I had trapped gas and it looked like the scene from aliens as my belly was pulsating and looking like something was trying to break out! Do not overdo it! I walked to the end of the ward and back and then nearly fainted. Listen to your body.

Time Off - I recommend taking a week off afterwards even if you feel okay to let your body relax and heal. They prescribed painkillers for me for a month as I had cysts and endo removed but I stop taking the really strong ones after five days as they were making me feel sick and stopped the paracetamol after 10 days. Everyone takes different times to heal and it would depend on what you had done. If you can make the most of the time off catch up on your reading/watching and ensure you have someone to look after you have released the first day to treat you like a princess!

Dissolvable stitches – These are supposed to dissolve within 3 to 4 weeks. My stitches did not dissolve and were irritating my skin so I went to see the nurse at my GPs to have them removed.

I hope this helped, please do email me any feedback or items you think might be helpful to others to add to the list.

Mindful Muma-to-be xxxx 

PS This combination of packing lists and advice is great too

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hands up who is jealous of Kate? Coping with jealousy while trying to conceive/experiencing infertility

This post was originally going to be called “Green Eyed Scary Lady!” but I decided to adapt it as, unless you live in a cave, you will know that Kate Middleton as was has had her baby and even though that has absolutely nothing to do with my own journey or yours for that matter, it might still of made you pause when you heard the news.

Jealousy, a very human trait, but one we fight against, none more so than while trying to conceive. Every bump or baby we encounter can feel like a punch in the chest, winding us, causing us to stumble. When that bump (or baby) belongs to a close friend or family member the emotional storm inside of us can be debilitating.  We can feel envious, inadequate, upset, confused, even grief stricken. Why them and not me? You then feel awful for having these feelings.

At times, distancing yourself from encounters can be essential as a survival technique and many TTC websites suggest avoiding baby showers and situations involving children in order to protect yourself.

I have given up so many things in my quest to become a mother; caffeine, dairy, gluten, alcohol, to name but a few. I also lost many things for a time, my self-confidence, my trust in myself, my body and my faith in life. However I refuse to give up or to lose my friends.

I love my friends’ children; they are miniature versions of the people I care most about. I spent much of last week in the company of friends with children. I take great joy in the games I play with those children. I love the fact that my friend’s baby is comfortable enough with me to fall asleep on my chest. I cherish the fact that a two-year-old greeted me using my school nickname as that is what her mum calls me and Friday afternoon was spent on a trampoline with two small excitable boys and I had just as much fun as they did.

The joy I take from these encounters far outweighs the difficult emotions which inevitably surface. Yes, it is difficult being around children when I desperately want them myself. Yes, it brings home the longing, the wanting and the lack, but my grief will not be any less acute, my situation would not be any different if I’d stayed at home.

I can be doing something completely unrelated to pregnancy and children, like dancing in a club and having a fantastic time when out of nowhere a little unwanted thought will rise up and be just as painful as walking past a group of new mums in a cafe.

The fact is that until I am pregnant I need to deal with the fact that I am not pregnant! I need coping strategies:

1. Be honest with yourself:

Part of my mindfulness practice is to stretch. The phrase “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is about what we learn on the way down” sums it up perfectly. When you stretch your body to the point of resistance you are learning your boundaries. The idea is not to strain, but to find that point of resistance and breath into it for a few moments to fully experience it, and then gently back off. We can use the same tool in scenarios when encountering emotional resistance. Learn your boundaries.

If you are in any given scenario and overwhelming emotions arise simply remove yourself from the situation for a time. Practice the “3 minute time out” exercise (blog post 21st April) and really allow your emotions to surface. It is okay to cry. It is okay to admit that you are jealous. It is perfectly understandable and natural. Be with your feelings. You may find that after a time, you are strong enough to continue your game of hide and seek and take pleasure from it.

2. Be honest with others:

This leads on to being honest with your friends and family. We can fall into the trap of seeming positive and upbeat when inside we are silently screaming. No one can truly understand how we are feeling but by sharing a little you may help to protect yourself from well-intentioned but painful comments. The family member who tells you to hurry up and have a baby before it is too late or the friend with a newborn who says you are lucky that you get to sleep at night. You don’t need to give them the whole story, but maybe a comment such as “You know it’s not as easy for some people just to decide to have a baby, these things can take time.” Or to friends who know you are trying “Most of the time I’m okay, but some days I just want to curl up under my duvet and I find it really difficult to stay strong.” You could send this blog to your friends and say that this is a little bit like how you are feeling.

3. Other people’s ballet pumps:

Everyone, no matter who they are, has their own difficulties and worries. You may look at someone who is heavily pregnant or who has a baby and think that they have everything, but unless you walk a mile in their shoes you do not know the entire story. Take Kate for example, she has a new bouncing baby boy, lives in a palace and has hair so beautiful that it makes even Jennifer Aniston envious! But we will never know the full story; she was married for 18 months before she conceived, were they trying for the entire time? Did she go through fertility treatments? Did she suffer a miscarriage? Whenever jealousy has you in its grip, take a deep breath and put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you will be amazed at how much this simple technique can help.

4. Don’t see babies as babies:

This one helps me the most when I feel myself judging other people’s parenting choices, you know, when you say to yourself “Why do they have a child when they obviously do not want them?” Imagine that child in 16 years time, giving that parent grief and getting their own back! This also helps to remind you that you don’t want just any baby, you want your baby, that person who will be in your life for your entire life.

5. The “Yes please” game:

This one can be really hard to start with but when you get into the habit of doing it it is really fun and can be a lifesaver. Instead of seeing every bump or baby as a reminder of what you do not have, use them as a reminder of what you want and say, “Yes please!”

If you have read any positive psychology books you will know that this is highly recommended for lifting your mood and moving towards what you want in life. The idea being that if you see the things you want and only register the lack of them in your own life you are putting yourself on a downward spiral that can lead to anxiety and depression. By saying yes to the things you want and imagining that you too can have them, you are putting yourself on an upward spiral, which is altogether more fun.

An example for you; every year I go on holiday with my husband, gran, parents and uncle to the seaside and every year I tell myself that next year I will be bringing our gorgeous baby with us. For the third summer Aunt Flo joined us instead and this year I was in the beach toilets. I stepped out of the cubicle to find not one but two heavily pregnant young ladies in front of me, in string bikinis! I had two choices, the first to turn round back into the cubicle and have a good cry or to say “Yes please, that will be me in eight months time, but possibly without the string bikini!” I went for the second option. I’m not saying it’s easy and sometimes it can take all of your strength, but it is so worth it.

6. Stop expecting life to be fair:

I went through a period of using the phrase “It’s not fair!” almost continuously. “It’s not fair that some women get pregnant when they do not even want a child.” “It’s not fair that I have to go through tests, injections, surgery and treatment and some people get pregnant on their first try.” “It’s not fair that some women have ten children and we don’t have any.” My husband simply said: “Why do you expect life to be fair?”

Life is not fair, shit happens to lovely people every day. The trick is not to be weighed down by this fact, but to change your perspective. Instead of stamping your foot and crying, “It’s not fair!” whenever life throws you a curveball instead see each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow.

On my journey I have learnt to be proud of myself, really proud of myself for who I am not what I do. I have learnt to accept my current situation while acknowledging my feelings. I have learnt to really love and listen to my body. I have learnt to communicate on a new level with my husband. I have learnt that I will not crumble, that I have an inner strength and I have learnt that I can be happy on this journey.

I would love to hear what strategies you use and if you find any of the above helpful, do join our online community and share your experiences.