Before all this began, I was given an estimate of about six weeks recovery time. That is, six weeks to get back to being a normally functioning adult, more or less. Six weeks until “don’t push it, no exercise and like if you really need to have sex you can but take it easy and probably actually don’t.” Six weeks, but maybe it’ll take a bit longer, and you still won’t be 100%.
It’s been six weeks, and you wanna know how I feel?
I feel fucking great. I can walk and jump and bend at the waist and do all of the things normal, able-bodied people are able to do (I feel like I should make that distinction more often. I refer to things ‘normal people’ can do but what I really mean is things that were normal for me, an able-bodied person, to be able to do). The other day, I went for a walk, just to see how far I could get before my body started complaining. I came home about two hours later. Much better.
I still get tired easily, and the not being able to exercise thing is getting to me, but generally I’m pretty much back to where I was. As far as the area in question, the scars are still visible but they’ve healed a lot, and everything else looks pretty well healed. At least, the parts I can see. But let’s jump back a bit, to two weeks ago.
After being home for about two weeks, a little more, I went back to see the surgeon. He poked around and make sure everything looked fine, and told me the mould’s time was done. Next up, dilation.
Oh, dilation. Allow me to preface dilation with this: I will be doing this for the rest of my life. There will literally never be a point in my life where I don’t have to do this. So keep that in mind as we move on to the explanation.
This is a dilator. Twice a day, I get to lie on my back, lube it up, and slide it slowly into my vagina as far as it’ll go, then hold it in for half an hour. It comes in a variety of sizes. I started with a slightly smaller one, and I am working my way up slowly. The sensation is like…
Have you ever stuck a finger into something wet and suction-y and tried to pull it out? And it just sort of won’t budge? And you have to slowly and gently ease it out, bit by bit? It’s like that, but in reverse. And with more vaginal discomfort.
So every morning when I wake up, and again before I go to bed, I spend half an hour trying to slide a plastic tube up my vagina, one that is just slightly too big, so that it stretches it all out, and I watch a TV show and count down the minutes until I can slowly slide it out again, covered in mucus and lube.
Then, because I have my legs spread and my feet touching, I slowly let my legs come together again, my groin feeling very stretched, as I gingerly hold the dilator with one hand and hope it doesn’t drip anywhere. With one hand, I manage to pull up my underwear and pants, and I carry it across the house to the bathroom, and wash it with warm water and soap. As you can imagine, it’s not the most relaxing bedtime ritual.
Now, I know I said I’ll be doing this the rest of my life, but it’s not quite as bad as that. Over time, I’ll be able to reduce the frequency, down to once a day, then a few times a week, then maybe even once a week. Much better, right? It still never ends, but it’s comparatively much less work. And I need to mention this, because I want to be thorough: if I’m having penetrative sex, with dicks or with toys, then I’ll need to dilate even less. As several medical professionals have so gleefully told me: use it or lose it.
So there you have it. Six weeks on and I’m most of the way better. I can live my life more or less normally, though I won’t be having sex or doing anything too strenuous any time soon. In case you were wondering.
On another note, I’ve caught myself feeling a lot more needy after surgery. I’m not sure how related they are. But I’ve been craving social attention and physical attention more than ever, and definitely not being satisfied with what I’m getting. Now, that could be because I went through major surgery and let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a hug? It could be because I’m still getting used to not being in a relationship or living with a partner. It could be because now I’m more confident physically, and I want to get out in the world now that one of my bigger barriers has been removed. It could be because of my shifting hormone levels. It could be because the surgery has left me vulnerable and weak and I’m reaching out.
It could be a lot of things, is what I’m saying. And it could be any combination of those things, or all of them, or none of them. Who knows? But it’s a thing, whatever it is.
Oh, and speaking of physical confidence: I don’t like the way I look. And you know what? That’s great.
I know, I know. I sound like a fool. But hear me out.
Before surgery, I couldn’t really get a solid reading on how I felt about my body, because the overwhelming narrative was: wrong. Just wrong. I looked weird, unnatural, unfamiliar. I couldn’t judge myself by the beauty standards I’ve been socialised to judge by.
Now, I can look at myself, at my body, and I can judge it. And yes, that’s not necessarily good for me, and I definitely need to work on it. But the point is, I can do it. I can feel about my body the way everyone else (more or less) feels about their body. I can like it and hate it in all the usual ways. That, to me, is incredibly significant.