I thought a lot about whether to write this post.
I mean would any of my regular readers want to hear about what recovery from hernia surgery is like?
But when I got online before my surgery to find out what the surgery and recovery would be like all I could fine was a lot of medical websites with typical post-op instructions. I wanted to find a more personal account. Something to tell me what to really expect.
So I’ve decided to share my experience, so that anyone out there googling “Umbilical Hernia surgery recovery” can find a personal account, and maybe feel a little better about what they’re walking into.
I’ll start off with this though, obviously every person is different, every Dr. is different, and every case is different. I am by no means an expert, just a girl sharing my story.
Getting diagnosed was by far the biggest challenge. You can read a little more about that here. Mostly because the Dr.s ignored it because, “it was too small to be causing so much pain.”
For months, dare I say even years, I was experiencing pain during any change in my girly cycle (ovulating, pms), when my bladder was full, when I had to poo, and occasionally during grown-up married people time.
I had come to accept it as just something my body did. a side effect of all the changes it went through from having babies, getting my tubes tied, etc.
But then one day the pain came and didn’t go away.
This was unacceptable.
I kept telling my Dr. “its about 2-3 inches below my belly button.”
Which is what I eventually Googled.
After a particularly disheartening day in which I was declared “fine” by yet another Dr. I said a prayer, and typed in, “pain 2 inches below belly button.”
This is what I found.
I read it, sent it to Scott, and knew I had found my answer.
Luckily mine wasn’t hidden, it was kind of in plain sight for a Dr. willing to listen to me.
Which is thankfully where I ended up. In the office of a surgeon who was an awesome listener, who I felt for the first time was taking me seriously.
“I have had 3 babies, 2 of them were 10 lbs. with no drugs, I’m not a weenie, when I say it hurts, it hurts.” Was what I told him during my first visit.
So the surgery was scheduled.
Here’s what it entailed.
An incision below my belly button. A “smiley face” is what my Dr. called it. It is more of a straight line, and when I say below, I mean directly below, like right on the edge.
**Turn away here if you have a weak stomach**
The surgeon informed me that after making the incision he would flip my belly button up. (AHHHHH!!) and repair the hernia. He said it was probably small enough to stitch closed, but if it was bigger than he expected he’d use a little mesh to repair it.
** You can continue reading now**
He also was taking out my appendix (the reason the occasional pain had become constant), the appendectomy only required 3 very small incisions, so I wasn’t really worried about that.
Just like all surgeries I had to arrive about 2 hours before the actual operation was scheduled. I was prepped and asked a million questions.
My surgeon came in to talk to me for a few minutes, and write on my belly with a sharpie before I was taken back.
The two OR nurses were also named Krista, and they spelled it right, and they were blond. I knew I was in good hands.
Here’s a few things to note for the Pre-Op portion.
– Leave all your jewelry at home.
– Wear something without a waist band. I had a T-shirt dress my Mom bought me for the occasion. You are NOT going to want anything around your waist afterword.
– If you have ever been nauseous after anesthesia tell them- they will give you good drugs to prevent it. The last thing you want to do is puke when there are stitches in your belly button!
– Obviously follow any and all other instructions given by your Dr.
The surgery itself took an hour or two. I don’t really know because I was very much asleep.
In recovery they started talking to me.
I remember being asked if I was in pain. I said yes. They asked me to rate it.
I said 9. (10 is reserved induced contractions during the birth of a 10 lb baby. I hope never to reach 10 again)
I know they told me what they were giving me. I know they asked me questions. And I know I told them a story, but I don’t remember any more than that.
Too. Many. Drugs.
They let me wake up a bit more, got me some ginger ale and crackers, and gave my Mom and I post-op instructions.
Standing up, and sitting down, generally any change in position was quite painful. They gave me a little pillow to hold against my belly anytime I moved, and it became my security blanket. (With bigger hernias they often give you a binder to wear)
I came home, and super hubby helped me up the stairs and into bed. I had a little dinner, took some pain pills and went to sleep.
Here’s my advice for post-op
– Have lots of ice on hand, or ice packs, they help tremendously.
– Have lots of pillows in your bed, getting comfortable is a challenge.
– Have someone to help you maneuver, moving is harder than you think. Especially laying down, you underestimate how much you use your abs going backward.
– Take your pain pills. You may think you are tough, but there is no reason to let that pain catch up to you. For the first 24-48 hours take them when you can.
– STOOL SOFTENERS. I repeat STOOL SOFTENERS. Don’t make me go into detail or the squeamish people will have to turn away again. Just have them on hand…and make sure they’re not expired.
– Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Nothing will make you feel better than rest. Make sure you have enough help so that you can rest.
– Don’t be afraid to call your Dr. If you have any concerns or questions, call, better to know then to risk complications.
– Brace yourself when you have to change your bandages. It is unnerving, scary, and there will be no hair left on your torso. But after you do it once, you’ll be ok.
My biggest question I was looking to answer before my surgery was how long recovery would really take. I didn’t want the text book 7-10 days answer. I wanted to know what it would be like.
-I could get out of bed and go to the bathroom myself in about 3 days. It was still painful, but I could do it.
-At about the one week mark I was doing small things around the house, and moving around much more. I had to remind myself to rest.
-At 10 days I felt like myself again. The pain around my incisions was still there but not nearly as bad, and the internal soreness was much better.
-I ran a low grade fever, 99.5-99.8 every evening for about 3 weeks. My Dr. said it was ok, just to watch if it went higher. It was enough to make me feel exhausted, so I took a nap almost every afternoon.
-The three week mark was like magic. I felt good. I started to have more energy, and my incisions were mostly healed.
-I wasn’t allowed to lift anything over 25 lbs. for a month. I didn’t take any risks. I didn’t carry groceries, or laundry, or anything I wasn’t sure of.
-There was swelling, there still is. It has been a month and a half since my surgery and in the evening I still get swollen right across my belly button. It isn’t as bad as it was but it’s still there. It is slowly getting better, I just change into my pj’s earlier.
I feel so much better now. Within 48 hours, even with the pain from the surgery I knew that the problem was solved. And now 6 weeks later I feel better than I have in months. I have learned without a doubt to listen to my body, and be my own health advocate.
When you know something is wrong, listen to your gut.
My hernia potentially saved my life. It sounds dramatic but it’s constant pain was being caused by my appendix.
When the Dr. removed it he said that it looked fine. However it was tucked up behind my colon in a way that would have made it really hard to get to in an emergency situation.
The pathology came back on it two weeks after the surgery… it was infected, not full blow appendicitis but the beginnings.
I probably would have ignored that pain in my side for a lot longer if it hadn’t be compounded with the pain of the hernia. Then my appendix could have become really infected, and hard to get to, not a situation I would want to be in.
So everything worked out the way it was supposed to. Hopefully my experience can help someone else looking for answers.
Here are a couple of other articles about hernias in women.