Thursday, August 3, 2017 – Arrival Day
My husband and I flew into Chicago O’Hare airport. It was a direct flight from NY’s LaGuardia airport, which is only 15 minutes away from our apartment. While the nerves arrived well before this day, they really started to sink in when we touched down in Chicago.
With my parents thankfully flying in to take care of our daughter in San Diego, we only had one “child” to care for: our small, 7-year-old Yorkshire terrier, Phil. A travel veteran, he was ready to go once we brought out his travel carrier. My husband and I were both exhausted from a long, work week before taking off for our “vacation” aka my surgery weekend. Once we got on the plane, we both fell asleep. Mid-flight, I was awakened to a stewardess walking down the aisle with a dog in her arms calling, “Is anyone missing a dog?”
My eyes shot open and I looked up to see Phil in her arms. I reached out and apologized and said it was our dog. She handed him back to us and we put him back in his travel carrier in front of our seat. The little Houdini managed to squirm his way through the zippers. He ran off to God knows where. So glad we found him safe and sound!
There was a summer storm in Chicago shortly after we deplaned. Thankfully our flight was not delayed heading in. Our luggage, however, was significantly delayed due to the rain. During Chicago storms, the airport workers are brought inside and they halt operations outdoors completely for their protection. We stayed in the waiting area for an additional hour waiting for them to remove our luggage from the plane. During that time, the surgery center called me to confirm my appointment. The lady actually scared me saying she was confirming my surgery for 8am the following day.
Me: “You mean Saturday, right?” *Anxiety and then dread slowly creeping into my heart.*
Lady at Surgery Center: “Oh yeah, yeah, Saturday. Sorry, I thought today was Friday.”
I exhaled sharply and continued on with the conversation. This annoyed me but I couldn’t let it get the best of me. She went through a laundry list of questions and reminders in preparation for my pre-pregnancy TAC surgery which included:
- Inquiries about prior medical history, surgeries, and allergies to medications
- History of anesthesia and confirmation of anesthesia from prior wisdom teeth removal
- Nothing to eat or drink after midnight
- No contact lenses and no jewelry could be worn the day of surgery
- No lotion, deodorant, makeup of any kind was allowed the day of the surgery
- Confirmation that brushing your teeth before the procedure was okay but ensure not to ingest any water
- Any payment would be collected the day of surgery. (Note: I have United Healthcare and my co-insurance payment came out to $337. This payment, along with medications, hotel and flight stay were quite reasonably priced considering the benefit of this procedure!)
- Loose comfy clothing for the day of surgery
- Directions were provided and they encouraged visiting the surgery center to familiarize ourselves with the location. And also to help with nerves.
- I had read multiple personal sites suggesting for people to take Colace prior to the surgery. I asked and the surgery center did not want me to use this medication before the surgery so I made sure to eat plenty of fiber. I also was consuming more than half of my weight in ounces weeks prior to my surgery.
- They confirmed the schedule for me: 7am admit, 8am surgery which should last approximately 1.5 hours. I should be out in the recovery room by 11am and out of the outpatient surgery center by noon.
Seems easy enough, right? Ha.
The University of Chicago has discounted rates with various hotels within proximity to the surgery center. My husband and I are not wealthy by any means but with his long hours of recruiting duty and just the year’s events in general, we decided to spend a little extra and stay at the Four Seasons. The discounted rate from the surgery center was reasonable. When I called to book the reservation, they also had a free 3rd night stay promotion which was a deal.
Upon seeing Phil at check-in, the front desk upgraded us for free to a phenomenal room on the 30th floor that had a terrace for Phil to run around on. The terrace had incredible views of Lake Michigan, and the room had a second bathroom, large living and dining room, and a full kitchen with a microwave and fridge. This proved to be very handy not only for our dog but for walking around, warming up left overs, and getting fresh ice for the ice pack over my incision. While this trip was not the way we envisioned a Chicago visit to be, we made the most of our time admiring the beauty of Chicago from the terrace before venturing off into the city.
Friday, August 4, 2017 – Sightseeing Day
We had a fully packed agenda during our only full day in Chicago that I could walk around. From seeing the The Cloud Gate, the Michael Jordan Statue at the United Center, perusing the beautiful, clean streets, and eating pizza, we capped off the day with an evening viewing of the Broadway show, Hamilton. Having last seen it in February when I was pregnant, I fought back tears in the theater. My nerves were amplified times ten on this day and the flood gates were filling but not overflooding – yet. While we both made the most of our time in Chicago, Ezekiel’s life and passing was very much near and dear to us as we soaked in the city sights. We missed our son dearly and knew that his life and death was the only reason why we were there.
But we also knew he wanted us to love one another deeply and that there was more to our story. The transabdominal cerclage was a milestone for us in our renewed dream of growing our family together.
My last meal before the surgery was a Chicago dog at 11pm after the show. I inhaled it and instantly regretted it, thinking I would see it on the other end after the anesthesia. I showered and felt strange not applying any lotion or night products on my face and attempted to go to bed.
Saturday, August 5, 2017 – Surgery Day
I tried to sleep but I tossed and turned and woke up at 4am. I was not able to go back to sleep until 5am when my alarm was set for 6am. When my alarm went off, I popped up out of bed with fear, anxiety, and excitement. Today was the day!
6am – Wake Up
After washing my face with water and brushing my teeth while being ever so careful not to ingest water, I really began to feel the nerves settling in. I was ready to go in my maternity leggings, loose shirt, long cardigan and long socks within 15 minutes. I managed to have a bowel movement. The Chicago Dog emerged in a well-welcomed format after all.
I sat in the living room to turn on my worship music and immediately began to cry. My husband joined me on the couch and said a prayer out loud for us, asking the Lord for his strength and his protection and reminding both of us that the reason we were there because this was how we could grow our family. We asked God and Zeke to watch over us and be ever so near to us on this day. My tears subsided and we made our way down to the surgery center.
6:40am – Arrival at the Surgery Center
The walk down to the surgery center from the Four Season was about 5 minutes. We arrived at 6:40am and the lights were still off. We sat in the hallway and played on our phones in silence.
6:50am – Check In
Two staff members arrived and let us in. They led us past the front reception area to the back where another reception area is. The room was completely empty and filled with natural light from the skylights above. It amused me to think that life continued all around us in Chicago, but here I was getting ready to go under the knife.
The receptionist asked for my insurance card and ID and gave me some brief paperwork to fill out. The paperwork consisted of signatures and confirming all of the pre-operation questions that were asked of me on Thursday.
7:05am — Go Time
A RN came out and called my name to enter the back area. She told me she would be my nurse before, likely during the procedure, and afterwards. The back area was again completely empty except for her, my husband, and me. It was bit eerie but I was mostly grateful that there wasn’t the usual hustle and bustle that you would see in a hospital setting.
I was led to a backroom with my husband. The curtain was drawn and she gave me a gown, hospital socks with some traction, and a head cap to change into. Since I was on my period, I asked for underwear and a pad. She gave me some mesh underwear that I laughed at and she stepped out of the room so I could change. There was a locker in the room for me to place my belongings.
The nurse came back into the room and asked me the same questions I was asked over the phone, which I had just confirmed via signature in the waiting room. They sure were dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s.
“This surgery is going to hurt, I’m not going to lie to you,” said the nurse.
I felt my eyes widen as she said that but I nodded my head. I knew what I was getting into. I just didn’t expect her to call it out so bluntly. I like bluntness.
“Do you practice yoga?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Keep taking those long, deep breaths. Deep inhale, deep exhale. Right now, and especially after your surgery when you’re walking around.”
Advice well noted and still something I’m practicing on post-op Day 4, BTW.
She attempted to poke me to start my IV but after two failed attempts, she decided to give it a rest. The pokes were quite painful but I remembered a trick I read when I was little kid: Look the other way, take deep breaths, and wiggle your toes so the poke won’t be as painful. Just when the piercing feeling was starting to settle in, Dr. Haney walked in with a bundle of energy, grabbed my husband’s hands and used them as a model for a uterus. He was older than the pictures I googled on the internet, but just as kind, if not even more caring as everyone says he is. I was filled with a sense of peace that I cannot describe when he entered the room. In hearing his immensely detailed explanations of how to explain the TAC to my friends and family, I whispered a prayer and told the Lord I trusted Him and I trusted Dr. Haney.
In the midst of all the talking, the anesthesiologist snuck in and grabbed my arm and started the IV and antibiotic drip himself. He was efficient and it was painless because I was distracted by Dr. Haney’s explanations.
8am – Surgery Time
My husband gave me a parting kiss, the nurse took my glasses away from me (I’m blind, I have a -6.00 Rx), and the anesthesiologist and nurse began to wheel me to the operating room. Dr. Haney was still talking to my husband when I was being whisked away. I overheard him saying he was going to send him on an adventure to Walgreens.
En route to the operating room, the nurse and anesthesiologist tried to ease my nerves by talking about my job and how many kids I have. I explained to them that I have a 6-year- old daughter and a son who had passed away in April at 22 weeks gestation. They were very empathetic and the anesthesiologist remarked, “Well you’re in the right place. There’s been so much success with this surgery, I don’t know why more people don’t do this since the success rate is so high!” This pleased me very much and I knew he was right.
I had to transfer myself from the gurney over to the operating room table. I laid my arms out and another nurse in the room began to strap my arms in place. The RN asked if I was on my period because she was going to put in the foley. “Sorry, friends,” I thought in my head, “I’m a bloody mess down there right now.”
And with that, the anesthesiologist placed a clear mask over my face. He told me it was just oxygen and to take deep breaths. That was the last I remembered of the operating room.
11:30am – Recovery Room
I woke up in the same room I had changed my clothes in and could see my husband sitting across from me. Immensely sleepy and in a tiny bit of pain, the same nurse I had asked me questions about my pain level from 1 – 10, 1 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain. I said 5. As soon as I woke up more, she wanted me to walk to the upright chair from the gurney I was laying in.
The chair seemed really far.
“Yoga breathing!” she remarked.
“Dear Lord, help me!” I said in my head when I finally mustered up the courage to get off the bed with my husband’s and her assistance.
When I made it to the chair, they urged me to eat saltine crackers and drink cranberry juice. I was tired. All I wanted to do was close my eyes. My husband put crackers in my mouth and I had to hold my hand up to motion for him to stop. I wanted to sleep. The nurse came back with pain medication in a little container that looked like a to-go syrup pack. I gulped it down and chased it with cranberry juice and attempted to close my eyes again.
As my eyes grew heavy again, my nurse reappeared with another nurse and asked me if I had to go the bathroom. I knew I had go but the bathroom seemed far away. In reality, the bathroom was about 10 feet away from my room. I stood up gingerly and attempted to walk. The nurses stood by my side as I walked to the bathroom. One nurse covered the toilet seat for me while the other nurse turned on the water. The gushing sound was welcome as I eased myself onto the toilet.
But the pee didn’t come out.
Four eyes were staring at me.
They finally gave me some privacy and told me I could use the call button when I was finished. I took another breath and attempted to pee and nothing came out. I was scared it would hurt. Silly me, there wasn’t pain. My fear always likes to take over my vulnerability.
When I walked back to the room, I had to change. As I sat back down on the chair, my husband helped me put on my clothes and it was time to be discharged. I had to get up again from the chair and into the wheelchair. They gave me an ice pack to apply to my incision area and several pages of detailed instructions on post-TAC care and pre-natal care with the TAC from Dr. Haney.
The nurse wheeled me back to the Four Seasons and bid me farewell and good luck when we entered the lobby. At first I thought the wheelchair was going back with her and I was not happy. Luckily, the Four Seasons has their own wheelchair and it was at our disposal for the rest of the day. My husband wheeled us back to the room and I changed into pajamas and crawled into bed.
The pain at this point was about 4 out of 10. Not bad but the anesthesia was still in me along with the pain meds which was very welcome. I’m not a wimp when it comes to pain but I know my thresholds. I needed pain medication. Bravery without meds could be saved for another day. I had energy to lift my legs onto the bed and shoot a couple of text messages off to my family and friends to tell them that I was alive. And then I knocked out.
1-7pm – Rest and Recovery
I slept on and off intermittently. I had to use the bathroom every hour from all of the fluids from the IV. I became paranoid that I had a urinary tract infection and started pounding down even more water. I was very reliant on my arms and quads to lift myself out of bed and to squat down to use the bathroom.
I moved around frequently because I knew the incision site would tighten up with more movement. For 10 minutes every hour, I lapped the living room and bedroom several times or to refill my ice pack with fresh ice. My movement was extremely slow but steady. I would have rather been in bed resting but I want to recover as quickly as possible.
I was fortunate to not have experienced any nausea after surgery. There was one point when I felt a wave coming through but I quickly got over it. I had a late lunch of chicken soup, veggies, and water. Bland but it served its purpose and by 4pm, it was time for my first dose of Percocet and Colace.
8pm – A Visit by Dr. Haney
Around 7:50pm, the hotel phone rung and it was the front desk informing me that Dr. Haney was on his way up. Phil and Ken and I woke up and glanced around the room to ensure everything was neat and orderly and I really had to go to the bathroom but there was no time.
Dr. Haney entered the room and immediately Phil was an excited, little boy, yapping away with no care in the world. Dr. Haney was a trooper and inquired about my status and gave me a detailed overview of my surgery: The procedure took a little longer than usual due to some thicker muscle he encountered. He placed 3 bands in my cervix that would be able to withstand the weight of not only twins or triplets, but a 130 pound adult! That made me laugh and it hurt my incision site. He said that we could start trying as soon as we felt up for it but if we were doing IVF, he recommended one cycle after surgery to allow the tissue to pass from the surgery.
Phil jumped into his lap and begged to be petted. This was probably the most unusual of visits for Dr. Haney but I’m sure it was memorable. Besides having to use the bathroom badly, I was mortified by my dog’s unusual behavior.
After several moments of storytelling about his recent adventures to Iceland, Dr. Haney stood up and said he needed to respond to emails and voicemails. He requested for me to send him an email to let him know when we were back in NY safely. He also said he wanted pictures of us with our future children, our daughter and laughed and said, “Maybe you, too!” to Phil. I grinned widely and said we would definitely do that. What kind of doctor goes to their patient’s rooms to check on them post-surgery? An amazing doctor, that’s who!
Sunday, August 6, 2017 – Recovery Day
Level of Pain: 4 out of 10. Pain upon waking up that subsided after my pain pill.
Medication Used: Percocet, Colace. Still applying the ice pack intermittently.
Movement: Limited and slow. I was walking around like a semi-hunchback. Very hard to get out of bed and was very reliant on my triceps to hoist myself up. Once I was up and about, I put on my abdominal binder and was fine. I even managed to go to the spa to grab some of their special spa water before heading to the mall downstairs from the hotel. The mall was empty so I could move around as slowly as I pleased.
Eating: Back to normal but making a conscious choice to consume more fiber and a ton of water.
Symptoms: Bloating was at its worst and gas pains were starting to settle into my stomach. There were times where I couldn’t distinguish the incision pain between the gas pain.
Bowel Movements: One in the late afternoon and it was not pleasant. After my c-section with my daughter, I did not have a BM for a week and I feared this just as much as everything else you could think of prior to surgery. Any BM is good but it was not satisfying.
Monday, August 7, 2017 – Travel Home Day
Level of Pain: 4 out of 10
Medication Used: Percocet in the morning and prior to flight, Colace, and started transitioning to a 400 mg dose of Ibuprofen every 4 hours to avoid constipation. Discontinued use of the ice pack.
Movement: Still limited and still slow. Today I had to ask my husband for help to support me out of bed.
Travel Experience: We relied on Lyft’s throughout our stay in Chicago. The travel pillow was handy protecting my incision site from the friction of the seat belt and the road bumps during the 40 minute ride from downtown Chicago to the airport.
I had requested for wheelchair service at O’Hare. It was jam packed and after standing for 10 minutes and seeing no wheelchair, I told my husband that we would proceed without it. He eyed me cautiously but I felt confident and it turned out to be okay.
The airplane ride was fine. I still consumed my usual amount of water and didn’t have to go to the bathroom until we touched down in NY. The flight was a little choppy towards the end because of storms in the Northeast but the pillow helped. The landing was rough and it was not a pleasant landing experience as we pitched forward on the runway. My husband held out his arm to brace me from moving forward and that helped me tremendously.
Eating: Back to normal and still consuming a ton of water. I inhaled a bag of Garrett’s popcorn at O’Hare and I was a fatty and had chicken Mcnuggets. Food is a little limited at the airport. I made sure to pound down some probiotics when we arrived in our apartment.
Symptoms: Slight pain at the incision site. Bloating still continues. Today instead of looking 4 months pregnant, I looked 3 months pregnant.
Bowel Movements: Two satisfying ones. Slowly getting back to my normal schedule!
Tuesday, August 8, 2017 – Settling Home
Level of Pain: 4 out of 10. Pain is strongest in the morning when I wake up. Intermittent nerve pain creeps in around the 4-5 hour mark when it’s time for my pain medication.
Medication Used: 400 mg Ibuprofen every 4-5 hours. Colace. Used a Percocet at night time but I think I can manage tomorrow without it.
Eating: Green leafy veggies, fiber filled foods, chicken and my probiotics. Increased water consumption to my full body weight in ounces.
Symptoms: Slight pain at the incision site. Still bloated.
Bowel Movements: Three
This afternoon, I reflected upon the trip and read my Bible to tell God how thankful I was for the outcome of the surgery. I know full well that the journey has just begun but to have even been able to reach this point is incredibly gratifying. I am so grateful. I sent Dr. Haney an email when I finished unpacking this afternoon:
Dear Dr. Haney,
I just wanted to let you know that I am back in NYC now. I have been up and moving and somehow managed to walk more than 2 miles through Chicago and O’Hare yesterday so all is well. I am now off the Percocet and taking Advil. There is some some slight pain at the incision site on occasion, but I am otherwise feeling okay.
Thank you again for the TAC surgery. I cannot thank you enough for giving my husband and I a renewed sense of hope and confidence that our future pregnancies will be successful. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you. I will ensure to tell all of the Abbyloopers community that you are exactly how everyone describes you to be: kind, compassionate, knowledgeable, and incredibly skilled at what you do. Thank you, Dr. Haney!
Wishing you all the best and I will keep you posted on our future babies.