Bye Felicia!

You know it’s really funny how I got so used to not leaving the house without a tampon or a serious stash of them in my purse. Most of the time actually having a tampon in, even though it technically wasn’t supposed to be my period because, inevitably, I’d be out in public somewhere and have “that feeling” (I don’t have to tell you other ladies what feeling I’m talking about) and be nowhere near a bathroom. Potential disaster. Especially with a toddler in tow. So frustrating. Like why didn’t I buy stock in the Tampax company? At times I’ve felt like I singlehandedly kept them in business.

I guess I just got too used to going and seeing doctors that told me my heavy bleeding was “normal for someone like you” or being told by a female practitioner “it’s just something we all deal with” or being over 40 and hearing “it’s just the age you’re at” because they don’t want to do the work to figure out what’s really wrong with me when I’m coming in with questions they can’t answer. But then I started noticing how many tampons I was buying and that I kept needing to find a box with super. Then ultra. Then super ultra. And a period that last 21 days with only a week of no bleeding. Severe bloating. Horrible cramp and pain. After enduring it for 3 years after the birth of my daughter I was finally like “Something’s gotta give.”

I was tired, REALLY tired (not figuratively) of all the bleeding and pain. I was tired of hearing doctors tell me I just needed a higher dosage of estrogen. I’m not a doctor but I know my body, and who wants all the side effects that come with a high level of estrogen not to mention the cancer risk? Then I got a new (female) doctor who, after hearing my history, said “YES” to my request to get an ablation. For those who don’t know, Endometrial ablation is a procedure that surgically destroys (ablates) the lining of your uterus. The goal of endometrial ablation is to reduce menstrual flow, or stop it completely. I was ALL IN about doing this. “Heck yeah” I thought, this will be the solution to all my problems! It’s a simple procedure with little recovery time. Even better!

Just to be safe, she mentioned that she’d like to get an ultrasound and do an endometrial biopsy. If you’ve never had an endometrial biopsy it’s pretty uncomfortable but not horrible. They do that to make sure you don’t have endometrial cancer. Unfortunately for me, the ultrasound showed a defect in my uterus that was contraindicated to an ablation.

While I was there I had my yearly mammogram. If you’re over 40, have you scheduled yours?

With a potential hole in my uterus (and me thinking “Why on early had I been seeing doctors for 3 years about this, and no one else thought to do an ultrasound?!”) my only option was a hysterectomy. With 8 weeks of down time for recovery, I wasn’t thrilled, but just ready to be done.

I scheduled my surgery for about a month out and thought about how I’d handle the situation. I decided that I wasn’t going to mourn the loss of an organ that had enabled me to become the mother of 3 precious children. With no desire to have any more children, I was ready to move on to a pain free life. So I did something that might seem unorthodox but seemed perfectly natural to me. I sent invitations to my girl friends to join me in celebrating this stage of my lifestyle at my favorite sushi restaurant with killer ambiance. Kind of a ‘Sex And The City’ style girl party, if you will. I even dressed up like my alter ego Carrie Bradshaw to celebrate the occasion.

My bestie mentioned she was bringing a cake but gave no details. Let me tell you how excited I was when I saw it! It couldn’t have been more perfect; “BYE FELICIA”!

So, with the party over and the reality of the actual surgery approaching, I wondered if it would be an easier recovery than my C-sections. The Doctor assured me it would; she was doing a robot assisted hysterectomy done laparoscopically, where I could retain my ovaries and, only if there were complications, would she potentially have to cut me open. We knew from the ultrasound that there was likely scar tissue gluing my bladder to my uterus, they wouldn’t be able to tell til they got in there if I’d have the risk of a perforated bladder.

Next, I asked all my friends and family to PRAY. 🙏 Pray for a positive outcome and to guide the hands of those performing the procedure as well as to ease my anxiety about this robot she was going to be using.

I went into surgery feeling no fear and emerged with no complications. Praises were sent up all around. I stayed the night in the hospital and went home about 24 hours after my procedure. I’m not going to lie. I took a picture of my belly as soon as I got home and thought I would never have a normal belly button again. As you can see I was extremely bloated and a bit bruised around my incisions. This was all quite painful and sore. I was very happy for my pain meds and the ability to rest.

The major pain I had initially was wincing pain upon sitting. I was quite nauseous. So much in fact that the doctor called in a prescription for me to have Zofran. It really helped so I could get my pain meds down. Going to the bathroom was painful too. Definitely thankful someone explained to me how important it is to take Colace when you’re on opioid pain meds. Trust me, you’ll want to make sure you don’t forget!

Fast forward two weeks later, my tummy looked like this:

My belly button looked a lot better, the bloating was gone and most of the bruising. By this time I was just taking my serious pain meds at night and Motrin during the day. I got my biopsy results back from the procedure and discovered the reason I’d been having heavy 3 week a month long bleeding for 3 years. I had a condition known as adenomyosis. You can read more about it here: Adenomyosis

Basically part of the endometrial tissue inside my uterus had migrated into my abdominal wall causing extreme pain and bleeding. I’m so glad I had the hysterectomy because an ablation wouldn’t have solved that problem! I’d done my own research after I started having heavy bleeding and asked my OB/GYN if he thought I could have Adenomyosis and he quoted me statistics about how rare it was and that it was unlikely. Just goes to show that your gut feeling can be way more accurate than a statistic yielding doctor.

Something noticeable 2 weeks post hysterectomy was a lot of night sweats. We’re talking getting up in the middle of the night with so much sweat I had to change my shirt. It was probably due to the fact I stopped taking estrogen, but rather annoying, none the less.

I think that this hormonal drop off also triggered some emotions I wasn’t expecting to have. I had a day of feeling pretty sad that even though I had my 3 wonderful children and had no desire for more, that this phase of my life was over. No more pregnancies or carrying babies. I took some time to grieve that and talked about it with some close girlfriends. Then I celebrated by putting all my extra tampons and pads in a box to run by and donate to the shelter.

I actually went to two job interviews after week 2 and I didn’t feel horrible. Well, that was until I got a stomach bug. It definitely isn’t any fun having to vomit 2 weeks after surgery and boy was I glad I had that Zofran prescription!

I was feeling pretty good about 3 weeks out, but I got a little carried away around Thanksgiving and had a little scare. You aren’t supposed to lift more than 10 pounds, but I’m guessing that frozen turkey might have been a bit bigger. I hadn’t had much bleeding at all, but then suddenly I had some fairly heavy bleeding and something that looked like a little blood clot. I was almost ready to head in to the ER when I was able to talk to a post surgical nurse who eased my mind, and told me to relax and stop overdoing it. Luckily this was likely due to the superficial healing around my internal stitches, and after taking it easy for about 4 days I felt much better with no further bleeding.

At my 6 week follow up I had to endure a vaginal exam, but got the green light that I could start some light exercise like elliptical training, but still no weight over 10 pounds for another 2 weeks.

By 8 weeks, the bruising is gone, my belly button looks quite a bit better, and I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist mostly due to no more bloating! Talk about a win! I was feeling very much like my regular self, and was amazed at how awesome it was not to have to worry about having feminine products with me 24/7.

Even better, since having kids I’d literally have to go pee like every 30 minutes or so or my bladder was in serious pain. I just thought I had a small bladder. Apparently it had something to do with the uterus putting all that weight on my bladder and the scar tissue. Now I can sit through a session at work, watch a movie, or go to church without missing something important because I have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom.

Besides the 8 week recovery time being a bit inconvenient I have zero regrets about my hysterectomy. I am no longer in constant pain. I have a new level of freedom I can’t even remember having. Feel free to post a comment or question!

Since it’s been a little over a year since I first launched my blog tRUTHfulonline.com (Copyright 2017) I thought it might be fun to highlight some of my “top hits”. You may have noticed many of the titles of my blog posts are titles to songs. I don’t know if you can relate, but I often have what I like to call “the soundtrack of my life” on loop in my head. Plus I LOVE music! If I’m sad I listen to music, if I’m pumped I listen to music. I sing to my daughter daily at bedtime and during daily routines. I definitely sing in the car. I mean who can resist a jam session with three adorable back up singers? Of course now that my soon to be 12 year old likes to play DJ, I don’t always know the words!

*tRUTHful Greatest Hits*

The Show Must Go On – Queen

Reckless Love – Cory Asbury

Broken – Seether

Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw

Mama’s Broken Heart – Miranda Lambert

I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan

Nothing Else Matters – Metallica You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi

I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash

Give Me Something to Believe In – Poison

(this one is a bit of a teaser because I called in Give Me Something to Believe in, but also referenced Forgiven by Alannis Morissette and Not Guilty by Mandisa)

Poker Face – Lady Gaga

Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Ray

My “album” even has some original tracks:

Old New Blue Jeans – Inspired by a couple of old country songs about Blue Jeans

Taste and See – Inspired by Hillsong/Oceans

Weed Em Out – Inspired by my garden

Burnt Buttermilk Biscuit – inspired by Sir Mix Alot

The Inspiration – inspired by Chicago

I hope you will enjoy checking out my labor of love over the past year. I leave you with my favorite bible verse containing the word Greatest.

So these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭

Old New Blue Jeans

Recently I put on a pair of jeans that I bought probably 3 years ago and had never worn. I bought them without trying them on and when I got home I discovered that even though they were the same size as the other pair I DID try on, and made by the same designer, they were a slightly different cut. So rather than return them, I said “I’m going to fit in these jeans one day so I’m not going to return them”. I think I might have tried them on another time or two, they still didn’t fit, and then life happened.

I was elated to discover as a newly remarried mom of two boys that I was pregnant again. I had a suspicion this was true when I went to a crawfish boil and the smell and idea of eating crawfish repulsed me even though normally I would have loved the opportunity. Later at my May birthday dinner, I passed on having a glass of wine but wasn’t sure why. A few days later a pregnancy test confirmed the reason and boy was I sooo sick. I was so moody and just really had zero energy which was tough because at the time I was enrolled in a Graduate degree program.

I decided not to immediately announce my pregnancy, and in the back of my mind I had a bad feeling. A few weeks later when I started spotting, I was taken back to memories I had when a similar thing happened with a pregnancy resulting in miscarriage. I went to see my OB and had an ultrasound; I was still pregnant but it was unsure if the baby was developing. I was experiencing every pregnancy symptom while facing the unbelievable possibility that this pregnancy could end. I had to keep going in for ultrasounds to check the progress. Although the gestational sac was growing the OB said it was 50/50 whether the baby would start growing. She said she’d seen the exact same thing with another mother who was now over 20 weeks along. I was so hopeful but also so anxious and scared.

At 11 weeks the doctor gave me the news I dreaded hearing, the fetus was not developing. I waited and nothing happened. The doctor described it as a missed miscarriage. I’d have to have a procedure done. It was around the Fourth of July now, a holiday that I couldn’t even begin to think about celebrating.

After the procedure I began feeling much more moody, and depression and grief set in. I felt so alone and sad. I began struggling to even want to get out of bed. I’d go to my Assessments class and couldn’t even process what the instructor was saying. The class was a tough one; I began to realize that I might not be able to pass the class and my school had a policy where you weren’t allowed to miss any classes. Finally I decided to talk to my Director and decided to drop the course so I wouldn’t fail it. I sat there in tears considering whether I even wanted to continue in the program because by now I was about 6 weeks in to a serious phase of hopelessness. All I could think about was trying to get pregnant again because of the gaping hole that loss had left.

Unfortunately I wasn’t seeking help or getting the support I needed. Since I hadn’t told anyone outside of my husband and best friend about the pregnancy, other people around me didn’t know what was going on and didn’t reach out to me or even seemed to reject me. I felt isolated and alone. Things might have continued to spiral downward until in late September I got another positive pregnancy test.

I was so scared I couldn’t even be happy about it. I feared it would end the same. The timing wasn’t the best; I had just started the internship required for my Masters degree. With the dropped class and now this, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to complete my program. If it weren’t for my best friend speaking prophecy into me that this baby would grow and develop into a strong and healthy baby girl, I don’t know what I would have done. Every day of that first trimester was an uphill battle as I was still dealing with depression and lack of support.

Around that time it occurred to me I wasn’t trusting God to help me deal with any of the intense feelings I was experiencing. I walked into Mardel Christian Books Store one day, and on the featured books table was the book “Whispers of Hope” by Beth Moore. It was a daily prayer devotional and at that moment God spoke to me and told me “Give it a try”.

As a counseling student, I knew that 10 weeks of journaling about hope could be very beneficial. So began the process of me burrowing in and this book ended up becoming my survival guide. Literally all I was doing was surviving though. I was so worried my emotions would effect my unborn child. I prayed every day for her protection. At the same time I fought a daily struggle to not drop out of my degree program. My heart and soul just felt like it was being crashed against a huge rock every single day, and I just fought to keep going, always just reaching out for hope. To be honest at the time I’m not sure how I got through. Looking back It felt like that line from the Footprints in the Sand poem; clearly God carried me!

The next year and a half from my daughter’s birth to now seemed like I was climbing a steep, steep mountain. When I came across those unworn jeans, they still had the tag on them. Since my skinny jeans had recently become loose on me, I had a suspicion they would fit and they did.

The funny thing is, I had to look back at everything that happened between then and now and ask myself if I was really happy about being able to fit in those jeans now. The person I was then would’ve used it as a measure to some sort of “success”. The person I am now just looks in the mirror and thinks “they’re just jeans, but look at the person I’ve become inside and the ridiculous amount of clarity that has been unveiled by faith that could literally move me up and down a mountain!”

Nothing Else Matters

So, if you’re like me you maybe spent longer than you’d like to admit trying to fit into someone else’s image of what beautiful is.  Or maybe every time you looked in the mirror you saw something different from what was actually there, because of what you thought society’s expectations were. Or maybe it wasn’t that obvious but you just felt inferior and couldn’t put a finger on why.

The realization that so many of my life’s strivings, so many of the things I anguished over and spent a RIDICULOUS amount of money and time on, don’t even matter.  I wish I  could go on a tour around the country and somehow reach (mostly) young girls who are already being unconsciously conditioned to think their looks define them.  If it wouldn’t be scary as all get out, I’d like to go up to each of them and tell them “Don’t spend your life comparing yourself to those figures you see on the TV screen and in magazines.  In the end, looks don’t matter!”  Maybe I feel that way because I wish someone would have done that for me.

If you understand what it means to be authentic, you know that it goes much deeper than what you see in the mirror.  However the superficial mask that I wore started with my self-image.  You see, somehow I got the idea that one of the worst things I could be would be to be ugly or over-weight.  It was an idea that was reinforced in my environment and consequently I found myself staring into a mirror and hating any fat I saw on my body.  I grew up in an era where fat was “out” from super models like Kate Moss, to Diet Coke and Rice Cakes!  Being a short girl and a late bloomer at that, I rarely remember looking in the mirror and ever being satisfied with what I saw.

I remember I dated a guy who was pretty open about the fact that the reason he looked at magazines like Penthouse or Playboy was because “I’ll never have a chance to be with a woman LIKE THAT.”  I wish I would have been raised to have enough self-esteem or self-worth to be able to hear a comment like that and not compare myself to the subject and come back with the understanding that I was less than.  But I did.  When I look back now at pictures of me when I was younger, I can now see a beautiful young woman, but at the time I was just trying to be something “better” or “more”, and of course a lot of it came down to being that way so that I could please others, not myself.

I never understood the concept of worth.  I didn’t have anyone sit me down and tell me that worth is far more than what you see when you look in the mirror. I remember styling my hair or choosing clothes to please people I was with.  I am so happy now when I hear people saying things like “I really want to get an undercut and fade cut in my hair but ‘Im afraid so and so wont like it” and the response is “But you would like it, right? Then who cares what so and so thinks anyway because its your hair”.  I mean if “so and so” doesn’t like you because you shave off part of your hair, then they clearly don’t like you for the right reasons.  Imagine if all your hair just fell out, would you be able to know without a doubt that that person would be right there beside you and going with you to your Drs appointments, even if you were cranky and in a bad mood and not any fun to be around?

Because at the end of the day THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. Those people that compare you to the airbrushed photos they see or tell you that wearing makeup is “false advertising” or who call you names, maybe even bully you for being different than what they have been conditioned to desire – those people aren’t going to define you.  Their cruel words or behavior do however define THEM. Why would you want to bend over backwards to please someone who would probably never treat you the way you deserve to be treated even if you somehow did fit their mold of perfection?  Because you don’t deserve that kind of conditional love.  You are beautiful exactly the way God created you, you are worthy and you deserve to be loved just like you are!

So, Moms especially, if you have boys, hear this.  Its our job to teach boys that women are not just beautiful when they are airbrushed and Photoshopped.  Start talking to boys about the true meaning of beauty.  See that expectant mom due any day standing in line at the supermarket? She’s beautiful.  The matriarch out for a walk on a cool morning   with laugh lines and a glimmer in her eye that can only come from wisdom and living a full life: she’s beautiful.   Maybe I’m doing something right because when my 11-year-old sees me applying makeup he tells me I’m wasting my time because I don’t need it, and I’m beautiful without it. Love that kid!

But don’t stop there! As women we have the unique ability to teach what beauty is in a more subtle way, by showing others that we love ourselves.  If you are critiquing your figure or hair in front of your daughter, she may decide to do the same thing to herself.  But if you say ” I feel so amazingly beautiful today’ (and do it when you are wearing yoga pants with your hair in a pony tail as often as when you are dressed up and have makeup on), then she will learn that beauty is not defined by what you are wearing or the size you fit into.  Try VERY VERY hard to not teach a girl her worth is in her beauty.  Society is already teaching her that.  It taught you that.  Why else would you be spending all that money on face cream and makeup primer? As a girl her first compliment will likely be “You’re so pretty” or “Your dress is so pretty”.  Start to point out to her the things that make her beautiful that don’t depend on her looks.

IMG_8015

It is said: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”1 Peter‬ ‭3:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬ http://bible.com/111/1pe.3.3-4.niv

As much as I’d like to protect my daughter from the world that thinks differently, I know the best thing I can do is teach her that she is “Not of This World” and do my best to surround her and point her towards other woman and people who are like-minded.

So, in tRUTHful style, I have found a way to weave the words of a song into a message I hope you will consider the next time you look in the mirror.  “So close, no matter how far, couldn’t be much more from the heart, forever trust in who we are, and nothing else matters!” You are a beautiful child of God.  God is right there with you, no matter how far away He may seem at times; trust that you are His masterpiece and perfect EXACTLY the way you are! NOTHING.ELSE.MATTERS!

Listen here: Metallica – Nothing Else Matters

Weed ’em out

I was pulling weeds  this morning and, who knew, it is surprisingly therapeutic!  My almost 1-year-old just discovered dirt… it rained last night so I guess I should say mud. I was reminded of a time in my youth when I used to make mud pies and then take a bite, thinking it would taste delicious.  Not so much.  Apparently she concurs on the taste of dirt!  And so it begins…

I got to thinking about all those metaphors you hear about weeds and dirt and some of them are kind of cliché aren’t they? The one I’ll focus on now is feeding negativity, a major problem of mine. It’s a lot like a garden full of weeds. There may be some beautiful flowers in there but they’re hard to see because of all the weeds. Even worse those weeds start to choke out the flowers until the weeds take over and once those weeds are deeply rooted, they’re very hard to remove.

So, like a good gardener,  I took about an hour pulling up these weeds, and I thought the pile looked huge till I took a picture of it and though it looks pretty puny! Not only that, there are so many left I haven’t pulled. Isn’t that about how it is: the work we have to do sometimes is so overwhelming and such hard, hard work. Then we take a step back to see what we’ve done and it looks like almost nothing.

How do you handle the daunting task of weeding out negative thoughts?  One weed at a time!

weed pile
An hours worth of weeds,pulled one handed while attempting to keep my baby from eating dirt!
garden lol
So many more weeds to tackle!
In a protected, nurtured area we started some zinnia seeds. Zinnias must be a gardeners dream (first time trying them) because we planted them and they germinated within four days! They’re already peaking up through the dirt. So I know they are delicate and if I put them outside right now they won’t survive out here; we’ve got rabbits and all kinds of birds, bugs like grasshoppers especially that love to eat tender young plants.
zinnia
just sprouted Zinnia plants
Kind of reminds me of a situation I experienced as a young girl. Someone very close to me used to tell me all the time that I was fat and ugly and I would never have a boyfriend. So I decided desirable characteristics to gain a boyfriend must be pretty and thin. I was young and delicate and I didn’t have a great foundation of self-worth. It didn’t take much for me to succumb to this kind of bullying behavior.
So began years of starving myself to be thin even though I actually already was. And a beautiful flower has a hard time growing with no nutrients.
Oh how I wish I could go back as the woman I am today and speak to that girl that I was back then! Maybe tell her about Ruth and how she had a lot of negative things happen to her but unlike her mother in law Naomi who became bitter and even changed her name to “Mara” which means bitter,  Ruth chose to focus on the positive ones, and ended up being part of an amazing love story! The other great thing about the story of these two women is that even though Naomi must have been a hard person to be around with so much grief at the loss of her husband and both of her sons, with no grandchildren, Ruth stood by her.  She pledged her faithfulness to a woman that she could have easily left behind and went on with her life.
 The world will tell you you’re not beautiful enough you: need more curves, you need less curves, you need longer legs, bigger boobs,  you need tan skin, you need the fountain of youth…the list goes on. You may compare yourself to the women you see on t.v. and in commercials and just start hating yourself. The weeds just start growing and growing!
If you aren’t in a community of like-minded individuals, it might even feel like someone is throwing Miracle Grow on those weeds and making them grow faster and stronger.
If I can suggest one thing to you it is this, if you are feeling like Naomi, so bitter and overwhelmed with the weeds in your garden, consider finding yourself a friend like Ruth.  Someone who can build you up and be a good support system for you, and even help you pull some of those weeds!
Here’s the back story if you haven’t been following my blog, you may have noticed the name RUTH cleverly embedded in my title tRUTHful.  She is the inspiration for this and many other future conversations.

Who was RUTH? What amazing TRUTH can we learn from her? Stay tuned to read and share about my quest to live authentically as a woman in today’s world and to empower other girls and women to do the same!

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