Sometimes we are forced to take a break from our normal routine because our bodies say so and that was the case for me this past week when I had to pop into Women and Infants Hospital in Providence for a quick fix-me-up from having all those babies a decade ago and, well, gravity. As with all things motherhood and marriage, there is a lot of humor to be found in my quick little getaway, not to mention my husband outing himself as a kick-ass homemaker when the matriarch is down for the count.
In all honesty, I wasn’t really too keen on even sharing the news of my bladder tune-up and partial hysterectomy because, ewww, who wants to know about that? But at the age of 45, cryptic tales of a “procedure” and an overnight stay in the hospital can become catnip to the gossipy folk and lead to unrelenting whispers about boob jobs and tummy tucks (and the last thing I need is to be known as the person with the worst tummy tuck ever.) As far as I’m concerned, a tummy tuck is my daily decision of whether or not to tuck my belly in or wear it out.
While I wasn’t going in for a colonoscopy, I still had pre-surgery homework that included a clear liquid fast and orders that I drink that totally gross magnesium citrate to clean out my insides. At the advice of my in-laws, I mixed the nasty liquid with Crystal Light lemonade and while it did mask the taste pretty well, it took me drinking an entire pitcher of the stuff to get the whole bottle down.
I was supposed to start the drink at noon but found myself walking into Target to buy it at 11:59. I’m not known for planning ahead. Besides, a girl’s got to stop by the polls to vote before she can hunker down to empty out her intestinal soul on election day. And I couldn’t justify a trip to Target just to buy that gross stuff (which isn’t even $1, by the way); I needed to also purchase something more cheerful. So I bought some new pajamas and some really soft toilet paper. And some comfy socks.
If there’s one thing I learned, it is that mom friends tend to jump into motion when one of their pals goes to the hospital for surgery, and my first delivery of home cooked love arrived in the pouring rain when I was a few hours into my prep. And as would definitely happen to me if I were delivering soup on a pouring rainy day, only one of two containers made it into my house because the other one had spilled ALL OVER my dear friend’s car. I felt so bad about that but couldn’t help immediately slurping broth from the container that had arrived intact since it was an approved clear liquid and I was starving. I suspect her car may still smell like chicken soup for a while but it could have been worse. It could have been milk, right?
Speaking of my clear liquid diet, I even bought lemon jello because I was told it was the perfect thing to eat on a clear liquid diet. I had never attempted to make jello before and suffice it to say, my first time was not a success. I measured the amounts of hot and cold water correctly but alas, failed to note that the jello mix needs two minutes to dissolve in the boiling water before you add the cold. I added them all at the same time and THAT does not work. So I gave myself an F on jello making and quickly moved on to store bought bone broth because I had been advised that it has more nutrients than regular broth. If you ask me, that stuff just smells like bones. Oh, and its taste does not complement lemonade. At all.
My nurses were amazing—as so many nurses are—but my heart belongs to Nurse Karen who brought me graham crackers with peanut butter and ginger ale with crushed ice at 2 am when I was finally awake and feeling like a functioning human. Unfortunately her shift ended before I could say goodbye but I am comforted in the knowledge that I thanked her at least a hundred times for my middle of the night snacks. And for the record, hospital ice is the bomb.
And friends have been amazing too. Meals have been dropped off, fresh flowers have been delivered, and texts, calls and messages have come in from far and wide just checking in to see how I’m doing and asking if I need anything. And I feel compelled to share that despite my surgery falling in the early morning hours after the midterm elections, I was overwhelmed with the kindness of others. I know how a few friends voted but definitely don’t know how most voted—my relationships are not driven by political preferences or ideologies. Some of these kind souls are white suburban moms like me. But many are not. They are Black and Latina and gay and straight and progressive and conservative and smart and funny moms (and grandmas!) who enrich my life daily, challenge my thinking, and remind me that we are all together in getting through this tremendous gift called motherhood. My nurses were Black, white, and Latina too. One was from Ghana and I think it was her confidence in my peeing potential that led me to pass the test needed to get my catheter removed. Her name was Mina and I am forever grateful to her.
But the star of the week just may be my husband. Like me, Jim is not—and has never been—known for his domestic skills but he turned it on this past week and shattered any myth that may have existed about his incompetence as a homemaker. He didn’t just wash every single piece of dirty laundry in the house but he emptied every single basket of clean clothes in the house—10 or so—and sorted them all by clothing category and by person. And then he put post it notes on every pile. Looking or a long sleeve shirt for Matthew? That pile is labeled. School uniform for Tommy? Labeled. A short sleeved shirt and pair of pants for JJ? All labeled and easy to find. Some people eat at their dining room table but we keep our clothes there now. And I’m just fine with that.
But beyond quelling what has been a well documented 13 years of laundry hell—partly brought on by my mind’s immense struggles with sorting and general organization—he was on it in every way. Dishes were moving through the dishwasher in ways this house had never seen. I mean, when has there ever not been a tall as a mountain pile of dishes in the sink? Turns out it’s when Jim is in charge. But oddly enough, this Mr. Clean side of him doesn’t come out when I’m away for work because he too is working. In the case of my surgery, he took three days off and my God, he made the most of it on the domestic front. He tossed everything old and moldy from the fridge—the responsibility for those fridge conditions definitely lies with me. He folded blankets, organized shoes, and got the kids to and from school and all games and practices. He was a rock star.
My folks pitched in too. Dad slept over the night before surgery so he’d be here when the boys woke up while Jim took me in for a 6 am arrival. Mom food shopped for us—it’s the only reason I was able to make sandwiches for the kids’ lunches today. My in-laws checked in and my mother in law made the kids’ favorite potato and cheese casserole.
My work pals sent the most beautiful flowers and scolded me from far and wide to take it easy and rest and not overdo it. I have generally complied. My dogs have been such great company, always willing to nap with me even when they really just want to go outside and pee.
So in the midst of all the election recounts and ugly polarization that so often seems to define 2018, I was again reminded, this time during my uterus’ goodbye tour, of the wonderful people working in our hospitals and in my life who exude kindness and generosity because someone needs them. And while I’ve been lucky and my recovery has been pretty easy, there are countless people out there in much greater need who wouldn’t make it if not for the care of wonderful nurses and the love of family and friends.