Due to endometriosis and ovarian cysts I had a laparoscopy and bilateral ovarian cystectomy in June in preparation for IVF. I was petrified and had put the operation off for months in the hope that I would get pregnant and then not have to deal with going into hospital and have someone play with my ovaries! My mindfulness practice was indispensable in the run-up and on the day of the op and as it turned out the day was mainly relaxing! Dotted with moments of anxiety, boredom, pain and gratitude but on the whole relaxing. Before learning how to be mindful I would have written off the entire day (if not the weeks preceding and following) as horrible, time to be got through as quickly as possible and then forgotten.
Mindfulness teaches you to split each day into moments and to observe rather than judge your experiences. Unless you are in extreme pain with no access to painkillers it is highly unlikely that an entire day can be excruciatingly awful. If you break the day down into moments you may find there is even humour and kindness in the day. I was looked after by a fleet of amazing nurses who, on seeing how scared I was, became my own distraction team telling me funny stories. There were parts of the day and night, as I ended up taking longer than expected to come round after the anaesthetic and having to stay the night, that were horrible but by focusing my breathing and the bigger picture, which is having a baby, I coped.
Paperwork – Your doctor should run through the whole procedure in advance and Google, the Infertility Network website and forums can be good to research and prepare a list of any questions to go through with your doctor.
Mindfulness – For me meditation really helped me to stay calm in the run-up and on the day of the op. I have put some links to free meditations and information on mindfulness on this page.
Affirmations – I love affirmations, they make me feel better when my head is all over the place, I used the following in the weeks before and after my op:
“Every hand that touches me is a healing hand.”
“I am so proud of you, you are so brave. I know that you are scared, but this is the right step to take towards pregnancy and becoming a mother.”
“My body is getting stronger and healthier with every breath that I take.”
“My ovaries and womb are perfect.”
After my op: “I have nothing to do today other than to heal and to be happy.”
Emotional Freedom Technique – I used tapping with the set up statement:
“Even though I am scared of the operation and of losing control, I deeply and profoundly love and respect myself.Check out Introducing emotional freedom technique for your free video and information.
On the day – I got up early to have breakfast just before the start of the fast time. I had a bath and washed my hair so I didn’t have to worry about it for a few days after my op. At the hospital I asked for numbing cream on the back of my hand before the anaesthetic. You need to put this on an hour before going to theatre so ask when you first arrive on the ward and preferably in advance.
Ipod – I packed my iPod full of guided meditations, funny pod-casts and my favourite music. I listened to it continuously from leaving home until going to theatre and then once I woke up.
Pillow – Mainly to put over your belly under the seat belt for the car/taxi ride home, but I also used mine under my knees in hospital as this position allows you to relax the muscles in your abdomen.
Socks – Preferably with the non-elastic tops to allow for correct blood flow. My acupuncturist also recommends these while trying as anything that stops circulation to your feet will also be impeding your abdomen.
Overnight bag – Even though you will probably just be in for the day I would recommend taking everything you need to get a good nights sleep even if it is to just grab a couple of hours shut eye in the afternoon. Hospitals are very noisy and very bright. I was so pleased I had packed an eye-mask/earplugs/nightie/toothbrush/face wipes/tissues.
Peppermint tea and wind ease tablets – Some ladies experience pain from the trapped gas that they pump into you to separate your organs. This was my main complaint after my first lap when I was 20 but this time I started popping wind settlers about an hour after I came round (on the go ahead of the nurse) and did not have any pain at all from gas.
Maternity Trousers – If you have not heard me say it before I’ll say it again: If you have endometriosis, IBS, are going through fertility treatments, surgery or just don’t like anything tight on your belly get yourself down to H&M and buy yourself some maternity trousers. My Mum-to-be jeans are now my favourite item in my wardrobe, why would I ever go back to muffin tops when these look like regular jeans with a big fabric belt that can be covered by my top! Either these, jogging bottoms, yoga pants or a big sack like dress so you have nothing tight on your belly to go home in.
Slip-on shoes – You will not be wanting to bend down to do up laces.
STs – There is a chance you may have some light bleeding afterwards and they request that you do not use tampons.
Phone and charger – I thought that you are not allowed to use phones in hospitals but you can on the wards and it was really nice to be able to text my family and friends after the op to let them know I was okay.
Pen and paper – I find journalling very healing, you can also use it to jot down any questions for the doctor, and notes about any prescriptions etc.
Food – Since I’m following a gluten-free diet and eat extremely regularly I took my own food and asked them to put it in the ward fridge. Be aware that your throat maybe sore due to the anaesthetic so easy to swallow foods are good. Listen to your body when you feel like eating as some people are sick with the first food after anaesthetic. Take little nibbles and wait a few minutes to see what your body wants. I also took boiled sweets to suck on and herbal teas.
Water – I usually drink filtered tap water, but I found after the anaesthetic I was really sensitive to the chlorine in the water so wish I’d taken my own bottled water as you have to drink a lot when you come round to re-hydrate your body. Again I would recommend sipping small amounts of water constantly rather than having to drink full glasses on demand if your blood pressure is too low for you to be released.
After the op:
Pain relief – Don’t be afraid of asking for painkillers if you need them, do not wait until you are in pain, as soon as you feel uncomfortable ask for some. I try not to take painkillers normally, but in this scenario you need them in order to allow your body to relax and heal. I would also recommend keeping a personal record of what you have had at what time as one nurse was convinced I had had a full dose on the last round when I’d actually been missed and was in need of relief.
Walking – They will encourage you to get up and walk around ASAP to help move the gas out of your body. I had trapped gas and it looked like the scene from aliens as my belly was pulsating and looking like something was trying to break out! Do not overdo it! I walked to the end of the ward and back and then nearly fainted. Listen to your body.
Time Off – I recommend taking a week off afterwards even if you feel okay to let your body relax and heal. They prescribed painkillers for me for a month as I had cysts and endo removed but I stop taking the really strong ones after five days as they were making me feel sick and stopped the paracetamol after 10 days. Everyone takes different times to heal and it would depend on what you had done. If you can make the most of the time off catch up on your reading/watching and ensure you have someone to look after you have released the first day to treat you like a princess!
Dissolvable stitches – These are supposed to dissolve within 3 to 4 weeks. My stitches did not dissolve and were irritating my skin so I went to see the nurse at my GPs to have them removed.
I hope this helped, please do email me any feedback or items you think might be helpful to others to add to the list.
Embrace Fertility xxxx
PS This combination of packing lists and advice is great too