The Cross We Bare

surgical team workingLaura Koch reminds us in her reflection on “My Suffering Is a Blessing” that the crosses we bear can be very hard to bare. Thank you, Laura, for baring your cross to us.

Blessed by God – I suppose that would be the “category” that might describe me since I have four children that were created by God in my womb. But I also know the pain and sorrow of a body filled with stage 4 endometriosis. I know, too, the guilt and suffering that goes with losing an ovary by disease and then deciding to “tie the tube” on the other side because childbirth was becoming too hard.

Our first daughter came to be very early in our marriage. My husband was at the seminary, I was a Lutheran school teacher…we had barely enough money to live on, and yet she came. I was so afraid. How would we take care of her? God provided beautifully for all our needs….and even granted us a son while we were still at the seminary. Another daughter came during my husband’s early years in ministry. Our last daughter came three years later but two months premature, as I was severely bleeding due to placenta previa. After receiving 5 pints of blood, I was just fine. And after 4 weeks in the hospital she came home.

So, why then am I writing here? Because I find so much comfort in the words written on this blog. I believe God has created a natural desire in women to have children. We, on most days, comfortably nurture the people in our home. When this blessing of children is not granted or ceases to be, the pain that a women suffers can become unbearable at times. And when one chooses not to have children because of fear or because of a risk to her body, her grief can be insurmountable, too. I know.

The years following my tubal were filled with so much grief and tears. I wish I had not made that decision in haste – lying on a hospital bed in pain due to an enormous cyst on the other ovary. I don’t know if God would have granted us any more children. I don’t know if my body would have been able to handle it anymore. Eventually, endometriosis would claim my very womb, too.

The guilt over that decision, though, grieved my heart for many years.

A barren womb is not always easy to see.

We all know that we live in a sin-cursed world. We are children of God, saved by grace in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, and we live in the freedom of our sins being forgiven. We know that God does indeed love each of us. We need to hear that spoken in our ears every Sunday, if not more! I know that God has forgiven me for that decision and He has calmed my spirit as years have gone by. I look at my children as the true gifts that they are, created in a body that was broken by sin. And I weep with the barren woman because I have shared in her grief, too.

Laura Koch

I’ll See Your Shakespeare and Raise You Three Little Pigs

“Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin.”

The Three Little Pigs

Remember Beth, my friend whose hormones are about as balanced as our federal budget? While Juliet was finally experiencing “torches that burn a little less brightly,” Beth had a breakthrough of her own (or so she thought)–one that would relieve her from one of the most annoying complications related to ovaries that overproduce cysts: the detestable chin hairs.

Beth had just received an unexpected monetary gift which would allow her to have a little fun and think outside the budget that she and her family were normally confined to. “Hmmm…” she thought to herself (and then told me, of course), “Should I get a new food processor? Save up for a vacation? Update my wardrobe?” The possibilities were endless, until an idea struck her that made her stop what she was doing and practically giggle with glee.

“I could get laser hair removal of my chin hairs!” she almost shouted. She could really do it and they’d be gone. FOREVER. She could hardly contain herself. Once the Dear Husband returned home from work she broached the subject with him cautiously. Yes, the money was given to her and for her alone to use, but they had agreed to discuss all money matters before purchases were made. Would he think this was frivolous spending? Would he laugh? Would he scoff?

“So I was thinking,” Beth began hesitantly when she found an appropriate moment. “I have this money you know, and the thought occurred to me that I could use it for laser hair removal. For my chin. You know how much that annoys me. Do you think it would be OK?”

Without hesitation DH replied enthusiastically, “Absolutely!” Might I point out, a little too enthusiastically. “Then I won’t get scratched anymore,” he added for extra emphasis.

“Yikes! It’s that bad!” Beth realized in a moment of temporary humiliation, followed quickly by relief that it would not have to endure much longer.

The following day she picked up the phone and made The Call.

“Ideal Image. This is Amanda, how can I help you today?”

“I’d like some information about hair removal from the chin,” responded Beth in a confident, “I’m gonna to take this bull by the horns” tone of voice. (Or was it “I’m gonna to take this piglet by the whiskers”?)

“Certainly,” Amanda said. “Can you tell me what color the hairs are?”

What difference does that make?

“Well, they’re blonde.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, our laser technology uses color to search for the follicles. It won’t work on blonde or white hairs. Is there any other part of the body you’d like to address?”

The line was silent for several seconds, but in that brief timeframe Beth went on a mental tirade.

“Is this for real? Did you just say it can’t be done? What is this, the Middle Ages? We just put a vehicle on Mars for crying out loud and you’re telling me your laser technology can’t find the light colored hairs?! I don’t believe it. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

But perky-voiced Amanda wasn’t kidding. The dream was over. The hairs would remain. Beth got a grip and the anger turned to self-pity. She whispered a tearful, “No, but thanks,” and hung up the phone.

She should have known that it was too good to be true.

Fairytales are only in books.


Surgery Survival Kit

Laparoscopies. Laparotomies. Myomectomies. Hysterectomies. Sometimes, surgeries come hand-in-hand with barrenness, so we decided to create a Surgery Survival Kit for all of you. Here is the best (and worst) of what we have learned from our own experiences under the knife:

1. Do whatever your doctor tells you to do, both pre and post-surgery. Ignore everything else on this list if your doctor does not approve. (Sincerely, your HRTB Hosts)

2. Um, don’t even try to get through this ordeal without a stash of dark chocolate on hand. (Katie)

3. See if you can get your post-surgery prescriptions at your pre-op appointment. It is nice to have those meds ordered, picked-up, ready to go, and waiting for you when you get home. (Katie)

4. While you’re at the pharmacy, go ahead and stock up on MiraLAX or some kind of stool softener. Constipation is a common side effect of pain killers. (Katie and Jen)

5. Following a laparoscopy, you are most likely going to have gas pain in your shoulders (No kidding!), and it can cause you more discomfort post surgery than your actual incisions. The gas is leftover carbon dioxide from all that was pumped into your abdomen during the procedure. It can take up to 48 hours for your body to reabsorb the gas, so I recommend stocking up on some Gas X (Jen swears by the strips!) and having a heating pad within reach. (Katie)

6. Buy some good pads. The hospital may send you home with a few, but buy ones you like.  Bleeding is common after whateverectomies, and the last thing you want to do on the way home from surgery is stop somewhere to buy pads. (Jen)

7. Make sure your pastor knows the date, time, and location of your surgery, so that he can be there to read Psalms to you and pray with you while you wait. Don’t be embarrassed to tell him. I promise you, it’s worth it. (Katie)

8. Wear low-rise, loose-fitting, comfy pants to your surgery, as well as slip-on shoes. Your incision(s) will thank you later. (Katie)

9. Leave a pillow in your car. Trust me, you want something in between you and the seatbelt on your way home from the hospital. (Rebecca and Katie)

10. Are you a singer? Make sure your anesthesiologist knows. You can tell him/her when he calls you the night before your surgery. It doesn’t hurt to remind your anesthesiologist to look out for your vocal folds during intubation. (Katie)

11. Pack a bag for the hospital. You may be going in with the intention of having outpatient surgery, but you never know – especially if it is a diagnostic surgery – whether or not it will turn into an overnight stay. Must-have items on your packing list: toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, hair rubbers bands, pajamas, prescription meds, a good book, your glasses case, and someone to take you home. (Jen and Katie)

12. Invite someone to stay with you for a few days (or longer). It can be very difficult to manage on your own when you are on bed rest, doped up on pain meds, legally unable to drive, and on doctor’s orders not to lift anything over ten pounds. (Jen)

13. I remember seeing a cat scampering around the post-op room as I was coming to. If you see similar sights that just shouldn’t be there you are probably halucinating and need to close those eyes again to get more sleep. Or else you just chose the wrong hospital. I’m pretty sure my cat didn’t really exist. (Rebecca)

14. I found it incredibly helpful to have an audio book available to listen to after my last surgery. Since I had to spend the night, and since it’s very difficult to sleep with those stupid leg compression tights on and the accompanying LOUD compression machine, it was nice to be able to turn something on in the middle of the night when I was wide awake. It was also nice to have it post-surgery at home when I just didn’t feel like focusing on the pages of a book, or I was too tired to keep my eyes open and watch a movie but my body wouldn’t let me sleep. (Rebecca)

15. Bending straws are your friends, especially on those days when sitting up is difficult. (Jen)

16. Ginger Ale tastes so much better than water when you are groggy and nauseous from the anesthesia. Mom’s chicken and quinoa soup is also a must. And some salty crackers. And some watermelon. And some bing cherries. And…zzzzzzzzz. (Katie)

17. Everyone reacts to anesthesia differently, so be prepared for some side effects. Headaches are normal, though not fun. Have that heating pad ready! The pain medication doesn’t necessarily take those headaches away. (Rebecca)

18. Have a recliner or some kind of armchair available for sleeping in the first night at home. Another option is to have multiple pillows on hand to prop yourself up in bed. Be prepared to sleep on your back for awhile. It can be painful to turn onto your side. (Kristi, Rebecca, Jen, and Katie)

19. If your bed is high, consider getting some type of stool. It can be difficult getting in and out of bed when your abs are toast. (Jen)

20. Along the same lines, consider investing (around $50) in a raised toilet seat. Getting up and down from a low seat can be really painful and difficult for the first week or so, especially if you have had a myomectomy. (Jen)

21. Don’t be afraid if you feel some numbness above your incision. This can happen due to nerves being cut. It can take awhile to get some feeling back. Call your doctor if you are concerned. (Jen)

22. Start walking as soon as your doctor says it’s okay and you feel up to it. It helps get your digestive system moving again. (Jen)

23. Listen to your body as you recover. Sometimes at the beginning of the day you may feel great and make plans for a fuller day. But if your body gives out after a few hours, stop everything and rest. Don’t plan to bounce back immediately, no matter what you’ve heard from other people’s experiences. The last thing you want is a business trip scheduled for the week after surgery. So, be gentle with yourself. You’ve come through surgery, and the body is tender. It will take time to heal, so don’t push it. (Rebecca and Kristi)

24. Indulge in some light shopping. Every girl needs a new pair of sexy granny panties to cover up her incision. (Jen)

25. Be at peace in the knowledge that you are God’s own child, and He preserves and sustains your life. He perfectly loves you in Jesus. Whatever happens, it’s okay. (The Bible)

P.S. These suggestions are lovingly brought to you by Jen, Rebecca, Kristi, and Katie. Happy Healing!