Hi Nicky here, that’s me in the beanie fresh out of hospital. I recently had surgery for bladder, bowel and uterine prolapse. This is my list of essentials. I’ve built my list throughout my journey from pre surgery through to post surgery. There will also be basics specific to you like your preferred toiletries but this is a collection of items I found useful. Some you may think: “jeez girl, why would you want that?” However, for the majority I’m hoping you’ll feel they’re bloody good ideas! So, here goes.
I had about four weeks to prepare for when I went in for surgery, so wanted to make sure I was as organised as I could be. I am a working mum with three children and a step son, therefore winging it wasn’t an option. My house contains a small army that I needed to ensure would be suitably fed and watered (my partner is very capable but I’m a bit of a control freak) in their castle while I had three days peace in hospital. Here are a few of my top tips to try and feel better organised before you go in.
- Do online supermarket orders in advance. I had one delivered before I went it, but I also pre booked another for a few days after I came home, I could always add to this if there was something I needed or just fancied. This helped because I didn’t need to remember it, nor expect my partner to have to go to the supermarket when he was trying to get kids to and from their various clubs, while cooking dinner, doing the washing and helping with homework.
- Get your poop moving. If, like me, you suffer with sluggish bowels, make sure you’ve managed to go before you go in. I wish someone had advised me of this and that I’d taken stool softeners beforehand. Also, make sure that if you do struggle, you ask for some aperients to get you to go. Make sure you have a stash of stool softeners and laxatives at home too.
- Get some dinners made up and frozen. Invaluable! My partner isn’t the most confident cook and was able to just pop them in the oven. Also, it helped because the evenings are so busy, he didn’t really have to think what to cook. And it reassured me that they weren’t eating take away for three nights in a row.
- Purchase a ring pillow or a Polo as I call it. Oh my, I was so grateful for this when I was home. I spent a lot of time in bed the first week as it was the most comfortable but when I wanted to venture downstairs and sit in my lounge, it was bliss. It takes the pressure off your lady bits beautifully.
Your hospital stay
- A water bottle with a sippy spout. I found this invaluable. It’s really handy to be able to slurp on throughout your stay without having to use a hospital issue plastic cup that you end up dribbling it down your front because you can’t sit up properly, having taken nearly three hours to get comfortable in the bloody first place. Also, remember you shouldn’t be lifting anything heavier than a half-filled kettle, the same goes for this oversized jug of water that they’ve left next to you and expect you to pour yourself. It also helps you keep on top of how much you’ve been drinking as it’s essential to keep up your fluid intake to prevent constipation.
- Lip balm. I couldn’t get enough of this! The general aesthetic can make your lips (on my mouth not down there) dry, which sods law, it does for me but having this was so handy. I’d slather it on throughout the day and make sure they were covered at night too.
- My kindle. I did also take a book too but that didn’t help when I couldn’t sleep the first night, for love nor money, or for the fact I was in pain and knackered. I wanted to read but I didn’t want to have to put my light on, and therefore was very grateful for getting it as a gift before I went in. Even though the nurse on the night shift was less than impressed with my late-night antics and gave me a rollicking for daring to use a screen when I should be sleeping.
- Plain biscuits. I took rich tea fingers, but this is obviously your own choice and preference. I get quite icky after a GA and didn’t really want to eat, nor spew my guts up or dry wretch on an empty stomach. These were a good starter before I felt able to move on to jacket potatoes, then pushed the boat out and had yogurt for desert. (This was the same for about a week after surgery).
- Pashmina type scarf. I loved having this. Sounds bloody ridiculous but it reminded me of home because of its smell. If I got chilly I chucked it around my shoulders but also used it to screw up and use as a bit of an extra pillow when getting comfy to watch television. You can obviously take your own pillow or a nice blanket.
- Thick fluffy bed socks. Just for a little bit of comfort and warmth more than anything. My compression stockings were open toed, so even though my legs were warm, my toes were bloody freezing.
- Chargers for phone etc. Don’t forget these but also, I used nail polish to initial mine, just in case you leave them behind in your haste to get out of the hospital that’s become your prison and forget to unplug them like I did!
- Dry shampoo. For when you really can’t be arsed to drag your sore hoochie out of bed to get in the shower. At least you may look a little less greasy for your visitors.
- Face wipes. Oh, my goodness, I loved having these and was so grateful. Not being able to manoeuvre particularly well and having your head buried in a pillow a lot of the time it was so nice to be able to freshen up. Push the boat out and take a bit of lippy and mascara too.
- Chewing gum or mints for when you get that minging, stinky breath because you haven’t been able to eat properly. Don’t deny you don’t know what I am taking about.
- A pen and notebook. This is just to write down whatever takes you, whether it’s jotting down notes of what the consultant has spoken to you about or your next shopping list or just to write anything that springs to mind helping you write a book!
- I took my own sanitary pads and disposable pants (maternity ones). These were invaluable. The pads were thick but I found the padding very welcoming on the area that had been repaired and stitched. It’s obviously very tender at first so anything that feels like it is protecting it is good. I loved the fact that I could just chuck the pants in the bin. I didn’t like the thought of keeping nifty knickers in my case for a couple of days or my partner having to take them home to wash, so these were great. You can of course go and buy some really cheap cotton pants that you’re not fussed about and can throw away or if you really want to take your own, make sure you pop a carrier bag in your case for dirty washing.
- A squirty water bottle. I used this after having two of my children as I suffered tears and an episiotomy and it certainly made peeing more comfortable. Use it when you go for a wee, with warm water, to gently pour down as you go. It weakens the wee and therefore won’t sting as much.
- Hair bands! I love a messy bun and can’t stand my hair in my face. A staple in my wash bag.
- Clothes. Think carefully about what clothes you are realistically going to be able to feel comfortable post-surgery. I took nice loose joggers and so glad I did. I couldn’t bear the thought of a waistband sitting on my tummy after my hysterectomy and still struggle a little still now.
- Big, baggy cardigan. I used this instead of taking a dressing gown (hospital can get hot) but also then had it for when I was out of my pyjamas and could go home in it.
- Hand sanitiser. Hospital has their own on the ward but if you can’t get out of bed it’s nice to freshen them up, particularly when your food arrives.
- Ear plugs. If you’re a light sleeper these will be invaluable. Hospitals are very noisy, even throughout the night, so be prepared.
Post-surgery you are going to be uncomfortable, but think of it as a phase, and that you will get through it. A few things now that I was grateful for and really appreciated.
- The vaginal pack. After my surgery I had a pack put in my vagina to absorb the blood. It stays in for 24 hours approximately and isn’t very comfortable. Imagine a piece of gauze shoved up there and I’m sure you will agree it doesn’t sound very pretty. I am so thankful though to the nurse that took mine out the following morning. She did advise me that most nurses don’t do it the way she does, but boy I am glad she did. I could have kissed her. When removing it, she put one of those pretty cardboard bedpans under my butt and used a jug of warm water to pour over my lady bits as she gently pulled it out. I believe this made a huge difference to if it was pulled out dry and certainly made it more bearable. If you don’t ask you don’t get. Mention it to your nurse before they come to do the deed.
- Increasing your fibre will help but keep up with the stool softeners if you are struggling to go to the loo. If they don’t give it in your hospital as a matter of course, ask for it, it is in your best interest. The last thing you want is to get impacted and endure a manual evacuation, trust me! You need to ensure that it soft so that it’s not as painful or pull on the delicate stitched area. But don’t take too much as you don’t want explosive diarrhoea either.
- Books, breathing and a kiddies step stool. When you do need to poop, you need to wait until it is literally, there. I found that sitting on the loo, with my feet on a stool, reading a book and focusing on my breathing really helped me to relax. I used to be a bit of a strainer, due to the prolapse, so it is very difficult to change a habit quickly. Using these methods worked for me and I’m still not straining. Go me!
- Keep hold of that sippy bottle. Mine comes everywhere with me now, just so I can keep my intake of fluid going, whether I’m going to an appointment or just to watch my girls at football training. I also know that I need to drink at least 6 bottles a day.
- Have stuff to hand if you going to be alone at home. My partner made sure I had all my medication, a full bottle of water and other bits that I wanted. I just meant that I didn’t have to move about if I didn’t want to.
- A maternity pillow or one ‘with arms’ that goes round you. When I was home and sitting, it was nice to have the support all around me and keep me propped up.
- Don’t suffer in silence. If you have pain, you’re struggling or just don’t feel right, speak to your GP. Never hesitate to make an appointment to discuss anything you are worried about. Normally your intuition is right.
Recovery really is hard work, so don’t be hard on yourself. If you are like me and have no patience and like to be busy, it’s tough but you need to accept that your body and mind need time to heal. If you have something you love doing, and are able, this will help. I enjoy crochet and started making a blanket just before I went into hospital. I am still doing it but it is something that I can just pick up when I feel the need.
And remember I’m always here if you need a sympathetic ear or a funny prolapse meme/inspirational quote!
Support Nicky and her journey to spread awareness about prolapse, by following her super informative Insta-blog at prolapse_thehiddenshame.