Can I stomach this big change? Yup.

So, how did it go?

Not too bad. Big change. But not too bad.

Last Friday, I was a guest at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center for my bariatric sleeve surgery. I left about 36 hours after I arrived, bearing five war wounds across my abdomen and a significantly smaller stomach.

So many of you have asked questions about my experience, I will share my recollections and revelations here. I hope this openness has sparked some conversations about this tool in so many people’s struggles with weight loss. It’s not for everybody and yes, I have had my moments where I wondered why I wanted to do this. Now that it’s done, I am focused on making the best of this body revision and what it can help me achieve.

First of all, kudos to the nursing and medical staff at Providence; they were friendly, professional, supportive and made my stay very comfortable, despite the frequent wake-ups Friday evening. It’s good to have people around you that are familiar with your procedure and can gently advise life changes that will make your surgery worthwhile. Got a lot of good information from all my visitors.

PuffySuit
The amazing Bear Paws warm air puffy gown. Whoever invented this deserves an award!

Additional kudos to whoever invented those Bear Paws inflatable gowns with vents where they pipe in warm air. No more freezing on the gurney waiting to go to the OR. I didn’t want to take it off. And now I have a whole slew of silly questions for my friend the surgical nurse (at another hospital) about what else happens after surgery. Somehow, someone got me out of the puffy warm gown and into a cloth gown that wrapped around me comfortably so that I could get out of my bed to do laps around the nurses’ station (required before we could go home) without mooning anyone. That’s definitely a skill!

There’s a huge memory gap that starts when I saw the anesthesiologist, a lovely Irish lass with a beautiful accent, after I shifted to the operating table and ends sometime after I arrived at my room. I remember seeing family and friends waiting there, along with bits and pieces of conversations, peppered with a lot of giggling when I dozed off mid-sentence – over and over again. I seem to remember everyone was happy that I was safe in my room, then they all left to get lunch, leaving me to blissfully snooze.

I think.

SarahWalks
Daughter Sarah took one of the first Friday laps

Later that afternoon, I started my laps, escorted by various friends and family, each making special symbolic marks on my white board to signify completion. I continued the laps after they left, our daughters taking their dad out for dinner and leaving me to rest. Walking past the rooms of fellow bariatric patients (there were four of us that night), we bonded and encouraged each other to continue to walk, because moving more is key to us becoming shadows of our former selves.

It was deja-vu, back to the liquid diet, when they brought me dinner, a tray filled with broth, tea, juice (that had to be diluted) and an orange slushy. Broth, juice and half the slushy went down easily, in little tiny sips and spoonfuls, to accommodate my shrunken stomach. I guess I did pretty good, because they took me off the IV saline that night, saying I was sufficiently hydrated.

SquishyInPink
Who wouldn’t be incentivized by this cutie patootie?

Breakfast the next day was more of the same, as was lunch. I dozed off and on Saturday morning, family arrived to chat me up and keep me company as I walked more laps. My daughters sent pictures of my granddaughter playing at our house as incentive to keep walking and late that afternoon, the nurse brought me an armful of paperwork and we were headed home.

 

Other than feeling a little twinge in my middle from the war wounds (surgery was laparoscopic, four of the holes are from where they put in the trocars that accommodated the camera and surgical tools, the last is where the drain was installed), I felt pretty good. Of course, having Sadie at home to cuddle might have influenced that, but I didn’t have any residual aches or pains. I took the pain medicine prescribed because I thought it would help me sleep, but the constant interruptions of the night before assured I would sleep like a hibernating bear.

I did. Clean sheets and a familiar mattress are simply little bits of heaven.

BreakfastYogurt
Protein-enhanced yogurt. Eaten in little, baby-spoon-sized, tiny bites.

In the last couple of days, friends have been generously bringing homemade soups and asking if I need anything. I asked a friend to find some unflavored protein powder (I have to try and take in 70 grams of protein a day to keep up my energy) because most powders I’ve found are either vanilla (gak) or chocolate (doesn’t mix with chicken broth very well). She arrived with a huge container of Isopure, which is flavorless, but doesn’t seem to mix in very well. Maybe it’s my technique – could be like making gravy, takes an expert mixer.

By the time I figure it out, I’ll probably be on to foods that actually have protein in them, like eggs and tuna.

I think most of the people who have come by are amazed that I’m not more tired or sickly. Honestly, I feel great.

I also think that a lot of the credit for that is the positive reinforcement I’ve received from my readers and friends and people on the Facebook page Gastric Sleeve Support Group who unselfishly share their experiences, challenges and offer solutions for whatever anyone asks. I’ve even heard from friends who had the surgery that never talked about it before, reaching out now that we have a common bond.

Now to make a schedule for all of those offers to walk. Gotta get those laps in, before I need another nurses’ station. And figure out how to mix that damn powder.

 

I love to hear from my readers – feel free to comment and of course, to share!

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Soon: Grandparenting 101

The ears that debuted at NASCAR. As the granddaughter of a Bawdy Broad, she already has a boa
The ears that debuted at NASCAR. As the granddaughter of a Bawdy Broad, of course she already has a boa!

Have I mentioned that I’m going to be a grandmother soon?

Really soon. Like doing everything in the OC “because that’s where the hospital is” soon.

Yikes.

Children do more than just eat, sleep, go to school, get jobs and eventually move out. They make us do things that challenge us. We didn’t travel much until our son joined the Army and his graduation was on the other side of the country. I got to see Canada and New York as a choir chaperone and my oldest daughter lives four and a half hours north of here – a quick trip that lends itself to the impromptu.

I never thought I would like racing, especially NASCAR, until I went with my daughter and son-in-love, but I was there with the rest of the family last February when they made us close our eyes so they could put Mickey Mouse ears embroidered with “Arriving 2015” in our hands, followed by lots of joyful screaming and crying. There were a bunch of cars going in circles for the few hours after that, but I didn’t really notice the race….

I will have to revise my resume within the next couple of weeks, inserting the title “Sadie Jane’s Grandma” over the formerly-more-important “Media Consultant.” All of my friends tell me that things are going to be wonderful and that I’ll have trouble concentrating when this little bundle is placed in my arms. I believe them because I’m already bumfuzzled when I think about her.

I really try to minimize the advice dispensing, sharing just one tidbit with new parents as I admire their little ones: Love them the most when they deserve it the least. I truly believe it’s the policy we used the most, raising our three. They all turned out pretty good and two of them can’t wait to be called Aunt and Uncle.

The adventure continues! Not feeling quite Shirley McLaine yet, but I'm gonna be a GRAMMA!
The adventure continues! Not feeling quite Shirley McLaine yet, but I’m gonna be a GRANDMA!

But now that it’s my own daughter becoming a mother, I worry – have I told her enough? Did I give her enough clues to survive the long sleepless nights or the endless stream of people trying to tell them the best ways to do everything? Have I shared my thoughts on the best way to swaddle, the perfect way to hold a bottle, the tried and true techniques to get them to go down for a nap?

Nope. Have I failed? Absolutely not. They’ve got this.

You’ll find that no one has all the answers, but the truth is out there. The key is that nobody can figure it out but you.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was taking classes at Cal State LA and my advisor said that he and his wife should have been arrested when they left the hospital with their first child because they had no idea what they were doing.

He told me that I’d figure it out and he was right.

One kid liked the football carry that my husband perfected when she was colicky. My son sang himself to sleep when he was nursing. And the Mom-to-Be was my cuddle bunny. I learned to lower my housekeeping standards because my kids were the priority. And I appreciated every carrot-and-raisin salad dropped off by a friend and every load of laundry done by my awesome Mother-In-Love who came in and took care of everything so we could catch our breath.

When my kids were little, we had to rely on a few dog-eared books written by another generation’s Dr. Spock. Now you can Google ‘diaper rash,’ ‘fussy eater’ and when to go to the hospital depending on what they put up their nose/swallowed/stuck in their ear (and yes, I had personal experience with at least two of those).

So kids, here’s the truth: Parenting is the greatest adventure. You will never feel overwhelming love like you will when you first see Sadie and hold her in your arms. And when you have more, don’t worry – you always have enough, because your heart grows a little more every time.

You will never sleep as well as you used to, though. Even when they start sleeping through the night, you will walk in and angel-touch their backs to feel their warmth and gentle exhale. As they get older, you will listen for mischief and mysterious nighttime noises. And once they start to go out, driving or dating or are just out for the night, you will sleep with one eye open because you’re waiting for that front door to open and hear them talking, safe at home. Sirens take on a whole new meaning, because when you hear one, you will immediately think about where your kids are and worry if they are OK.

And even though you might get creaky with advancing years, when you hear a little voice say “Mommy” in the middle of the night, you will fly, your feet never touching the ground, as you rush to comfort your crying child. (Ask your sister about that one)

It’s almost impossible to break children, and you will get the hang of parenting through your own trial and error. Give yourselves enough time to figure out what works best for your team. Don’t let anyone push or criticize you.

It is also completely permissible to scoop up the baby and leave the room for a sanity break. I’m pretty sure that move kept me out of jail a few times.

Another cool thing about having a baby around the house? Most of the time they smell terrific. They are always happy to see you and holding them will lower your stress level, guaranteed. However, if they are having a crying jag and you’re ready with your own flood of tears, it is OK to either join the pity party or hand them off to someone else who might just be a baby whisperer. Don’t be angry that you couldn’t calm them. Be thankful that you got the break.

And when they are being really, really loud, try being really quiet when you talk to them. They’ll stop crying to hear what you’re saying. Reverse psychology was a religion in which I frequently dabbled.

When people come by to visit, don’t feel like you have to entertain them. Your lives just turned upside down and you’re entitled to a little survivor shock. They should be bringing you Tito’s Tacos and desserts from Porto’s and taking away the trash. Remember, you have a baby. That’s like having a hall pass for a messy house for at least five years.

Like I said before, you’ve got this. You’re going to be fine. Sadie’s the luckiest kid in the world to have the two of you as parents and when you have questions, ask everybody and average out the answers.

Welcome to parenthood. But remember to be patient with us because, even as you hold little Sadie swaddled in her hospital blanket, consider that in that moment, all four of us grandparents may still see you as the beautiful bundles of happiness that taught us so much about life not that many years ago.

Love you.

Mama Casey and Daddy Tim practice for a walk on Main Street. Photo by createandcapturephotography.com
Mama Casey and Daddy Tim practice for a walk on Main Street at the Happiest Place On Earth. Photo by createandcapturephotography.com