Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
I want to share my experience with umbilical hernia surgery with you. Firstly, I had no idea how common an umbilical hernia is in women post-pregnancy. Secondly, I should add that I wasn’t experiencing any pain around my belly button and ended up finding out in a rather funny way that I had an umbilical hernia. I understand the importance of showing yourself grace, but I was trying everything and still had a rather noticeable bulge around my lower abdomen. I began to get so discouraged, and after reading online, I was certain I had diastasis recti. My stomach has been stretched out so many times with my five pregnancies that I was certain my abdominal muscles were stretched out.
This belief led me to search for ways to close my stomach gap. Google said I needed physical therapy or a tummy tuck. I was overwhelmed, so I called my OB to find out whether my three-finger gap was a large enough gap that warranted a tummy tuck. While examining me, my OB asked me to sit up half-way as he pressed firmly on my stomach. He then begun to laugh. What could possibly be so funny? He then said, “You do not have what you think you have, but you do have an umbilical hernia and I am referring you to a surgeon!” Never having had surgery before, I was terrified and shocked. Fast-forward to my appointment with the surgeon, I told him that I almost always felt sick to my stomach after eating. He explained everything to me and told me that umbilical hernias are common in women who have had children. He said he’d use mesh and repair the hernia.
After watching several videos and Googling images, I was ready for the surgery.
Surgery was Friday December 13th, oh boy! Prior to surgery, they did an ultrasound to check my gallbladder. Once everything was cleared, my nurse came in to start my IV. Finally, the surgeon came in to talk with me; then the anesthesia care team came in to ask me some questions. From this point forward, things get blurry…
Suddenly, I awoke to someone yelling, “Jasmine you have to breathe! You can’t stop breathing on me.” What? Where am I? I was in a totally different area with a whole new nurse (recovery). How long was I sleeping? How long did the surgery last? My gosh, do I still have a bellybutton? These were the questions running through my mind. And why did my throat feel like I had just chowed down on a box of Popeye’s biscuits with no water? I asked for water and was told that I had had a breathing tube down my throat, so my throat would probably be dry for a while.
I remember being so very drowsy and that’s when the pain started. It felt like I had a thousand needles in my stomach. The nurse gave me more medicine and a ton of water. After a while, they wheeled me to my husband who was waiting for me in our car. From this point forward, I don’t remember much except for waking up at Popeye’s and my husband handing me a chicken biscuit. I asked why in the world we were there and he said that I had asked to go there. I tried to take a few bites and almost threw up. I just wanted to sleep, and sleep I did until the next morning when the sharp ripping pain woke me up.
You never realize how much you use your stomach muscles until you can’t use them.
It hurt to get out of bed and to stand up. I was also on a weight restriction of 10lbs. for six weeks (but try telling that to a baby and sensory-seeking toddler!). I had to take medicine around the clock (no shame), and rest on the couch with lots of pillows. The following Sunday, I made the mistake of going back to work. I was in tears it was so hard. I work at a desk in the emergency department and even sitting up hurt so much. I had to go back the following week to get my stitches removed, which wasn’t painful, just uncomfortable. I wish there were more information available to help me prepare for the surgery, which is why I’m sharing the following:
How to Prepare for Umbilical Hernia Repair
-Get a heating pad and ice pack, and rotate them as needed. I promise it will help with the pain and tenderness.
-Get an abdominal binder (if the hospital doesn’t provide you with one). It will feel good once you are able to apply pressure to the area.
-Set up a lot of pillows on which to lay.
-Don’t be afraid to ask for help; you will need it with the kids.
-Plan out meals for the kids beforehand or have your significant other or family help. You will not feel like cooking!
-Don’t do any heavy lifting!
-Follow your doctor’s orders and take the next few days off! (TRUST ME)
-The first five days are the hardest, so plan accordingly!
-Don’t plan a party for your child the day of your surgery; you will be a zombie.
-Purchase some comfy pjs and stretchy elastic waist band pants; the stretchier the better. I lived in stretchy sweats and t-shirts.
-Keep a large cup of water nearby — you’ll need it!
-Set up a little basket of goodies with good book, snacks, etc. to have nearby as you rest.
-You may become constipated, so take the medicine they give you to help with that.
-Gently massage the area once the stitches are removed (if applicable). I currently have a really sore knot, which they said is scar tissue and told me to massage daily.
-If possible, have someone else change the dressing. I made the mistake of looking at my bellybutton and seeing the stitches poking out. My deformed bellybutton made me sick to my stomach and I cried.
-Don’t be hard on yourself; your bellybutton will look normal again. Give it time and love. You will be swollen, sore, and tender.
While I understand everyone is different and that some surgeons choose to do the surgery laparoscopically, mine was not done that way. Some people may have a higher tolerance for pain and graphic sights. Graphic things don’t usually bother me, but seeing it on my own body was different. If you feel like you may have a hernia, don’t hesitate to see your doctor!
I’m now almost five weeks post-surgery and I feel so much better! The first five days were the hardest, but after that, I was just sore. I found that if I over-exerted myself, the pain was much more noticeable. I still have to ice the area some days and use my heating pad. I promise it will get better and it’s not the end of the world if you need surgery. Plan to stay in comfy pjs, rest, and get lots of snuggles with your littles as you recover.