I know it's been a minute since I've posted any substantial update about how I'm doing with recovery (aside from the soccer team incident, which I'll add a new perspective to below). The truth of the matter is that I had a sort of backward step in my process that forced me to focus extra intently on my wellness (or lack thereof). It was a relatively normal complication, but it took a lot of out me physically, emotionally, and I felt the need to draw inward to muster up my own morale.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my first two days out of the hospital I spent in bed with a fever. Fevers always make anything else you're dealing with seem worse, and this was no different. When the fever broke I encountered another sort of problem. Over the next couple days it became increasingly challenging to urinate. I was told to expect this with the swelling, but last weekend it got so severe that I was taken back to the clinic and recatheterized.
Because I'm one for offering thick description and excessive detail, allow me to tell you about the night before Dr Suporn put the catheter back in.
My friend Aom, the physiotherapist from the hospital, had taken me to a nearby market to by prune juice and other essentials. (You can guess what the prune juice was for, some difficulties aren't worth explaining). We were out of the hotel for about 2 hours total, my longest post-op excursion so far. When I got home and tried to go to the bathroom I experienced the most sharp and searing pain in my cooter, it seemed like everything was ready to work, just refusing to let go. I could feel how swollen I was, probably from moving around too much to soon. It was after clinic hours so I only had one home remedy option to get me thru the night. I took a Singha beer out of the mini fridge, dropped it in a latex glove, and made my own improvisational ice pack. Now, if you've never pressed an ice cold beer against your new vagina, let me assure you, it's quite the experience. I spent the night rotating between two cans of Singha and Chang, letting one chill while letting the other chiiiiillll. Between glove/can swapping I wobbled myself to the toilet and released whatever droplets the lessened swelling would allow. No. I didn't drink the beers. Yes, they're still in the mini fridge.
The next morning at the clinic I was trying to convince myself and Dr Suporn that I could go on my own and that a catheter wouldn't be necessary. He suggested we just insert it and test to see how full my bladder was. If only a little urine came out, he'd remove it and I'd be fine.
The pain of the insertion was brief but excruciating. It's not like he hadn't just constructed that urethra from scratch a week ago! And then I felt a massive relief as nearly a liter of fluid filled the bag.
So he sent me back to the hotel with a catheter for the next five days, which I'll supposedly get removed in about 18 hours. The worst part was that I totally blamed myself, I was convinced that if I had just taken it easier I wouldn't have encountered this obstacle. And of course beating yourself up about an unpleasant situation doesn't make it any easier to deal with.
On the plus side, the rest of my vagina was/is healing well, so, to add to the complication, Dr Suporn suggested that I begin "dynamic dilation" even with the catheter in place.
Before I could start the next phase of the dilation process I needed to attend a post-op care class taught by one of the nurses at the clinic. The class, only about 90 minutes long, covered everything you could expect from your new vag upon returning home, from the difficult to disastrous. The solution always seemed to be the same: just keep dilating. Aka, when in doubt, shove a dildo in and pray. Now I've never fainted from graphic descriptions, but I spent nearly half this class with my head in my hands just trying to breathe. When I was told yet again that months two and three are far more painful than what I'm dealing with now, I almost lost it. See right now the tissue is soft and many of the nerve endings are still numb, but over the next few months I have to fight against encroaching scar tissue that's gonna want to close everything up, and reattaching nerves that are gonna allow me to feel EVERYTHING. A blessing and a curse...
The good news is that Dynamic Dilation is actually a lot more fun than static dilation. Instead of jamming the medium sized wand into your yoni for a half hour, you only have to do it for 15 minutes using Dr Suporn's patented "press and stir" technique. For 15 seconds you press in as hard as you can, then for 15 seconds you pull out an inch and mix it up, stretching out the vaginal opening and sugar walls, then repeat the same two steps 30 times. The interval training aspect makes it a little more bearable, plus it verges on fucking yourself which I can totally get into. I was told, however, that I have to leave my hips out of the stirring equation for at least the first month.
But wait! There's more! After 15 minutes with Mr. Medium, you get to do the same thing for 10 minutes with Mr. Big! 25 minutes total and your wrists and pussy are thoroughly, thoroughly exhausted. It's draining, like rough sex can be, but not quite as enjoyable as rough sex should be. I have to do this 3 times a day for the next 3 months, then twice a day for 3 months after that, then once a day for the following six months. All this I was ready for conceptually, but now kind of find terrifying.
I come back to New York in 12 days, and I do not feel ready. Of course I shouldn't feel ready cuz 12 days is a long time and a lot of healing can take place between now and then, but the thought of subway stairs and busy sidewalks and even the expectations of returning to the Factory feel so incredibly daunting.
Right now I am living from dilation to dilation. Seriously. After I clean myself up and change the dressings on the bed, I only have the energy to lay here for 5 hours before I've got to do it all over again. Sometimes I don't even have the strength or motivation to eat, and you know me people, that's never been an issue. I'm sure some of the fatigue has got to do with the pain killers as well, and while I try to keep the doses low I'm certainly not willing to let those go anytime soon.
I expect my spirits will be lifted when I get this catheter out tomorrow, provided Gracias a Dios that I don't have a UTI to follow, cuz these last couple days tubed up have also not been cute, with clumps and clots and things you don't want to see passing through hoses that come from between your legs.
On the bright side, Musical Theatre Factory has been doing wonderful things without me! The staff, board, and volunteers have all been amazing at running the season programming, and we even added another bonus event today!
A while back I posted that the City of New York was launching the new top-level domain .nyc, available to locals only, and that MTF was chosen to be a founder with mtf.nyc being one of the first 50 .nyc websites. The only other two in the theatre industry are The Apollo Theater and the Schubert Organization, so we're kind of repping our whole scene of off/pre-Broadway new musical theatre. Well the official launch of .nyc is today, Oct 8, and though I had been pestering them for months, the City of New York finally asked us to create a performance for the launch party last week! Today MTF will be opening the celebration with a performance of "In New York" from Sam Salmond's UNCOOL: The Party. We have over 20 people who've come together to make it happen in the shortest time line imaginable, and with me on the other side of the planet, in bed, drugged and banging myself. That's an accomplishment!
I am proud that something I helped to build has such passion and life within it's ranks that it can maintain with collaborative leadership while I am here recovering. That was the idea from the beginning I guess, to create a sustainable community of, by, and for musical theatre makers! So far, so good!
And now, before I close, my friends, Let me just briefly elaborate on the soccer team situation. Many of you saw my initial tweet about the arrival of the team to our hotel, the post I shared about my convo in which I basically cornered one of the players, and more of you saw the group photo that I vowed to Facebook I would make happen. Allow me to unpack what all that was for me, because I think it's kind of important.
When I first made the decision to undergo this procedure here with Dr Suporn, one of the affirming factors was that all the patients of the clinic stay in this same hotel, that the staff here take care of us, and that we have a temporary but supportive community of Trans sisters all going through the same shit, wobbling about wide legged, sitting on special cushions, in some cases roping catheters around our waists.
The site of 40 teenage jocks in the lobby was an instant threat to me. And you know these boys had no qualms about taking up space, a space that up till their arrival had been serene, safe, and healing for us ladies of transformation. Suddenly we were outnumbered again, suddenly we were freaks in the corner, and I was not about to let that happen. Now what I did I did in the best humor, because I believe in building bridges, but I assure you my only intention was to let them know in no uncertain terms that they were guests in our house. And in my physical infirmity and emotional depletion I summoned a courage I didn't think I'd need this trip. I mean, I knew I'd need a lot of courage, I just didn't expect I'd need the kind that put me face-to-face, bald-headed and braless, unshaven and disheveled, with sexy and entitled heterosexual teenage boys, tasked with convincing them of my and my sisters' legitimacy as transgender women. Perhaps I'm projecting a bit, but that's how I chose to handle the situation. And it was just as draining as 25 minutes of dynamic dilation, only with the exact opposite effect, seeing as how things were clenched pretty tight during those interactions.
The takeaway from this story: it takes balls to cut them off, literally and figuratively.
That's all I've got for now, I guess.