10 Tips to Prepare for Hysterectomy Recovery with Small Children

Recovering while caring for a young childmay present certain challenges, but with proper preparation it is possible. It’s important to remember that whichever method of hysterectomy you had, it was still major surgery and you have only one chance to heal right the first time. You want to be mindful of not doing too much too soon – no matter how strong the urge is to jump right back into your Mommy role.

Pushing yourself when you are sore or fatigued may backfire and set you back a step or cause long-term complications; in turn, that will take you away from your child even more. You will be on pain medicationsimmediately post op, need rest, and have certain restrictions to follow.

Below are some tips and strategies to put in place before your surgery so you can have the best possible recovery.

1. Clarify Your Restrictions.

Surgeons vary in their post op restrictions, depending on many factors. Only your doctor can say what activities are safe for you to do as you recover. It’s important to clarify your post op restrictions; especially regarding lifting, housework, and driving. Be clear with your doctor about how many children you have at home, their ages, and their weight.

2. Explain Your Surgery to Your Child Beforehand.

Children can be very sensitive, and the thought of Mommy being unwell and needing surgery can be very scary. If you expect to be in the hospital a night or two, this can create extra anxiety. Explain your hysterectomy and reassure your child using language that is age appropriate. Too much information can be overwhelming, but too little information can leave your child filling in the blanks – and what a child imagines is often scarier than reality. While you are in hospital, have your family members stick to your child’s same routine; familiar foods for dinner, same bath and bed times. If a friend is watching your child, have her come to your house; this helps your child feel secure and safe. Let your child know that when you come home, you will have “owies” on your tummy and she will need to be gentle with you. Also, tell her that you will not be able to lift or carry her at all during recovery, that you will be tired and would love her help.

3. Make a Child-Safe Space.

It’s very helpful to set up a recovery “nest”. This is usually in the living room or bedroom; a comfy space to rest with everything you need within reach. Whichever room you choose will be where you’re spending most of your time during the day. Make this a child-safe space by using child gates to enclose the room, removing breakables or lamps that may topple easily, plugging electrical outlets, and blocking off the stairs. Set the room up with your child’s books on a shelf, an activity table with child-friendly crafts, a table with everything you need for diaper changes, and a nap area for both of you.

4. Have Your Child Practice Beforehand.

Before your surgery, work with your child to teach her some strategies that will make caring for her easier. You may teach her to climb up on the couch for diaper changes, climb into high chair at mealtimes, how to get you water from the fridge, and get her own snacks (that are prepared and ready on a low shelf in the fridge). Have your child practice climbing in/out of her car seat so you won’t have to lift her once you’re cleared to drive.

5. Transition Time.

It may be sooner than you’d planned on it, but this may be a good time to transition your child to a toddler bed or to start toilet learning. You will likely not be able to lift your child in and out of the crib throughout your entire initial recovery (approximately 6 weeks). Your child’s active participation in this transition can help her feel more involved in your recovery.

6. Ask for/Accept All Offers of Help.

When a friend or family member says “Let me know if you need anything…”, immediately assign them a task. It’s so much easier than calling them up at a later date and asking. You can say, “Thank you! I would love help with such and such.” Offers of meals, housework, and running to the grocery store, pharmacy or doctor’s office are all very helpful. Arrange babysitting or play dates as well to give yourself breaks; this can help your child expend some energy and come home to you happily tired. If you have no local help, you may consider hiring a cleaning service or ordering groceries online and having them delivered. You may choose to hire a teenager in the neighborhood/your church/local high school to help at bath time, dinner time, or just so you can nap.

7. Enlist Your Child to Help.

Children love to help. You can get a child-size broom so your child can help sweep the floor for you. Show your child how to get you a snack or a drink from the kitchen. Picking up dropped items such as the remote or your book is also helpful. She can fetch a diaper or books to read and fold some laundry. It may not look perfect, but it’s less for you to do and your child will feel so proud to contribute.

8. Have Husband Set Things Up in the Morning.

Your husband can be a big help – even if he is off to work each morning. Have husband get your child up and dressed before going to work in the morning. He can have you and your child’s lunches in the fridge, ready to eat. Or you may choose to put a cooler in your recovery area and have your husband stock it with snacks and drinks before leaving for the day. Have juice/water already in sippy cups and leave them in the fridge. Place a trash basket in your recovery space so you’re not getting up to toss things out. Your husband can empty it at the end of the day.

9. Plan Activities.

Buy activity books, coloring books, or quiet toys for your child to play with. Board games are great and are wonderful for quiet bonding time. Snakes & Ladders, jigsaw puzzles, or cards can be great fun, too. Get some new story books for quiet time. Pick up a couple new children’s movies and save them for your recovery. Put the DVD player up high so you don’t have to bend to use it. DVR shows ahead of time and save them as well.

10. Nap with Your Child.

We do some of our best healing while we sleep. You will likely feel fatigued for the first few weeks post op. Simple activities may wear you out, so you will need lots of rest and even occasional naps. If your child takes a nap, this is the perfect opportunity for you to do the same. Cuddle up and snooze together, giving you the rest you need and your child added closeness and security. Put a step stool by your bed so she can climb up by herself.

Each mom will be faced with her own post op challenges regarding small children. Be creative and think outside the box. Make lists of things to do, items to buy, and foods to freeze to help keep you organized and on-track. Have your child participate in as much of the pre-op planning as possible, so she feels like a partner in your recovery.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.  Reprinted with permission: 10 Tips to Prepare for Hysterectomy Recovery with Small Children

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