Here is what I have written up to now about the last week:
- Surgery recollections - The day of the surgery itself.
- Bed rest - The days following surgery and the critical resting phase.
- Vaginal pack removal and first dilations - The day I saw my vagina for the first time and started dilating.
- Catheter woes and first solo dilations - Catheter comes out, goes back in again! I also dilate without supervision for the first time.
Tuesday was discharge day and I was up early. The nurses seemed late with the drugs so I went and found a nurse and explained that I wanted to dilate before breakfast so that I could pack without rushing. She agreed this was a good idea and brought my drugs as well as a cup of tea. I did my dilation, supping tea as I did so - I am finding it that easy! A decent final bath and then I had a break while breakfast arrived.
I then packed and my good friend Susan arrived to take me home. She was early and I was still awaiting Liz Hills to come for a final inspection of the goods as well as needing my discharge drugs. Liz eventually arrived, she had been slightly delayed with the snow we had had that night. We had a good chat, some hugs as well and I expressed my gratitude for everything they had done for me. She was just as grateful saying how good a patient I had been and for doing everything I had been asked. I also mentioned a problem with my douche, but we compared it with another and worked out it was just a slight defect in the manufacturing process. In addition, I was asked if I would trial a new douche and provide feedback to which I had no problem at all.
Then it was up on to bed to allow her to have a look at the outcome. She was really pleased with how it was looking, I am hardly swollen or bruised and everything is exactly as it should be. She gave me some advice on suture care, cleaning and positioning of the catheter tube and how to stop the white sloughing that was occurring on the wounds. I was also given some pointers on douching and post shower care - gently using a hair-dryer to dry the site.
She was happy with everything and then we just had to wait for the drugs and sadly this was the only issue I had for the entirety of my stay there. We were an hour delayed and this led to frustration as I really wanted to get that journey done. We did get moving in the end and it was careful steps to the car, a reminder that I am not as able as I felt. We got out of the hospital and headed up the hill over the Sussex Downs and there were a few tears as I reflected on the incredible week I had had.
The journey was not too bad. I had to stop a few times for toileting but generally I was comfortable in the passenger seat. It was only the last 45 minutes that I was feeling it and ironically, these were the worst roads we had to traverse. On arriving home, I found Susan and Mandy had decorated the place with balloons and welcome home banners! I walked in and gave Mandy a good hug. We sat down for a little while, with a cup of tea so that I could have a moment to get over the journey. Susan had to go off and check into her hotel for the next few nights and while she did so, Mandy was wanting her look at the finished article. There were some serious tears once she realised how amazing it all looked. There was also another surprise in the form of cake and I don't think I need to elaborate on this one.
My first dilation out of the hospital went absolutely fine with no difficulties and this was the same for the evening one too. I have been warned that the whole area can become swollen for a few weeks post-op but there is no sign of this yet and my thoughts are that it may not be too bad. Even the journey home has not affected things and I am hopeful of a very speedy recovery. There was a small bit of anxiety in the evening just before bed when I found I could get nothing out of my catheter. eventually it started dribbling out before a blood streaked jelly like lump popped out and then it was all moving again. A phone call to the ward was made and we think it may just have been some bladder lining sloughing off. If it were to block completely, to get to A&E and get it flushed with saline. Liz Hills also suggested that gently twisting the catheter can help in this situation. Thankfully today it has been working fine.
So I am left to reflect on a monumental week in my life. It surely has to have been one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Even with the couple of hiccups, some rough nights and painful trapped wind, there is just nothing that even comes close to how amazing it has been. It's hard to believe that it was 8 days ago to the day that I was put under and operated on, it seems like so much longer. That 8 days have seen so much packed in, even with the days of bed rest. It's been up and down emotionally, but mostly up and the amount of tears that have been shed through reflection and happiness are phenomenal.
Sometimes I forget that I have been through this fantastic mini-journey and almost as a bonus ended with a body that matches my mind. It is still a little surreal when I look down there and find there is no longer a penis and testicles but a vagina instead. It's still a little swollen with sutures sticking out, but it is mine and it makes me feel so good to see it. No longer do I have to be careful what clothes I choose for fear of odd bumps being displayed. No more do I have to look into the full length mirror, gaze lovingly at my breasts and hips and then shudder at the obscenity between my legs.
Of course there is also the very pleasant reality of the anxiety disappearing. I am no longer at the mercy of my gender clinic or NHS England with regards my transitioning. They never had anything on me and I never had anything to hide but I felt the constant scrutiny in my life over invasive and the hoop jumping tedious. My physical transitioning is over and I can look forward to the rest of my life. I have some ideas of what I would like to explore, and it is only with the removal of the noise of transitioning that I can do this.
Sure there are number of things I will have to continue with to remind me that I was not born with this body. I will have to take HRT for the rest of my life, in fact not doing so would be dangerous. This is coupled with all the blood tests I will have to have to monitor it. I will still have to have prostate screening where relevant. I will have to dilate for the rest of my life although the frequency will decrease over time and I will also have to douche every day because my vagina will never naturally clean itself. Any kind of penetrative sex will involve lubricant because I produce none of my own. This whole list makes it seem imperfect but it is far from it. I have reached perfection in my eyes and that is all that matters.
There was also one more event that happened at Brighton and I have not mentioned it yet because it was aside from the whole GRS experience. On the Saturday when Mandy was due to go back home, she proposed to me on my hospital bed and I accepted. As soon as I get my GRC, we will start to plan our wedding. I need the GRC first because the absurdity at this time is that in the eyes of the law, we have to marry as a man and a woman and this is not going to happen. Even more special was a conversation with my father last night. He asked if I would let him give me away at our wedding. His other daughter asked her stepfather when she married some time ago and hearing his upset at this even though it was quite some time ago, was quite upsetting to myself. I agreed without hesitation and to hear my father want to give his other daughter away showed me that he now has made some serious effort to understand who I am. Perhaps he needed the surgery to confirm it in his mind. It shouldn't have needed this but if it helps him, it's another bonus.
So the future feels very bright at the moment. There will be bumps, but I will be better able to deal with them. I have a body that matches my mind and the worry of transitioning is over. 2015 is going to be very good indeed!