• Pandemiployment

I Broke My Belly Button

Preparing for my husband's deployment included me scouring the web for books about deployment appropriate for young children. We have the Elmo DVD where his dad goes away for a while (apparently you're supposed to use that to compare to a deployment). We have the book where you insert photos (so I hustled to get some printed). We read all the literature about what to expect, how to expose him to the idea, behavior to watch for. We waited until it was a few weeks away, and then we sat him down and talked about it. We watched the DVD. We read the books.

It did jackshit.

I still had a weepy two year old who went through a horrific sleep regression that brought him back to his newborn days (and hauled his baby sister with him). The power struggles over all things hygienic continue to this day (sure, he's potty trained. He just fights me over going to the potty, every. single. time.) Tooth brushing? Oh boy. Clothes? Yeah, good luck. Bathtime? His love of playing in the bath rivals only his love of fighting me on taking one.

He's even started a fun thing of drinking less. The kid who could never guzzle enough milk and thinks that water is fun will take two sips and be done! I would bribe him with juice, but he doesn't even like it! Wow, am I enjoying how a young child will react to stress by trying to enforce control over all the details of his life.

So when I found out I would be having surgery, I decided against saying anything at all.

My parents were already visiting for the holidays (welcome to my bubble) so I had care in place. I can't speak to what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about preparing your child for your surgery, because I didn't look. Know Thy Child, I say, and mine, at this juncture in his life, is not getting anything positive about being prepared for situations he absolutely cannot understand.

Also, it was a small surgery.

I broke my belly button! (You ever read I Broke My Butt. It's cheeky, and fun. Butts are funny y'all).

Of course, I'm down to one car, and I was ready to come home right about daycare pickup time, so my dad had to pick up Son and they both got me at the hospital.

He's almost three years old, and he took it extremely well. My dad told him they had to pick me up from a doctor's appointment. When I got in the car, we told Son that my belly button was broken, so a doctor had to fix it, and when we got home, he could see the booboo!

Pro trip: Seeing the booboo was the only thing he cared about. I had to lift my shirt a million times to show him, and he wasn't phased in the least. I honestly think he was disappointed I didn't have a cooler bandage with characters on it.

Sometimes, you prepare everything you can, and it doesn't help at all. Other times, procrastination is the best policy.


So HOW did I break my belly button? I'll tell you! It's all down to the gloriousness that is pregnancy and postpartum healing.

I ended up with a postpartum umbilical hernia. In layperson's terms, my abs were split (diastasis recti) father apart than usual, due to the fact that your abs have to split to accommodate the baby. This can result in a little sac of your innards poking out where your belly button is, because apparently we're all weaker by our belly button, due to our long departed umbilical cords. If it happens postpartum, it might not go back in.

I'm going to tell you what my doctor and physical therapist did not tell me: belly buttons should pop back in! If it's been months and it still doesn't, think to yourself, does it hurt when I cough/sneeze/bear down and feel like something in my stomach is pushing out? Do I feel strain around my belly button when I lift heavy shit like my kids? Does my belly button sometimes go back in, but then pops back out for most of the day?

Call your doctor, and be very specific, "I think I have an umbilical hernia."

I legit live in a city KNOWN for high quality healthcare (as in, people fly in from other parts of the country to be helped at our hospitals) and guess what?! No one told me I should pay attention to my belly button if it didn't pop back in! Even as I repeatedly asked questions about my abs (so vain! No, I just want to have a functioning core because I have things to lift and kids to wrestle).

I knew I had diastasis recti (you learn some things with Kid #1), so I was very proactive about asking my doctor and physical therapist to check my gap. I have to say, it was treated like...yeah don't worry too much about it, it's going to heal, keep doing these exercises.

Cool, cool. Except I side planked and dead bugged for eight fucking months, and spent that whole time blaming myself for not putting more time into it, because when I checked for the gap myself, it still felt like a bizarre hole between my abs.

If it feels like a bizarre hole that long after...that's because it's literally a bizarre hole where the sack holding your guts in is leaking out of a literal fucking hole. Since I have zero medical training, I cannot the difference between a gap in my abs from split abs and a gap in my abs from a HOLE.

How did I finally figure it out? I got one of those sinus infections where you lose your voice, and coughed a little bit. Holy moly coughing felt awful. I'm not talking about those coughs where you fear you might hack up a lung. I'm talking just your standard, there's some mucus where it shouldn't be, cough.

And I thought...this just can't be right. It can't. It's one thing to blame myself for my apparent muscle weakness. But to say that I'm not planking enough to stop my cough from making my belly button feel like something is exploding out of it..nah.

Real MDs hate Dr. Google, but women wouldn't have to consult it so much if our every health complaint wasn't treated as an annoyance. I'm sorry, I'm sick of the response that "this is just what happens to pregnant/postpartum women" accompanied with a little shrug.

I once called my doctor's office after my first born son, and asked, "Is it normal to feel like something is falling out of me when I walk?" and was told yes, it was. NOPE. I had a cystocele. As in my bladder was legitimately FALLING OUT OF MY VAGINA. Luckily I'm learning to be dogged about my care, so I called back a few days later hysterically crying, which got me an appointment, which got me the information that after six weeks, I could go to Pelvic Floor Therapy to help alleviate the organ which had decided to try sky diving out my cooch.


Back to my hernia. I dialed up Dr. Google, read a bunch of reputable articles, and felt 99% sure that I had an umbilical hernia. My primary care doctor took one look and said, "Yeah that's a hernia, I don't even have to touch it to know." He did touch it, but seriously? It was that obvious, and I've been walking around struggling in my daily life, blaming myself (because of course I was) that I wasn't stronger?

This led to a surgical consult with an excellent surgeon. I mean, I have to trust that his surgery skills are good, it's not like I have multiple hernias to compare outcomes on. What I thought was amazing was that a man who was clearly very intelligent not only physically examined me, but listened to me explain the issues I was having in daily life. While it was safe for me to keep living that way (the odds of my intestines pushing out the hole, getting trapped, and killing me, were actually pretty small odds), he agreed that if I wanted to return to my normal life, surgery was the best option.

So yeah, I had surgery during the pandemic while my husband was deployed. So on brand for 2020. I have nothing but praise for every health professional I interacted with during the experience. You don't get a family member inside the hospital anymore (when my husband had his knee surgery, I actually met his surgeon and anesthesiologist, and sat with him until he was wheeled into the operating room). It's a little scary, frankly, but like every other mother out there, I went in with the attitude of, it's got to be done, so I'm doing it.

My advice to any women out there experiencing an umbilical hernia or other fun result of a pregnancy is to go to your doctor prepared with a list of how your daily activities are affected. I'm not saying you should go in there and make things up. I'm saying we live in a world where telling a nurse that you feel something fall out of you when you walk is deemed "normal" and you may find yourself needing to self-advocate quite a bit to get the care you need.

Don't decide ahead of time that you should just suck it up and live in a broken body. There may not be a therapy or surgery that can help, or there might be something you've never heard of. You're sure as hell not going to hear about it if you go in as a Martyr Mother and tell them, "it's not that bad, it just bothers me." A good doc might try to pull a few more details out of you, but there's plenty of bad ones, and plenty of ones working under the ridiculous time crunches that constitute an appointment in America.

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