All of us are or have been on a healing journey of some kind to heal physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually.
Sometimes one journey brings healing in all of these areas.
I want to share a healing journey with you in hope there’s something here to inspire perseverance and commitment to your own healing journey, whatever that may be.
My particular healing journey is likely something I was born with, and something that’s been part of my destiny to overcome.
You see, when I was a child, I had an umbilical hernia, also known as an outie belly button. My parents were told I should have surgery to fix it. As a mother, I learned that if one waits until a child is at least 7 years old, this condition often heals itself, but my parents didn’t know that.
At age 6, I had my first surgery, becoming extremely ill due to the anesthesia, and severely traumatized not having any idea what was happening to me.
I didn’t understand why people were coming at me with needles, due to which I kicked and screamed in protest, requiring multiple people to hold me down in order to get the shots.
I didn’t understand why I was there alone in the hospital overnight. My younger sister was there also having the same surgery, but I don’t recall anyone staying with us overnight.
All I remember was feeling scared and alone.
After the birth of my first son in 2002, I noticed a large lump in my abdomen. I didn’t have great concern, but a couple of years after the birth of my second child in 2005, I decided to look into what was going on.
In 2008, I was told that I had an umbilical hernia that needed repair, this time not as an outie belly button, but as a tear in my abdominal wall near the umbilicus.
I was back to that 6 year old issue, but at a new time in my life.
This issue turned into a 10 year challenge that I hadn’t anticipated, including multiple re-herniations, implantation of mesh reinforcement, and fundraising for a mesh removal surgery, the third surgery I had over those 10 years (you may enjoy reading the fundraising page and the updates I posted there which significantly detail more of my journey).
Only 2 weeks after that third surgery in June 2018, I felt inspired to share my story in hopes that it might help others. I went to a local story slam and presented a 5 minute talk (incorporating a bit of humor with the night’s theme of “pitch”) that summarized my journey.
You can view my Steeply Pitched Story of Self Empowerment where I tell the story of that 10 years in just 5 minutes.
I felt so happy thinking I’d finally be putting this issue behind me.
Then, four months later in October 2018, I re-herniated again, causing a bulge the size of a football to stick out of my abdomen. I found myself pushed into a dark night of the soul that was extremely difficult.
In August 2019, I wrote about Facing Adversity with Courage. I spoke a bit about the challenge I’d been going through, and what I learned about overcoming the adversity I was experiencing.
I felt like a big failure, and I felt hopeless.
Why was this continuing to happen to me? Why couldn’t my body remain healed from this issue? Did the process and procedures weaken my entire system and connective tissue? What would it take to finally find peace with this?
While it was devastating for this to happen, it did happen at work, and thus workers comp offered me a settlement to ensure I could repair the hernia. At least I didn’t need to figure out how I would afford another surgery.
The hole was large enough, about the size of a small avocado, that there was no immediate danger of strangulation or any other intestinal damage. (Amazing how much of our insides can bulge out of a relatively small hole!)
So, while I knew I had to get another surgery, I decided to take whatever time I needed to get to the bottom of things.
I started working with different body workers to understand my body and connective tissue better. I began digging deeper with my homeopath/nutritionist. I did tons of online research and asked lots of questions of others I found who’d gone through similar things. I interviewed over 20 surgeons!
What I learned has been remarkable. Perhaps I’ll write a memoir about this one day.
The body workers helped me release excess tension in my body. My homeopath helped me to detoxify in hopes of ensuring that any remaining toxins in my body that may be hindering my healing would be removed.
We also looked at nutritional deficiencies and even more dietary efforts, ensuring that my body would be in optimal shape for repairing this issue once and for all. I released trauma with energy healing and a willingness to be vulnerably raw in my emotions.
My interviewing of over 20 surgeons was an incredible growth experience.
I spent much of my life learning to speak up for myself and feel more confident. I’ve worked on this in various ways, slowly and steadily learning to stand more strongly in myself. Yet, with doctors, I often still felt like a puddle in their presence.
Interview by interview, I faced the intimidation I felt, and believed more and more in myself and my own knowing of my body as being just as, if not more, valuable than what any doctor could tell me.
Some doctors were downright cruel, telling me I was crazy for thinking my body rejected mesh. Some rolled their eyes. Some gave me blank stares and just “yes-manned” me, saying they could fix me, while I clearly felt they had no real understanding of what was happening. Others didn’t want anything to do with me. My June 2018 surgeon didn’t even want to admit that his repair had come undone.
I learned that I should interview not only general surgeons who specialized in hernia repair, but reconstructive surgeons who understood how to reconstruct the abdomen and create sustainable strength, stability and optimal results in the body.
Interestingly, it was the general surgeons that criticized and dismissed me most of all. Many wanted to do the “usual” procedures of robotically placing more mesh in my body and calling it a day. The so-called “best in the area” for this was the very worst and most arrogant toward me.
I was continually learning to trust myself, not take things personally, and persevere with the knowing that I would find the right surgeon.
I was learning to trust that just because something or someone is dubbed “the best” doesn’t mean they are the best for me.
In my interview process, I learned of stitching techniques I didn’t know to ask for before. My June surgeon was excellent at removing mesh, but I didn’t know there were better methods of repairing a hernia without mesh than what he had used. I learned more about other mesh options, biologic meshes that would integrate and/or dissolve in the body over time rather than remain as permanent toxins. I learned of various procedures and exercises that would strengthen my core and help ensure a more sustainable repair.
I also learned a lot about how disturbingly messed up our health care and insurance systems are.
I found myself longing to become an advocate for others going through things like this, helping them to have a voice, ask the right questions, and become their own best advocates. I know this experience has already been deeply informing and enhancing my coaching work.
After interviewing 20 surgeons, the one I determined would be the best suggested I speak to one more general surgeon. He felt confident he could repair my hernia and reconstruct my abdomen, but he understood my trepidation due to my history, and suggested that we might have a second surgeon there just in case anything unexpected came up, particularly given the exposure of my intestines and aorta due to the hole. The general surgeon he recommended was the only general surgeon I interviewed that actually listened to me and believed what I was saying about my body. She was great, and the two surgeons agreed to team up for my surgery.
On February 5th 2020, I had my surgery, and am now recovering very well.
The hernia was repaired with no mesh, being reinforced instead with multiple layers of special stitching and support. The level of invasive cutting was far less than they had originally thought might be needed. I was told they would cut me hip to hip and sternum to pubic bone. The latter vertical cut ended up not being needed, which was a great relief. I may still lose my belly button due to the number of surgeries I’ve had in the area of it, and I’ll know more next week.
The reconstruction involved repairing my diastasis, which helps to make the core stronger. I’m already amazed at how much stronger my core feels, even in my pained state of recovery, just having sewn together all the holes and gaps! Not having back pain is such a treasure! I experienced no back pain after the June 2018 surgery, but it returned immediately when I re-herniated in October.
This has been a 12 year journey for me, more if I consider that I likely had the hernia, and certainly had the diastasis upon birthing my son Benjamin nearly 18 years ago. I’ve learned by now that nothing is guaranteed. At the same time, I’m feeling confident in what I’ve learned, what I’ve done, and what the surgeons have done for me. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to learn so much, receive so much support, and find some relief.
I am ready for a new chapter in my life!
Interestingly, the umbilicus is what connects us to our mother in the womb. In many ways, I feel that this journey of wounding around my own umbilicus has been about finding connection the the Great Mother, who has helped me to be fully me, has nourished me in ways I never felt before, and who has become a strong guide and support to me in my life.
I’ve created a new connection to Life itself that sustains me, beyond all doubts, allowing me to trust myself rather than seeking outside of myself for what’s always been available within.
I’m so deeply grateful for all that I’ve learned, and hope that my journey will serve to help others in the future.
My journey has been a healing on every level of my being, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
May we all find our true voice, asking questions and challenging what’s typically done if it doesn’t resonate with us.
May we know our bodies, honoring them and giving them the best of our care, attention and love.
May we trust our Selves over the noise and “shoulds” that we’re constantly bombarded with.
May we embrace our wounds, and find the beauty in them that serves our Soul’s path.
May we persevere, moving through challenges as opportunities to learn and become more of who we’re capable of being.
May we remember the inner wisdom that lives inside of us, and take time to reconnect with it!