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16 weeks post-surgery update

This is the fourth post in a 10,000+ word series about my experience with getting my junk rearranged. The other parts are: Are You Excited?, I Got Sliced All The Fuck Up!, and Recovery Update.


IMG_0497I know, I know. I haven’t updated in a while. A lot of people have asked me to, but I honestly just haven’t really had a chance to sit down and write it all out. Since mylast update two and a half months ago, things have been a bit of a rollercoaster—I guess that happens with a major surgery—and there are a lot of things I’ve been wanting to share, many of which are things I was never told going into surgery or just had no idea to expect.

As usual, all kinds of content warnings and such ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Also, this post is kind of a poorly-written mess of updates. There’s just too much to cover to try to get it out coherently. So why even try?

I went back to work, like actually commuting into NYC, at five weeks post-op. I had planned for this to be six weeks. However, I was losing my mind at home and really eager to try to get back to some sort of a normal life. So, after things were looking perfect at my five week checkup, I went for it. Walking was doable, but not great. The swelling had gone down enough that it wasn’t inhibiting me anymore, but I still had stitches that were in the process of coming out and they hurt…a lot. It was difficult to move much without having them slice me up down there. It took another couple of weeks for them the finish coming out. Without a doubt, this was the worst part of weeks four through seven.

Also around the five week mark, I was able to switch from needing maxi pads to just using pantyliners. There was very little bleeding at this point and not needing a giant pad between my legs all the time was a major comfort improvement. Though, I find I still need to keep a pantyliner in place pretty much at all times to catch all the lube that is constantly oozing out of me. I don’t expect this to change until my dilation is less frequent.

Sitting at my desk at work, or anywhere, required positioning myself so there wasn’t any weight on my genitals. I found I was best if I was leaning to one side or just slouching a ton. It was doable most of the time, but some harder surfaces were tough for a while. I couldn’t really get comfortable on bar stools or hard benches until closer to like eight weeks. Oddly, even at five weeks, I was able to sit with my legs crossed and this was actually one of the more comfortable positions. Now, at sixteen weeks, I can pretty much sit however I want and not even that to think twice about it. I just can’t like plop myself down too hard.

At six and a half weeks, I started running again. My first run was a very tough one mile, but it felt really great to get out there again. Over the course of a the next four weeks, I built myself back up to five miles, but there was a lot of atrophying in my legs from spending five weeks barely leaving the couch.

First mile with a vagina!

First mile with a vagina!

Around the seven week mark I developed what was basically diaper rash on my perineum. Hey, I warned you! It only gets worse from here. Anyway, yeah, that was awful. It hurt a ton and it took sending another awkward photo of my frankenvag to my doctor to be sure of what it was. It cleared up in a couple of weeks after consistent heavy application of Desitin. I guess my in-between area was a little sensitive and not yet used to the idea of having a pantyliner rubbing against it all day while out and about.

Weeks six through ten where a very, very slow progression of healing. I had good days. I had bad days. I had really bad days. I had many days so bad I had to work from home or leave work early. Most of the time, it was just pain that could be easily relieved by laying down on the couch. It was not optimal at all and, at points, I was struggling to keep up with my job.

After five weeks, I was able to start dilating three times a day instead of four. This was a nice life improvement as it felt slightly less like I was just living my life from one dilation to the next. Dilating at work is definitely super awkward, but I worked out with HR a place for me to do it in the office. Unfortunately, my office doesn’t have a lot of rooms with a locking door, no windows, and a place for me to lay down. In fact, we only have one room that really fits all of that and it’s in the basement. The idea of locking myself in a room in the basement to dilate seems kinda like hiding the tranny out of sight, but the room has a sink and its own thermostat. The thermostat is very helpful for when you’re laying there with no pants on and lube is oozing out of you and down your asscrack. Yum. Every once in a while, someone tries to come into the room, but only a couple of people have keys and they know the deal so it’s generally okay…except for that time when it wasn’t and two of my coworkers walked in on me. Awk. Ward. Still, the basement is fine by me. I’m more than happy to work with what we’ve got and there’s less traffic down there than anywhere else so it feels more private.

Around eight weeks or so, I was starting to feel reasonably okay. I still had pain, but things were looking up enough for me to consider maybe trying to take this thing for a spin. Mostly, I just wanted to see if things still worked. I carefully started touching myself down there to feel things out. I really had NO idea how to operate my new genitals. Do I stick my fingers inside? Do I rub my clit? Do I do both? Should I use a vibrator? How much is too much? What if I can’t figure out how to set this thing off anymore? I also had a lot of trouble with where I needed to be mentally. Just, like, the idea of thinking about sex with a vagina instead of a penis was weird. I mean, I’ve thought about it pretty much every day for 20+ years, but this was totally different. I kept feeling like I didn’t know what to do without having a penis. Things also weren’t helped by the fact that I still had a lot of swelling that made it difficult to even get to my clit. Eventually, after long while of trying things inside and out, I was able to start getting somewhere. A few times I got really close, but just couldn’t quite get over the edge. The really interesting thing was the difference in how my body was responding to stimulation. It was a bit more full-body and there was a lot more tensing. Anyway, after a while, I gave up, but I tried again a few days later and succeeded. It was a really, really interesting feeling. It felt good, don’t get me wrong, but it was odd. The same, yet different. Unfortunately, it took over a month before I was able to perform an encore.

Shortly after the first time I was able to orgasm, I started having a ton of pain. Literally everywhere down there hurt. Inside. Outside. The area around it. It was beyond terrible. It built over the course of a couple weeks, but just kept getting worse and worse. I stopped running completely. I basically skipped out on my birthday because I was in too much pain to deal with being alive. I started taking expensive Uber rides home from work just to avoid having to be on my feet for the commute home. At the peak, it got so bad that I missed an entire week of work (this was the 12th week post-op). I don’t mean I worked from home, I mean I didn’t work at all. I spent the week curled up on the couch crying and popping Percocets like they were candy. I had never felt such pain—even in the first few days after surgery—and it was everywhere and every type of pain you can imagine. It was sharp, shooting, dull, achy, burny, stabbing, and anything else you can imagine. And the Percocets were doing nothing.

The pain was also made worse by dilating. I couldn’t stick anything in without feeling like Satan was fucking my vagina with a flaming spiked dick. It was the worst pain. And the pain caused me to start to dread dilating at all. I would get really tense and struggle to relax myself enough to get a dilator in. This, of course, made it hurt more which only fed back into this. I started using more and more lube to try to get my dilators in—as if I wasn’t already swimming in enough as it was—but eventually I had to stop using my largest one altogether. I just couldn’t get it in. Even my middle-sized one was difficult. It’d take me 10-15 minutes to slowly work it in while trying to do creating exercises to relax myself.

At week eleven, before things really peaked, I called the doctor’s office and the PA asked me to send another vag pic. She prescribed Estrace, which is basically an estrogen cream you inject into your vagina. Yup, the estrogen I inject into my leg with a needle on a weekly basis wasn’t enough for my body, I needed to also inject it straight into my vagina (is there anything more lady-like than this?). Moar lady juice! This was even more hell, though, as the applicator wasn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world. The tip was rough and caused me even more pain when I inserted it. I’m in pain just writing about it now. I kept this up for two weeks total, but it didn’t seem to make much of a noticeable difference. The PA also told me to start dilating four times a day again, but who’s got time for that when you’ve got a job?

At this point, I was completely regretting having surgery at all. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I was inconsolable. I just curled up on the couch and hated my life. I started to feel like I had some permanent problem and would spend the rest of my life in pain. You know, like those random people you read stories about who had some surgery and spend the rest of their life suffering because of it. Couple this pain with the stress of MyTransHealth‘s impending launch and the crazy amount of work I was putting in to get us ready and I was stretched beyond my means. This week was mentally and emotionally taxing beyond all possible comprehension. I was utterly defeated.

Waiting to get the granulation literally burned out of my vagina

Waiting to get the granulation literally burned out of my vagina

Back to week twelve, the peak of my vaginal hellstorm, I called the doctor again to see what was up. This time, I spoke to my actual doctor and not the PA. She was completely calm and collected about it. “Sounds like you have some granulation. Come in tomorrow and we’ll cauterize it for you.” I still don’t really understand what granulation is and why it hurts so bad except that it’s a relatively normal thing that happens—I mean, I’ve read about it so I kinda know, but I still don’t quite get it. It also, apparently, can result in displaced pain so it can hurt in places besides where it actually is. Who knew? I didn’t! No one told me about this beforehand!

Anyway, somehow, I was able to make the two hour drive down to my doctor with all this pain and she numbed me up down there and took care of it in a couple minutes. Despite her literally burning the granulation out of my vagina, I immediately had relief. After a few days, I was feeling GREAT. I was even able to start running again…again. However, my doctor had told me there would almost definitely be more. Still, a week of almost no pain at all was great! Well, no pain except for that damn Estrace applicator. Fuck that thing.

My doctor was right and the pain started coming back a couple weeks later, but no where near as bad as it was. So I went back again to have more taken care of. This was last week and I’ve been feeling pretty damn great this week. Though, I’m going back yet again next week for more, but I’m in not in pain from it anymore.

According to the original dilation schedule I was given, I should have been able to drop down from three times a day to just two earlier this month. Unfortunately, the granulation set me back a bit and I’m still doing it three times daily and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. Missing a dilation right now still makes the next one really suck. And I’m still trying to get the biggest dilator back in again. I’ve only been able to do it a few times since I stopped using it.

Hattie really likes to lay with my while I dilate

Hattie really likes to lay with my while I dilate

That’s mostly the gist of what it’s been like for the last two and a half months. Of course, there have been some other random notable bits…

The swelling was still causing my pee to spray everywhere for a while. It was only a few weeks ago that this finally stopped being an issue. The worst part was how unpredictable it was, though. Sometimes, it’d be fine. Other times, it’d somehow spray out of the toilet and all over the wall and my pants and underwear. This especially sucks when you’re at work!

I think in my last update, I had talked about nerve mappings and being able to tell where feelings, sensations, and touches are. It seems like almost everything is fully re-mapped now. I can tell where feelings and sensations are coming from without having to consciously think about it. When I touch various spots, the feeling I have feels like it’s coming from the spot I’m touching. Much of this slowly happened without me even realizing. Somewhere over the course of the last couple of months, I went from feeling like things were coming from their old locations or not being able to really tell exactly where it was coming from to it all feeling like it’s working as if it came like this out of the box (pun intended).

By three months, I expected more of the swelling to be gone and I expected the pain to pretty much be over with. I knew the swelling would take a while, but I went in expecting it to be 3-6 months, with most of the visible swelling being down by three months. Apparently, it’s really a full year for all the swelling to disappear. On one hand, I’m not terribly surprised it takes that long, but on the other, I just wish this was made more clear beforehand (I’m sure it was mentioned at least once, but there’s a lot to take in so it could have used more emphasis). While it does look like a vagina, it just feels like it really looking like a normal vagina is so far away still. My doctor assures me everything is looking perfect, though. As for The Pain™, I feel like it likely would’ve been mostly gone by three months if not for all of my granulation issues. Hopefully, that will be completely over with soon. I, honestly, don’t think I could take anymore of it.

Anyway, this week has been pretty good. I’m feeling mostly great. I got up to running 6.2 miles last weekend and felt great so that’s a huge plus. I’m feeling close to a real person again and finally starting to remember what feeling physically comfortable is like.

Seriously, every time I'm dilating

Seriously, every time I’m dilating

Lastly, a few other thoughts that didn’t really fit in anywhere else…

Up until just about last week, jeans were still really uncomfortable to wear. Granted, I typically only wear skinny jeans, but you don’t realize how little give there is in the crotch when you’re sitting or bending. It was just too much pressure on my vagina and I’d barely even get into work before regretting it. I spent most of the last 11 weeks since coming back to work trying to stick with dresses and leggings as much as possible, but my wardrobe only has so many options on this front. I never thought I’d be so excited to wear jeans, but here we are.

That does bring me to my next point, though. It’s amazing to be able to wear leggings, running tights and spandex shorts, and other tight bottoms that I couldn’t wear before. It’s just a lot more freeing in how I dress myself. I can throw on a pair of yoga pants without worry of wearing a long top. Or I can wear leggings as pants without worry that my shirt isn’t quite long enough to hide my junk. I mean, it’s not really about the clothes. It’s about the lack of having to think about my genitals just to run out to grab a coffee. And there’s a comfort level with my body that’s totally new to me and it’s great. Even just walking down the street feels more natural and normal to me in a way that I can’t explain but has been extremely apparent to me. I’m only just starting to fully experience all of this this week.

It’s hard to believe I’ve had a vagina for just 16 of my 1,721 weeks on this planet and I’m already forgetting what it’s like to have a penis. I mean, like I mentioned above, there’s still some weird muscle memory around stuff like masturbation, but there’s this weird inability to conceptualize what it was like with a penis and how it felt to just like…I don’t know, exist with one. It feels 100% normal to look down or in a mirror and see a vagina. It almost feels like it’s always been like that. Which is pretty wild.

It’s been a really rough 16 weeks and, like I said at the beginning, a big rollercoaster of ups and downs and everything in between. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, this vagina has been one giant pain in the dick. But the worst is definitely behind me and things are looking up (*knocks on wood*). Except for that one really dark week—fuck you, week twelve—it all feels worth it now that I’m finally starting to feel like one coherent human being. I look at my body and I actually see something that looks relatively like I feel like it should. I still have a lot of dysphoria around parts of my body, but it’s an order of magnitude better than it used to be.

Before I end this, I just kind of wanted to touch on how much I’ve shared regarding this. A few people have brought it up to me that I’ve been very open and personal about it (mostly thanking me for it). Part of this, honestly, is for my own personal documentation, but a lot is because I hope it will be helpful to others. Very little of what I actually experienced was expected or known beforehand. There is so much that no one ever tells you. I’m sure a fair bit of it exists in various places around the internet like Reddit, Tumblr, and private communities, but it’s hard to find without really digging. Most of what I was able to find consisted of small bits of information buried within larger conversations (some of which were minefields of problematic bullshit) that lacked a larger context for being able to really understand how it would relate to my own experience. But, overall, yeah, it’s weird to write about my genitals and things like masturbation in such a public way on a blog that I know friends, family, and coworkers read.

This is an awkward way to dilate

This is an awkward way to dilate

If she's not laying with me, she's watching

If she’s not laying with me, she’s watching

12 Comments

  1. I hope things continue to improve! I love your cat helper. Cats have no sense of privacy. Mine DEMANDS to watch me pee. After 12 years, it’s no longer awkward, just normal.

    One thought – my ladyparts strongly dislike disposable pantyliners. I regularly get diaper rash from them, especially once the weather gets warm. Plastic + warm lady parts = terribleness. I HIGHLY recommend washable liners. Lunapads is my go-to brand, though that’s only because they’ve been around forever and they’re who I started with. Lots of other companies make them, including some folks on Etsy. The fabric is much more breathable, yet still contains everything that it needs to contain (I’ve even used the fabric pads on heavy period days with no leakage – magical).

    Also awesome are Dear Kate undies, but those are a bit more pricey.

    • OMG, yeah, cats are the worst. Hattie (the one in the pics above) has this weird thing where she *has* to sit on your lap while you poop. It’s SO weird and awkward and I’m not okay with it at all.

      I’ve gotten used to the disposable pantyliners now and they don’t seem to be a problem anymore. Thank god!

  2. This is a very, very explicit and sexually graphic post. Almost semi-pornographic in nature. Please put a trigger warning at the beginning of this. You seem very self-absorbed as though all that matters to you is you. Very disappointed in the carelessness here. My disappointment has nothing to do with you being transgender but all to do with your relentless self-absorption.

  3. I really appreciated reading your frank and detailed post. Sharing experiences helps bridge the gap between medical explanations of procedures and the lived experience.

  4. I just wanted to let you know that, after seeing you on the cover of WR, I have been so inspired by you!!!! And ALL of this you are going through just amazes me!! Thank you for sharing, for being a runner and for being a strong woman. Good luck with everything!

  5. As a fellow trans engineer and active person I’d like to thank you for your post! I’m currently working with my supervisor and HR dept to figure out a timeline for when I’ll be able to get back to work after GCS. While everyone heals differently it is certainly helpful to know your recovery timeline in trying to plan mine. Happy healing and best of luck in the future!

  6. Thanks so much for your posts on this. I came here from a link about your Women’s Running cover. I am not transgender, but I really appreciate your insight. I think the more we all know about each other’s journeys, the more we can understand, relate, and empathize. Best of luck to you and Danielle.

  7. Wow! So much gets left unsaid beforehand. Thanks for sharing your unblemished feelings about your experience post-op. I’m sure I will find so much that is unique to having my lower region remodeled. While looking forward to the op, I more than ever understand what it is going to feel like. Thanks for sharing!

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