Please enjoy the second part of my husbands post.
I don’t think I’ll mention any of the medically relevant stuff regarding the recovery period. That is somewhat separate from the emotions one feels during the shock and awe phase of the surgery. Anyways, I can write up that kind of article some other day. In this second half, I’m going to focus on some of the nitty-gritty emotions a male-partner may feel; what I felt, after this change.
It is somewhat tuff on guys, being wired the way we are. Or should I say, wired the way I am. Certain things I just have no feeling about when my wife obviously expects me to ‘feel’ something? So-and-so just got totally whatevered on facebooks? Meh? Some actor is doing something to someone? Double-Meh? So when it comes to day-to-day stuff regarding an ostomy, emotionally it is no different than how I felt about her before the ostomy. There are three places where this changes: The Bathroom, the Ballroom, and The Bedroom.
Your bathroom will become stuffed with all sorts of gear-changing implements. And an odd odor will begin to make itself known from time to time. This wasn’t hard on me; although I personally do not do well with bathroom smells. Emotionally, I felt something akin to resignation. This is how things are going to be. If it is not something I can control, why change yourself emotionally? Like an average, emotionally despondent dude, I ignored what I couldn’t change and began fixing what I could. I set up shelves and reorganized the master bathroom to increase storage space. I installed an overhead heater to blow warm air on the toilet area where Christy sat to change her gear. (We lived in Oregon and that master bathroom got SUPER-COLD during the winter months) And I tried to do other little things to the bathroom to make it a more comfortable place to be. I fixed things. Guys, at least guys in my family, are fixers. Give us an emotional problem, and we’ll try to do something to fix it. So if your ‘man’ goes all ‘Home Improvement’ on you after you get home from surgery, he is probably accepting what he cannot change by changing what he can change to make life easier or more comfortable for you. That’s what I wanted to do; what I attempted to do.
The ballroom is a bit of an extension to my thought on this emotion. Not only does the ‘Ballroom’ represent a handy word I can use to have three consistent ‘b’-words in a row. (I know you all want to read about the bedroom, so I had to fit SOMETHING in to keep your attention between Utah and The Rockies) The Ballroom represents public perception. And, to a lesser extent, private attention. It is the little-kid-with-thick-glasses syndrome. That kid that has something different that distinguishes him from the normal crowd. That kid has two options, to express and embrace those glasses, or to cover them up by using contact lenses. Ostomy gear is much the same. It was hard to see my wife’s, formally smooth belly replaced with a tan-colored ostomy bag. Change, even change you cannot change, can be difficult to accept. All I can say ladies, is that you need to provide some time to your significant other so he may accept and embrace that change at his own pace. That is what helped me. I had to have a month or two to ‘get used to it’. An ostomy is nothing to be ashamed of, however, the initial exposure to something like this was, well…different.
I guess it is hard to explain; suffice to say, I was uncomfortable and afraid. This was not my first experience with an ostomy; Christy had a temporary one earlier in our marriage. So I will have to express a bit of what I was feeling back then, mixed into what I felt after the permanent ostomy. I felt afraid. Afraid I had somehow broken her. Afraid of touching anything abdominal. Afraid of causing her embarrassment or reducing her self-worth. I was afraid I wasn’t loving enough, or too loving. So I subconsciously feared that silly little bag hanging off of her abdomen. And I needed some time to get used to that fear….and a doctor to tell me that sex wouldn’t cause her any harm. I have a whole story about THAT from a half-dozen years ago that I’ll regale you with should you ask….
What was that other thing? Oh…being uncomfortable. Yes. It is quite a change to have to ‘work around’ that little accessory. And to get used to it. I guess I was uncomfortable with how it felt, how it looked, and how my emotions were reacting to it’s presence. I am somewhat bashful regarding the things that happen in the “potty”. Anyone who has watched the American sitcom ‘Scrubs’ could identify how I am around “bathroom topics” by comparing me to Dr. Reid (played by Sarah Chalke…I believe). The things people do in there should just not be discussed! And if it is, you must use silly words! And NEVER talk to people through the door in the bathroom!
And hey..if you are in there doing some ‘business’…turn the fan on to drown out the unmentionable ‘noise’!
Now these noises appeared in the living room at times. Or at the dinner table. Or I could see an ever-changing shape in the front of the clothing area. Initially, it made me uncomfortable. Why? Because it was new, different, and outside my ‘usual’ comfort zones. I’m sure Christy picked up on this. To you “virtual passengers” accompanying me on my plane ride I will say this; in no way did this discomfort reduce my love, caring, or understanding for my wife. I simply needed some time to get used to the change. If I were to give any advice to you regarding this change, I would recommend wading in as opposed to jumping in; referring to the old swimming pool analogy. Hell, you probably know your significant other way better than I do, so it is your call. For me, wading in with sexy blouses, flowing dresses, and long t-shirts for the first two months was helpful. It didn’t make me forget the ostomy was there, but it allowed me to process the change better; over a longer period of time.
That is the ‘private’ component to the ballroom. Sexy outfits, similar to Awestomy’s Booty Shorts. (I know you’ve seen the pic. Yeah! I’m married to that! Muhahaha!) But the ‘public’ component is a bit harder on a guy. As you may know, Christy is very outgoing. More so than me. I’m more of a conformist in many ways; I don’t do things that are significantly beyond the social norm. I run through my mind the things people will say, or think, or JUDGE if they see my wife’s gear. Emotionally, I experience two main things. The first is the anger and pity I feel for our society. In the United States we come out of a public school system that seems to encourage children to be horrible to that which is different. Or apathetic parents who gossip in front of their children. Or news stories talking about how horrible someone is for having that extra soda, smoking cigarettes, eating bacon, standing crooked, having big boobs, having small boobs, Kardashian’s ass, or crazy face tattoo guy. Stories about a woman overcoming adversity, and living life to the fullest are rare on the headlines. Oh..they are there, but they don’t ‘bleed’ enough to ‘lead”. So we have a society that will judge my wife for having gear. And I feel anger and pity for those participating in this non-empathetic mindset. Don’t get me wrong…there are tons of bad people out there. And my ‘understanding’ of people in these stories only go so far. I guess I attempt to measure these things with the experiences I have, and always try to give people the initial benefit of the doubt.
But I digress. Anger and Pity. These initial emotions are what I feel towards those that will inevitably look down on my wife for the gear that she has. The second component is fear; or perhaps an odd form of overprotectiveness. I have a fear that someone will say something horrible to her on the beach, at the pool, or in a restaurant. That fear drives me to hold her back at times. I recognize that compulsion and do my best to avoid my unfounded overprotection. Perhaps if your guy-dude-person-spouse is being overprotective, or he is pushing for longer shirts, one-piece swimsuits, or whatever, don’t assume he is ashamed to be around you, or with you, or of you. He may just be worried about stupid people saying shit to you that will hurt your feelings for no good reason. It only takes one snarkey emotionally shallow teenager to ruin your day. I don’t want to see any day’s ruined. That is no excuse for me to hold my wife back from her outgoing, expressive self. And as long as I can recognize WHY I feel the way I feel, I can check myself when I need checking. But it did take me some time to get to the point where I could realize these emotions. So, if your spouse is doing stuff that seems to be overprotective, this may be why.
Now! On to the Bedroom! A fitting time, as we have just hit a large patch of ‘turbulence’ and my laptop is bouncing dramatically up and down on my fold-out tray. How Exciting!
I love sex. I really, really like having sex with my wife. And I feel no shame with the sex that we have; with or without the ostomy. Sure, certain things had to change in our relations. Some spontaneity was lost as she likes to excuse herself to switch out to a swim bag. And as I mentioned earlier, it took me a few months to get used to the gear. But within, say four months, we were back to our regular rambunctious selves. Well…as rambunctious as two adults with little spare time and two very energetic children can get in this day and age.
At first, we had no sex. She had to wait for six weeks or so to get cleared by the doctor. So you have a good six weeks right there to get used to the gear. After that, we waded into things using camisoles and night gowns and other mild…and not so mild lingerie. Then the mild coverings were slowly removed from our routine and we simply started having our normal whimsical, as-you-are happy time. It may be my nature to “wade into things” as opposed to “dive into things” that drove this process. And the situation may be different from your significant other, but there it is.
Emotionally? Well, as I said earlier, my emotions in bed were tempered with fear of causing more damage. A lot of stuff happens down there; a lot of impacts, and jostling. To disrupt that area with some over-vigorous force would naturally cause problems…right? Well, I was wrong about that. And it took a doctor asking me how things were in bed to attain this realization. The realization that when Christy had her first temporary ostomy, my lack of marital participation was completely stupid. After that, I don’t know what to say. As long as you are there emotionally, and participating eagerly, it doesn’t really matter much to us guys. Dress up in something skimpy now and again. Be creative. And for the good lords sake…if you like something we do with you in bed TELL US! We men are notoriously bad mind-readers; and as a loving spouse/husband/partner we simply want to give you the most pleasure we can, in the way you like it best.
But, that really has nothing at all to do with ostomies. It is just normal pillow-stuff. And that’s what sex will be once we get used to the gear. Normal. Sensual. Real. If you had good sex before the ostomy, in a very short time, once you and your partner are comfortable with yourselves again, you will have good sex again. It may take a week, it may take a couple months, it may only take a little glint in your eye. But sex is actually one of the simpler problems to solve. One last thing before my laptop battery dies. We men may not be good mind-readers, (we really suck at it actually) but, we can read emotions fairly well during sex. If you are not into it, it’ll make things uncomfortable or distracting. I am sure the opposite is true, should the guy not be emotionally invested. If you feel that emotional separation during sex, either of you, don’t give up on the moment. Have more sex. Have conversations about what you like to do during sex. And HAVE MORE SEX. Remember, nerve endings have changed down there. Something you liked before the surgery may not be as mind-blowingly wonderful as it once was. You’ll need to work together to find those new, great things that will work as good, or better than the old things.
So have more sex! It is easy to get out of the habit due to stress, or work, or life IN GENERAL. A life change of an ostomy can create an emotional wall if you build it brick-by-brick. So, knock down that wall with frequency and passion. If you don’t have the passion, have more frequency. The passion will return.
Well. That’s all I got for this flight. I think we are descending into Philly. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my ramblings. And for giving me someone to talk to on this long-arse flight. I hope what I have written can be of some help for those going through some emotional issues, either ostomate or boy-toy of ostomate. If you want to hear more from me, or if you want me to expand on anything I have said. Just let Christy know. And don’t forget to like her on her facebook page! She lets out a happy cheer gets a big ol’ grin whenever someone does that.
My final message to you as I rapidly descend in this turbulent ‘flying’ aluminum tube of death; please remember to keep a positive outlook on life, find enjoyment in the little things, and to be strong.
aka Husband to Christy at http://www.crohniebolognaibd.com/