Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for February 24, 2010

One-Year Post-Op Update: Penny’s Excellent Adventure

[This is part of my ongoing diary about my SRS experience in Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Marci Bowers. See the main page here: Penny’s Excellent Adventure.]

One year ago today I had the surgery that finally made me feel at home in my own skin.

So, this will probably be the last entry in my “Excellent Adventure” series. I suppose if I’m still writing in four years I may do a five-year update, but it’s getting to be pretty redundant. As I’ve written before, if this surgery is the right choice for you, it will change your life more than you can even imagine. And if it’s not right for you, it’s probably one of the worst things you could ever do (though, in fairness, even though I know there are people out there for whom this is true, I’ve yet to meet anyone who regrets having SRS). I think it’s needless to say that for me this surgery has been one of the best things I have ever done.

So, the obligatory, ~wow~, it’s only been a year. It feels like it’s been so much longer. I have trouble remembering what my body was like before.I’m pretty serious about that. It took 38 years for me to have my body corrected, and after one short year (and really this happened much more quickly, almost immediately, as a matter of fact) it’s difficult to remember that I wasn’t born with a vagina. It feels like I’ve always been this way. Perhaps that’s because I was waiting for this forever, and I finally have the body I imagined myself having all along; I dunno. I just know that it’s very hard to remember that 366 days ago I still had the wrong parts. A few other folks have said that it feels like longer than just one year as well (my mom insists that it’s been at least two years). I guess it has something to do with having transitioned a while before I had surgery, but I really do think it is also related to the fact that this feels so normal that it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t like this.

Having been through this, and having had to finance it myself, I am now more than ever convinced that this is a medically necessary surgery and should be covered by health insurance.

My healing feels essentially complete. I’ll explain a couple things that are going on.

First, the granulation tissue, which I wrote about here, here, here, here, and here, seems mainly resolved. It seems I still have some in the very back of my vagina, but it seems to be gradually resolving, and I’m still unsure whether I want to actually have my doc look into it or just let it slowly resolve on its own. I think I’m giving it another couple months. I’m really not very concerned about it at this point, I guess.

There are a couple other things that bear mentioning. Because I still have some internal granulation, I’m still spotting and wearing pantie liners everyday (though a liner is more than enough). When I dilate, the dilators have slight stains right at the tip, and sometimes when I have sex there is a slight bit of bleeding. Also, the spot near my clitoris where I had some granulation treated has a weird indent. It seems purely cosmetic – there is no discharge from that area, and it doesn’t bother me, as it takes a very close examination to notice it (it’s sort of buried under my clitoral hood), but I figured I’d mention it. The external granulation seems to have been completely resolved.

My urethra seems ~big~. Like, sometimes I feel like there’s a big gaping hole there. I wonder how I’m not incontinent (which I’m not – not even a little) with such a big urethra. I spoke with another woman who had SRS and it seems like this may be a common outcome. It doesn’t seem to create too much of a problem in and of itself, but it does cause two related issues. First, I often make a mess when I pee. Before I had surgery I told my therapist that I just wanted to pee straight. Well, no cigar. It’s not too bad, honestly, but it can be disconcerting, and it means I just have to make sure I pay attention when wiping. The other issue is that sometimes I worry that my boyfriend will go for the wrong hole in his exuberance (ironically, I only have this fear when he’s using his hand, never when he’s using his penis – huh, weird). I think once he just about did and it just has made me nervous ever since. I think I’m mostly being paranoid. I could have a revision, but it honestly doesn’t seem like a super-big deal, so I’ll probably stand pat for now.

My scars have faded more than I ever expected them to. I’ve let my hair grow in a pretty natural way, and with the bit of hair, and the natural skin color, my scars are virtually undetectable. I had issues with lots of swelling on my left labia, and  it seems like that did not hinder the healing and fading of my scars in any way.

Basically put: it looks like a pussy.

However, there are a couple other things I should say about its appearance with the help of my Darling Boyfriend’s perspective. (Here’s the wiki on the vagina for reference.) First, he’s not a gynecologist, but he is an anatomy geek (and he’s a biology teacher), so his eye is probably keener than most. He said that on a cursory visual inspection, he would not be able to tell that my vagina was surgically constructed, and that groping in the dark he wouldn’t be able to tell. However, he’s been down there a couple times with the lights on, peeking around, and he said that it does look different from other pussies. First, my labia minora doesn’t completely encompass my vaginal opening (I think this has to do with both the swelling that I experienced, as well as having so much granulation tissue removed). Next, my vestibule is quite long, and my perineum is quite short (Dr. Bowers even mentioned at the time that I had a very short perineal body); this has resulted in my vaginal opening being very low. And then, of course, once he got inside he definitely noticed that I don’t have a cervix. And he’s said that my vagina is very tight (in his words: “not a bad thing”), and that it’s very round. Having said all that, in his words, “No complaints.”

Every once in a while I’ve seen women who’ve had vaginoplasty say that no one can tell that they have a neovagina, not even their gynecologist. Simply put, if you’re gynecologist can’t tell – you need a new gynecologist. Dr. Bowers’ work is amazing, but there are some differences between original and after-market parts, and that’s just reality. It isn’t good or bad, it just is. (This paragraph, and really this whole diary, is here just to try to paint as clear a picture as possible as what someone can expect from having vaginoplasty. It’s like anything else, your mileage may vary, but I worry about folks having either unrealistically positive or negative views of this surgery and what actual outcomes are like.)

As far as the “realness” of either my vagina or my femaleness, both the Darling Boyfriend and my ex-boyfriend have had basically the same reaction (summed up by my ex: “fake pussy my ass”). There’s a sexist piece of conventional wisdom that I confess to spreading that “men are stupid and women are crazy.” Yes, sue me, I have some sexist notions sometimes. Anyway, on that point, the Darling Boyfriend has shared that he “never expected to find a sane pussy anyway.” I dunno, maybe it should raise my feminist ire, but I certainly have my crazy moments, so it just seems cute to me.

Orgasms have become gradually easier to attain as I have learned how my body works. I’m sort of an orgasm machine at this point. I can lose them if the mood goes awry, but let’s just say that as far as orgasms go, I’m very happy.

I have about 5.25″ of depth, which is about .25″ less than I had immediately after surgery. Considering how little donor tissue I had, I am extremely pleased with this amount of depth. I’m dilating several times a week, sometimes with “help,” and sometimes on my own. I still feel like several times a week is important to keep the depth I have, so I probably won’t back down too much just yet.

My metabolism seems to have completely stopped since I had surgery. The operating room felt like a meat locker, and I’ve been cold almost consistently since then. They had me wrapped in warmed-up blankets after surgery, and I felt snuggy, but since then it’s been so easy for me to get cold. Also, between my metabolism slowing down and being inactive for so long during my recovery, I’ve put on about 60 pounds. I have struggled with my weight for my whole life, and this is hardly the biggest I’ve been, but it is frustrating to have regained so much weight. I finally feel healthy enough to really start tackling the weight issue again.

Beyond all the physical stuff, I have to talk about how having had surgery has made me feel. For the first time in my life I feel normal, I feel like a whole person, I feel peaceful. The constantly nagging voice in my head screaming that ~something is wrong~ has fallen silent. I still have joys and sorrows, and my life isn’t perfect. But my life finally feels like ~my~ life. I’m not trying to be someone, I just am someone. This is a shift that I don’t feel I can adequately put into words. My social transition allowed me to interact with the world as myself, but my SRS has enabled me to interact with my own body as myself. It’s quite profound. Having lived 38 years trapped with the wrong parts has made me so exquisitely grateful of having the proper body. As I said in the note that I wrote to thank Dr. Bowers and Carol, “[I am] whole and complete.”

I.Am.Me.

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