Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for Health

Ultra Sound

Looks kinda cool as two words, doesn’t it?

Ultra Sound.

Might make a neat band name or CD title.

Huh.

Anyway, I had an ultrasound today. It was pretty tough emotionally in lots of ways. This was because I have some intermittent pelvic pain and cramping that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. This is the first step in trying to figure out why.

I had to confront the surgery I had when I was three. I recently found out that the records of that surgery have been destroyed (it was 37 years ago), so any answers we may find will be from what my body can tell us.

The hospital where I had the procedure done still had an “M” for my gender marker (I had been there a long time ago). That was pretty annoying.

It’s so strange, I sort of don’t want there to be anything found, but of course, it came out this morning when I was talking with the Darling Boyfriend and I said, “Well, of course what I want them to find is an ovary with fresh eggs.”

I’ve always dreamed impossible dreams.

And then was the worst part, which in my stress about other things hadn’t even dawned on me. Sometimes I am so oblivious. It didn’t even hit me until she had the sensor thingy on my tummy, and I could see the little half-circle picture of the ultrasound on the screen.

And I suddenly realized what so many women get to see when they have ultrasounds on their tummies:

…their baby…

Now it’s ~our~ story

So, last week the Darling Boyfriend and I did a video interview for a video being produced for All Gender Health. I was really glad we did it. The Darling Boyfriend continues to amaze me; several of his answers to questions just made me incredibly proud of him – he is a truly special man, and I am lucky beyond anything I could deserve to have him. The interview lasted about two hours, and it was awesome to be able to tell our story in a way that feels like it might be helpful and meaningful to folks. A couple things did strike me. One of the questions dealt with how I identify, and I had to be honest and say that I identify as a straight woman. I added that of course I have a transsexual history and that I identify as transgender politically, but my core identity is what it is (and actually, it’s drummer first and foremost). Next was how, when I explained the study to my mom she basically insisted that we should not be doing it because “you’re a woman now, why are you doing something for trans women.” And I see both sides, but I stand by my decision to do it, and the producers decided that I was a good fit, so there it is. It was nice to be part of telling such a positive story. Trans folk can fall into feeling unlovable and broken very easily, and I was glad to be telling a story in which I went from feeling that way to not only feeling lovable and desirable, but also being loved and desired. And telling the story along with The Darling Boyfriend really did make it ~our~ story. And that’s just kind of AWESOME! 🙂

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.

Wow, that’s slippery…

So, this is totally one of those TMI topics that I talked about in my last post. I’ll try not to be overly graphic, but this is one of those things that I wish I had known more about before my surgery, so I think it’s important to share.

Anyway…

So, yea, fore warned and all that…

One of the things that I really had no idea about was how my vagina would respond during intimate relations. When I dilate I use lube; a pretty good helping of lube, actually. Dilating is sort of still a “medical chore” to my mind and body. Sex, on the other hand, is joyful recreation. I wondered whether I would need lube when I have sex.

I don’t.

To quote Darling Boyfriend from after the first time we fooled around: “I wondered if they’d be able to make a self-lubricating vagina… They can.”

I’m still amazed by the surgery that transformed my body. I guess on some levels I thought I was going to end up with an inside-out bag. I would have been happy with that, honestly. Hell, I would have been fairly happy just getting rid of the ~horrid stuff~ I used to have. I never dreamed how normal my body would be. I had no expectation that all that internal stuff could work so well. I hadn’t completely processed that my vagina was going to be so much like any other woman’s. Dr. Bowers is pretty much my hero. It’s mind-blowing. And awesome.

YAY!

Thank you for putting the soldering iron away

So, I forgot to even mention this the other day.

I saw the local surgeon again this past Monday. He’s treated me twice before for granulation tissue at my vaginal opening and near my clitoris. This time he treated just a very small area at my vaginal opening, and instead of using the soldering iron-like implement that he had used the two previous times, he used silver nitrate. There was no pain, which was lovely, because I was getting really tired of the soldering iron being applied to my crotch.

He said everything looked great and that I don’t have to see him again unless I have a future concern. I really like this doctor.

I mentioned to him that my gynecologist had said that he thought I had some internal granulation. The surgeon said that he thought it was possible, but that I should just leave it alone and let it heal on its own. I trust this doctor a lot, so I’m going to take his advice. Whatever granulation tissue I do have left isn’t causing me any pain, so I’m not going to worry about it. There is some discharge, which is a pain, but it seems like I’m well on the mend.

Yay!

The Never Ending Granulation

*sigh*

This post is whiny, I feel like shit – just be forewarned.

So, I saw the gynecologist this morning. It was my first time ever. I was actually sort of excited beforehand, even though I know that’s silly. And I was definitely nervous.

Anyway, the doctor I saw was recommended by my mom’s doc, and he was very nice.

So, let’s see, where to begin…

I got there, got checked-in, and forgot that like half the women there would be pregnant, a couple of them were very pregnant. I’m getting better on the whole infertility thing, but it still stings sometimes, and I doubt I’ll ever be “over” it.

I was called in by the nurse. She asked what brought me in today. Okay, well, blah-blah-blah, I had SRS five months ago and I’ve noticed an odor and I think I have granulation tissue internally. She was very sweet. She said, “You had this done just five months ago?” With a very warm smile.

The doctor came in and asked a few questions (he was very cute, because he was almost ~overly~ apologetic about asking questions about my history and surgery). And then he did the exam. Yea, okay, I’m over stirrups, fer sure, and, um, speculum=bad time. He used a pediatric speculum, and even that felt like a lot (which seems weird to me, because I dilate fine and get about 5.75 inches of depth with my biggest dilator – weird). There was a lot of pressure on my urethra (I really felt like I had to pee).

He took a couple cultures to make sure the odor isn’t from an infection.

And then he dropped the bomb of saying that he felt like I do have some internal granulation tissue (he said when he took the culture it bled just being touched by the swab). Son of a…

Also, he said that he didn’t feel comfortable treating me. His first suggestion was for me to call my surgeon in Colorado and see if they knew of anyone local. When I told him that I had already done that and they didn’t he said that he would do some homework and see if he could find someone with experience doing this sort of thing.

So, I know that it’s good for him not to work on me if he doesn’t feel comfortable doing it, and he did say he’d do some research to find someone that did feel comfortable doing it, but in the emotional state I’m in it just came across as if he had said : “not my problem.”

*sigh*

Then he threw in that my vagina seemed “very small.”

*sigh*

Then the woman in front of me checking out was six weeks pregnant, so it was “congratulations” all around.

*sigh*

I did good, I got out of there without crying, but I was really shaken. I called my mommy and told her all this, and when I told her that he said that my vagina was very small she said, “Well, maybe it’s hereditary, because I’m very small.” God, I love my mom. At least I got a little laugh…

So, yea, yet more granulation to deal with. When I had my surgery I told myself that I wanted to feel healed by my 40th birthday (that’s in March), so I’ve got time, but this still just feels like it’s taking forever, and like it’s one thing after another.

*sigh*

~much~ TMI about scent

I’m starting to smell the way I’m supposed to.

I knew it was supposed to happen, but I’m surprised it’s so soon. And it’s very groovy.

😉

I noticed a new aroma just about a week ago. I asked two doctors and one friend about it, and they all said not to worry about it. It seems like I’m starting to grow the proper balance of vaginal flora; I think that’s pretty damned cool. I must confess to being a little obsessed with my new scent; it really is developing a whole new area of my body, and it’s fascinating and awesome. I think this ties into my increased awareness of smells in general, too, because I notice my own scent constantly (though it has diminished a bit since the first few days), but no one else seems to notice it.

I’m sorry, but I just find this beautiful in so many ways. I even ~smell~ right now. Ah, the peacefulness of having to proper body. 😉

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