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Recovery lessons

As a work-at-home mom of five, I have long prided myself on being a person who Gets Stuff Done. I fancy myself the female version of Carson in my own much smaller and remarkably-less-grand version of Downton Abbey.

Sure, I delegate around my house…but even delegating requires attention, action, and the presence of Yours Truly.

So when I found out that I would need to have surgery this spring (a hysterectomy due to a diagnosis of early-stage cervical cancer), I took the news pretty hard. In addition to all the stress of such a scary-sounding diagnosis, and my general fear of anesthesia and surgery, I worried about recovery time.

Recovery from hysterectomy takes 4 weeks or more, and from what I’m reading, it often takes much longer before you get your former energy back. Even a month of being out of my groove was pretty terrifying to this independent mama.

But after a successful and uncomplicated surgery, I’ve spent the last three weeks recovering, and have learned a few things along the way.

The Realization:

Being stuck in bed – for a short time, at least – is really not so awful. For the first week or so, I spent most of my time re-re-reading old favorites, starting with the Anne of Green Gables series and leading to Jane Austen. I also started playing Candy Crush, something I’ve never allowed myself the time or attention for in the past.

Turns out it’s actually kind of nice to have a legitimate reason to absorb your time with “unproductive” activities. Like napping twice in one day. After all, when will I get a chance like this again?

The Lesson:

Allowing yourself to “waste” time might not be such a waste of time after all. Weeks into my recovery, I feel incredibly relaxed, if a bit mushy in the brain.

I also feel very ready to get back to work and “normal” life and imagine I will hit the ground running (at a reasonable speed, of course) once I get the all-clear from my doctor.

The Realization:

My family is amazingly capable of coming through. On a typical day, my teens might do a half-hearted job of the dishes or even try to pass the job I’ve given them off on a younger sibling.

But with Mom stuck in bed and recovering from surgery, the household ran with surprising smoothness and everyone cheerfully chipped in with everything from pushing the ottoman up under my feet to scrubbing pans.

The Lesson:

I can expect more of my kids than I might always, well, expect. From now on I’ll be doing more than delegating: they’ve proven they can take ownership of certain tasks with responsibility and a good attitude, and I won’t forget it.

The Realization:

People really want to help. A week before my surgery, my good friend Missy set up an online care calendar where people could sign up to bring us meals. I felt a little sheepish about asking for meals – certainly with a spouse and teenage kids, we could cobble together our own food, right?

But as it turns out, it was tough on Jon, my husband, to suddenly be in charge of every area of running the household – and as for myself? Between an odd sleep schedule and some seriously trippy pain medication, I wasn’t even sure what time of day it was most of the time.  

So, having those meals show up like clockwork was an amazing blessing. What’s more, people seemed genuinely happy to be able to help in some way.

The Lesson:

Letting people help you helps them, too. Let’s face it: we would have survived (albeit on a lot of pizza and sandwiches) without help, but an important opportunity would have been lost: the opportunity to lean on those in my community.

When my friends delivered those meals, I felt loved and cared for, and my friends felt useful and helpful. And when you allow somebody to help you, you’re making it OK for them to ask you for help when they need it. Really, it’s a win-win all around.

As much as I dreaded my surgery and recovery, the process has been an important reminder in letting go, leaning on others, and taking good care of myself.

Because even though I might sometimes think that what I do for my family is what makes me indispensible, in the end, it’s just me that they need – whether I’m puttering around the kitchen or resting on the sofa.

Have you ever been in a position where you had to lean on others more than usual? What did you learn?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. aimee

    I went through this same exact thing (and surgery) last fall and so recognize everything that you are saying. It’s so hard to give up control and trust that things are going to run ok when we aren’t in charge. It’s giving up the realization that the way I do things isn’t the “only” or “right” way. And if things aren’t done “my” way it doesn’t really matter.
    Letting others love on us is also so hard. I did things way to early because I wasn’t willing to let those even closest to me help. I wanted to get back to normal and get the ship running regular again. And I paid for it.
    It’s a constant smacking of the head for me that I’ve got to release my grip on things and move in freedom.

  2. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    What gifts to receive out of hard circumstances! I was just thinking the other day that the one upside to being sick is that you get to rest and take care of yourself….um, probably should be doing that anyway. 🙂
    When I was terribly sick in the midst of my first trimester I had to rely on others more than ever before. That marked a turning point for me–two babies later, I’ve learned to say “yes” whenever help is offered. For pretty much anything. 🙂

  3. Amy Rogers Hays

    I love the phrase you used, Meagan “And when you allow somebody to help you, you’re making it OK for them to ask you for help when they need it.” I think it applies not only in the big times, like surgery, but also in the everyday ones as well. Last night after work, my husband and I swapped word files. He edited some of my writing, and I formatted some references for a paper. It both took us so much less time to swap and have the other person help. Of course, marriage or when your in a season of resting it doesn’t always feel so even of an exchange. But I think it often evens out in the end, and so we can fully try to be present in the receiving or the giving of help knowing that a new season will come soon enough, and then we’ll be on the other side of the extended hand.

  4. Cate Pane

    This is an excellent post! I have never read such an articulate analysis of what happens when we have to STOP and rely on others (family, friends, etc.) Your realizations and lessons are so spot on! I have been in this position more than once. The first time was after my second child was born. My church friends made a schedule of meals that last for six weeks! When the six weeks ended, my older son actually said: “I didn’t know that you could cook, Mom.” I learned that people really do want to help and ever since that time, I am always anxious to provide meals for others in need because it allows me to DO SOMETHING and I KNOW how very important it can be. It feels great to make a difference and the joy that it gives me is immense.

  5. Catania

    First of all, get well soon! I had a hysterectomy last August, and it was quite a doozy…after several months (when you are kind of used to life again), I’ll have to admit, it’s really nice. (no more feminine products or ibuprofen…yay!)

    Several years ago, I found myself newly divorced. I went from being a stay-at-home-mom to a single, working mom of two. It was a very shocking transition. My daughters were only 2 and 3 at the time. Needless to say, I needed a lot of help. Single moms have so much on their plate. My ex was a “dead-beat” dad, and that made everything harder. When you’re a single parent in this position, you have twice the workload with half the resources. Your expectations have quadrupled…and you just can’t get it all done.

    In my church, we have a women’s group called the “Relief Society.” Within the group “Visiting Teachers” are assigned to each woman of the congregation. Basically visiting teachers will teach and check up on the woman to whom they are assigned once a month. The visiting teachers who taught me were mindful of my circumstances, and did so much to help. they babysat my children, they found a young man who would mow my lawn, and all chipped in to pay him to do yard work for the summer. They helped me paint my house, and plant flowers. Above all, they befriended me during this difficult time. The service felt overwhelming at times, and I felt bad–because I knew I couldn’t ever repay her.

    I expressed my gratitude to her, and wish that I could help her, and my visiting teacher (and FRIEND!!!) finally said to me, “I don’t expect you to repay me, but I do expect you to serve someone else when you are able to. There was a time when I needed help, and so many served me. I couldn’t repay them, but am in a better situation now, and can serve others. It is the same for you…just pay it forward.” those words have stuck with me…

    pay it forward.

    Anyway…long comment, but I really liked the message of this post.

  6. Esther

    I had a heart problem a few years ago after baby #5 that left me laid up for about 3 months. I had always been the one who did it ALL at home.
    I had to learn to let go of not only doing the chores, but also the perfectionism I put into them.

  7. KnitGirl

    Wow! Thank you so much for posting this! I was diagnosed with Crohn’s about a yes ago, nd after a year of (mostly excruciating) pain and medicines that might be worse than the disease itself, my GI and I have decided on surgery to remove the affected part of my intestines so as to “start over.”

    Regardless of how necessary this surgery is and how it will hopefully bring not just relief from symptoms but total healing, I have been terrified! The thought of major surgery plus a week in the hospital plus 4-6 weeks home recovery with my two small daughters (ages 1 and 4) has had me tearful. I have felt God gently reminding me that now might be a pod time to accept help from all the many people in my comminity and church who have offered. Your post feels pointed (in an encouraging way) at me!

    Thank you SO muh for sharing, and prayers for a quick continued recovery for you!

  8. Robyn

    When my daughter was 6 months and 2 days old, my car was hit by a drunk driver. Luckily it was one of the few times she was not in my car. I was in the hospital for 7 1/2 weeks and bedridden for several more months. We had round the house help from family for 8 months, then went to stay with family for another 6 weeks. She is now 22 months old & I just had another major surgery (6 operations at once) yesterday. My mil is staying with us for about 8 weeks this time. Right now I’m still in the horrendous pain phase, but I hope to soon be in the healing phase. My husband & I had to learn how to go from being a newly married (21 months) independent family, to relying on others for so much of our daily lives. We have sentencing for the jackass tomorrow, my surgery was supposed to be last week. Even though it won’t change our day to day, I’m hoping it brings some closure. I wish you further healing and I’m glad you have learned to take some time for yourself. Even 10 minutes to do something mindless, I prefer Tetris, can completely change your mindset and help you get through all the things you ‘have to’ do.

  9. Tricia

    I’ve never been in that kind of situation but I love these realizations and lessons. I especially love the one about leaning on the community. In smaller ways I have found that to be such a blessing in my life – both that I can lean and that I can support.

  10. Faigie

    It really is amazing the way people come through in a crisis. We even have a committee in our community for when people are laid up with a new baby or more serious things and many chip in with meals. I also found in more serious situations that the kids come through as well

  11. Tragic Sandwich

    In 2001, my mother was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer. I was so, so fortunate to work in an office full of supportive, caring people who picked up the slack (I was there, and I worked as hard as I could, but I was incapable of making decisions), looked out for me, and never kept score.

    After she passed away, one of our neighbors organized dinner delivery for a week or so. None of us were capable of deciding what to eat, much less preparing it. Having dinner just show up was an amazing gift that helped us tremendously.

  12. Hands Free Mama

    Thank you, Meagan, for sharing these powerful revelations with us! I, too, have found myself in the position of needing to ask for help and it was very hard for me. But I will never forget how pleased my friends were when I asked. It is something that has stuck with me, and now I am more willing to offer specific ways to help others and ask for help for myself. I also appreciate what you said about your children being able to rise to the call and really take care of things. I got very sick last summer and my children took care of many things that I had been doing for them. What an eye-opener! I took that experience as a lesson to let them do more–even if it’s means more messes and more mistakes because that is how independence is fostered.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom. May you continue to get stronger every day.

  13. Brooke McAlary

    Meagan, this is a really wonderful post. I love finding positive lessons from crappy situations, and yours are so eloquently put and so uplifting (Look! People care! People are more than happy to help!) Thank you.

  14. Taylor-Made Ranch

    I also found myself thrown into an unexpected surgery with weeks-long recovery this year. I was uncertain how everything would come together during my recovery but family & friends and church family came out of the woodwork to assist us. There was food delivered, prayers said and such loving support that I was really not expecting. I was even surprised with a group that showed up early one Saturday morning to plant my veggie garden for me! I came through that surgery so much stronger, both physically and spiritually. I feel so blessed and I learned a valuable lesson about how to touch someone’s heart in an unexpected way when it’s needed the most.

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  15. Courtney

    This is a tough one for me. Baby #3 is on the way, and I think I’m going to have to swallow my pride on this one. Well, it’s not so much pride as not wanting to bother people. But I like being asked for help so why is it impossible for me to believe that others enjoy helping too?

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