The Hip Chronicles, Part VIII: Mysteries in marriage

In my series, the RA Diaries, I’ve tried to write about the weird, the painful and even the comical parts of having a chronic illness. Very recently, I had what for many RA patients is a rite of passage: my first joint replacement. My new right hip, with its festive combination of titanium, cobalt and plastic polymer, is worth five times more than my car. And it will surely be a great source of amusement to TSA scanners worldwide, because on x-rays it looks like I’m packing some major heat.

Now, kind reader, let me tell you exactly how I went about getting my new hip. But be warned. It’s gonna get gross. And graphic. And, maybe once in a while, somewhat amusing. I hope you get something out of it. I’m certainly hoping I will.

Before I went into the hospital for my surgery, the plan was for me to come home after I was released. Since I would be released Thanksgiving week, my husband could get away with taking time off work to take care of me. Then in the next few weeks, my parents and my mother-in-law would come babysit three days a week (my husband would telecommute the other two days).

But by the second full day in hospital, I realized that my plan just wasn’t feasible. I needed far more help than I’d thought. Getting out of bed was difficult. Sitting up was difficult. Walking was difficult.

Getting dressed, cleaning myself and using the toilet were difficult, even with plenty of assistive devices. I minded the toilet part particularly, since I’ve taken pride in being independent there since toddlerhood.

Mostly, I didn’t want my husband to help me with the latter. It’s not like he’s Elvis Presley, and that the sight of my natural bodily functions would turn him off forever (apparently, the idea of Priscilla giving birth was enough to make Elvis never want to sex her up again). It was more about keeping some mystery in my marriage.

Part of my mystery lies in my independence, in my adulthood, in my not needing my spouse to help me perform the most basic of things. I pride myself on being an equal partner in this marriage, one who does her best to pull half the weight. But major surgery has a way of forcing you to drop that weight.

I knew he wouldn’t despise me for being helpless, anymore than I would despise him for it. But neither of us are experienced at nursing others (my RA would make it difficult for me to lift someone, for example), and though I am sure he would step up, and do so well, I just didn’t want him to nurse me.

Therefore, when my mother offered to let me spend the first few weeks after surgery at her place, I accepted. (After all, this woman birthed me, bathed me, fed me and changed my diapers. We have no secrets in that department.)

My parents had made the offer before, but I had declined. Part of it was pride, part of it not wanting to impose, and a big part was my fear of suddenly becoming a child again, powerless and truculent. It’s not that my parents necessarily disagree with most of my lifestyle choices. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to making my own choices, and being under my own roof, and having my own rules. Moving back in with the parental units felt like I was just asking for dysfunction.

Still, it all went surprisingly well — and I can’t give all the credit to Percocet.

Not that there weren’t a few hiccups. One thing I’d forgotten from living with my parents is their penchant for having not just the television, but also the radio, on pretty much 24/7. My mother is a bit of a news junkie; my father loves sports and movies. They’re also a bit harder of hearing these days, so they tend to keep the volume at 11, whether it’s with media or just plain conversation.

Combine the two, and there is no quiet to be had. I took to wearing my industrial-strength ear plugs during the day. (I kind of wish now I had had access to my husband’s noise-cancelling headphones.) One day, I was working on my computer in the living room, and didn’t notice my mother coming in and talking to me. When she finally got my attention, she said something I thought summed things up nicely.

“You know, when you and your brother were small, your father and I always thought you were too noisy. But now that you’re an adult, you think we’re too noisy.”

It was an acknowledgement, on her part, of my adulthood. I may have felt as helpless as a child when it came to a number of things, but I wasn’t really a child. And as an adult, it was up to me to work my way back to independence and back to my husband, being mature enough to throw pride out the window and accept the help I needed from those most capable of giving it.

It took three weeks. I’m back under my own roof. And while my husband still has to help me pick things up off the floor, and make sure I don’t fall in the shower, I’m able to maintain most of my independence. And some of my mystery.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.


  • I’m belatedly catching up on this series after being out of town for a while. You and my mom had joint replacement surgery at about the same time, and I just got back from visiting her for the first time since she got her new knee. (The old one was plum out of cartilage.) It sounds like you have had similar frustrations. Anyway, I wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying your insights. Thank you.

  • Thank you for reading!

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