That title is kind of funny, because as the ENT doctor said, and the nurses said, and all of you with experience with tonsillectomies said, the experience varies WIDELY. But that's the search term I was using when I was anxiously looking for more information, so that's what I'm using as the title.
Day One (day of surgery): We had to be at the hospital at 6:30; the surgery was at 7:30; the doctor was coming out to tell me everything went fine at 8:10; they called me back to see her at 8:25; we were headed to our car at 11:00. Between the surgery and the time we went home, Elizabeth mostly dozed. When she did wake up a little, she was cranky and wasn't interested in the little stuffed hamster I'd bought at the gift shop, but didn't seem to be in much pain. When she woke around 10:20, though, she was saying "Ow ow ow" and crying, so the nurse brought her a dose of tylenol/codeine, and by the time we were leaving the hospital she was even CHEERY, and was able to walk to the car, and sang along hoarsely with a few songs from the Phineas & Ferb CD on the way home.
At home she had some popsicles and watched some TV and everything was going way better than expected. They'd told us she'd likely nap on and off all day, but she didn't. Then she got kind of blank-faced and slumpy. Then she started throwing up. She had three sessions of it: afternoon, early evening, later evening. She was miserable. I was highly fretful and lay awake that night worried that I should have called the doctor about the throwing up, worried that she wasn't holding down either the antibiotic or the painkiller, worried that she would have to go back to the hospital. I felt hugely under-qualified to be handling post-surgical care.
Day Two: She was much better. In my fretful lyings-awake, I'd thought "She HAS to be improved in the morning, or else I'll call the doctor." I woke her around 4:00 to take pain medicine, which was a gamble: it could let her absorb it while asleep and non-barfy---or it could make her throw up all over our mattress and herself. Gamble paid off: she woke up better and held down her antibiotic too, and then I kept right on top of giving her the pain medicine every 4 hours exactly. She still felt crummy all day, but NO BARFING, and a couple of times got off the couch and wandered around for a minute before going back. Refused to nap. No smiling. Wouldn't talk, and would barely shake/nod her head (said her jaw hurt when she moved her head). Ate a little applesauce with flax seed meal stirred in, and maybe 1/4 cup of a non-dairy smoothie I made with banana, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, rolled oats. Also ate popsicles and ice cream. Some interest in Tonsillectomy Presents.
Days Three and Four: Doing prematurely better: up and around, doing some talking, seeming to feel much better, very interested in tonsillectomy presents. Then on the evening of Day 4, two more episodes of throwing up.
Day Five: She woke up crying from the pain but wouldn't take her pain medicine. She is SIX, but she has been acting THREE. When I put a little medicine in her mouth, she let it dribble out; I tried not to be angry at the sick child; when that failed, I tried to at least mostly HIDE being angry at the sick child. I gave her a Sucrets (numbing cough drop) and then she took the medicine---I think because the cough drop let her back down graciously from the stand-off, rather than because it helped, but maybe some of each. She barely ate anything all day, just a few popsicles. At dinner she wanted to try pizza, so Paul cooked it a little less (normally he makes the crust crispy and the cheese chewy, but he went with a soft crust and melty cheese) and she did eat a few bites. At 8:00 she put herself to bed.
Day Six: For lunch she asked for and ate half a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a cup of milk. But it's so back and forth: for even a few hours she'll seem almost normal, but then she'll be weepy and crabby and saying she has a headache, and she'll sit still for hours watching a movie. Her voice is different: a little lower, and she's saying vowels differently, like "hev" instead of "have." Her jaw/throat still look a little swollen. She's very nervous about Day Ten, which is when the ENT doctor said there's usually a setback (because of the scab, and that's probably all you want to know about it).
Day Seven: She woke up crying in the middle of the night but wouldn't say why. We've been using a system for measuring pain: I hold up my hand, fingers splayed, and I point to whatever finger is farthest to her left and I say "no pain," and I point to whatever finger is farthest to her right and I say "the worst it's been so far with this," and she chooses a finger. It's always finger 1 (no pain) or 2 (small amount of pain) now, but she complains of headaches, and she says in calmer moments that when she's crying and won't tell me why, it's because she Feels Terrible---not pain really, not queasiness really, but just feeling really really bad all over. So now when she cries and I can't figure out why, I hold her hand and I tell her to squeeze once for yes, and I ask is it pain? (no squeeze) Nightmare? (no squeeze) Feeling terrible? (squeeze) The squeezing system isn't because it hurts her too much to talk but because she gets in these stubborn mute phases when she's upset, and this is a way around that; we use it when she's not post-surgery, too. This afternoon she went into her room and closed the door, and when I looked in on her later she was asleep.
Day Eight: She doesn't seem to need the tylenol/codeine for throat pain, exactly, but when I skip a dose she gets crumply and weepy and doesn't eat or drink. I'm glad the doctor was generous with the prescription so I can keep giving it to her. (But I am feeling some renewed resentment with my OBs, who have always given me a prescription for 1.5 days' worth of painkiller after c-sections. Thanks, OBs! Obviously it's exactly the right time to apply Just Say No!) I haven't been waking her to take it or keeping her on a rigorous every-four-hours schedule---but I'm giving it to her first thing in the morning, two doses during the day, and one more before bed (she's been sleeping in our room every night, and usually doesn't go to sleep until we do).
Day Nine (today): Today she has a follow-up appointment with the ENT doctor, and she desperately DOES and desperately DOESN'T want to ask him about the status of the scab. The ENT doctor warned us, by the way, that her breath would likely be "like a chain-smoking alcoholic's"---but it hasn't been bad at all. I notice mostly that she smells a little fruity and medicinal.
So! That's how it's been going. I'm feeling a little worn out, mostly I think from being cooped up in the house and from trying to get her to eat something nutritious. I had such a good list of soft/pureed foods, and it seems like she'll eat each one once and then never again. I'm not fretful, because the ENT doctor said he didn't care if she ate nothing but ice cream for two weeks---but on the other hand I think she's a lot crankier when she's subsisting on ice cream. Look, isn't this a good list of liquid and soft food possibilities?
applesauce (with or without flax seed meal)
peanut butter stirred into ice cream
macaroni and cheese
smoothies of various sorts
But here is the list she is actually eating:
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