Have you been waiting and waiting and wondering when you would come across a blog post containing way too much information?
WELL TODAY IS YOUR LUCKY DAY.
Because I’ve got one for you.
(If the word vagina bothers you, you may want to stop reading right now).
When you are a young female in your twenties or even thirties and you haven’t yet subjected your body to the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth, you mostly worry about your body parts on the outside.
You may stress over the size of your butt, or wish your stomach was a little flatter. You may wish you had thicker or straighter hair, or that you were a few inches taller. Maybe your skin could be smoother or you wish you didn’t have to deal with facial hair.
There may be some internal stuff. You may be having periods that render you almost useless, or you may have had the pleasure of enduring a yeast infection from hell. And urinary tract infections are no picnic either.
But all those things are nothing compared to the sh*t that can happen to your body after having kids.
First there is the minor stuff. The skin below your neck may never be the same. You might have stretch marks.
Your feet may grow from a seven to a nine and never return to their pre-pregnancy size.
Maybe your boobs go from resembling two nice navel oranges to two tube socks with tennis balls in them.
Stuff on the outside stretches out and finds itself sitting a few inches lower than it used to.
But you know what?
So does stuff on the inside.
And here comes the too much information portion of this post.
Why am I sharing this?
Well, I think it might help some women who are finding themselves in this same situation. Because you know what?
NOBODY EVER TALKS ABOUT THIS STUFF.
Not before you are pregnant, not while you are pregnant, and not after you are pregnant.
Actually, that’s not true.
Women who have had kids talk all the time about the joys of peeing in their pants when they cough or sneeze. But that’s about as far as it goes.
Do you know what the technical term for that accidental leakage is?
Many women who have had kids and are caught off guard by a cough or sneeze will pee in their pants.
We all joke about this. It’s annoying, but most of us kind of just accept it if and when it happens.
The reason this happens to you is most likely during childbirth when the walls of your vajajay take kind of a beating.
It’s the front wall of your vagina that holds up your bladder. That wall can weaken due to childbirth, age, heavy lifting, and being overweight.
And when that wall becomes weak due to (in my case) multiple childbirths, organs can slip out of place, or prolapse.
There are 4 stages of prolapse, and if a cough or a sneeze sometimes makes you pee your pants, you are in stage one. Nothing feels different, but every once in a while you have a tiny accident.
But hold on.
There’s not only bladder prolapse.
There is also uterine prolapse! And rectal prolapse!
Your uterus is above your bladder and your cooch. And just as your boobs can start to sag, so can your uterus, especially when your pelvic floor muscles and tissues and ligaments and your vaginal walls are weakened.
About a year ago, I felt something odd going on down in my nether regions. I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t really worry too much about it.
But gradually things were getting worse and worse until I started to wonder if it was possible to get a hernia in your lady parts.
Then just before this past Thanksgiving, I got sick, I got a really bad cough that lasted for about six weeks, and things deteriorated very quickly from that point.
I knew there was trouble down below. I feel like I have to pee all the time. Even immediately after I go to the bathroom.
But then I did some exploration of my own. And that’s when I discovered stuff that definitely was not there before I had kids. And it kind of scared the crap out of me.
So I did some Googling and after researching the better part of a morning, I was pretty sure I had a good case of uterine and bladder prolapse.
Last week I went to the gyno and she confirmed my self-diagnosis.
Nothing makes a girl feel sexier than discussing her vaginal bulge with the doctor, let me tell you.
My gynecologist sent me to see a specialist at Yale. A urogynecologist.
A urogynecologist is a specialist in pelvic floor disorders. They deal with this stuff and diagnose you more specifically and then go over your options with you.
When I was in my early twenties (and when all my internal organs were in their original locations) I was up visiting my cousin at her house. A guy she went to college with was there, and he was in medical school. He was doing his internship (or whatever you call it) in the ER.
And I asked him what the most horrifying thing he had seen was.
And he said,
An old woman came in, and her uterus and bladder had fallen out of her body.
I threw up in my mouth a little bit and felt equally as horrified as my cousin’s friend.
How terrible! That is some fucked up stuff right there!
But what is even more fucked up is that now I am almost that old lady.
Except I’m not really that old. And my uterus and bladder haven’t fallen completely out.
But they sure as shit are trying to make a break for it.
So I knew there was trouble down below, and I’m in the doctor’s office, and one of the doctors is asking me questions:
Are you experiencing pain?
How many vaginal births have you had?
How often do you have to go to the bathroom?
Do you have to perform special maneuvers to go to the bathroom?
I wasn’t sure what she meant.
Do you need to place your fingers inside your vagina in order to have a bowel movement?
I told you there was too much information in this post.
The truth is, that I do. The truth is that I’m afraid to go to the bathroom because I’m afraid any strain on that area will cause me to give birth to my own bladder and uterus. And I have to push my bladder back where it belongs when I go to the bathroom.
That’s because I’ve got Stage 3 uterine and bladder prolapse.
What that means is that my bladder and uterus have dropped so much that they aren’t just a couple of inches lower than they used to be.
They are not just inside my vajayjay, but right there at the opening.
It feels kind of like I’ve got a golf ball in there. Or like I’m smuggling a Ziploc baggie full of heroin in my cooch, and it’s constantly in danger of falling out.
It’s not fun.
When I wake up in the morning it’s a tiny bit better. But as soon as I’m on my feet it gets worse. After a couple hours coaching on the pool deck every night where I have to do a decent amount of yelling because the acoustics in the pool are terrible, it’s really bad.
(If you are looking for one more reason to stop yelling at your kids, there it is. One day you might yell so hard that your uterus is like, Fuck this, I’m outta here.)
So this isn’t life threatening. I’m not in danger of dying.
But it’s absolutely a quality of life issue. It’s uncomfortable and it’s extremely stressful.
And I just feel kinda gross. I don’t feel cute or pretty or feminine or sexy.
I feel like I’m falling apart.
While sex isn’t painful (yet), knowing that your bladder and uterus are now residing in your vagina kind of puts on damper on your libido.
Running and lifting are presently out of the question. Those are out of the question forever unless I do something to fix the situation.
Plus, I don’t want to spend the next 40 years of my life performing special maneuvers whenever I have to go to the bathroom.
I’m beyond the point where pelvic floor exercises will help me. I could do a million Kegels, but that ship has sailed.
There is a device called a pessary which is a plastic ring thing that you shove up inside you and wear at all times to push any displaced organs back to where they belong and keep them there. But that’s only a band aid. It won’t fix the problem. It’ll just keep your stuff from completely falling out of your body.
So I need surgery. The surgery that’s been recommended for me is called a sacrocolpopexy.
Sacrocolpopexy is basically reconstructive surgery for my bladder, uterus, and vagina. Most of my uterus will be removed. The walls of my vagina will be reinforced with a synthetic material that will then be attached to my tail bone. Then my bladder and the remaining portion of my uterus (my cervix) should return to where they belong, and I can basically return to life as normal after that.
I’ll be honest.
I’m struggling with this a little bit.
I’m trying to keep things in perspective and be grateful and focus on the fact that I’m basically helathy. But it’s kind of demoralizing to talk about bulges in your vagina.
The thought of removing the majority of my uterus really bums me out. I mean, so much of my identity (not all of it, but a lot of it) is being a mom. It’s where all my babies started. To have it taken away, to have it not be there, to have a part of myself removed, the part that really makes me a woman biologically — that is taking some getting used to.
And I have a decent amount of anxiety regarding surgery.
But I’m an active mom with five kids at home who are twelve and under. I like to run and lift weights and do triathlons and, you know…
Poop without the use of special maneuvers.
So I go back to Yale in two weeks for urodynamic testing, which will help to determine the exact status of my bladder.
And then I’ll schedule the surgery which will be one night in the hospital, one to two weeks of recovery, and six weeks until I can resume most of my normal activity.
Would things have been different if I hadn’t waited for five years to schedule an appointment with the gynecologist?
I don’t know. Probably not.
But prolapse can be reversed in many cases without surgery when it’s discovered at earlier stages.
So I write this for the women who had no idea this could happen to them.
I write this for the moms who have just given birth and do not allow their insides sufficient time to heal before they rush into beating up their bodies (again!) trying to lose their pregnancy weight.
I write it for the husbands who didn’t know this was a thing. Or the husbands whose wives are dealing with this.
I write if for the moms who used to dress in cute, trendy clothes and bounce freely on trampolines without a care in the world who are now performing special maneuvers while they sit on the toilet.
I write it for the women who can’t remember the last time they had an internal exam.
So if you haven’t been to the gynecologist in a while, SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT.
If you feel something weird going on down below, get it checked out.
And it’s not just women who’ve had multiple births who are at risk.
Aging and postmenopausal women are at a greater risk.
If you are smoker with a chronic cough, your chances of prolapse are increased.
And if you are obese, then you also have an increased risk.
However you got there, if you find yourself dealing with this condition, you are not alone!
You also have nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by, and there is help.
You just gotta let someone know about it.