I’ve attempted to write this post so many times. And every time, I fail. Either the two small people that inhabit this house are at my feet, refusing to let me write, or words just fail me. This isn’t one of those light-hearted, witty posts where I talk about poop, that you’re all so fond of.
No. This one is about my vagina.
Writing about this has been something I’ve toyed with for a while. Because, unlike my boobs, which the entire internet has probably seen by now, my vagina is a different story. Unless of course it had something to do with my infertility and my making fun of the fact that there’s a line of people waiting to get a look at the goods. DOCTORS, people. It’s not like I’m a slut. Also? I guess a lot of people have seen my vagina. Never mind, then.
After a while I figured, well, if blogging about my experiences can help even one person, then isn’t it worth it to share? I mean, isn’t that what I blog for? Because I like to overshare?
Back when I first had sex, at the tender age of 18 or so, it hurt. Anyone that says that sex doesn’t hurt the first time is a liar. But I had no idea how much it was supposed to hurt, all I knew was that it HURT. A lot. I wondered how women ever went on to have more sex, have babies, or worse, do porn, or make any other sort of living having sex. Because I wanted no part of it.
I tried marching on, like a good little horny soldier should.
But it never got better. I went to the gynecologist. I told her my problems. I winced in pain as she shoved the speculum in my girl parts and fished around with her fist for my ovaries. She never seemed to notice, told me that the pain was all in my head and sent me on my merry way. I should have found another doctor at that point, but I was young and naive. When I went back again the next year complaining of pain, again, she told me it was in my head and to maybe find a good therapist to talk to.
And it was at that point that I didn’t go to the gynecologist for another few years, because her bedside manner was atrocious, and I figured they were all like that. Really there’s nothing fun about getting fisted and then walking around like you have a snail in your pants for the rest of the day, all the while your nether regions feel as if they’re on fire.
Fast forward a couple of years. I was at the hospital waiting for my then soon-to-be niece, to be born. The midwife who was delivering her seemed to have this aura of goodness and light surrounding her. I made a mental note to make an appointment with her, and it was the day that changed my life forever. The midwife’s name was Vivian. And if it seemed that she had an aura of goodness and light surrounding her, it was because she was such a sweet woman. She cared deeply about her job. Her craft. Her patients. We went over my history. I told her about my last doctor, and told her about my problems. She immediately told me that no, my issues were absolutely not at all in my head. She told me that I had a condition. A condition that other people suffered from.
My problem! It had a name! And I wasn’t alone! She told me that she was no expert, but it sounded like I had something called vulvar vestibulitis.
Vestibulitis is basically a condition where the vestibule (or entrance to your vagina) is inflamed, causing stinging and burning and redness to the nerve endings. As I understand it, it’s an excess of nerve endings. The inflammation can range from severe, as in you can’t even wear pants, to mild, where it’s basically aggravated by something being inserted into the vagina such as a penis, or tampon, or a Buick Rivera. Whatever you fancy, I don’t judge. (I guess I still can’t avoid wittiness. Even when I’m trying not to be). Mine ranges on the mild end of the spectrum where it kind of feels like there’s a buick being shoved up my yang when I’m having sex, but otherwise, I can wear pants, sit, and walk if I so choose.
Vivian referred me to one of the best people to deal with this condition. Her name is Susan Kellogg-Spadt, a nurse practitioner (PhD) who is considered a pioneer in the field of pelvic and sexual disorders. I am extremely extremely fortunate that she is based in Philadelphia and that I only have a 40 minute drive to see her. There are people that fly here to see her. I didn’t walk, I ran to see this woman. She made me understand I wasn’t insane. What killed me was that from being on birth control (which I find so funny, after going through fertility treatments for years), I always had a chronic yeast issue.
The stupid asshole gynecologist that told me everything was in my head just threw pills at me, and whenever I went in, she told me, “you don’t have an infection, just have yeast.” And that should have been my second clue to flee from her care. Because of this chronic yeast problem that only temporarily went away with things like Diflucan or some sort of vagina suppository containing foul goo, it was most likely the cause of the condition. When I first went to see her, she started me on an estrogen/atropine combination that I applied topically. I graduated to a capsaicin cream, also applied topically.
Did I mention that not only did she help me, but this woman is all sorts of awesome?
I know I just heard screeching brakes in your brain. Hold up. WHAT? Why on earth are you putting the equivalent of a jalapeño on your vagina?
I know, right? It totally sounds like backwards logic and it kind of is. The first time this was applied by Susan herself, she gave me full on “no bullshit or sugarcoating” warning that it not only was going to hurt but that it was going to hurt like a bitch. And then she proceeded to stand near my head, because she’s obviously not stupid. I would have full on donkey-style, kicked her right in the teeth. But then, once the burning wore off and I stopped swearing, I realized that it calmed the nerves down, and helped with the pain.
It was ten years ago that I sought care from her. And where I’m at now is basically, well, I’m uncomfortable. Sometimes sex is still unbearable, sometimes it’s a lot less painful and I can handle it. The pain has not completely gone away. My next option is surgery. Even though it’s knives coming at my vagina, I’m kind of at the point where I’m ready to take that step to see if it will make my quality of life better. Recovery is very tough from what I’ve heard. No heavy lifting for a really long time. I went for a consult when the Mini was about LG’s age now and I just couldn’t bear not being able to pick him up for that long. Even going through what we were with him at the time, when the doctor told me that I couldn’t lift him up, he got up from where he was playing and climbed in my lap and nuzzled his head under my chin. Even though it seemed as if he was checked out and not paying attention, he knew. And then a few short months later, we found out about matlock baby. And now she refuses to be put down, ever. I’m not ready to put her down yet. This time with her will go fast enough. But I’m ready. I’m just waiting.
Why am I telling you this? Because there are so many women out there with this condition. I thought it was something that was rare. Something I was one of the few that suffered from it. And I’ve learned that I’m not and that it’s not uncommon. People just don’t talk about it. It’s a shame. I don’t go around talking about it like I do developmental delays and Autism. Because that just makes for an awkward introduction. But I do share it with people I’m close to. I guess I’m close to you, internet. I don’t want people to feel afraid or like they’re a freak. It’s so damn common that every time I make an appointment to see Susan, it’s like a three to four month wait. So it’s obvious that it’s a secret hell that so many women are going through. It’s a sad thing. It’s a frustrating thing, especially for your significant other.
But you’re not alone. And if that’s how you feel, then talk to me. Ask me questions. Or tell me what you know. I want to give you a hug. I want to bump fists.
Most of all, I want you to feel like it’s going to be OK.