It has been a long time coming and I hope it was worth the wait, but the time has come to tell the story of 'the broken vagina', that I briefly touched on in a previous post. Now, if for some reason you haven't read 'The EOH Pelvic Floor', I strongly suggest you head over and read that first, as the same disclaimer applies to this article. Before the pitchforks come at me like the last time, I will make myself clear - if you have not brought a life into this world and never envision doing the act that is childbirth, I strongly, STRONGLY advise you do not continue reading...
You daredevil, I like you already. Thanks for reading on.
Now, I've said it before but I'll say it again, everybody's birth story is different. This is a candid, telling of events that transpired the night of March 14th, leading into March 15th, which resulted in the birth of my first child and the broken vagina.
I feel like I need to touch on the lead up to the birth for you to fully understand the sequence of events. My son, my first child, was two weeks overdue. This child did not want to come out! No amount of raspberry leaf tea, curry or brisk walks were getting this kid out of me. He had maxed his time in there and my appointment to be induced was made. It was great; I did my hair and makeup, packed my bag and drove down to the hospital with my husband, excited that I was going to meet my first baby. I went into hospital on a Thursday night at 8.30pm and he was born SATURDAY MORNING at 4am. That's a long weekend!!!!
I tried to do it naturally. Yeah, that didn't happen. I remember I had met a lady the weekend before and she told me she counted through her contractions. "Breathe in for six seconds and out for ten seconds. It keeps your mind busy and off the pain," she told me. Look, it did work for 8 hrs but eventually it made me so angry I almost punched a midwife for chewing her gum mid-contraction. BRING ON THE EPIDURAL!! I still remember my first time with the epidural, my first hit. It rushed through my body and I felt like I was having an orgasm, a very long one. I went from The Exorcist to Little House on the Prairie in less than five minutes. I was making 'that's what he said' jokes with the doctors. This fun carried on until about 4am when I felt like I needed to do the biggest dump of my life (how amazing am I making it sound?), and I had heard people say that when the baby is coming that's what it feels like. They called the doctor and she had a looksie. Before I knew it there were two doctors, a couple of midwives and my husband in the room in total panic. I wanted to say, 'I told you so', but there was no time. All I remember was this four-foot-nothing little lady doctor asking me if I want forceps or an emergency caesarian, and then me not being able to hold that massive poo that was my firstborn IN!
It was all on - no time for an episiotomy (where they cut you so you don't split and two holes become one). So, they tore me. SORRY, PLEASE KEEP READING. I remember the doctor leaning back, almost in a squat position, and pulling on those forceps that were around my baby's head. I couldn't see everything, but my husband, who was in the corner of the room hugging the curtain and shaking like a leaf, while I yelled to him, "TAPE THE BIRTH! TAKE SOME PICTURES! I WANNA SEE MY PLACENTA!!", tells me he was 100% positive the baby's head was going to rip off and the doctor would go flying back across the room. Out came baby Ari, in what seemed like five pushes, and off to work they went stitching up my tear. I don't remember much after that, as I was too busy looking at my first-born child on my chest, covered in a sticky white substance. I wondered how it was possible he looked so much like a dropped baked potato? Other thoughts included, 'if the doctors could read my mind now they would take him', 'I'm already a terrible mother, shouldn't I think he's the most beautiful thing in the world?', 'he definitely looks like his dad', and a lot of 'he's the cutest baby ever, he's the cutest baby ever, repeat the mantra Zoe!'.
Later, when I asked my husband why he hadn't taken any pictures with our new camera we had bought specifically for the occasion, he said there were too many people in the way. These days he retells the story describing what he saw as similar to that of a massacre/blood bath type of scene. The midwives and doctors told me I lost a third of my blood and, even though I refused a transfusion, I almost didn't have an option.
So, that was all over and I was being given a sponge bath in bed by the midwife (oh la la), until she asked me to sit up and I caught a glimpse of my vagina!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Describing it as looking like a hamburger, more like a whopper, would be putting it nicely. That image will be forever burned in my mind. If Frankenstein's monster had a vagina, I know EXACTLY what it would have looked like *shudders at the memory*. I needed about four of those vajayjay icy poles and three overnight maxi pads to contain that Joker's smile.
We went home, the struggles began; I struggled with breastfeeding, struggled to pee, struggled to even sit on a toilet without feeling like my insides were going to drop out of the gaping hole that once was my vagina. PSA: squatting over a hand mirror to check it out is NOT a good idea! ABORT MISSION, ABORT MISSION!!! I also struggled with botched stitches. I guess in the rush, with all that blood loss, the staff were more concerned with stopping the bleeding than taking care with my stitches down there.
About six months later, when my 'whopper' had returned to looking slightly less abstract art-esque and little more surrealist art-esque, the time had come to think about sex again... it took this long before my husband even dared to bring it up. I was petrified. I have been bungee jumping before and the thought of having sex again scared me more. We tried and it was a nightmare. That's if it even counts... does half a tip even count?
Things are going to get serious now.
I booked in with my gynaecologist and asked him if it was normal. He assured me that it was normal and I had just made a tiny human and there was a lot of trauma so not to expect too much. I gave it another six months and by that time we were trying for our second. By 'trying' I mean I would cry whilst biting on a pillow, enduring sex while my poor husband tried to get the job done as quickly as possible. Back to the gynaecologist. This time he examined me and upon entry he kind of inhaled deeply, then stopped, took his glove off, patted me on the knee, and said, "I can't believe you've actually been trying to have a baby with those." He described it as three bands, like the skin between your thumb and pointer finger pulled taut, and anytime anything rubbed on them, they felt like they were tearing. Basically, it was scar tissue from my stitches and I could either have surgery to fix it (and then have an elective cesarean so as to avoid the same thing happening again with a natural birth) or "bear through it" until we conceived and then, "hope the next baby tears the same spot so that it can be re-stitched more carefully". I decided to give the latter option a go for one more month, and thankfully it worked.
In the process I managed to traumatise my vagina to the point of vaginismus. Such a gorgeous word, isn't it? Sounds like a blossoming flower that grows at the base of a gorgeous waterfall, doesn't it? No, it's terrible and having it is worse than the way it sounds. I'm going to describe it in layman's terms first... It's basically when your vagina has had enough so she over tightens your pelvic floor muscles so much that nothing is allowed in. She puts up a brick wall against all intruders and no amount of banging will break down that wall. My name is Zoe and I have vaginismus. Months of physio later and paying hundreds of dollars to get to third base with a gorgeous woman and there had been slight improvement made. I still remember her (the physio) telling me she was going to give me some 'trainers'. I thought they were runners or something, but she came in with these plastic test tube looking things that started at the size of my little finger and the biggest was the size of an average......cucumber, and as she put it in there and began explaining what I need to do and which directions I need to manoeuvre, she looked down and that thing was being shot out. YOU'RE NOT WELCOME HERE!!!
A few months later I had my baby girl. That birth was amazing, so gentle and beautiful. My husband even taped the whole thing, zooming in and all those types of fancy tricks. I even reached down and pulled her out myself!! I KNOW RIGHT!! She gently tore me in the same internal spot that Ari had and there was a highly experienced doctor in the room within minutes stitching me up carefully. Within a few days I could already tell that I was feeling more normal down there.
I have a long way to go before I can say I'm 100% relaxed down there, but there are no more tears and biting pillows (unless it's in a good way, wink wink). According to MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: "Vaginismus is a spasm of the muscles surrounding the vagina t hat occurs against your will. The spasms close the vagina and can prevent sexual activity and medical exams." According to Sexual Health Australia: "Vaginismus seems to be quite uncommon when looking at its prevalence in the general population. However, because of the shame and secrecy associated with the condition it may be underreported and on the basis of clinic samples, it would appear that vaginismus is not that uncommon after all."
There you go, I got it out. I have been embarrassed to write this story for a while, but every time I meet someone in person and tell them they are surprised and feel really terrible for me that I went through it. I told this story to raise awareness of the issue, it was a hard one to share. I am putting the most private information out there for the world to read. Yes, I did put a funny spin on most of it, but that's how I tell all my stories. If you can't laugh at life then you cry, and crying ain't fun. Please respect that I also come from a culture where we don't talk about these things openly and I am mortified at the thought of my family reading it, but it's all for the greater good, I say.
If you've made it to the end, thanks for reading. Love you all. - Zoe xoxo
This blog first appeared on Zoe's blog, The Subtle Mummy
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