My vagina has been through a lot. She has seen men come; she has seen men not come. She has been implicated in dubious sexual experiments conducted at the behest of Cosmopolitan magazine. She has pushed out two babies. She has been torn and sewn back together. My vagina has seen better days.
But see that picture of the woman in the water? See how she has her arms in the air, forming a shape vaguely reminiscent of labia? That means she is empowered and strong. Like my vagina. This is a story of how my vagina got her groove back - or, if you prefer, The Vagina: Tear and Back Again
Chapter One: There's something wrong here
After I had my first baby (after 90 minutes of pushing) and was torn and sewn up again, I knew something was amiss with my trusty vagina. Previously so reliable, my vagina and adjacent lady parts started acting out. When I was on my rag, I started getting pelvic pain, similar to what I had when I was pregnant. And in the week leading up to my period I started having problems doing those things that ladies of a certain age have problems doing on ads for certain incontinence products. Sneezing, running, jumping... you've seen the ads.
One particularly interesting time, I appeared in a play wearing a see-though negligee and underwear. The fella I was acting besides had to drop me on my arse. As I hit the ground (on the stage. In front of an audience. Wearing next to nothing) I felt the unmistakable escape of wee. What did I do? I got up as rehearsed, kissed the gentleman passionately and walked off slowly, wiggling my hips suggestively. Then the second I was off, I ran to the loo to empty my bladder and speculate as to whether there was a wet spot on the stage floor (there wasn't - but this was all too close for comfort).
After that lucky escape I went to see a women's health physiotherapist. Her first suspect was my pelvic floor. I had been diligently doing my Kegel exercises (after all, I had watched Sex and the City like the rest of you) but I had heard some people do them ineffectively to no benefit. Well the physiotherapist checked them out - actually this is a digression worth taking a paragraph on:
Chapter 1.1: Having a nice lady probe me
I lay down on the examination table and the nice physiotherapist explained that she was going to insert a large dildo into my vagina. I was to do squeezes for 10 seconds at a time while she showed me a digital display showing how strong my squeezes were. First, hygiene. She used a disposable rubbery sheath over the reusable dildo and said she was going to cover the sheath with a condom for extra hygiene. "Now, where did I put my condoms?" she asked. After searching for a while, in what I now suspect was part of a well rehearsed comic routine, she turned to me and said "I don't suppose you have one on you, do you? Hahahahaha! Oh here they are!"
Long story short, she dildoed me and I passed the pelvic floor test with flying colours. She scheduled more tests, but before I got around to doing them I fell pregnant again and we parked the issue.
Chapter Two: More vaginal misadventures
Another baby, another perineal tear. Things seemed alright until my period returned. Now I was having trouble hanging onto a tampon. More peeing when I didn't want to. And worst of all, mid-cycle I could feel the back of my vagina coming out. Like I could feel it protruding and the sensitive skin that was meant to be tucked safely away would rub on my underwear making it uncomfortable to walk or do anything at all.
My sex life was unaffected by all this, except that I felt self-conscious about the mid-cycle bulging.
Chapter Three: Intervention
Enough was enough. I went to my GP who referred me to a surgeon. She is wrist deep in vaginas every day, and she took one look at mine and knew surgery was on the cards.
This is what had happened: the nice thick wall of muscle between my vagina and anus had been damaged by pushing babies out and it was down to a sliver. No amount of Kegels was going to sort this out.
Since there was very little holding my vagina in place, it was dragging on all the other lady bits in the front, so my urethra was being pulled down too. That's why I was peeing at the wrong times.
Surgery: I needed a "posterior repair" where they pull the two sides of the muscle together to form a nice, new fat wall of muscle under my perineum. A also needed a "sub-urethral tape" - a polypropylene tape run under my urethra to hoist everything up in the front and keep everything in place.
I was scheduled for surgery and made all the arrangements for childcare etc. The trickiest arrangement was stopping breastfeeding - I was totally ready to stop anyway (she was 2 years plus by then and I'd been trying to stop for ages) - I could have kept going despite anaesthetics etc, but I was very happy at an enforced break from my littler girl so I could stop.
Truth be told, I was really excited. Two nights away from my family. People bringing me my food. Watching TV, reading books. Bliss!
Oh how little I knew!
The surgery went great. But the first thing I knew waking from it was an anal muscle spasm which, so I'm told (my memories of this part are fuzzy) had me almost leaping from the recovery table. So yes, the recovery was painful. But what I hadn't expected in my fantasies about a holiday in hospital, was having a reaction to the anaesthetic which had me stuck in there for 3 nights, puking my guts out. All that lovely food came in, was untouched and wheeled out again while I was too sick to concentrate on anything on TV.
Also a few words on the catheter. Oh, at first it was nice not to have any reason at all to get up. Nurses would come empty the bag. I could lay still for as long as I wanted. But then when it was time to go home they found that I couldn't yet wee on demand - there was too much swelling - so I had to go home with the catheter for a further week, where it was my job to empty my own catheter bag - and do you know how much I pee? A lot! I'm sure I had to empty it more than I ever had to go to the toilet in the regular way.
Anyway, in due course, the catheter was removed, all the swelling went down and everything slowly healed.
At my 6 week check, the surgeon asked if I was having sex yet. I said HELL NO! I wasn't letting anything near there until I had the all clear. Well I had the all clear and then some. I hadn't expected my surgeon to give me sex tips, but I got them. "Lots of lubricant, lots of foreplay. Fingers first, then a penis. USE IT!" And so I did. Any entry from behind had to wait months later, but from the front things were tickety boo!
The next experiment with my new lady parts was exercising. I went along to Zumba. I had been going there for a few months before surgery, but I had always modified the exercises to reduce the impact and hence the accidental peeing potential. Well no more! I did my first star jumps in 5 years without a drip. So exciting!
Six months later, my trusty lady parts are pretty much as good as new and I love them. I don't want any more babies, but if I did I would have to have a Caesarian. I don't think so.
I have not shared my intimate vaginal history just for fun. What I want to say is this: if your body isn't working right, go get it checked out. Not everyone with problems like mine will need surgery, but if you do - and if you have the means (remembering to take into account a week or two off work and a few days childcare) - my vagina and I would highly recommend it.