He was born on the couch in my living room. I had wanted a VBAC. In my mind it was planned perfectly with me in total control of my birthing experience. My son, like most babies, had different plans. I had a vaginal birth, but in a more precipitous speed bullet train way that you only survive when you completely give into your body. My son was perfect. My body was not. I hemorrhaged at the hospital. I had two tears in my labia (I don’t remember reading about that in the books) and a small perineum tear. I was surviving on the high that meeting your new baby brings.
Fast forward to a few days later and there I was settling in at home with my new baby and toddler. I began to have this increasingly heavy and painful feeling in my vagina. I really felt like I was going to have the urge to push again. I promptly called my OB. The nurse told me it could be a prolapse, a hematoma, and/or weak pelvic floor muscles. I was instructed to rest lying down a lot more (with a toddler?), do kegels and wait it out until my 6 week postpartum visit when I could get a referral. I knew a little bit about prolapse as my own mother had a bladder prolapse later in her life. I was scared. I googled it. I diagnosed myself. I was taking a lot of ibuprofen.
At my 6 week appointment I did get my referral for pelvic physical therapy. I was really looking forward to my first visit for pelvic physical therapy. Perhaps, I wasn’t excited about the whole idea of being focused on my vagina with a stranger, however I did want answers and I hoped that physical therapy would help heal not only my vagina but me as well. At my first visit I found out that I had a large muscular scar in my pelvic floor which was actually the part causing me the most pain. The heavy feeling in my vagina was from my pelvic floor muscles working overtime in a protective mode. Of course this meant that doing kegels was all wrong because I needed to learn how to relax my pelvic floor first, help heal my scar, and then do the strengthening part.
I could elaborate more about pelvic physical therapy and the physical side of my experience with my vagina and pelvic floor. An important part of my story and message is that I want other women to know that when their vaginas and pelvic floors experience trauma (forceps, tears, episiotomies, a baby) women can have help to heal their physical bodies. You are not alone; it can get better.
However, there is a more intimate and emotional part involved in my story. When asked, “what part of my postpartum body do I like the least?”, the first thing that comes to mind is my vagina, but of course I wouldn’t want to say that. It’s taboo isn’t it? I was expecting this nice and simple vaginal birth with a speedy recovery and that is not what happened. Instead what I felt deeply was that I was broken. I had a broken vagina. The biggest part of my physical being that defines my womanhood is my vagina and it felt broken. All I could think was that at only 27 years old, my vagina was unlovable. I was worried about sex. What would it be like for my husband? Would I ever be sexy again?
The truth is that though our vaginas are amazingly elastic and they can stretch to accommodate our beautiful babies’ journeys into this world, vaginas do change. Vaginas, labia, the whole shebang changes just like all the other parts of our bodies do postpartum. How do you learn to accept and love this new vagina that you have after giving birth? I am still learning and I’m still trying. Maybe with a little more time and a little more healing I will learn that I am not broken after all.
Written by Verity Burnor
I am a stay at home mama with two beautiful children, Lillian and Henry. I married my high school sweetheart after we sufficiently dated for 9 years and lived together 7 years. I can’t say I’m a Vermonter, but I have been putting in the time since I was three including rounding out my education at UVM completing my B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies. I am passionate about healthy living and family life. I love to run, miss reading more, and am always looking forward to summer.