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Vulvodynia: Let’s NOT Talk about Sex, Baby

Sex. For me, it’s always been such a four letter word. Sex is seemingly simple, but it can bring up VASTLY complicated issues. It’s always been slightly more complicated for me since I have vulvodynia.

Some health concerns stay hidden.Vulvodynia always sounded more like the name of some exotic, far away land.

A land where pixies frolic and the reindeer lay down with the wolves. It would never be something that would ever affect my sex life. But, unfortunately for all involved, it’s actually a condition that directly affects my sex life.

There are two types of vulvodynia. There is general vulvodynia, which is simply general pain in the vulva. And then there’s the kind I have, vulvar vestibulitis syndrome. This is when you have a burning pain in the vestibule, or entrance to the vaginal cavity, every time you attempt penetrative intercourse.

There, I said it. I, Meredith Gordon, have “attempted” penetrative intercourse. Wow, I typed that and I wasn’t struck dead by lightning.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: I write for a mom’s blog, right? Therefore, I must have children. I have written about having a c-section too, so they must not be adopted.

Well, you’re right. I do have two beautiful biological children that were conceived through extremely painful penetrative sexual intercourse. Now, since I am a mind reader, I am guessing that you’re thinking, why in God’s name didn’t you go to a doctor and have this looked at before you tried to get pregnant?

Reader, I wish I could tell you the answer to that question. As I mentioned before, sex has always been something that I simply am uncomfortable thinking about, let alone talking to my doctor about. I’m not sure if it’s my religious upbringing still clanging around in my head, or simply the fact that since it’s always been painful, I have simply ruled penetrative sex out of my life.

I don’t want you thinking that I don’t enjoy sex.

vulvodyniaMy husband and I have found “ways” around this little issue, and still connect sexually. But penetrative sex has always been for child conception only. So, do the math folks, two kids, both conceived pretty much on the first try (thank God).

Why am I posting about this? Why is this topic Mom’s Blog worthy?

I never knew that I had vulvodynia until my most recent pelvic exam. I’ve never been that great about having regular gynecological exams other than when I was pregnant. When I’m pregnant, penetrative sex is the last thing on the plate for discussion. Recently, I’ve been trying to fix things that have been put on the back burner. I finally finished a first draft of a novel I’ve been working on for three years, am trying to get my diet under control, am going back to school at the end of May, and am finally answering “yes” to the “painful intercourse” question at my annual physical.

I had always thought that the pain was my fault.

Because I was too nervous. Because I was too small… down there. Me, me, me. But after telling my  gynecologist, she did a simple test with a q-tip, and I finally had my answer. The problem was me, but it came from a part of me that I can’t control.

I was given a diagnosis of vulvar vestibulitis syndrome and a tube of steroid cream meant to calm down the nerve endings in my vulva. I am to use the cream twice a day for a month and then check back in with my doctor.

I sighed. That’s not so bad. Twice a day, and then we’re good. Wow. How easy.

Then the doctor looked at me and said, “Then after this, you’re going to have to do some sessions of pelvic floor physical therapy because your muscles are so tight that the cream will only get you halfway.”

Darn. I knew there had to be a catch.

I took the cream and headed home, thinking- is this really worth it? Is it worth all of the work that it might entail simply to have pain free sex? I have my two children. I even had a tubal with my last one to make sure I only have two. So, sex would only be for pleasure at this point and nothing else.

Is sexual pleasure with your significant other worth working at? A few years ago, I might have simply pushed the idea from my head. I’m getting what I need sexually and I think my husband is too. He tells me he is. But how can I ever really know for sure?

My husband is amazing. Anyone who meets him could tell you that. He didn’t even have a problem with me writing this blog. He’s never pressured me to have this issue taken care of. He’s always said that it didn’t matter to him. But is that really the truth? Is it really the truth for me that sex doesn’t matter?

I won’t leave you with a cliffhanger. I’m using the cream. I plan on doing the therapy. There’s still a big section of my mind that thinks this is a lot of fuss for something that I’ve been dealing with adequately my entire life. But something is telling me I don’t have to deal with it- I want to deal with it. Something is telling me that with some work, maybe not even that much, that portion of the incredible relationship with my spouse that was shaky might become more stable.

Sex has always felt inaccessible.

Maybe after all of this, it might be something I can enjoy with my husband. And even though it might embarrass the hell out of them later on, I plan on telling my children that although sex is and always will be a complicated issue, it should always be something you you should talk about, especially with your doctor.

Ah, vulvodynia, you horrible land of pain. Although I may always be a citizen, I don’t have to pledge allegiance to you anymore.

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3 Responses to Vulvodynia: Let’s NOT Talk about Sex, Baby

  1. Tara May 30, 2016 at 11:19 pm #

    Meredith thank you so much for writing this and sharing your experience. I can only imagine there are loads of women out there that can benefit from your words. Your bravery is inspiring ?

  2. Lisa May 31, 2016 at 10:11 am #

    The National Vulvodynia Association can help by providing additional information on vulvodynia and a list of health care providers who specialize in treating this condition. Go to http://www.nva.org.

  3. Andrea Haulenbeek May 31, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    You are totally awesome. Real people have real issues that real people seek to tackle. Weak people run away and don’t grow like they could until they face Those issues. You are a fine example of a real person. Kudos.

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