I swear this isn’t just an excuse to talk about my vagina – that’s just a special bonus. This is a public service message for all the moms I know and don’t know whose junk was totally ruined by having babies. I spent the last fifteen years suffering from stress incontinence, and this is the story of how I discovered that it was needless.
It all started in August when I went to visit my mother to help her with the two step-grandchildren she and her husband found themselves unexpectedly fostering. I could write a novel-length aside about that whole saga, but I’m going to skip over it for now because it’s more tragic than funny, and I have to leave some good material in the event that someone actually reads this blog and likes it enough to offer me a book deal on a memoir.
Anyway, mom picked me up at the airport in Milwaukee and we hit the Perkins because when you get on a plane at six o’clock in the damn morning, you’re legitimately allowed to have Second Breakfast. We caught up over eggs and copious amounts of coffee, because if a plane departs at 6 AM and another plane is moving 500 miles per hour in the opposite direction, and you live 30 minutes from the airport, at what point does the time you have to get up cease being considered “morning” and qualify for “middle of the damn night”? 3:30 AM, that’s when.
So yeah, gallons of coffee. Followed by an urgent visit to the ladies’ room, where there was a small billboard on the wall of the stall which essentially said, “Worried you wouldn’t make it in time? Call our Uro-gynecology office!”
Fortunately there was no one in the bathroom when I responded to the sign out loud: “Uro-gynecology? That’s a thing? You’ve GOT to be kidding me. I’ve only been telling my doctors for the past fifteen years that I pee a little when I sneeze. Assholes.” Especially the one that kept complimenting me on having natural childbirth after tricking me into taking an opiate and then almost missed the part where the baby fell out. Seriously, fuck him.
A couple months went by, with many exciting episodes of “achoo! DAMMIT!” and that weird thing that happens when I wear my Diva Cup and it crowds out my urethra and I have to push on my bladder to pee. Because for some reason it comes out when I don’t want it to, but not when I do. Since we’re handing out Asshole Cards, here’s one for you, bladder. So after an incident in which I bit my tongue trying not to sneeze, I finally found a doctor and got an appointment for three months later.
I picked her because she ‘s a teacher and because she goes to Africa and does pelvic surgery on women who are so disfigured and incontinent – both urinally AND fecally – from fistulas formed in childbirth that they are cast out of their villages and left to fend for themselves, leaving their children motherless. It’s horrible. She goes to put their insides back together so that they can rejoin their communities. Which, I don’t know how that reconciliation would even work, I mean, like, “oh hey, Kala, sorry about the whole traumatizing you and your children and nearly starving both of you to death over your whole poo problem, but hey, bygones, right?” seems sort of hard to swallow, but I guess if you need a community to survive and you just want your life back, you suck it up. But so she started a foundation so that more of these surgeries could happen. How could she not be awesome?
She totally was. AND she used to be an engineer, so we had immediate geek chemistry. I saw her three weeks ago.
I got a little anxious when her medical assistant called me back and she was a little person, which almost stopped me in my tracks because I’d never seen a dwarf gyno assistant before, but suddenly it made perfect. sense. But I started to panic that I would say or do something accidentally offensive, like “how awesome is it that you’re already at vagina level?” but instead I just got a drop of pee on the outside of the cup, which I felt the need to announce and apologize for in the common area because I didn’t want her to accidentally touch it, and that pretty well filled my mortification card for the day and put me at ease, especially since she was so nice about it.
I waited long enough that I read every label in the room three times and finally wrapped myself up in the paper sheet to get my phone, which of course calls doctors in like they’re dog whistles. The doctor came in seconds later, busted me with my phone, and asked me how I found her, at which point I had to explain that I was there because of a billboard in a bathroom stall at a Perkins in Milwaukee. Jim told me not to because it I might as well just say, “well, I saw a bunch of surgical tools in an alley so I decided to have an abortion,” but I’m compulsively honest and it just sort of came out.
Of all the things I imagined her saying in response to my admission, the words “which doctor, do you remember?” were not even on the emergency tertiary backup list. I kicked myself for not taking a picture of the billboard.
So we talked about pee for awhile – which I swear was totally germane and not just a casual conversation – and then she lifted the hood and started prodding around, and then she said the thing you never, ever want to hear a doctor with that much experience say: “whoa.”
Me: Um. Whoa?
Dr.: Are you having your period?
Dr.: You’re totally bleeding. Like, a lot. I barely touched your cervix and now it’s really bleeding.
Me: Oh, yeah, sorry – it just does that. I bleed when I poo, I bleed when I have sex, I bleed when I ovulate, I bleed when it’s a bit windy out. I spot more days than I don’t.
It’s like I was describing my old Nissan that I had to park on hills so I could start it by popping the clutch. It was broken, but it was my normal. Nobody ever mentioned it being a fixable problem before, and I definitely mention it on all patient intake forms.
Dr.: Um…yeah, that’s not normal. I’m going to send you to see a Gyno-oncologist.
Me: What, now? Like, vagina cancer??
Dr.: OH – jeez, no. I think you might have polyps.
Assistant: ooh, I went to see her for polyps a few years back, it was awesome! I used to bleed all the time like you do & she took out 26 of them and now I’m fine. I promise, it’ll be great. Best thing that ever happened to me.
I then had a brief and complicated fantasy involving Glinda the good witch and the women of the Lollipop Guild and polyps, for which I am most certainly going straight to hell.
So she prescribed me some physical therapy to fix my “pelvic floor disorder” which is really just a fancy medical way of saying “dude, your junk is totally jacked” and something called “hypermobile urethra” – which seriously should be the name of a sports car – and gave me a referral for the polyps.
This week I went to my first day of Physical Therapy, which we’ll cover in Part II, in which we learn that not only are there special doctors for jacked junk, there are also special physical therapists, and mine mostly works with old lady junk. Stay tuned. Because with a teaser like “old lady junk” how could you NOT?