Trigger warnings: Sexual abuse, Prolapse, Vaginal Therapy. I share my story in hopes that it will help someone else sufering in silence. Because life is real. This has nothing to do with MotherMoonPads aside from the fact that I AM MotherMoonPads.
"You have a moderate bladder prolapse and the start of a rectal prolapse. Lose some weight, and see me again in June"
Those were the words that I heard from my gynecologist last week, when I saw him for my prolapse. For about 3 hours, I accepted them as that was what I was going to do. Then I posted online, both in a private mamas group as wel as publicly on my business Facebook page (hey if we can talk about menstruation, we can talk about prolapse!). Very quickly I found out that I had more options!
Pelvic floor physical therapy.
Wait, what? Physical therapy for my pelvic floor. Like physical therapy for my vagina? To say I was skeptical and nervous is an absolute understatement. I couldn't imagine what could be done. I've been through physical therapy before, and it has always involved exercises and electrical stimulation machines. A few of my friends insisted that I had to try it tough, so I made an appointment.
I cannot tell you how many reasons I found not to go to that appointment. How many times I picked up the phone to cancel it. Then there were issues with my health insurance (I haven't received the darned card yet!!), and my gynecologist took FOREVER to send over the referral. Somehow, this morning I found the courage to go.
My physical therapist is this young, petite, gorgeous woman. The type of women that would be a little intimidating to me. The way she spoke though, was so reassuring. She was tender and honest, reassuring me that we would only do what I was comfortable with and that we could stop at any time. She explained to me that she was one of only 33 physical therapists in the entire United States to have her credentials in pelvic floor physical therapy, which made me really think how incredibly lucky that I am that we somehow ended up in the middle of nowhere Oregon a few years ago.
She took a very thorough life history that covered my pregnancies, births, trauma from sexual abuse, and more. She seemed to be able to predict what I was going to say next, which was as creepy as it was fascinating! It made me feel not quite so alone though. So many women go through this! I wonder how many suffer in silence, afraid to ask for help or afraid to even talk about what is happening with their bodies.
She explained that when a woman experiences a trauma, it can be held in her muscles for many years to come, long after that woman thinks she has recovered from the trauma. For me, that was the sexual assault that resulted in the conception of my daughter, when I was 13. That's something I thought I was LONG past at this point in my life, almost 19 years later. I'm realizing that the trauma was never fully attended to. I never received counseling, and it was forced to be so deeply repressed as my mother had no interest in dealing with it, accepting that it happened, or helping me heal. The trauma was compounded by the complicated birth of my daughter which resulted in a fourth degree extension, and physical trauma that will last my entire life.
I like to believe that I am a strong woman. I KNOW I am a very strong woman. I wonder where this strength comes from though, and I think it is from being able to repress my pain so that I can just move on. When I started having my pelvic pain issues last May, the doctors kept telling me that they could not find the cause of my pain. The list of diagnosis I received is incredible (stomach flu, diverticulitis, ovarian cyst, psoas dysfunction, piriformis syndrome, myofascial pain syndrome, possible lupus, an unnamed auto immune disease, and a few "I don't think anything is wrong with you, it's possible it's all in your head". I started to wonder what this pain could be telling me. Could illness have a purpose in our life? What if we stopped and actually listened to our bodies when we are sick? What would we find out?
I found out that I have a long list of traumas to deal with. The physical therapist gently suggested I add some counseling to the mix. What I am doing now with working hard to eat properly, lose the excess weight I am carrying, and obtain proper medical care for my body (something I have gone years without!) is fantastic, but if I am ever going to truly feel whole and at peace, it is time.
Anyways, back to the physical therapy. ;) After we got all of that out of the way, she asked if I was ready to begin the actual physical therapy. Most of me wanted to scream no, but I took a big deep breath and said yes. So we began. She started by performing an exam to check the severity of my prolapse. She told me she could see it, it was definitly there but did not put it into words for the severity. I found that kind of interesting how she chose not to qualify it in such a way. After that, she told did an abdominal exam to check for my external trigger points. She repeated that was an internal exam. She could point to each muscle knot that I had deep inside, and worked to release them by gently holding pressure on them until the muscle relaxed. I can't lie, it hurt before it felt better. She did not prescribe any exercises and specifically told me to not perform any kegels. She explained that my muscles had to relax and heal first before we could work on making them stronger. I was thankful for that part. When I went through 8 weeks of physical therapy over the summer, that physical therapist through me directly into strengthening my abdominal core and it never felt right at all. I stopped because I felt as if I was doing more damage than good.
While she was working on helping my muscles relax, she asked me about urinary tract infections. I went over my history of them, and how I've been on more antibiotics than I could possibly remember, sometimes 3 times a month for very recurrent UTIs. After we talked about them, she pressed on a trigger point that instantly brought me to tears. It created that very sharp, intense, sudden onset burning that I have always thought of as a bladder infection. She guessed that after I had a few true bladder infections, my doctor wasn't even testing me anymore and was just calling me in prescriptions (TRUE!). She also guessed that the majority of the UTIs that I had were not actual UTIs. They were muscle spasms that were affecting my urethra, making me think that I had a UTI. I found this fascinating, as when I was younger I had a diagnosis of Interstitial Cystitis, which (as far as I understood it) meant that the UTI wasn't showing up when they did the urine test, but the patient was still reporting symptoms of it. SO, if you have recurring urinary tract/bladder infections, I HIGHLY recommend you seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist! Actually, if you have lower abdominal pain, minimal answers from other doctors, I highly recommend you seek out pelvic floor physical therapy.
The actual therapy itself seemed rather quick. Maybe 10 minutes total. Before I knew it, it was over. I will go back twice a week for the next month, and things will be reevaluated after that. Ultimately, it's a good first step in healing. I am ready, and I am worthy.
)O( Denelle www.MotherMoonPads.com