What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
In case you couldn't tell from the title, this is about my prolapsed uterus. I personally don't care if people know about my prolapsed uterus but my mother was horrified, so I thought I would start with a disclaimer.
From the top down, your body is supposed to go uterus (upside down baby pouch), cervix (pouch closer/opener), vagina (flexible tube). I always thought the vagina was sturdy, and that's what kept your uterus up inside your body. Turns out, your vagina's pretty useless structurally, and it's actually a network of muscles surrounding your uterus that keep it basically floating in the middle of your body. When your pelvic floor muscles are weak, your uterus has no support and can fall into your stupid vagina, pushing the cervix with it.
Now, there are various degrees of this stuff. First degree is when your cervix drops down into your upper vagina and no one really cares or even notices. Fourth degree is when your entire uterus is outside your body and people definitely care about that (Google this if you feel like being traumatized). I have a second-degree prolapse, which means my cervix (and therefore, uterus) is still inside my body but my cervix is peeking out of my vagina like, "Sup?"
This whole thing started with an IUD. I am one of those natural hippie types and have been trying everything to get my period to chill out and be cool. I have endometriosis, horrible PMS, and mood swings with a .500 batting average. I eventually gave up and got an IUD, a little device that sits in my uterus and releases a low level of progesterone to eventually make my periods all but disappear. I felt like I was giving up on my moon cycle, my womanhood, my lifeblood. But then I had my first "period" on my IUD and now I'm the president of the IUD fan club (the website is still under construction — don't Google it).
Anyway, the IUD sits in the uterus, but in order to remove the IUD there are two strings that go through the cervix and dangle at the top of the vagina. All you have to do is tug, and the IUD will come out. After getting the IUD inserted, you have to go back in about six weeks to "make sure the strings are in place."
Naturally, I was curious, so I squatted down and took a look. Imagine my surprise when I saw the strings hanging out of my vagina like the string of a tampon. I was immediately worried the IUD had come out of my uterus because I did not want to go through the pain of insertion again (it was horribly, shockingly painful).
I gave the strings a gentle tug, but they were firmly in place. So I Googled it. People said that when I go in for my re-check, they can trim the strings. All my worries disappeared and I went about my life.
Except not really.
I squatted down again, and this time tried to follow the strings with my fingers. I was so confused. The strings were only an inch long before they disappeared. Since my vagina is much longer than an inch, I didn't know where the hell they went. They seemed to be going up into this fleshy protrusion that sat just inside my vagina. I felt around where they disappeared and discovered a tiny hole.
Holy shit, that's my cervix, was more or less what popped into my head.
See, I had seen this fleshy protrusion for as long as I could remember, but I had no idea that what I was looking at all these years was my cervix until I felt the IUD strings coming out of it. I couldn't see the opening of the cervix because it was angled slightly downward. To me, it always looked like there was a smooth tongue-looking thing sitting in the opening of my vagina.
A fleshy protrusion just inside your vagina, you ask? How did you never freak out by that, you ponder? Why did you never go to the doctor, you wonder?
Because of feminism.
As a teenager, I wondered if everything was normal down there, but I quickly learned through body-positive websites and feminist blogs that everyone is different and difference is what's normal. I learned that every vagina is like a snowflake and we should embrace our differences.
So when I saw this smooth tongue in my vagina, I was all, "I am woman, hear me roar." My vagina was normal because it wasn't normal. There is no normal. So I thought it was normal.
See? Not my fault.
The gynecologist never caught my prolapsed uterus because I instinctively tightened everything, sucking my uterus back up inside my body when my legs went into the stirrups. I am fairly certain I would die of embarrassment if I farted in the gynecologist's face, so I keep things pretty buttoned up when she's down there.
After discovering my prolapsed uterus, I called the gynecologist for an emergency appointment because I was freaked the hell out. The nurse gave me the appointment but told me she doubted I had a prolapsed uterus because people my age who have never had kids do not have prolapsed uteruses (uteri?). It just doesn't happen.
Well, she was wrong. I have a second-degree prolapsed uterus.
The gynecologist told me to do my Kegels in the hopes of stopping, and possibly reversing my prolapse. It's not like I've never done my Kegels. I totally did them whenever I remembered, which was maybe once a month. I thought I didn't need to do them religiously because I was so young and had never been pregnant. I thought I had time!
She also told me to suck my bellybutton towards my spine. Turns out, that will strengthen another pelvic floor muscle. Well, well, well — feminism apparently struck again. A few years ago, I stopped sucking in my stomach as a screw you to unrealistic body standards. Thanks, feminism, I inadvertently weakened another pelvic floor muscle.
If the prolapse gets worse, I may have pain or discomfort and might have to get an implant to hold my uterus up. On the plus side, my gynecologist told me that giving birth will be easy because everything is so loose down there, but that after I'm "done with my uterus," I should have it taken out. She was legitimately sad for me. Like, she literally said, "I'm so sad for you."
Dude, me too. My muscles are so weak, I have trouble holding a Kegel for more than five seconds, and when I suck in my bellybutton, I can feel it from my stomach to the tops of my thighs and I end up breathing hard like I'd just ran around the block. I could have fixed this years ago before it had gotten so bad if only I realized something was wrong.
The snowflake analogy is nice, but it's a fucking analogy. Sometimes snowflakes are messed up. They're broken or missing an arm or some shit. Also, they're snowflakes. Not vaginas. But Kelly, a prolapsed uterus has nothing to do with your vagina. Well it does if your cervix is trying to sneak up behind your vag like that weird kid who keeps trying to hang out with you and your friends. Eventually you let her join because it's just easier and you can just ignore her anyway.
So thanks, feminism, for all your body positivity and snowflake talk. For making me see that my body is perfectly normal even when things are not where they're supposed to be. Thank you for making me realize that I don't need to perpetuate the thin ideals of the media and I can let my body sag where it wants, including, apparently, my uterus.
If you'll excuse me, I have to go run around the block (do some Kegels).