When I told people I wanted labiaplasty surgery, the usual response was, “What's that?!”
Well, I explained, it's basically when they chop your inner labia off. Sounds fun, right?
This of course prompted terrified faces, and the expected, “Why the hell would you do that?”
As much as I tried to explain why this was necessary for me, most people were confused, horrified, and put off by the subject. It was unfathomable. It was obviously unnecessary. I was crazy.
Ever since I was 11 or 12, my labia have been, how shall we put it, enormous. Monstrous. Excessive. Not only was this physically uncomfortable (think slipping out of underwear and constant chafing), it was unsightly. The first guy I had sex with actually commented, “Wow.. you've got some... big lips...”
While I already knew that, the fact that a guy NOTICED it was horrifying. What? You mean I'm weird? It didn't exactly boost my self-esteem.
I researched the surgery many years ago, back when it was hardly done, something you had to essentially fly to California for. I thought I could never get it. Maybe rich, older women who were obsessed with plastic surgery, but not me. I begged my mom for years, and she, being an obstetrics nurse, told me I was normal and thought I would grow out of my insecurity.
After years of complaining and telling her about my self-loathing, she agreed to pay for it only a few months ago (me being the poor college student that I am). I met with a very experienced male surgeon who I had researched extensively, in the same city I live in.
On the appointment day, as I talked with the nurse, I realized I wasn't scared, but excited -- After waiting so long, I was finally going to do this! I gave my information, talked about why I wanted the surgery with the nurse and the surgeon, and discussed a payment plan. We set the date for my surgery as Tuesday, May 15.
I was anxious for weeks. Having to study for finals and write papers for classes seemed so unimportant compared to what was coming. Finally, that magical day arrived.
I walked in at 7:25 in the morning with my boyfriend, the spa-like center desolate. The patient coordinator guided me to a room where I donned a gloriously ugly patient gown and white robe. After putting my things away in a small closet, a nurse came in with a bottle of water and two large pills which I had trouble swallowing, but eventually managed.
The surgeon came in one last time, and marked my outer labia with a marker -- the place he'll be injecting a filler, to make my outer labia more, well, full. An extra thousand dollars, but I wanted it. As I stand there before this man and two other nurses, no makeup, legs apart, gown open, in my yellow polka dotted socks, I have never felt so ugly. Fortunately, it doesn't last long, and I am eventually taken into the back room where they perform the surgeries.
The room is completely white, well-lit, and frankly, quite scary. I am told to lift the gown up and lay on the operating table, and I do so. The surgeon tucks two pillows under my legs, and puts my arms through two loops on each side, Velcro-ing me down. It's like they're going to torture me.
They stick many white, circular patches to my chest in order to monitor me, and I basically enter a consciousness of what they call “twilight,” where I'm awake, but just barely. I remember saying somewhat ridiculous things during the operation, but I'm sure they've heard worse. I was awake the whole time, and while I could have slept if I wanted to, I strained to keep awake, because I was interested in what was happening.
I could feel the doctor stitching me up at the end -- I could feel the movement, but there was no pain. It was weird, and kind of fun.
After surgery, they took me back to the room where they put in my IV, and a nurse helped me back into the comfortable cotton dress I came in. She places a huge square cotton pad into my underwear, and I'm too drugged up to have any shame.
I am reminded about my post-surgery appointment a week away, before my boyfriend and I leave, victorious.
The first day is a sleeping, pill-popping blur, but I do remember bleeding excessively. After applying pressure and not moving for a few hours, it subsides, and I look at my genitals for the first time.
Holy shit, I look like a baboon in heat. My vulva is swollen to five times its size, red, bloody, stitched up. Franken-Vagina, I think to myself. Yet, nothing hurts.
I continue to pop pills every few hours, and I end up sleeping about 18 hours a day for several days. When I'm not sleeping, I'm busy stuffing my face with horribly unhealthy food -- I'm healing. I have needs, okay?
Today, exactly one week later, the swelling has gone down extremely, but I'm still slightly bruised and it still looks pretty gory down there. The stitches sting a bit from time to time, but I finally get them taken out on Friday, and I can't wait.
The whole process still hasn't hit me yet. After waiting for this for 8 years or so, it seems completely unreal. I looked at myself in a full body mirror yesterday and thought for the first time, “I look feminine. I look right.”
I can't wait to see what I look like when everything is finally healed -- I think I'll enjoy sex more, I'll be able to wear jeans comfortably, and I won't have to worry about if my lady bits are going to fall out of my thong or not (it's a very serious problem, people). I've never had particularly high self-esteem, but I know this surgery is definitely going to help me in that department.
This surgery, which so many scorn and misunderstand, has finally brought me to a place where I like my body, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
And for the people that still think plastic surgery is ludicrous: You try walking a mile with a lip hanging out of your underwear.