I can’t write about my uterus anymore, since I lost it back in early April (oops!). But I wanted to provide a short update on the aftermath of the surgery. Last time I wrote, I had just found out that I needed to have physical therapy for pelvic floor pain and tightness; I wasn’t excited about it, to say the least.
One thing that frustrates me a lot is that I went through the entire surgery, the painful recovery, and I’m not really better than I was. Or rather, the things that were a problem but not bothering me (uterine prolapse) are resolved. The things that were bothering me (herniated back vaginal wall, making bowel movements difficult) are still problems. (Sorry, I know it’s icky to read about. Imagine having to live with it, double ick.) Plus I have soreness in places I didn’t use to have soreness, chronic sacral pain and a tightness that makes me wonder if intercourse is a physical impossibility.
So today I had my second appointment with Celia, the physical therapist. She specializes in pelvic floor issues, and to my relief, she is very sensitive about what the experience is like for me (for all her clients, I am sure). During the first appointment, all we did was talk about what I was experiencing. She mentioned what she thought might be issues and already gave me something to work on, without having to touch me.
Today the agenda included a vaginal exam. She told me though that we didn’t have to do it today if I didn’t want. We didn’t have to do it at all, she said–it would be helpful for her to have more information, but she wouldn’t do an exam if I didn’t want to. I decided I did want it though, because I really would like to get the issues resolved, and I think that’s more likely if she knows exactly what’s going on.
Okay then, Celia said. But she also reminded me that we could stop at any point if I needed to. I’m in charge, she told me. Clearly she’s experienced at working with women who have some kind of trauma history.
She did everything right, and it was essentially fine. She’d ask me though if something hurt, and if so, how much on a scale of 1-10. I could never answer that. I couldn’t really distinguish between what felt like pressure and what hurt. I felt confused. I think I was holding myself so tight and protected that there was not much brain space left for noticing sensations.
Celia paused in the middle to make sure I was okay and could keep going. I was pretty tense at that point, so she wasn’t wrong to check in.
“No, keep going,” I said. “I’d rather just get it over with.”
“I’m not sure that’s the best thing,” she replied. “It’s never a good thing to rush with your body. It doesn’t matter if we do the whole exam today or some of it next time or never do the rest of it. But it matters if you aren’t feeling okay.”
We eventually did keep going a bit longer, and then she decided that was enough. I’m glad now that she did, because after she left, I dressed and took off on my way home, I realized that I was sore. Not too bad, and it’s already better, but I wasn’t able to notice it while I was still in the office.
I’ve been thinking about this appointment and especially about my “keep going and get it over with” approach. I think that’s my approach to a lot of things, physical and sexual things, and also demands and stress at work. I override any instincts I might have to stop (or I don’t listen to them or maybe don’t even have them). I can see that Celia’s right, that rushing might not be the best approach. I wonder what it might mean to slow down and pay attention to what my body feels. It could be hard at first, but perhaps I could learn to sense my reactions in the moment and not an hour or a day or a year or many years later?
I’m grateful to have this realization in the presence of a sensitive and concerned practitioner, rather than in the middle of a situation where I might feel some external pressure to keep going. Isn’t that interesting? I didn’t expect to be grateful for anything about this physical therapy.
P.S. Nice post by alisonslist on what pelvic floor PT is like. Since I’m still in the diagnostic phase, I can’t speak yet to whether I’ll have a similar experience.