I’ve been putting this off for several reasons. Let’s face it. The vagina is something we whisper about with friends we know well, right? But as this blog spot does have a health bend, it would be unfair to keep this from you. After all, it could make a huge difference in your life (or in the life of a vagina you love) and in that way I find the following intel applies across gender. Even if you don’t have a vagina, you probably know one. (This is kind of feeling like a drinking game where you have to drink every time I say vagina. Are you getting that?)
It all started when my mom and my mother-in-law started having prolapsed bladder issues in their 70s/80s. Now that seems very far off, but then 51 seemed very far off 10 years ago, and, well–here we are. As my mom likes to say, “Be here before we know it.” Their subsequent surgeries, and especially my mom’s who I was there for, got me thinking about this process. As I would talk to young people that worked in the offices, they’d all had “procedures” done. The hospital staff had seen tons of these surgeries in women. Was this just something you had to do as you aged? That seemed off.
When I started thinking about it, I realized that I had become a little more drippy in the past five years. (Sorry. Gross. I know.) But it wasn’t enough to really catch my attention as the shift was gradual. At least, until I started talking to people.
“Oh, yeah. Definitely. That happens. You probably need medication or a procedure,” was the tribal cry.
I’m all about proactive health so I decided to make an appointment with my mom’s doctor. Part of the reason for that was I wanted to get an explanation about something that I felt was off post surgery with her, and partly to test the waters of any steps I should be taking so that come 70, I didn’t need to have bladder surgery. (Note to self: figure out how to keep bladder from falling out.)
I showed up at the appointment eager to get a plan in place. I was given a bunch of homework, including measuring what went in and out for 72 hours. (That was a pain!) But I tried to be diligent and accurate and took my papers back to my next appointment. When I arrived, I was taken to a back room. That’s where I got my own little 50 shades experience.
The room looked like a torture chamber. There was a chair covered in pads and all sorts of machinery going every which way. The nice lady tells me to undress from the waist down and we’re going to run a battery of tests which involves catheters going in various places (simultaneously? I can’t remember–I’ve blacked it out) and that this was a necessary step to determine what we needed to do about my “condition.”
Always the dutiful patient, I did as I was told. She came in and we started a series of very uncomfortable tests. About 10 minutes in I think I had what must have been an anxiety attack. (I’ve only once experienced anything like it and that was back in my early 20s when I was working for a bunch of high-maintenance lawyers who gave many people anxiety attacks.) The room started to spin. I couldn’t feel my legs. Part of me was like, “Oh–this is what it feels like when I create characters who have anxiety attacks in my novels.” The other part was saying, “If you don’t stop this right now, you’re (a) going to vomit and (b) pass out in said vomit with wires coming out every which way.
I told the lady I had to stop. She told me we had much more to do. I told her too bad.
I got dressed and walked out into the hall trying to process all that just went down. After about 5 minutes, I was perfectly fine. I said, “You know. I think I can probably finish.” Face the fear.
She hesitated. “Well, we don’t have much time until the next appointment, but probably I can finish.”
We try it again. At one point she says, “I’m going to need you to pee on my hand.”
What?! That’s not my thing!
The anxiety attack came back full throttle. Again I had to stop. I decided as I was getting dressed my body was clearly trying to tell me there was a better solution.
I headed home and called my family doctor. I needed to find another option, a challenging task in a small town. He referred me to a new doc that assured me they didn’t require hand-peeing and would only need a brief exam. We did that and it was simple and fast. No anxiety involved.
“You know what I think would really help?” he offered. “Vaginal therapy.”
“They have that?” I asked. “Sounds weird.”
“We have the best person in town for 500 miles. She takes something weird and makes it not weird.”
Enter Brande Moffatt. That’s her up there in the photo. We started sessions and he was totally right. I learned so much. That’s why I feel the need to share this personal insight with you.
Here are a few ahas from VT sessions:
1. Kegels are not good for everybody – as we are all unique, so are our pelvic floors. If your muscles are tight, Kegels can cause problems like incontinence and all sorts of things we don’t want.
2. If you clench or grind your teeth, you most likely have a tight pelvic floor. Everything’s connected. Super important to learn to relax those muscles. Otherwise, it can cause incontinence and other problems down the road even though that’s counterintuitive.
3. We don’t learn the parts as well as we should as we grow up. There’s really a lot to know.
4. Fun fact: Women on the east coast and women on the west coast have different hairstyles or lack thereof. (This came up as side talk after Brande had attended a conference where both were present. The instructor snickered and told her that.)
5. Vaginal Therapy (just like physical therapy for any other body part) is covered by insurance in urban areas. In my case, only via the appeal process and with the right argument because nobody for 500 miles does what she does. Explaining what it is to the male customer service guys is really fun.
6. There are many layers involved in this work: physical, emotional, mindful.
7. Breathing IS HUGELY correlated to correct pelvic floor operation. Brande really has to teach people that first thing and it’s somewhat counterintuitive. Once you get it, though, you’re like, “Ohhhhhhh.”
8. There are special things you should do when you are doing Zumba. You know those hip wiggles you do? You should be holding your pelvic brace in such a way (like a girdle) that things are staying in place and continue to breathe simultaneously. You thought Zumba required concentration before!
9. Anybody who is considering surgery should try VT first. Best case, you may not need surgery like me. Worse case, you will most likely recover more easily and with less problems when you learn what kind of pelvic floor you have and what you need to make it work its best.
10. The most important take away from VT is knowing how to live life. What do you when you go to Costco? Twist and lift a baby? Sneeze? All those things we do each put pressure on the bladder and while you might not care when you’re 20, you probably will in your late 40s or after you’ve carried a few kids.
BONUS 11: VT addresses a number of issues. The list is pretty lengthy. See Brande’s website below if you want to see it.
What people like Brande can do is teach women a skill they have probably never been taught. We are taught to bend our knees when we pick something up, but we are not told to “pick up the marble, brace the pelvic floor and breathe simultaneously so you don’t squeeze things out “like a tube of toothpaste.” (She says that a lot.) Knowing this can prevent costly (and unnecessary) surgeries and subsequent issues. Thank God for the second doctor who told me about this and sent me here as an option. I will be forever grateful.
As for me and my VT, I’m wrapping up with about 7 sessions under my belt. Literally. I’ve left my drippy days behind and have learned a whole slew of other skills for taking care of my body as it ages. (Thanks for hanging with me to the end.)
For more info on Brande, go to her site: http://www.brandemoffatt.com/