Mary Shelley Had NO IDEA

July 29, 2008

Oh, hey! Guess what this is:


Nope. Not a bunny, not a reindeer, not ‘Glory Hole with Chewing Gum (Triple J Truck Stop- Yuma, AZ, 2003),’ not ‘The Wind In My Vagina,’ not a minimalist profile of a very sad donkey (all actual suggestions, please to go read and pee yourself.) No: these are my HIDEOUS NETHERS.

That is a picture of my lady parts, as sketched by my doctor. Although I suppose that we might say that it is less art than it is an artifact of doctorglyphics: it’s an attempt by my doctor to explain to me how it was that yes, things can get worse than a fourth-degree tear sustained in an emergency delivery! That fourth-degree tear can end up with a botched repair because the surgery was performed so hastily and under such trying and messy circumstances. (So hastily that one of the attending surgeons – wait for it – stitched his finger to my parts. That, my friends, is another gruesome story for another day.) Yep: botched repair. Sloppy stitchwork. Sewn up wrong. Sewn up so wrong. Ripped and slashed in birth and then stitched up roughly into some hideous, half-healed, scarred-up mess. Monster-nethers. Frankenvulva.

Click to enlarge, if you dare. MWAH-HA-HA-HA.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall anybody ever telling me, ever, that the vaginal delivery of a baby could result in varying degrees of genital mutilation. Which, you know, is probably not surprising, given that stories about ripped anal-sphincter muscles just wouldn’t do much for the sales of those glossy pregnancy magazines. And I can’t blame my mother for not telling me, nor the Canadian education system for neglecting to cover the subject of SEX ORGAN DAMAGE in middle school sex-ed. Because, yes, that would probably have scarred me for life, and my parents and my teachers and the architects of sex-education programming in the province of British Columbia knew it. So, it’s no wonder, then, that I had no way of knowing that after giving birth I would, indeed, end up scarred for life.

Of course – of course – it was all worth it, the miraculous gift of my beautiful son – my beautiful progeny – being more than ample recompense for the damage sustained to my birthing parts, which did, after all, just do the job that Nature intended them to do (not, however, particularly effectively. JUST SAYIN) yadda yadda blah. But still. My joy at the gift that is my son does not in any way mitigate my frustration with ongoing nether-discomfort, my distress at the possibility that I will go through the rest of my life with a Frankenvulva and my determination to get it fixed and put the damage behind me (figuratively. The damage is, after all, literally behind me, and, also, below me. But whatever. Details, schmetails.) So. Is he going to hear about this at his wedding? HELL YES.

(Not really. Not unless I’m drunk, that is. Which is a possibility, I suppose. A good one.)

(Anyone who had any illusions about me being some kind of gentle and gracious soul is really, really disappointed right now, I guessing.)

(There’s no way to close this kind of post elegantly, is there?)

(The end.)

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    { 119 comments }

    Sharon July 30, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Delurking to say that this post is the only thing that comforted my still-lingering feelings of ‘wish-I-could’ve-experienced-childbirth vs.-having-my- (now 3 and 5 year old) babies-pulled-out-of-me-in- surgery’. So you certainly deserve a HUGE pity party with lots of your favorite comfort foods and thanks for helping me get over mine ;-) . Heal well. Your kids are adorable. I love your writing. Thanks for blogging all this.

    Nicole July 30, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Oh, I’m sorry.

    (Said through giggles – your writing makes me laugh).

    And really, if you can’t laugh about it, what else is there? Besides wine.

    And I have been raised and live in BC – they don’t cover that stuff in sex ed.

    I think HBF should buy you a spa day for that. Just sayin’.

    flutter July 30, 2008 at 12:49 am

    you could bow, I suppose. That would be elegant…

    Petunia Face July 30, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Holy mother of god and all that is anal! That was the funniest, most honest post about childbirth I have ever read. Dubious distinction, I suppose, as you are the proud owner of that perineum a la Miro. But still. Thank you.

    LetterB July 30, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Oh man. You’re taking me back. With my first I tore pretty badly and needed stitches. A week after delivery the stitches came apart and I had to go into my OB’s office and get them redone. (You know, with shots of Novocaine in the perineum first. Good times.) I actually referred to it as my “Frankenpussy” but that’s cause I’m all street like that.

    Leslie M-B July 30, 2008 at 1:37 am

    I’m so sorry. But yeah, been there–not because of bad stitches, but just bad healing. I still am unhappy with the midwife for asking me, “Do you want to see a mirror?” during the birth. I should have looked away–I’m now permanently emotionally scarred as well. :P

    Anissa@Hope4Peyton July 30, 2008 at 1:47 am

    I’ll share TMI too, that I didn’t tear BACK, I tore UP! So, when the doc wanted to stitch something…anything…he tried to stick his hand back up there to get all Betsy Ross in my hoo hoo. After my baby with the 19cm head came barreling out, I NEED a ham-fisted derfwad trying to go back in like he’s digging for gold.

    I screamed. I swung. Needless to say whatever was broken STAYED broken.

    Hope you and your new vulva are very happy together.

    sugaredharpy July 30, 2008 at 2:12 am

    My, it looks like your doctor was playing the graphical version of HooHaa Exquisite Corpse.

    How fun for you!

    mama speak July 30, 2008 at 2:17 am

    I too have a similar story; only no pix to remember it by. I keloid scar & that type of tissue doesn't actually heal when it's keloid…special. So I got the 2nd experience w/shots and "laser clean ups" and such. Big Fun! But that was w/my first kid and no such issues 2nd time around.

    Rachael July 30, 2008 at 2:20 am

    I read about fourth degree tears when I was pregnant and I flipped my lid just a little. OMG. You are funny, but just… I’m sorry dude. Frankenvulva. Geez. (Hugs) to you and your genitals.

    Tootsie Farklepants July 30, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Man! And I felt bad for my SIL who broke her tailbone during delivery. Dude! You blew out your taint!

    Hugs.

    Anonymous July 30, 2008 at 3:38 am

    Yeah, I just had a Fenton’s repair to restitch what the original doc stitched up wrongly (apparently he put in a seam which I didn’t actually NEED, thank you very much, but apparently with bruising that severe, it’s very hard to do it properly…) Recovering from stitches with a newborn is one thing; recovering from stitches while chasing an over-active and very mobile nine month old is quite something else… I feel for you. Try not to leap too wildly over the childgate in hot pursuit. You will regret it.

    I also don’t remember reading about the vaginal mutilation, funnily enough. I read a bunch of natural birthing crap about how my body could DO this and about birth being a sexual experience. Dear oh dear, what a giggle… Am signing up for the elective c-section next time around, I am fed up with people playing cross stitch with my undercarriage. Time for my midriff to step up…

    Sam July 30, 2008 at 3:53 am

    Wow. I am now very thankful that I endured a slice n dice in my nethers for birth #1 which took ages to heal and still gets a little unhappy with too much sexor almost 14 years later. Why am I happy about this? Because otherwise my currently pregnant self would be in the corner, fetal position, thinking OMGOMGOMGOMG after looking at the picture of your hoo-ha. Which I may go do right now anyway.

    Sass E-mum July 30, 2008 at 3:59 am

    It really brings home the fact that genital mutilation is NOT a cultural norm anywhere.

    What gets me is that after all that, you still hauled your frankenvulva all the way to Blogher… gulp. Are you superhuman?

    Ha ha – after surgery will it be ‘SUPER-Vulva’?

    may-b July 30, 2008 at 4:49 am

    I think you should ask for a bionic vulva.

    People keep telling me these stories about ripped nether regions and pooping uncontrollably in front of strangers. I may never have children now.

    Naomi (Urban Mummy) July 30, 2008 at 6:03 am

    I have to tell you, I feel your pain. (Literally). With Linus, a forceps delivery left quite the horrible after effects.

    Let’s just say that, more then 6 months later, I FINALLY got to see an OB and he had to cauterize STILL OPEN WOUNDS.

    Good times.

    Karen Sugarpants July 30, 2008 at 7:19 am

    You are not alone. I’m saving (seriously) for a designer vagina from LA. Not kidding. Did I mention I was serious? Every month it is a problem in terms of pain – for the last 4 years. Fun huh?

    Anonymous July 30, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Forgot to add (I’m Ms Fenton’s Repair) that my consultant drew something very, very similar even though my problem was different. I swear to God, I think they teach them how to draw a vagina (lots of vague fold-like lines), and then they just do crazed squiggles trying to explain what went wrong.

    THopgood July 30, 2008 at 8:08 am

    There’s something to be said for good old fashion C-Sections!

    Tracey July 30, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Oh man! I had SO hoped it was a picture by Wonderbaby!!

    Are they able to do the repairs? You poor thing. I’m so sorry having a vaginal delivery has ended so twisted for you…

    Maria July 30, 2008 at 8:17 am

    The second child to find her way out of my girl parts decided to do so in about two minutes landing smack on the living roonm floor and DESTROYING my pelvic floor muscles.

    The pregnancy with the third child created the awesome medical creepiness know as a a cystocele and a rectocele.

    I’m 26–My girl parts are 85.

    KayleighJeanne July 30, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Actually, I did explain the vagina-disintegrating-into-pieces aspect of childbirth to my sister when one of her friends got pregnant. So far, it has been an effective method of birth control.

    (And I’ll listen to your vagina talk anytime.)

    Deb July 30, 2008 at 8:36 am

    My smallest baby was 9lbs. the biggest 10lbs 11oz. My poor perineum was ripped to shreds three times, infected twice and is now fine. Yes, babies can and do rip us to shreds and it hurts like hell. Some women actually end up with their bowels torn open which is not a good thing.

    Getting it fixed sounds a like a good idea. And take care of yourself sweetie.

    wyliekat July 30, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Ouch. OUCH! AND OUCH!!!!!

    I thought it was bad when my post op meeting with my doc involved him applying ACID to my nethers to get rid of “granulation”.

    Granu-what now? There is not supposed to be a silo in my crotch. It isn’t meant to resemble a beach. There ought to be no pebbles in my poochie.

    Still. I must declench my bits (locked in sympathy).

    However. OUCH.

    Assertagirl July 30, 2008 at 9:16 am

    THIS is why I continue to read blogs written by moms…the education I’m getting is far more valuable than anything I could have learned in school, or even from my friends over coffee. That, and the writing is painfully funny.

    xo

    Anonymous July 30, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Oooh, ouch! I feel your pain! With my first, I had a borderline 2nd/3rd degree tear (the midwife wrote 3rd, then scratched it out and wrote 2nd. i think so she wouldn’t have to get a docotr to stitch me up). It didn’t heal. The stitches fell out, still a gaping wound with scars at the edges. They reopened it with silver nitrate. I *think* I kicked the (male) doctor in the head when he applied it, since he had told me “this won’t hurt at all.”Bastard.

    With my second, that giant-headed kid (9lb 11oz 22 inches – I had to bring my own hat to take him home in since the ones at the hospital didn’t fit) managed to tear one of my labia in half. horizontally. And I had wiiiide internal tears (as opposed to the perineal tears of the first). There are extra, um, folds where he repaired the tear. They’re prone to infection. I have a feeling that I’m headed for labial cosmetic surgery. sigh.

    Dodi July 30, 2008 at 9:24 am

    OMG! That is hysterical!
    So glad I found your blog because it made me realize that coffee can, indeed, shoot through your nose!

    Mimi July 30, 2008 at 9:30 am

    The critical theorist in me asks the philosopher in you: what do you suppose it means that you describe your mangled lady parts as a) below ‘you’, or b) ‘behind’ you?

    a) obviously, yours is a logocentric self :-) Working the up/down, north/south binary, ‘you’ are the civilized north, while down south … the wild jungle!

    b) this might just be a bad pun. As a literary critic, I have to allow for those sometimes.

    Ouch.

    Melanie July 30, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Oh, and here I was foolishly toying with the idea of a VBAC. Thanks for helping me off the fence!!

    And sorry about your junk. That really sucks.

    caramama July 30, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Oh my. That just sucks sucks SUCKS! I am really sorry.

    I’ve also never been so happy to have my still-aching-16-months-later C-section scar.

    growingapair July 30, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Catherine, STOP what you are doing RIGHT NOW and call a colo-rectal surgeon. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Or loonies, or whatever you Canadians have for dollars.

    I had this injury, and I had the surgery to repair it last November (search “Frankentaint” on my blog.) I am not usually so bossy, really I am not, I am just praying to jeebus that you read this comment because this surgery is SERIOUSLY A LITTLE CRAZY and I’m sure you’re not stupid (I was), but, um, there is much to know about the repair for this injury that my doctor never told me, and the world is FULL of women whose doctor never told them either. Please feel free to email me at 2shews at geemail dot com.

    Sorry to be so dramatic. You can go back to whatever you were doing before now.

    kgirl July 30, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Only good thing about a c-section is that the vajayjay was spared the second time around. (It wasn’t so lucky the first time. You know it’s gonna hurt when your midwife tells you that you have a perinneum of steel.)

    kgirl July 30, 2008 at 10:31 am

    P.S. The first part of that comment – the OMG, THAT SOUNDS AWFUL! part, got deleted by baby and I didn’t notice.

    Plus, since I’m here again anyway, I’ll just let you know that pretty much the first thing my m-i-l ever told me about my future husband was that he ripped her ‘from ass to tea kettle.’

    So yes, bring it out at the wedding.

    Nic July 30, 2008 at 10:38 am

    I’m 25 and I think this post was the best sex education I’ve ever had. I’m sitting with my legs crossed all day in honor of you.

    I don’t know why the US bothers with abstinence only education. A little drawing on blackboard would be WAY more effective.

    Jenny, the Bloggess July 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Oh, soul sister. I had the same issue and later came “unstitched” because of shoddy work. I called it my frankengina. I wrote a whole post about it but never published it because holy hell it was bad. And when I finally got in to see the doctor she was all “OH MY GOD!” which is not good and she ended up cauterizing (yeah, CAUTERIZING) the wound. Wasn’t as bad as I expected though and now? Pretty much good as new. You’ll heal and frankenvulva will too. Well, frankenvulva will. Your mental scars from seeing your friend so badly beaten will last awhile.

    Janet July 30, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Oh. No.

    I preferred the minimalist reindeer interpretation over your reality. I hope the doctor who attempts to make things right got an A+ in home ec.

    pkzcass July 30, 2008 at 10:46 am

    So sorry to be getting such a chuckle out of your problem, but the whole post was hilarious. Anyhoo, can they fix it? If you said something about that in your post, I missed it. Couldn’t read too well from the tears rolling down my face.

    Issas Crazy World July 30, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Holy crap. Am wanting to schedule c-section now.

    It is kinda funny that your doctors picture passed as a WonderBaby drawing. Doc needs an art class or something.

    Overflowing Brain July 30, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Yow. If it makes you feel better when my mom had my sister she was cut from opening to opening (I’m sorry, it’s my mom, I cannot discuss real anatomical terms) and they left a sponge inside her for 2 weeks. So I mean, at least frankenvulva doesn’t smell like a dying animal.

    That’s got to make you feel good, right?

    Domestic Extraordinaire July 30, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I had similar issues with my parts after Giggles was born. Things were an issue for a long time. When I got pregnant with Chicken my new doc was horrified that it was like that. So when Chicken was born (very quickly and tearing lots) They were able to fix most of the damage done. Things are much better now.

    bejewell July 30, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I’m really grateful to have found someone with a similar problem. Perhaps we can become BFFs as we bond over our shared affliction.
    What? No, not THAT affliction! I mean our shared addiction to parentheses! (I’m thinking about starting a support group.)

    (I know this comment is a little off topic, but what is left to be said about your vagina that hasn’t already been said?)

    The Other Laura July 30, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Aaaargh! It takes talent to make such a nasty sounding injury sound a little funny.

    (I still think you’re a gentle and gracious soul.)

    Amelia Sprout July 30, 2008 at 11:10 am

    I was really hoping that wasn’t it, but crap. Ouch. Get the surgery to fix it, or whatever you need, and I hope to god your healthcare system realizes you need it without question. I’m rethinking another one. Last one big, stuck shoulders, episiotomy, and she was early.

    lavandula July 30, 2008 at 11:13 am

    ouch i so thought that was a wonderbaby pic.so docs can’t write legibly or draw so’s you can understand what looking at…when i had baby # 2 the doc had to sew me up because i tore and I.COULD.FEEL.EVERY.SINGLE.FECKING.STITCH .ow!and he said to the nurse can she feel that? hell yeah i felt it.hope they can repair your hoo hah catherine

    Kyla July 30, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Frankenvulva. You slay me!

    I didn’t tear, but I did have an episiotomy with BubTar’s delivery. I swear, I can sense the weather changes with the scar in my vag. Weird.

    Lovely addition to the “Things No One Will Ever Tell You for Fear You Will Not Procreate” also known as the “Things I Will Tell My Friends Only After They’ve Gotten Knocked Up”.

    Don Mills Diva July 30, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Ouch.

    I just don’t know what else to say.

    I’m sorry maybe?

    'That Girl' July 30, 2008 at 11:45 am

    My nether-regions are clenched in horror..even though I’ve had the tearing and the stitches and the too-quick baby, the thought of willingly going in to have it fixed makes me clench..tight..

    Vicki July 30, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Damn. That is terrifying. I ended up having emergency c-section with twins so I’m glad that they didn’t do that to my lady parts. OUCH!! I think there would be some investigating into the medical background of one crappy-stitch-sewing surgeon. And then possibly some recompensation because that should just be just plain illegal what they did to your lady parts. I’ll say it again…OUCH!!!

    Mandy July 30, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Loved your rant on misogyny! Perfumed, lactating cows unite!

    After my first boy, I had a tear (nowhere near like yours), but the stitches (done twice) wouldn’t take because of the “delicate” nature of the skin in the area (labia). After my second boy, the unrepaired tear ripped more, and again could not be healed by stitches, I became resigned to my permanently damaged sex parts.

    My doctor said that there is actually a vaginal plastic surgery industry (many porn stars apparently use it along with boob surgery) if I was interested.

    Still trying to sort that one out. How do you claim that one on your insurance?

    heels July 30, 2008 at 11:54 am

    When my midwife was stitching me up, the birth attendant peeked over her shoulder and said “Hey! It looks like a smiley face!”

    Great.

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