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 }

    Her Bad Mother July 30, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Vicki – my doc says that it wasn’t so much surgeon-error as it was the fact that the surgery was done under extraordinary circumstances – outside of an OR, in a big hurry, with me unaesthetized (I KNOW. They gave me superficial freezing and TYLENOL) and much bleeding and mess. Oh, and? Quoth my doctor “It would all have been very swollen and ragged down there and so difficult to direct a needle” AWESOME.

    Amy K July 30, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Oh God. I’m pregnant with my first child now, and AFRAID. Very afraid. Do not want Frankenvulva. I hope yours feels better very soon. So are episiotomies a good thing? I read an article about how they’re the most overperformed, unnecessary surgical procedure in the US, but if they help prevent even worse tearing, I might have to consider it. Gah.

    Heather July 30, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Hmmm. Can’t decide if my c-section incision re-opening and the kidney stone were better or worse than if that had happened to me. Ouch!

    Maman July 30, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Elegance is over rated.

    Her Bad Mother July 30, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Mimi:

    “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.”

    The answer is b), but since you asked…

    The Socratic philosopher in me responds that “I” am a being with a tripartite soul – reason, spirit and appetite – and that my higher self (reason) exists above my lower selves (spirit and appetite), and that even these lower selves are in the most important ways separate from my body which is, after all, entirely controlled and directed by my soul. In that way, I can say that my (physical) life-giving parts are ‘beneath’ me – in all sense of the word, given that these parts are also meant to be subservient to me (the control by my soul over my physical being is after all what makes me human) – if we understand ‘me’ to be the soul-filled being who loves and pursues wisdom.

    But actually, I was punning.

    Babybloomr July 30, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Hoo Ha Hangman.

    I gave birth to two pinheaded girls, thank you God, so the damage wasn’t quite as technicolor. BUT, though my first labor progressed with the speed of a mollusk– seriously, it was like she was stopping at every Starbucks in the birth canal– apparently she was also wearing spurs because in the sweet afterglow/stitching up process, my Dr. casually remarked that she “nicked my bladder” and he would have to “do a little internal repair”. WTF?

    I didn’t think to ask for an artist’s rendering, though, dammit.

    I am truly sorry you are having to deal with this, even though I sat behind you at BH and made goo-goo eyes at the delicious, so-worth-it Jasper. Ask him, he’ll remember. It was special.

    Kristi July 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    So are they going to fix it??

    kittenpie July 30, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I’d say if it can’t be fixed and continues to be uncomfy, there is more than a good chance of you being drunk freuqently and it coming up at all SORTS of charming occasions…

    But really, OUCH. I can only imagine not only the discomfort, but how appalling, to consider what is usually thought of as a pretty-ish part being unprettied by hurried stitching. So very, very sorry!

    But – CAN it be fixed? And would it really be much better in terms of comfort? And then, would you want to reopen and start healing over? That would be a very , very tough call, lady. Gah.

    Sending you frozen rolled-up washcloths (I’ve hear they are helpful – TMI?), wine, and hugs.

    Tracy July 30, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    You just made me feel really good about my c-section…thanks!

    zchamu July 30, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Oh. Oh… oh.

    OK, I have a question here.

    I totally get how it was an emergency delivery, bombing down the highway at 300 kmh, crowning on the side road, etc. etc. so I totally get how the damage happened.

    But what I do not get is.. how they botched the repair? Surely once he was out they could have taken their time a little bit and done the job correctly?

    All’s I know is, my vagina has just written a letter to its lawyer demanding an injunction against any and all possible “natural” childbirth attempts (should the opportunity ever arise, of course.)

    Forever In School July 30, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    What the hell?!!!
    I am never ever gonna do that!

    What am I thinking??!Of course I will! I want to have children some time.

    No!! Please, no!

    I’ll somehow trick my doctor to give me a C-section. Or bribe the baby to come out gently (with the help of some lubricant or something!)

    But seriously, that is really scary stuff.

    Kimberly July 30, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Right now? I am so fucking glad I am done birthing.

    Can you say scarred for life??

    Ashley July 30, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    OMIGOD. I just died ten times reading this. I had a similar experience of trauma to the nether regions. My doctor didn’t draw a picture, though, and now I feel slighted!

    for a different kind of girl July 30, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    It is with pleasure that my first visit to your blog puts me face to face with your most holy of holy! This was equal parts hilarious and painful, and I’m going to look forward to coming around a lot from here on out!

    Also, thanks for stopping by and commenting on my place the other day. I appreciate it!

    Jaci July 30, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Hi, I found you through my google reader.

    I can’t believe someone botched your stitches like that! I haven’t read through your past blogs, but did you have a really long recovery time? My goodness! I thought I was sore and took way too long with the stupid sitz bath thing, but you must have been in agony! I hope you are healed and back to normal soon.

    CaraBee July 30, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    I would not have guessed that drawing was your lady parts. As a fellow 4th degree tearer, I feel your pain. Or really, I feel my own pain but I get you. Totally.

    Momily July 30, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    LOVE this post and had to LOL at the fact that i was sure that was a drawing your daughter had made for you!

    I very much wanted to be the friend that told it all like it really is regarding natural childbirth because of ALL those things that no one tells you . . . (the fact that you crap in front of complete strangers, for example!). I was so shocked by so much regarding birthing and the period afterwards that I thought it was my duty. Then I decided that if I were to do that then none of my friends would ever have children! Now I kind of feel out the waters before sharing anything. . . I mentioned to one of my pregnant friends that it would be a good idea to have someone around the house post-birth to do things like help her in and out of bed/the tub and she seemed incredulous as to why she would need help. i didn’t have the heart to explain how a newly ripped arsehole complicates all kinds of movement!! Perhaps i should just forward a link to your post!!

    Angella July 30, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    I was going to guess 4th degree tear on your last post (because I had one of those), but vulva had a nicer ring to it.

    Velma July 30, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I had a pretty big repair with my first, but the worst part about it was the lack of anesthesia.

    Oh, yeah, and the asshole doctor’s joking query as to whether I wanted the “girlfriend” or the “wife” repair. But then I tore him a new one, so I felt better.

    Whit July 30, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    … but has your doctor ever been to Yuma?

    Blogversary July 30, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I am so sorry. My best friend had the same thing and it really scarred her mentally.

    It is one of those child birth things that does not get a lot of attention.

    Genie July 30, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    When I was born my mother’s OBGYN was out of town and she had to use a Chinese doctor who spoke little English and sewed her up crooked. She has what looks like a permanent hemorrhoid and if she laughs too hard she farts uncontrollably. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the pregnancy manual.

    I hope they can make it all better now. I wonder if you could insist on a plastic surgeon for something like that.

    Shamelessly Sassy July 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Damn it. I was pulling for a reindeer. I’d imagine that the only thing worse than having a funked up vagina is a bajillion other people telling you about their funked up vagina. So I’m just stopping by to say hi. And that you and your son appeared to be very lovely in the New York Times.

    Sugar July 30, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    I had my first child vaginally and sat sideways for about a month. So when the doctors came in to say C-Section for the next one, I raised my hand and said AMEN and pass the cutting knife! The following two were very scheduled and very tear-free. Modern Medicine is a wonder sometimes…

    Erin July 30, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    If it makes you feel any better at all, I had nearly the same thing done to me as a cure for “painful intercourse.” Right down to the poor stitch job and a raging post-surgical infection. It was, by far, the most intense pain of my life. The worst part for me was that I’d had elected to have the surgery, because of a so-called “defect” in my anatomy that made sex very, very painful. Uh, no. I was not normal before, but I certainly have Teh Frankenvulva now.

    Now I’m pregnant, and scared sh*tless that I will rip the incision line again now that it has FINALLY healed. Been there, lived through that. Hope never to go there again. I’m so, so sorry for your pain.

    http://preggles.blogspot.com/

    Snarky Amber July 30, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Never. Having. Children. EVAR.

    Nina July 30, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    HBM, I love how you can make such a horrible situation so funny.

    But these comments? Are freaking me out. I think I need to go throw up a teensy little bit. And I’ve given birth twice (and had the whole stiches/tear thing once…though not anywhere near as badly as you…so, so, so sorry.)

    Ms Picket To You July 30, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    i was right after all — it’s a sad man with a papaya stuck on his head.

    (at least that’s what I am telling myself about a similar scary “diagram” i was given after birth number one.)

    Alli ~Mrs. Fussypants July 30, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    My vagina sends yours get better soon wishes.

    Ammie aka Sleeping Mommy July 30, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Thank you for putting this out there. No one tells us these things, and I’ve always felt like such a failure for not giving birth vaginally (not by my choice but still–FAIL) and this makes me greatful for what I have.

    Katie Schwartz July 30, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Oy vey, does that sound like big unfestive vadge fun. I’m so sorry. I thought menstruating while baking enough bread to supply Brooklyn was a challenge.

    They’ll get it right the second time and you’ll have a vulvarific nether region. Still.

    At least you still have the box God gave you and a beautiful spawn.

    ~ T ~ July 30, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    oh. my. God.

    (I’m going to go thank my lucky stars now that my doctors managed to stitch me up properly after my children’s ginormous heads came charging out. Whew.)

    Motherhood Uncensored July 30, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Am I the only one who thought it was something that Wonder Baby drew?

    Seriously. I’m not kidding.

    Phoebe's Phriends July 30, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Wow, that is serious birth control right there. Save the drawing so that when your daughter is a teen you can show it to her and tell her that if she has sex, THAT is what will happen.

    Kristine July 30, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Ah yes, welcome to the “Sisters of the Frankenvulva” club. We have our own handshake, did anyone show you yet?

    Fourth degree tear, sulcus tears inside, stitches opened up less than a week after the birth. Had to heal from the inside out, rather than outside in. And now I’m lopsided down there. And instead of diving right in, there is more of a ramp as an entrance. (TMI? yeah, probably) Fortunately, eight months later there is no more pain, although it does still feel a bit odd during The Sex.

    If I choose I can have it repaired. Hubby asked if I could get a bionic pussy, better than it was before, stronger, faster…

    Oh yeah, he’s a laugh a minute…

    Beck July 30, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I KNEW IT! I knew that’s what it was.
    And welcome to my world. My consolation – which isn’t much, right now – is that it WILL heal. Really. About ten months of now, you’ll be feeling much like yourself again.

    mamatulip July 30, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    Oh.

    Honey.

    Ouch.

    Bronnie July 30, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Ouch! I so relate. Had a third-grade tear AND an episiotomy when giving birth to my first. Really poor public health care, treated like a piece of meat. To make it worse, a hunky surfer-dude student doctor got to sew me up, while others came in to take a look at the horror. Was never having sex again, let alone another child. Got pregnant again by some miracle … but this time I went private, had really good care. The midwives were great, helped me a lot, and the obstetrician could see I was going to tear again, but just cut along the original scar line. It stopped it from getting any worse and recovery was not as painful as the first time. All I can say is that a supportive birthing team makes such a difference. Hope your HooHa’s lawyer can help give you some decent closure (sorry, but I couldn’t resist!

    mothergoosemouse July 30, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Feeling absolutely no satisfaction at all in being right.

    Suburban Gorgon July 30, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Oh, god. I thought the picture had been drawn by your daughter…..

    Walking With Scissors July 30, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    I only made it to the “tearing forward” comment and I had to put my head between my legs. Childbirth isn’t for the faint of heart. This is one of the first times that I’m grateful to have had two c-sections…

    kristen July 30, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    My friend had a similar problem and what helped her (I’m not sure that you are up for it) was having her second child and having it tear and get sewn back up correctly the second time. Yikes!

    Lisa b July 30, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    I knew that was a drawing of your girly bits. I just thought wonderbaby did it.
    doctorglyphics indeed.

    I think I got what Kristen said….but no one medical bothers to tell me things like ‘hey you have a fourth degree tear’ or ‘lookout you’re heamorrhaging’. I have to read it in my chart later.
    I didn’t get any drugs either and despite my repeated “I can FEEL that’ no one cared. So I feel you and I am totally thinking that line about being in a rush is total crap. It is important to take the few extra moments on someone’s lady parts. They’d saved so much time in your delivery what was the rush with the repairs?

    Her Bad Mother July 30, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Lisa – well, they couldn’t give me anything but topical freezing and Tylenol (which, can I say? WTF. LIKE THAT HELPS) – so I COULD FEEL IT ALL OMFG – and there was mucho bleeding, so that, apparently, was the hurry. Also, doc said, the swelling from the trauma made it hard to stitch. But also – the two attending docs were RESIDENTS. Not full doctors. One of them cut his finger stitching me up. So methinks there was some junior fuckuppage.

    sam (temptingmama) July 30, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    My God. Frankenvulva. I never laughed so hard!

    Two words my friend.

    Vaginal Rejuvenation.

    Oh, and now that I’ve seen a diagram of your hooha, I’m going to think about it constantly the next time I see you! LMAO!

    Pooks July 30, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Moments like this make my agnostic side come out, GOD BLESS! Since I had an emergency c-section with my first, I’m now DEFINITELY leaning towards a scheduled c-section with my hypothetical second.

    nomotherearth July 30, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Hm. OUCH just doesn’t cover it, does it?

    Ack.

    Her Bad Mother July 30, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Pooks – if I were ever to have a third – WHICH I AM NOT – I would schedule a c-section in a heartbeat. A HEARTBEAT.

    Maggie, Dammit July 30, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    “FRANKENVULVA” — ?????

    buuuaaaaaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!

    *snort!*

    *sniff*

    sorry.

    (pah!)

    Heidi July 31, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Now I never want to have kids.. well, again that is, and not vaginally either, well they were c-section, but still. You scared me. Sorry bout your nibits, that sucks.

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