I can no longer take Advil.
Or shave off my pubic hair.
As of this morning, I have to stop having sex and wearing lotion.
I’ve spent a lot of time looking at scribbled drawings of my vagina, bladder, urethra, and uterus on various packets of paper.
I was sitting in the chair of the urogynecologist my gynecologist referred me to for bladder leakage, and watched him sketch a long tube attached to this other blobby thing, eventually leading to another flappy thing.
“Sorry,” he laughed, “I’m a terrible artist, and I have to ask you some questions about your vagina and bladder, I’m sorry if this is embarrassing?”
“I pee my pants when I brush my teeth, literally nothing you can say to me is embarrassing.”
I’ve had a lot of hard conversations in my life, mostly confessing to Andy that I ate whatever food he was hiding in the fridge, or that I was wrong about something, most likely what hole I poured the windshield wiper fluid into.
But I never not had conversations with my doctors about period pain and bleeding, or my escalating incontinence, because they were embarrassing. I didn’t have them because I thought they’d shrug their shoulders and remind me that there are bigger things in this world than peeing my pants or bleeding through tampons every hour. I was downplaying my issues for them.
We’ve all heard the jokes about motherhood weakening the bladder, hell, I’ve made most of them. We see stand up routines about PMS and menstruation gifs. We walk the aisles of Target and see our sisters stop mid stride, cross their legs, bend over to sneeze or cough, and nod at them in solidarity.
These things are just lady problems to which there were no solutions. Much like how we’re just left to fake orgasms and buy stock in daily panty liners, the female body is a mystery, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY HOW ARE THE KIDS?
How did I get here?
I stopped being able to go commando two years ago, as I felt like I was now always leaking, not just during laughs or coughs, but merely turning my head or standing up too quick caused wetness. My urgency ramped up about a year ago, and my success rate of making it to the bathroom in time once I realized I had to go dropped to about 60%. Panty liners, Icon and Thinx underwear are staples to my wardrobe.
Breathable fabrics? My vagina wishes.
When I brought this problem up while sitting on the paper covered table of my gynocologist, I led with, “This is probably not a big deal…”
She stopped me after my third apology for my admission, placed her hand on my leg, and asked if there were things in my life I wasn’t doing because of bladder leakage.
There were so many. I could no longer run. Hiking and coaching soccer now required a poise diaper. I’m less involved, I’m consumed with worry about getting to a bathroom, I’m 37 and I own diapers for myself, what the fuck?
“Brittany, if you woke up one day with drool dribbling out of the side of your mouth, and the only way to contain it was duct taping a thick maxi pad to your cheek, would you call the doctor for a solution?”
I was passed to a brilliant urogynecologist, we checked off a series of boxes: weight loss has not helped, pelvic therapy has not helped, medication addresses the urgency but not incontinence… faster than I could secretly stuff a pair of peed in panties in garbage can of a movie theater bathroom, I had a surgery date for a urethral sling.
But the hysterectomy?
Did you know they make Ultra sized tampons? Light, Regular, Super, Super Plus, and then, oh hello, Ultra.
Ultra tampons are about the size of the flares you shoot out of guns when you’re in distress at sea, and I pulled one out, and put a new one into my body every 1-2 hours.
A few months ago, I was on the same clotting medication the military uses to stop bleeding in wounded soldiers during battle. I was on that for my period. It did not help.
Between those times, I moonlighted in emergency rooms and urgent cares with a belly full of burst cysts. I am the world’s most broken firework.
When I met with my gynecologist to go over the latest post-cyst rupture ultrasounds, I told her about my upcoming sling surgery, she leaned against the desk in the exam room, crossed her arms and said, “what if I joined him and did a hysterectomy at the same time?”
Aren’t you too young to be at this point?
Nope. I’m not.
I might be young in terms of the age of women you typically hear of getting a hysterectomy, like your mom or your grandmother.
But, I can tell you that I am not young in terms of the women who need a hysterectomy.
I can tell you about more women than not in my friend group, in my age range, that are going through the red tape of this process. They are exasperatingly and expensively ticking off the boxes of the solutions that they and their doctors know won’t work, until they get to some arbitrary women’s health goal post that allows them to finally take this step.
I am young to have the privilege of being two days away from my surgeries. I am not young for needing them.