Fear after pelvic organ prolapse
One writer was treated for her pelvic organ prolapse, but the fear of it never really went away
About three years ago, a fear I had never imagined showed up on my doorstep, and it still looms in the background every single day. One Sunday evening, I was sitting in my home trying to enjoy the Super Bowl with my family, but the pressure on my bladder was relentless. I kept trying to go to the bathroom and adjusting my position, but nothing helped. I panicked. I had no other choice but to head to the emergency room and hope that a doctor could end the misery.
My regular gynecologist was out of town, and told me on the phone that I probably had a UTI. Nonetheless, after weeks of bouncing around between other doctors, I found myself sitting in a urogynecologist’s office, vulnerable and anxious. What would he find? Would I ever feel better? When the doctor told me that my insides were starting to fall down, I began to sweat and almost passed out. I didn’t hear the rest of his diagnosis and recommendation that day. All I knew was that my worst fear had come true: My body had failed me.
Fast forward through pelvic surgery, weeks of post-surgery pain, multiple doctors, acupuncture, and physical therapy. My inter-related prolapse and urinary incontinence--most likely caused by a vaginal birth and unlucky genetics, according to the doctors--took over my life during that time, and the cloud of anxiety followed me around wherever I went. I don’t know about you, but when I feel like there is something awfully wrong with my body, every minute feels like torture.
Was I just supposed to live my life like nothing had ever happened? I now viewed my body as weak and shattered. I had done nothing to deserve this! The anxiety led to anger, frustration, sadness, and disappointment. I am not sure that I will ever stop feeling afraid that my organs will fail me again.
Sure, it has gotten easier over time now that it has been a few years since my surgery, but not without some major adjustments. I no longer run, jump, hop, or skip, because I worry that my insides are not strong enough. I no longer work out in the gym to the extent that I did before. No heavy lifting. No pilates. No intense ab exercises like crunches. And definitely none of those large machines that everyone else is using to build strong muscles. I may be overreacting, but I couldn’t get a straight answer from the various experts about my exact restrictions. They gave me specific guidelines for those first few weeks after surgery, but then I received conflicting advice about how much I could lift, if I am allowed to run, and whether I can do ab exercises. So, I err on the side of caution because of the overwhelming fear that continues to linger everyday: of experiencing discomfort and pain again, or of having another surgery. Whenever I see a woman running, I cringe, thinking that her insides could be on their way down at that very moment.
But the absolute worst part of this experience is that I had to stop carrying my daughter, who was three years old at the time of my surgery. I still worry that she feels rejected by me, her own mother. I should be able to lift my baby girl up to the sky and twirl her around. But the fear overpowers me, because I don’t have confidence that my body will be able to withstand the pressure and weight from activities that I used to so easily take for granted.
My daughter still talks about “mommy’s belly problems,” the term I chose to explain why I couldn’t carry her anymore. Besides missing out on that irreplaceable bond, taking her to a public restroom also causes a great deal of stress. There are times when I have to lift her up on the toilet to avoid germs on the seat, but that leaves me choosing between two awful fears. I panic that my issues will come back just from simply helping my daughter go to the bathroom safely.
Fears often race through my mind. Fear that my organs will fall out of my body. Fear that I will pee in my pants. Fear that I will suffer prolonged pain. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of not being able to be intimate with my husband. Fear of more surgery that will only make matters worse.
We get uncomfortable when we see incontinence commercials and laugh at the jokes about women peeing in their pants, but when will we start sharing our fears so that we can all realize that we are all struggling together? Someday I will tell my daughter my story and hope that she will do what she can to prevent this from happening to her. From doing Kegels to simply being aware and in touch with her own body—this is the gift that I can pass along to her after my challenging journey.
And maybe one day, I will learn to love my weathered body without the panic anymore.
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