First off- I will Not issue a ‘trigger warning’ or an ‘NSFW’ warning at the start of this post.
A) I made the title fairly obvious and B) people need to know this shit happens.
There are Moms running around making all this baby-making stuff look SO easy all the time, and I’m a little bit sick of that.
I think it’s high time that we as a culture start Openly and Honestly talking about some of the stuff that goes along with pregnancy.
Some women have Awesome pregnancies- largely uneventful. Save for the run of the mill normal stuff like constant heartburn, nausea, lower back pain, and fatigue- but that is par for the course.
That was my first pregnancy with Sadie- fairly easy peasy. I was working with 3-6 year olds at the time during the day, and doing an after-school care program with elementary school kids in the afternoon, so my immune system took a giant hit during first trimester, but that was largely it.
I regaled my coworkers with stories of heartburn and food aversions, and then I got strep throat, and then I got Hand, Foot and Mouth disease as an adult, which manifests as giant open sores in your mouth and throat, so that was fun.
But largely- I had it pretty good.
I couldn’t Stand meat- the smell of it or the look of it, starting at 9 weeks and lasting until about 20 weeks. But I had no nausea and no puking whatsoever. Mom-friends of mine Hated me whenever I mentioned that.
And then somewhere around 25 weeks, I started noticing that I found it Really uncomfortable to stand up for more than 15 minutes.
I would be teaching something in the gymnasium at the after school program and would notice that instead of running around with the kids like an adult child, I was benching myself fairly often.
Then it got to the point where I felt like when standing up for more than 10 minutes, I had to cross my legs at the knees and squeeze my legs together, or else it felt like my down-there’s might pop.
I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning this to any of my Mom friends, and I assumed it was just normal pregnancy stuff, so I took to Google instead.
Google said things like ‘increased pelvic pressure’ and ‘increased blood flow to the area’ etc, but until I got to a link called ‘vulvar varicosities’, I didn’t feel like what I had was your ‘everyday, first time pregnant, this could happen to you’ kind of thing.
So I clicked the link to ‘vulvar varicosities’ and read on.
And then I took a velfie.
I don’t know if that’s a ‘thing’ or not yet, but I’m making it a thing.
With my giant belly sticking out, I couldn’t really see my nethers, so I stuck the trusty old iPhone down there and snapped a pic on selfie mode.
The results were Terrifying.
Some women have relationships with their vulvas. They know what they look like normally, and they know when they do Not look at All normal. I am this kind of woman.
I think it’s a travesty that some women, if shown a picture of their own vulvas, would have no idea who it belonged to.
Anyhow- I snapped a pic, and I was like ‘this is Not good.’
I texted my midwife. She’s a saint and was like ‘sounds you have vulvar varicosities, for sure.’ And then I asked if I could text her the velfie I had just taken. And because she’s a saint, she said yes.
At my very next midwife appointment, I received a medical note that stated that teaching was no longer an option for me at this point in my pregnancy as it involves way too much standing, and so, at 32 weeks, I was on bed rest.
8 weeks later, Sadie emerged, and my bulging labia veins calmed the hell down. At this point, I developed another condition called ‘lightning crotch’, which is another Super-Not-Awesome and very rare potential side effect of pregnancy- but that’s a story for another day.
Fast forward to 2 years later, and I get pregnant with Number Two.
All is going similarly well as pregnancy Number One, until somewhere around week 12, when I notice that I’m sitting all the time, it hurts to stand up from sitting, and I’m doing the weird ‘cross my knees and squeeze’ thing again.
Enter the velfie.
I snapped another pic and had a look.
Oh, Shit! This Can Not be Good.
My lady bits at 12 WEEKS are looking as bad as they did at 32 weeks with Sadie.
The damn baby isn’t even half a pound yet at 12 weeks, and my vulva is already falling apart.
I went to my family doctor and asked him to check my cervix. I was legit concerned it might be falling out, the pressure was so intense.
He laughed and then apologized for laughing and did a check of my nethers, and assured me that other than my very angry vulva, everything else was as it should be.
Next- I went to my midwife. She recommended epsom salt baths, pelvic physiotherapy, and compression panties for vulvar varicosities.
Now- if the statement ‘you need compression panties for vulvar varicosities’ doesn’t make you feel Dead Sexy, I don’t know what does.
So at 20 weeks pregnant with Number Two, I went on work from home orders, and I started treating my condition seriously.
I can’t stand up for more than 15 minutes.
This makes things like:
Taking the dog for a walk, and
Caring for a toddler
Very much impossible.
So I’ve gotten real with myself and made some adaptations.
I cook mostly from a bar stool now.
I have anti-fatigue memory foam mats (like those nice ones from Costco for your bathroom) in my kitchen, and when I feel like my veins might explode, I plop down on my mat in the kitchen and just watch things in the oven burn.
The dog no longer gets walked. I take her to the tiny and very lame dog park we have in town, or I throw balls to her in our backyard.
The child does not get nearly as much physical play with me as she used to, but we get by.
Grocery shopping is a painful hell show, and I motor through the aisles like a drill sergeant on speed. I’ve tried click-and-collect and didn’t love it. Turns out I have trust issues with other people making good produce and substitute selections for me, so I just grin and bear it and do a once-weekly militant food-gathering excursion.
Sex- hahahaha- I don’t know what that is anymore.
And I go about my life, acting happy and smiling and camping every weekend and making it look easy.
A few weekends ago, a few ladies and I were sitting around the campfire, and the topic of physical postpartum came up.
I make the distinction between Mental and Physical postpartum here because there’s been a shift in recent years where people seem more open and accepting of discussing elements of Mental Postpartum, such as depression or anxiety or brain fog, and that’s Awesome.
In the world I want Sadie to grow up in, I hope every man, woman, and child is comfortable discussing these things openly.
But what myself and these other two ladies were discussing a few weeks ago was Physical Postpartum.
We were sitting around the fire just laughing and trading stories about such hot topics as:
Postpartum contractions during breastfeeding
Postpartum pooping and how terrible it is
And we were having a Blast, just letting it alll hang out. Pregnancy is a Trip- and it’s pretty fricking funny to hear other women’s stories of being in the trenches.
We had two fire pits going that evening, and about 20 friends in attendance.
Other people would wander up to our postpartum hilarity fire pit conversation and then balk.
Their eyes would pop out of their heads and they would say things like ‘OMG that’s disgusting, I’m leaving!’ Or ‘what the hell is wrong with you girls??!! No one wants to hear that!!’ And then they would go back to the preferred fire pit, where women Weren’t talking about what was real.
And it Really Pissed Me Off.
Most of these comments were made by men.
Men whose women had endured all of these things to bring them Their children.
These women who continue to Every Day silently sacrifice for their children, be it through breastfeeding or child-minding or cooking for the family unit or not being able to jump on a trampoline or laugh too hard anymore because they’ll piss themselves.
Pregnancy Doesn’t End with Delivery.
Sure- the baby comes out- but the Effects of carrying that life within you can last the Rest of some women’s lifetimes.
And I Hate that we shy away from these topics.
Or that people use the word ‘gross’ when they hear about these things.
I wanna change the script.
I want people to think ‘Heroic.’
So- I’m putting it all out there.
I’m 26 weeks along, my vulva looks like ground meat. And it hurts like hell, most of the time.
I don’t want anyone’s pity- pity is not going to reduce the size or ferocity of my angry beaver.
I just want laughter and empathy and understanding.
And most of all- if someone pregnant googles Vulvar Varicosities, I hope this article comes up, or that someone refers them to it.
I don’t expect everyone to be comfortable with airing their dirty laundry like I am, but I do hope that other women see me as someone approachable. I have found some tips that help to alleviate the pain, and I’m willing to share them.
Pregnancy is a trip- I’m here to give directions, if you need them.