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Jess sits on a blue sofa holding an extremely new baby wrapped in a blanket and is showing him to a curly-haired boy in a blue shirt.
"And here are your brother's toes!"

Content warning: This story includes scary birth information, so don't read it if you're pregnant. I repeat, DO. NOT. READ THIS IF YOU ARE PREGNANT. If you're thinking about becoming pregnant, you might want to skip it. And if birth trauma just doesn't sound like a thing you should read about, skip it!

My second kid was born by vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) at home. We planned a home birth, to be attended by a midwife, but she badly estimated how long my labor would be, and missed it. My midwife missed my freaking birth. I delivered the most gorgeous 9 pound 4 ounce baby boy right into my husband's hands in our basement at our house.

It was an insane, incredibly, empowering experience. That said, my little dude came flying out like a cannonball, and instead of his head molding as he was delivered, my vagina...well...expanded so he had room. The midwife stitched me, but I think because I was pretty swollen, it didn't stitch together very well, and so it healed like crap. I was in pain for several months, and the midwife kept saying that the stitches weren't fully dissolved. Everything was painful. Sitting, standing, sometimes even laying. Walking was difficult, and using the bathroom became very painful. Eventually, I got sick of it and made an appointment to go see a different provider.

At that office, I assumed the position (women know the one), and the provider there looked and said, "I'm going to grab the doctor and be right back."

Not quite what I was expecting or hoping to hear. On their return, they laid out a few options. One was a series of cryotherapy treatments in office, and the other was surgery. I ended up opting for surgery. So, two months (and a little bit) after my son's birth, I ended up getting surgery. Essentially, they cut back open where I had torn, and restitched it so it could heal better.

Surgery was terrifying, and I woke up in searing hot pain. On the way home, I had my husband stop at Dunkin for coffee and a sandwich, but I don't think I even ate the sandwich, because my stomach ended up in a twist by the time I actually had it.

My husband later told me that after the surgery was done, when the doctor came to talk to him, the doctor tried to joke that he "put an extra stitch in there for you." In 2012, doctors still making that tired ass joke. And maybe, he actually meant it. Because after healing, my vagina was closed up tight. It was terrible.

It took a little while to heal, and when we eventually tried to have sex, it just didn't work. Nothing would fit into my vagina. I couldn't even comfortably use tampons.

I went back to the doctor who had operated on me, and he said it was fine. He didn't see any issues. I attempted a variety of home treatments over the next year, and had very modest improvements. Eventually, I was able to have sex, but it was terribly painful.

One day, I stumbled across an ad for a urogynecologist. Among the conditions they said they treated was listed "painful sex." I had been to a few different doctors at this point who all told me the same thing: they couldn't see any problem. I called the office to set up an appointment.

From the start, it was different. The doctor sat down with me in an office with my clothes still on to take my history. It was a very different experience than trying to give your health history with a paper blanket wrapped around your legs and butt. Once she got the full story, she had me go to the exam room. She told me my pelvic floor muscles were in spasm, and that advice to do kegels was actually the wrong thing to do, because you can't strengthen a muscle that is just stuck in spasm. Her plan was a series of injections in the vagina (that part wasn't as horrible as it sounds), and pelvic floor physical therapy, plus vaginal suppositories with medication to reduce the inflammation and help my muscles be able to relax.

Pelvic floor PT was a lot less awkward than it sounded. We focused for a while on being able to relax the muscles, massaging out scar tissue, and developing a better connection with my pelvic floor muscles.

Gradually, the combination of treatments improved everything and helped me have no pain.

I'm going to be really frank here: I was extremely ashamed of all of that for a long time. I guess I had just enough of a Catholic upbringing to feel like you don't talk about these kinds of things, or maybe it was some residual shame, feeling like I had brought this on myself by opting for a homebirth. Who knows, but I felt very ashamed and uncomfortable talking about it. This might be my most raw blog post yet, but I think it is important for women to talk about these struggles so that other women who experience the same might know how to fix it. I didn't know where to go, or what to do, and everyone I saw said they didn't see anything wrong until I got to the right place.

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