First I would like to say that I think everyone’s vagina is magical.
All people who give birth, either through the lobby or out of the sun roof, are strong, amazing beings and birth is truly a miracle. That being said, allow me to take you on a little journey…
Being a pelvic floor PT for almost 10 years has allowed me to witness many things.
I have worked with mothers and birthing people for a while now. I’ve seen a lot of vaginas, vulvas, perineums, and labias. I have seen it all! When it was time for me to have my own children, I decided that I wanted to watch the delivery. So I did; I watched my first son’s birth in a mirror, and I was pushing him out of me for 3 hours. I looked, and saw him crowning, and would see him descend with a push, and then go back up again, and then come down a bit more and then go back up. For 3 hours. I also saw other things in that mirror….like my bladder pushing down a bit, and I actually thought for a quick second, “Welp….there’s my bladder, looks like I’ll be in pelvic floor PT after this is over”. Can’t catch a break from work!
Pelvic floor dysfunction after childbirth is common. Common doesn’t mean normal, however.
One in 3 women experience leaking urine, pelvic orgran prolapse, or pain with sex, along with other conditions, and having a pelvic floor PT for all people who have given birth should be standard of care for postpartum recovery. But it’s not.
I, too, struggled with incontinence, prolapse, hemmrhoids, and painful sex for a while after my first baby. This is what I treat, and here I am, experiencing all of it. I sustained a grade 2 perineal tear: my first baby was 9 lbs 7 oz, and with pushing for 3 hours I created an environment that put a looooot of pressure on my pelvic floor. As a result I have a bladder and rectal prolapse. Sexy!
I tell my patients all the time, “Not only am I the owner of the clinic, but I am also a user!”
I leaked urine with activity and sneezing for a while after my first. It got better, I worked on it, I did the things I told my patients to do… most of the time. I knew what I needed to do, but it was hard for me to actually DO it. I was tired, I had a baby that took us 4 years to get, I was working, my husband was traveling, my parents lived out of state, I was breastfeeding and doing ALL THE THINGS, and I just didn’t want to do my rehab exercises. And I am a PT! I prescribe these exercises all the time to my mama patients. I tell them how important it is for self-care and making time for you, yet I just didn’t do it. Not right away anyway. By the time my son was 1, I was doing a lot better and felt like I could manage my issues well and I was exercising without major issues.
Then I got pregnant with my second, and his birth was fast and furious.
I pushed 3 times and out he came, 10 lbs and 3 oz later. He’s 2 now and I am still dealing with some leaking, prolapse for sure, and pelvic floor weakness. As working mom of 2, I still struggle with finding time to keep up with my exercises, but my patients motivate me and I do my rehab with them.
My vagina is still recovering! My boys are 4 and 2, and now more than ever, I am candid and honest and connect with my patients. I know how hard it is. I understand that now. I know it’s difficult to put yourself first for a few hours a week. I get it. I am right there with you. Running a business, taking care of kids, running the household, keeping all the millions of tabs open in my head is exhausting, and the last thing I want to do is work on my rehab exercises. But I know they work, I see the progress, and I am able to do the things that I want to do because of it. But I still have issues- for sure.
My vagina ain’t what it used to be. I’ll tell you that for free.
But she’s a badass and birthed 2 humans. I give her a little grace, and know that even though she may be different, a bit bigger and swimming pools are a new fun adventure, she still accomplished an amazing feat and I heart her for it. So yes, I will continue to push her along, help her regain her strength, give her some workout buddies, and do so with patience, humor, and a bit of frustration here and there if she decides to let pee come out when it’s not supposed to. Thank all things holy for black leggings.
I’m not ashamed of my vag, and I embrace this new side of things…however for her sake, and for mine, I will continue to find time to make her better, stronger, and work more optimally. I will never have my “pre-baby” vagina. That ship has sailed, my friends. So now we work with what we have. I’m proud of her and my body, even though things are a little different.
I work hard to accept my body and the changes it has undergone.
We don’t need to “get our bodies back” after baby. I really dislike that saying. Uhhh…my body didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t lose it in my Mary Poppins diaper bag. But we do oftentimes need a little help with recovery and optimal functioning for long term health. It’s hard to accept, this notion that things have changed. I spend a lot of time working on being patient with myself, navigating these changes, and working to make things (ahem….my vagina) work a bit better. I tell my patients all the time that their bodies are capable and strong, because they are. I sometimes have to take my own advice and repeat the same thing to myself. My body is capable and is getting stronger. I’m good with that right now….and I look ahead with optimism and a sense of security.
Every vagina has a story, and every story is different.
As we all embark on our own postpartum journeys, we should draw strength from each other. Let’s laugh about the absurdities that happen, because, you know, no one tells you about what a “queef” actually feels like. Let’s high five when we don’t leak urine with sneezing, laughing, running or wine drinking, and share the triumphs of our victories, no matter how small or big. Find your village, grab your mom friends, and start talking about this. Discuss what your postpartum road is like, what recovery means to you, what isn’t going the way you expected, and who is available to support you. Let’s make vaginal recovery part of the conversation.
I’ve been doing this work for 10 years, and believe you me, we all have our own vagina story, we just need to share it. When we finally normalize telling our stories, we’ll be able to fix the common vag issues that should never have been made normal in the first place.
Marcy is a featured expert in The Mama Sagas’ book, The Guide to Survive Motherhood: Newborn Edition. To ask Marcy your specific questions, join us for The Better After Baby Jumpstart, launching June 17.
Marcy Crouch, PT, DPT, CLT, WCS
Marcy is a pelvic floor physical therapist who runs her own clinic, Restorative Pelvic Physical Therapy, INC in Redondo Beach, California. She is the proud mama bear to two boys, drives a mini van shamelessly and loves the ocean, horses, and a good glass of wine. Follow her on Instagram @thedowntheredoc to learn more than you want to know about vaginas, and to find links to podcasts, blog posts, speaking engagements, and other publications she has been featured in related to pelvic floor health and motherhood.