Surrounded by three young mothers at a social gathering, I sat in isolation, fueling my insecurities. “When are you going to have children?” one of them innocently asked me. I responded and said, “I’m just not ready yet.”
But the truth, which was too personal and difficult for me to express at the time, is that I am physically stuck at the step needed in order to even attempt to have children. How can I desire children if the action necessary is currently not possible?
Vaginismus is a “condition that causes muscle spasms in the pelvic floor, which can make it painful, difficult, or impossible to engage in intercourse.” It is also sometimes a physical manifestation of anxiety within the body. I first received this diagnosis at my annual physical during my first year of marriage last year.
After many years of dating, my husband and I had waited until marriage and were looking forward to this new aspect of our relationship. When my doctor asked how this experience in our marriage was going, I embarrassingly admitted that despite our attempts, it hadn’t quite happened yet. I assumed it was just taking some time for us to “figure things out.” She paused, and explained that she thought I had vaginismus, which was something, at the time, I had never heard of before. She explained some different ways people choose to address this diagnosis, and said it might be necessary for me to start pelvic floor physical therapy if I wanted to make progress within the physical aspect of my relationship.
Prior to getting married, I had a particular idea of what newlywed life was supposed to be and expected my marriage to follow a specific path, particularly related to the Catholic faith. I felt great disappointment when I realized my experience would be different than my expectations, which led me to question the purpose in all of this. What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t my body work like everyone else’s? What is wrong with me? Why doesn’t God want me to experience this aspect of marriage?
Although I was grateful that my doctor was kind and gave me some suggestions to assist me, I did not know how to process and understand this information. I was scared and immediately felt anxious at the thought of needing to go to pelvic floor physical therapy. I did my own research and did not feel like it would be the most pleasant experience. How could I work through the physical pain and mental stress in order to make progress? Why would I put myself through this?
After some time and discussion with my husband, I finally received the courage to call to begin physical therapy. I had almost hoped that there would be another way to deal with my circumstance, but as it turns out, this journey has simply required a lot of hard work.
Although I am making some progress today, there are times when doubt and questions fill my mind and fuel my insecurities.
Sometimes I feel that I am not good enough.
Sometimes I feel like a huge disappointment to my husband.
Sometimes I feel that my husband would not have married me if he knew we would be dealing with this.
But I have begun to realize that these are not the thoughts God desires me to have.
God wants me to know that I am loved.
God wants me to know that even when I don’t feel like it, my marriage is beautiful.
God wants me to know that my husband and I married each other for a reason, and that our marriage is strong enough to handle this.
And thankfully, even when I don’t realize it in the moment, God continues to remind me of His love through the actions of others and experiences I have received.
God reminds me of His love when my husband says, “This is not your fault, I love you no matter what, and we will work through this together.” He reminds me of His love when my physical therapist is patient, kind, and reassuring during my treatment sessions. He reminds me of His love through the kindness and wisdom of the priest who married my husband and me. God reminds me of His love through my counselor who patiently listens to my fears and anxieties. He reminds me of His love when I take the time to care for my body physically through relaxation exercises and stretches. He reminds me of His love through small steps of progress.
And God reminds me that no matter what, He loves me, even in the difficult moments when it is hard to believe.
Although the experience of receiving my diagnosis and participating in physical therapy has been a process of reframing my ideas and expectations, I have hope that I will see the greater purpose as I continue to look for God’s blessings and gifts each day. God loves each of us exactly as we are, in this very moment, even when it is difficult to feel and believe.
God has a purpose, gifts and blessings for me and for you, “Because you are precious in my eyes and glorious, and because I love you.” (Is 43:4)
Lynn writes from New England and lives with her husband, Timothy, of almost two years.