(Disclaimer: This entry is not for the faint of stomach. Nor is it for my brother. Or anyone else who doesn’t want to know that I like sex.)
Last Thursday, I had a Bartholin gland abscess drained by my gynecologist. A Bartholin gland abscess is “the build-up of pus that forms a lump in one of the Bartholin glands, which are located on each side of the vaginal opening.” If you’re a little freaked out from reading that, imagine how I felt when I heard that was what I had and then, what had to be done.
It all started earlier in the week, when I felt a soreness in my vagina (yes, I am going to use the word vagina). The next day it was worse and there was a lump. A palpable, tender lump in the area directly to the right of my vagina. It hurt when I sat, it hurt when I walked. So I went to see my gynecologist. He knew right away that it was a Bartholin gland abscess, even before he examined me. And it needed to be drained. I’ll spare you most of the gory details, and you can go here for further information. And no, there is no specific way to prevent this because there is no specific cause. But the procedure basically involved opening me up like a clam, then poking, cutting and draining in an area that should not be subjected to that kind of thing. To say that all of this hurt would be an understatement and I have a high tolerance for pain. My leg muscles were so tense while this was going on that I thought I was going to break the stirrups off of the table.
But I think the worst part of all, after he put a Word catheter into the abscess to help it drain and heal, was that he told me I couldn’t put anything in my vagina for six weeks. No tampons, no penis, not even a Rabbit. The disbelief on my face must have been tremendous because he reiterated, “nothing in the vagina, six weeks”. That’s an eternity.
Over the weekend, the pain got worse and the area became more swollen. By Sunday, I was limping around the house, in tears and on Vicodin left over from my husband’s vasectomy, my thoughts consumed by the idea that my vagina might actually be permanently damaged. And that without my vagina, what am I? Just another frigid suburban housewife? This fear was what worried me the most. But that night, the catheter fell out and I felt much better. I called the doctor the next day and he said don’t worry about the catheter. And since then, I have continued to heal, with the help of some strong antibiotics and hot baths.
But this experience has made me think about the importance of sex and sexuality in my life. It’s a big part of who I am. It wasn’t always this way. Ten years ago, I wasn’t very comfortable with my sexuality. I wouldn’t have cared if the doctor said I couldn’t have sex for six weeks. I would have asked him for a note, as proof, to bring home and give to my first husband. But after my divorce, and a few years of therapy, sleeping around and ultimately meeting and marrying the right man, things changed. I changed. I came to appreciate this part of me and feel comfortable with it. Because this is the thing: sex can’t be really good (fulfilling, intimate and just plain good), unless you feel comfortable with your own sexuality.
So, I go back to the gynecologist next week for a follow-up. Hopefully, I’ll get the all-clear because I like to think that I heal quickly and I think I’ve already reached my nothing-in-the-vagina limit. Five more weeks is a long time, no matter how comfortable I am with my sexuality. Just ask my husband.