Catherine’s Story

Hello from Catherine (story – so far)

The Forum has become a wonderful community on the website. We encourage women with vaginismus to post their stories by way of introduction to the community. For many this is the first time they have shared their secret. For the patient below she not only did this, but discovered someone else who will have her treatment on the same day. What a wonderful way to cast off the shackles of isolation. Thank you Catherine for sharing this.

“Hello all….

Where to begin? I do not generally introduce myself by discussing the issues with my vagina, or even my sexuality. So…………. I have included quite a bit of my background/upbringing below, as I cannot help but speculate what internal circumstances and/or social-familial influences might have impacted my sexuality (if any). Skim (or skip altogether!), if you wish. My more recent diagnosis (Vaginismus) and the interactions with Dr. Pacik and his office follow.

Childhood Background

If we were to meet face-to-face apart from this Forum, I might begin by sharing with you that I am a 39-year-old woman from Suburbia, USA. I grew up in a tight-knit, Catholic family – the oldest of seven children, with four younger sisters, two brothers. While our faith played a significant role in our upbringing, never did I feel stifled or in any way repressed. Instead, laughter, music, and traditions filled our home.

However, as I reflect back – both on my upbringing (nurture) and my own personality (nature), certain trends do emerge. And I cannot help but wonder if / how some of these trends MAY have impacted how I handle stress and how prepared I was / have been to have sex. Since I was the oldest child in my family, my parents depended on their classic Type A daughter (e.g.: babysitting, cleaning, setting a good example, etc.). In my heart, I wanted to be the very best daughter possible. Many times that came easily; other times I could sense that I was clenching inside. In school, while I was a high performing student, I was always the kid who worried about bad grades, etc. (Again, my parents were not overly punitive or threatening. I just think that I was probably just an anxious young person?) Often, I would develop stomach aches or other minor ailments.

Waiting for Marriage

Meanwhile, life continued. While I was successful in other areas of my life (earned multiple degrees, bought a home, ran a marathon, etc.), I did not date much. Just like I worried about grades and appearances, I worried that I would not know what to say to a boy or, later, how to act around a man. Because of my Christian faith, I believed in waiting to have sex until after marriage. Given today’s culture, I assumed that it would be difficult to find a man who would share this conviction / worldview. Ultimately, I watched my three younger sisters and one of my brothers marry and bring children into this world. I was very happy for them, but – by my mid-30s – I wondered if it would ever be “my turn”? Thankfully, as I grew a bit older, I became both more confident in myself and more comfortable with who I was/am. I think it was that sense of maturity/development that aided me in dating Michael.

After years of waiting (in every way), it felt like a true miracle when married this “man of my dreams” in July 2010. Michael was (and is!) warm, funny, successful, supportive, and gentle in every way. (I could go on and on …… ) At 41, he had never been married, but did have some sexual experiences with previous girlfriends. This actually gave me some sense of relief; he would know how to guide us during our most intimate moments to come. I was 37, a virgin,… and cautiously optimistic that my husband would be able to lead us through sex over our honeymoon nights.

Honeymoon Surprise

Like many of the stories of women suffering with Vaginismus, it came as a surprise to both Michael and myself when our wedding nights came to such a quick end. Inserting his penis seemed absolutely impossible…… like hitting a brick wall! Poor Michael — one morning after a night of great efforts (honeymoon night three?), he awoke very sore and -both – physically and emotionally frustrated.

Where did we go from here? Not very far…. and we told practically no one. While I have this seemingly close family and a network of friends, no one dared to ask specific questions about our honeymoon. In a way, it was kind for everyone to respect our marital privacy. But how touched I was (and remain) – to this day — that my dear sweet hairdresser (of all people!) wanted DETAILS : ) She knew that I had been (& am!) a virgin, and I think she wanted to re-live some magical honeymoon moments. While I hated to disappoint her, I found myself confessing this crazy impasse to her. She has been a wonderful, trusted confidante over the past two years. Still, her best advice has been: just drink. You’ll relax, and then this will all work itself out. Believe me, I am not opposed to red wine or whiskey. If only it were that easy!

So, for the most part, Michael and I have been very isolated in this dilemma. With no knowledge of our real condition, one of my sisters called me with names of adoption lawyers. My mother – out of the blue – suggested sexual positions to try— in an effort (not to consummate, of course) to become pregnant. Michael’s brothers keep asking about his “swimmers,” etc., etc.

Doctor & Dilators

During my annual Gyn exam last spring (I have been able to have exams over the years – awkward, painful, but manageable), I talked with my doctor about this issue. He relayed to me – in hushed tones – about trying dilators for painful intercourse. He told me that if I used these for two weeks —- we would be “all set”! Wow. Really?, I remember thinking. We ordered a set, and I received them – only days before our first anniversary. (As it happened, this recommendation coincided with one thing Michael and I had happened to catch on the cable program Strange Sex earlier that year. There was a young woman there who shared a story similar to ours. She and her partner used dilators for painful intercourse and therapists to solve their problems.) With all of this in mind, the doctor’s prescription seemed to make good sense.

(Looking back, though, I have seen this same Gyn for over ten years +/-. He has known that I had (have) been a virgin, and that I have been very sensitive to his exam and pap smear. Why didn’t he suggest something – even these dilators? – prior to our wedding? Did he assume that sex would just come naturally? I purposely scheduled a visit just prior to our wedding — to make sure that I was in “good working order”! At that time, he gave me pre-natal vitamins and wished me every happiness.)

To be perfectly honest, just looking at the four dilators made me a little nervous. How would I EVER insert one of these devices in me when I could not make sense of a tampon? Still — I knew that I somehow had to “conquer” this — for my husband, for our marriage, for our future. I took a sip (or two or three!) of wine, located a mirror — just to study myself. Taking a deep breath and a lot of lubricant, I managed to ease this first dilator inside of me.

Over time (approx. 10 months, to date), I have worked to insert the first two of the four dilators. But, many times I have grown frustrated. I have hit a certain point on the third dilator — and just have felt unable to make any progress…. This has gone on for months…. and months. One of the last times, I just broke down in tears: what is wrong with me? This has become insanity!

Achieving Intimacy

As this Vaginismus condition has continued, our level of sexual desire – both Michael’s and my own – has declined. After a few months, Michael began having a hard time becoming erect and/or maintaining an erection. We really only have tried to have sex – or even sexual moments – two or three times each month. He spoke with his doctor, and received a prescription for Viagra. He/we have used the pills a few times, sometimes with the hope that they might provide the extra “charge” we seem to need. To no avail, of course.

Lately, I have felt guilty about all of this, as if I was somehow willing this in some way. Again, I cannot say enough how blessed I am have a patient, caring husband who does not blame me for this. We are intimate in so many ways — both in the bedroom and beyond. I am certain that it is our deep love for each other — as well as a sense of humor & perspective — that has helped us deal with this blockage.

Moving Forward

Most recently, I could not help but think that perhaps we should start exploring adoption – (maybe my sister was right after all?) – in addition to the dilation work. On Good Friday, I sat on our couch and earnestly prayed. Lord, please show us what to do. I started reading various adoption websites, but – even then – something did not feel right about this move. Infertility was not our concern; consummation was. I did one more random online search for forms of sexual dysfunction. And, for the first time, I came across the work of Dr. Pacik.

As I read his website (consumed it, practically!), the stories of his patients sounded so much like my /our story. Even more unbelievably, Dr. Pacik’s Botox appears to work — and the dilation under anesthetic — AND the success rates of his patients —- left me awestruck. Was this (is this?) too good to be true? I shared all of this with my husband, and – by Easter night – we had ordered Dr. Pacik’s book on Amazon. Even the title rang completely true: When Sex Seems Impossible. Yep, that’s us. Forget pain. I don’t even know what’s possible for us!

Thus far this week, we have reached out Dr. Pacik and his team. After completing the paperwork, Dr. Pacik agreed that I would be a suitable candidate for the Botox / Vaginismus procedure. By this past Thursday, we made arrangements for a June 12th procedure date. To be completely candid, if it were possible, I would have the treatment done today. Based on all we have read, this is our best chance to have a normal healthy sexual life — and our best shot at conceiving a child.

I am very happy to be part of this forum, and would be open to comments, questions, ideas from other members moving forward.”

The entire thread can be followed by linking to this section of the Forum.

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