I can’t explain why I did this, but after hearing from Dr. P, my new gynecologist, that I was going to need surgery, I made an appointment with the nurse practitioner I mentioned earlier. I don’t know if I wanted a second opinion, an explanation of why she told me I was “perfectly fine” when I obviously wasn’t, or the opportunity to blame someone for my body’s refusal to cooperate. Probably all of the above, but I had no real agenda as I sat waiting for her. Breezing into the room smiling, she asked why I was there. “Already pregnant, are you?” she suggested with a wink.
“I can’t have sex,” I said expressionlessly for the umpteenth time that month.
She chuckled. “Oh, honey, I know it’s awkward the first few times, but you just have to—”
“—Make it work,” I finished, nodding knowingly. “And my body just has to relax. But what I’m telling you is not that it’s difficult or awkward. It’s not possible.” I emphasized the last sentence, so she’d catch my exasperated tone. I was getting tired of saying these words.
“I see.” She studied me and breathed a slow “hmmm.” Narrowing her eyes as she pursed her lips, she advised, “Well, then, I would suggest losing some weight. The better you feel about your body, the easier it will be to share it with your hubby.”
I cringed. I hate the word “hubby,” and in this case, it was the final straw when paired with yet another unhelpful recommendation. “Listen. I am telling you that I can’t have sex. I couldn’t even if my body looked like Beyoncé’s. My physician says I need surgery to remove scar tissue.”
She didn’t invite me to hop on the table so she could check things out. She didn’t say, “Well, I wondered if that would cause a problem.” She didn’t let on that I had said anything at all: she just repeated her weight-loss PSA, patted me on the knee, and ushered me out. I stared at the back of her head as she walked away, vowing to never step foot in that office again. Squinting into the sun as I headed back outside, I felt the infernal tears coming on. I slid into my car and rested my head on the steering wheel. All I knew about my body was: 1) It should be smaller, 2) It featured “udders,” and 3) It barred me from creating the physical union that should have been at the center of my marriage. However much I entered married life hating my body, it had doubled.
“God, You have got to be kidding me!” I raged. “We kept our bodies pure! Never did we give into temptation, never did we risk disease or pregnancy, never once did we do anything but try to please You with our bodies! And this is how we’re repaid!” All the anger I felt toward the nurse practitioner, my own body, and the situation itself poured out in a messy display. “Of all people, why us?” I was sobbing and fuming, angrier than I’d ever been before. It was so unfair. I felt inadequate as a wife—completely, painfully inadequate. I in no way measured up, and although my struggles were private, I felt exposed. It seemed to me that everyone could see I wasn’t able to perform my wifely responsibilities. I was broken, damaged. But most of all, I felt unwomanly. If the part of my body that made me a woman wasn’t functioning, then what was I? If I couldn’t provide for my husband the physical intimacy that he craved, how could our relationship ever move beyond committed friendship? “Do something,” I seethed. “You have to do something here, God. I don’t know what to ask for, but You have to do something. Please, please take this away.” I sat in my car crying for a little over an hour, until I was so emotionally exhausted that there was nothing left to do but go home.
I’ll edit out the surgery itself. Suffice it to say, Dr. P pronounced me all healed up six weeks later. And then I began the battle against my religious anxieties regarding sex.