The Wedding Night Nightmare by Anonymous
THIS ARTICLE IS INTENDED ONLY FOR MOTHERS AND MARRIED WOMEN.
The following story is a very graphic description of one frum woman’s struggle with and victory over PVV, a medical condition that makes marital intimacy extremely painful. I was very hesitant to post such an extremely graphic account of what took place behind one woman’s bedroom door. But when I consulted with my rabbi, he encouraged me to post this article, explaining that the benefit to women who will, IY”H, be helped by this article’s publication outweighs the need for secrecy around intimate matters. I would like to request that you share this woman’s important story with kallah teachers in your communities, so that no more brides will have to needlessly suffer like the author of this article, IY”H.
The Wedding Night Nightmare by Anonymous
I was your regular out-of-town Bais Yaakov girl. Just like everyone else, or so I thought.
I participated in choir, drama, chesed programs, and more. When I graduated high school, I went to seminary just like everyone else. I learned a lot and had a wonderful year. I came home, started college, and soon after that started shidduchim.
At the time I thought to myself, “I just have to get married, and then everything will be great.” I met with shadchanim, had crazy dating stories just like everyone else, and B”H two years after I’d started dating I was set up with my husband.
Things were stressful but fine, and the last issue I thought would arise after the wedding would be something that had to do with my intimate life.
After all, my family is Modern Orthodox, so I grew up watching all the movies describing how amazing intimacy is supposed to be. I knew how to do and say the right things, and how to be romantic.
Everyone told me that what would happen on my wedding night would hurt, so that was not a new concept. But nobody prepared me for what I was about to experience.
All the romance movies have the gentleman saying that it will only hurt for a moment. For a moment it’s painful, but it’s followed by passion and fireworks. In a way, I guess that’s what I was expecting. I had been told that a woman’s first experience with intimacy isn’t always so good, so I wasn’t expecting perfection. But I was definitely not expecting this.
I was always shomer negia, so I had obviously never had any personal experiences with intimacy- therefore I had no way of knowing I had Primary Vulvar Vestibulitis (PVV). Most women first realize they have PVV when the pants they wear are too tight, and rub up into their private area. That means that as a frum girl, I had no warning signs of the pain I would experience on my wedding night.
The first sign that something was wrong was when I tried to do my first bedika. My kallah teacher told me how to do it; I was supposed to wrap a bedika cloth around my finger, insert it, move it around and see if there were any stains on it. No biggie. But I remember the day my kallah teacher told me to try doing a bedika at home, weeks before the wedding. It hurt so much I cried. I couldn’t do more than insert the bedika cloth up with one finger. Moving my finger around felt extremely painful.
I remember calling my chosson. I explained to him what had happened and how it hurt so badly to do a bedika. He told me it was probably because I wasn’t used to it, and that I should not worry about it. My kallah teacher told me the same thing. I decided it probably hurt so much because my hymen wasn’t broken yet, and that when it would be, I would be able to perform regular bedikas without a problem.
I was never abused nor had any history of trauma to my “lower” area, and I am an extremely “touchy” person so whenever I would think of my wedding night, I imagined a beautiful, romantic night.
Fast forward to the night of our wedding. I made the room all ready with scented candles and relaxing music. This was going to be beautiful, I thought.
However, when my husband of one night tried to consummate our marriage, I felt the most intensely sharp pain I have ever felt in my life. The only thing that it could be compared to is the feeling of sand paper being inserted inside me; a ripping and burning feeling. I immediately squeezed my muscles as to not let anything in, since the pain was too intense. It was not the type of pain that goes away when the stimulus is removed; the pain lingered all night. We tried again in the middle of the night but I still could not allow anything in me.
My kallah teacher said that the first night should be painful, but I never imagined it being that painful. But because it was our first try, I assumed that this was what people were referring to when they said that the first night could be painful. I took the positive outlook of “At least we’re not in nidda yet!” I hoped the next night would be better, and that we would be successful in consummating our marriage.
It was so hard to plaster a bright smile on my face for six nights that were filled with pain and disappointment. I also felt like a terrible wife; I felt so lonely and ashamed. The happy parties that people were making for us were not my reality. We knew something was wrong.
Because I mean, come on. In this day and age, who doesn’t know how to be intimate? I was obviously abnormal.
“What is wrong with me?” I thought.
The same story from the first night repeated itself throughout all the nights of sheva brachos. It took over a week of marriage to finally consummate our marriage, but it took a LOT of effort on my part to let my muscles open up and endure the pain. My eyes and fists were clenched and my mouth was silently screaming in pain. It was the most horrific pain I have ever endured; I felt burning and sore until the next morning. And I was one of the lucky ones, because many people with my condition, as I would later discover, literally can NOT consummate their marriage.
The months following our marriage I had made plenty of calls to my ob-gyn practice telling them about my pain during intimacy, and the only thing I was told was, “You have to relax, and use more lubrication.” But I knew it wasn’t only a matter of not being relaxed, because I was still finding it almost impossible to perform my bedikos.
After about a year of having an extremely sparse bedroom life, and being told to use more lubricant and to relax, I knew there had to be another answer. I begged my ob-gyn to help me out. She prescribed me lidocaine ointment which numbed the area- this was a bit helpful but very inconvenient. It needed to be applied 30 minutes before intimacy and left me extremely itchy. The ointment numbed the pain slightly (and with such intense pain, any relief is a success). But I still had the same burning and throbbing pain after the numbing gel wore off. I used this lidocaine technique for a while but I knew that I was still experiencing a tremendous amount of pain, and I knew that there must be something else that could help me. I thought, “Maybe I’m just too small? Maybe I just need to be “opened up?”
After a year a half of living with this, I was finally referred to Dr. Richard Marvel of GBMC. Dr. Richard Marvel met with me for 2 hours, first in his office talking with me about my experiences, and then in the exam room. After doing the exam he explained to me that I had Primary Vulvar Vestibulitis. In short, he explained that this is a condition I was born with, but never realized it. PVV is characterized by pain upon application or pressure to the vestibular area. The pain comes from an extremely large amount of nerve endings concentrated in that particular area. After leaving Dr. Marvel’s office, I had new hope since I knew 1) I was not alone, and many people suffer from this and 2) There are proven cures for what I had.
(Please Note: there are DIFFERENT types of pelvic pain, such as secondary/general VV, Vaginismus, Pelvic floor Dysfunctions, which may be treated differently.)
My doctor also explained that for women with PVV, psychological counseling provides no help due to the fact that the pain is very real and has a physical source.
My doctor was very honest with me from the beginning. He told me about a surgery, the vestibulectomy, which has the highest success rates for patients with Primary Vulvar Vestibulitis (VV). However, he told me that if I preferred he could put me on oral medications to try out first. And I decided to try out the medical route before jumping into surgery.
Dr. Marvel first started me on nerve block medications such as Gabapentin for a few months, and then Amitriptyline. I had horrible side effects from both; such as extreme dizzyness, fatigue, and one time I even fainted. After much discussion with my extremely supportive and loving husband, who was phenomenally sympathetic and helpful throughout this whole ordeal, we decided to opt for surgery.
After all, we did want to have children IY”H, and trying to conceive would not be easy when intimacy seems like a painful chore. So we decided that I would get this surgery. My surgery was scheduled about two months in advance, and Dr. Marvel and his nurses did a wonderful job preparing me for it.
I’m not going to sugar-coat things, it was a difficult recovery following the operation. Immediately afterwards it was extremely difficult to walk or sit, so I spent about 2 weeks in bed lying on my back. But slowly things got back to normal and I was able to sit and walk again. I was able to walk to shul and go back to work at about 2 and 1/2 weeks post op. At 2 months post op, Dr. Marvel told me about using dilators. He had me use them twice a day at home. I was shocked when I was able to stick something inside me and not feel pain.
When I got to the largest dilator about 6 weeks after the surgery, the doctor told me that when I felt comfortable I could have relations again.
The first time my husband and I were intimate after the surgery, I cried; but this time I cried tears of happiness. I felt no pain at all. It was then that I decided I had to educate as many people and kallah teachers as possible about my journey so that I could help women who have what I had find a cure, like I did.
There were times after my surgery when intimacy was a bit painful, but not nearly as painful as before. I realized that the times when it was painful were those times when I was not relaxed because I was still expecting pain. After I realized that, I started really focusing on being relaxed, and the more we were able to be together without pain, the less I anticipated the pain, and the less pain I actually felt.
I am now 8 months post-op and can B”H report that I no longer feel pain during intimacy- not even minor pain.
I am so grateful that I was treated by such a skillful surgeon and doctor as Dr. Marvel, whom I can now say with such joy & appreciation, changed my life.
I recognize that Hashem made a huge miracle for me, because the statistics show that most women feel an 80% decrease in pain following this surgery, which is still a huge improvement. But at present, when I am really relaxed, I even experience pleasure during intimacy; something I never would have dreamed of before.
I know my story is long and detailed, but if anyone is going through what I went through I would like them to know that they are not alone, and that there are cures for what they have. I would like as many kallah teachers as possible to be able to read this as well, so they can educate their kallahs on what happens to a very small percentage of brides on their wedding night, so those brides don’t feel alone and stuck in a world of despair. Those kallahs will have someone who can help them find a pelvic pain specialist who can then bring them, as well, on a journey to a complete recovery, IY”H.
If anyone would like to contact me directly for help with PVV, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy or Flickr.com user Sue Hasker