Anne's (dilation) Story
I hate dilators. Passionately.
Every time I would set myself up to dilate it was a reminder. A reminder of everything wrong with me. Everything I couldn’t have. The ‘normal’ sex life I wouldn’t have, the children I would never have, the sense of female identity I didn't have. So I avoided it like the plague for years.
When I was diagnosed with MRKH I was told that my vagina was about half a centimetre long, a dimple. So my gynaecologist told me simply enough that because I was so small I would have to begin dilating with my finger and then when I had stretched more I was to use a small glass dilator and sent me on my way. This began years of on again off again dilating. I would have spurts of enthusiasm of dilating everyday and gradually move up to the next size. Then I would get discouraged and stop again. So the cycle began.
Dilating is an individual and complex form of treatment. I began undertaking treatment not long after I met my boyfriend and now husband when I was 17 years old. As my only support person he was always incredibly supportive, I was extremely lucky. He would encourage me to keep going and hold me when I started crying in the middle of sex because it didn’t work like how I thought it was meant to and I felt so bad about disappointing him. As much as he was supportive and understood he never completely understood the complexity of issues which this simply act of dilating raised for me. But how could he? Unless you have experienced it you wouldn’t know and even if you have, my experience is specific to me and no one else. AND THAT’S OK!
So after years of on again off again dilating and making spurts of progress my mind connected anything to do with vulva or vagina, including sex and intimacy, with pain, discomfort and failure so I avoided it…for years. This finally started to change around the time I was 30 after I let myself accept the way I was born. As soon as this happened everything started to relax, including my highly anxious pelvic floor muscles! Oddly enough one of the most useful techniques that worked for me was reading romance and erotic novels. It somehow normalised sex and intimacy for me in a way that nothing else did. Once this happened everything else became easier including intimacy and living with my diagnosis. And yes I ditched the dilators and replaced it with pleasurable experiences with my husband when I was able to.
What I now know that I wish I knew then?
- Seek out support while you’re going through this treatment (if you decide to have treatment at all). That includes online or in person support groups and professional therapists.
- Dilating invokes a complex range of emotions. While your doctor may tell you that 'just do x and Y and you'll have an amazing vagina' this may not be your experience.
- The length of your vagina or your ability to bare a child does not make you a woman and is not the measure which your contribution to society should be measured on.
- Sex can include a vagina or not, it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re enjoying yourself!
- Your partner probably doesn't care too much about the length of your vagina but whether or not you are enjoying yourself and him/or her.
- Oh and you can never use enough lube!