It has been six months since I moved into my little townhouse in Winchester, VA. There are a lot of stories to tell, but today I’m going to talk about bladders. Mostly mine. Until recently, I had no idea that bladders could fall. But apparently that is yet another fun development that many women can expect as they ease into their late 40’s and early 50’s. We can throw that right up there with night sweats, the sudden ability to gain 7 pounds in about 4 ½ minutes, and the sudden inability to speak intelligently because half your vocabulary has disappeared overnight.
I shit you not. One day I woke up and I could no longer speak. I will start a sentence and half way through I can no longer find the word I need in order to finish my thought. It’s like my brain knows what I’m trying to say, but my mouth isn’t interested in cooperating. A perfect example is the car ride I took with Mike, my business partner, a little while ago. We were in Atlanta on our way to visit a client. He was driving and (in theory) I was supposed to be navigating. I was lost in thought when he suddenly asked, “How far is our next exit?”
Thrown into a complete panic, I looked at my iPhone’s GPS and realized it was fast approaching. Immediately my brain went into high gear. Processing the fact that we needed to weave across four lanes of traffic in the next 90 seconds if we had any hope of making our exit, I wanted to say something like, “Yes, I’m so sorry I wasn’t paying attention. Could you please start working your way over to the right lane because our exit is coming up quickly.”
At least, that is what my brain wanted to say. My mouth, on the other hand, had no idea what was going on. As Mike glanced over at me and asked again, “Kelly, when are we coming up on our exit?” I simply looked at him like a buffoon and screeched “FASTLY SOON” while pointing like an idiot at the upcoming exit.
Fortunately, Mike is not going through menopause so he was able to react quickly and navigate across those four lanes of traffic to make our exit. He is also Italian, so he was able to yell at me while navigating. “Fastly soon? Fastly soon? What the hell does that mean?”
“I don’t know!” I moaned. “My brain doesn’t work any more, I can’t get out any sentences under pressure.” Then I launched into a diatribe of the evils of menopause until Mike finally looked at me and asked me to stop talking. I could hardly blame him.
But I digress. We were talking about bladders, right? Just for the record, they don’t fall overnight. Its not like you’re walking down the street one sunny day and suddenly THUNK, your bladder drops into your vagina. It’s a gradual thing. You begin to notice that you have to pee all the time. Even after you’ve just finished going. Like, you sit on the toilet and pee, stand up, and realize you aren’t done. So you sit down again and wait. And wait. And then you stand up again. Then you sit. And you do this enough that you begin to feel like a Jack-in-the-box. Then you begin to notice some discomfort in that general area. Like no matter whether you’re sitting or standing, it feels like there is something in the way. Then you go for your annual physical and mention it to your doctor and he examines you and says, “Oh wow.”
Then, as you’re laying there trying to analyze the “oh wow” and decide if its a good “oh wow” as in “oh wow, this is a fabulous looking vagina” or “oh wow, this is really a train wreck”, he asks you if he can bring in a few of his interns because he’s never seen such a classic textbook case of cystocele. Then he takes one look at your face and gently, patiently, and thoroughly explains that you’re simply suffering from a prolapsed bladder, most likely because 34 years earlier you gave birth to a Volkswagen cleverly disguised as a male child.
Fortunately, the surgery to repair this problem is a quick, 90-minute out patient project. I underwent mine two weeks ago and am now in the process of recovering. It’s been an interesting exercise, this whole recovery thing, because I was given strict orders not to lift anything that weighs more than 5 pounds for eight weeks after the surgery. With the exception of my cup of morning coffee, everything on the planet seems to weigh more than 5 pounds. And because I really, really don’t want to screw this up and break what’s been fixed, I’ve been forced to ask for help. I ask strangers to lift things into my shopping cart. I let the grocery guy load my bags into my car. I call my sister over to the house to help me bring heavy items up the stairs. I have my dad to go pick up and then deliver a kitchen table for me.
And THAT has been the hardest part of the surgery — asking people for help. I’ve lost a little bit of the independence I value so highly. Every time I ask the guy in the grocery store to help load my bags I fight the urge to tell him that I work out regularly, that I can do “real” push ups, and it’s just my bladder surgery keeping me from doing it myself. When my family comes to my rescue, I find myself apologizing for disrupting their day and feeling guilty for having taken up their time. And I wonder why I feel this way, and why it is so hard for me to accept the help that I need right now.
I think sometimes about the concept of grace. What it means, how it arrives in our lives, and what we’re meant to learn from it. Maybe this is a time for me to experience a little grace, both in the form of allowing people to help me and in learning how to graciously accept the gift of their assistance without the burden of guilt. Let’s face it – I’m getting older and this won’t be the last time I find myself asking for help. I’m hoping it will be a long while before it happens again, but who knows. The next occurrence might be coming fastly soon, so maybe I better loosen up a little bit on this whole independence thing, and grab a little grace for safekeeping.