Friends and Family,
God has continued to lavish us with His love, peace and direction- and there has been one HUGE way that God has rocked our world recently that we haven’t really talked much about. This is difficult for us to share as it is personal in nature, and quite frankly, embarrassing- but we want to show what an awesome God we serve that He cares about every aspect of our lives. We also want to share because we need your prayers. So please read below with an open mind and with the knowledge that the below information will be specific and to the point.
Bennett and I have been struggling with the past year and a half with a condition called Vaginismus. Vaginismus is “the involuntary, instantaneous tightening (spasm) of the pelvic floor diaphragm. This spasm causes the openings of the female genitals to become constricted and makes penetration painful or impossible” (Private Pain, Katz and Tabisel). So how exactly did this play out in our lives?
Bennett and I were not perfect by any means but we saved ourselves for each other- we had not even kissed each other, or anyone else for that matter, before our wedding day. On our wedding night- and the rest of our honeymoon- we were physically unable to consummate our marriage. We thought that maybe we were just stressed and ‘nervous newlyweds’- but this past year and half proved otherwise.
Since then, we have been able to technically ‘consummate our marriage’ but it has been with severe pain on my part- which has manifested itself in other symptoms affecting my digestive and urinary systems. We have been to three different doctors. One in Rocky Mount, one- who is the head doctor of Physicians to Women- in Roanoke, and another in North Carolina. The one in Rocky Mount misdiagnosed me with ‘just an infection’. The one in Roanoke misdiagnosed me with vulvar vestibulitis (google that one) and the third has correctly diagnosed me with Levator Syndrome/Vaginismus (as well as a slew of other conditions that are related- interstitial cystitis, etc.). None of the treatments worked. I even tried treating myself with a ’Vaginismus Kit’ which not only did not work but aggravated the other conditions as well.
So you are probably wondering- where is the awesome God thing coming into play here? I have mentioned in previous posts that we left our church and are at Citylight. We did not know all the reasons why we were feeling led away- we just knew that we were. Some of our friends who use to go to a church in Franklin County started going to Citylight a few months ago. They had met with Bennett and asked him to consider praying about coming as well. A few months later we made our decision and met up with them to talk about it. The discussion got turned to struggles and a thought popped in my head- which I firmly believe was a ‘God thought’. I blurted out that Bennett and I were unable to have sex without pain. I am not even sure why I blurted it out as I typically did not openly discuss my condition- but God wanted me to say something! The couple stated that there was another couple at Citylight, Jessie and Philip Hatter, who for nine years had the same exact condition that we did. I was so shocked. For a year and a half I had not met anyone else who had the same diagnosis as myself. They asked permission to discuss our condition with this couple. We agreed. I knew right then and there that God was working.
When I got home that evening I sent Jessie a message. She quickly responded back and graciously stated that she wanted to help us through this process. I remember being so overwhelmed by how God provides. I had felt very alone for the past year and half. A lot of my friends were getting married, having children, enjoying the ‘romantic, intimate’ part of their marriage. I was struggling with bitterness, depression, jealousy and discontentment. To talk with someone who lives in the same area and understands what I am going through was an awesome God connection. God understands that we need each other. And to make matters better- Jessie has been cured! For the first time since our honeymoon, I felt hope that we too would be cured.
I’ll stop right here to address why I keep referring to it as ‘our condition’ or ‘we have Vaginismus’. Yes, I am the one with physical condition but God has commanded us to be of one flesh and it affects Bennett just as much as it does me. Bennett has been an extremely supportive husband during this difficult period. Lots of men would have been far gone by now. Bennett has stood by my side through the whole process and I am blessed to have him as my husband. As someone once told Jessie’s husband, Philip, while he was enduring the same trial- “How incredible it is that God thought you worthy enough to handle this condition”. Most men would have run, or would have at least resorted to sin- but Bennett has been pure, faithful and loving.
Jessie and Philip had us over to their house a week or two after I had sent her the initial message. We already felt a bond with them because of being Christians, but the connection we felt with them because of having the same condition was almost therapeutic to Bennett and myself. We shared our story, they shared theirs and they promised prayers, encouragement and all the help we needed to get through our struggle with this and to be cured. They discussed with us in length about how they were cured- The Women’s Therapy Center located on Long Island, NY. This treatment included no surgery, no medications, no funky electronic devices being inserted into your body. They encouraged us to at least pray about the option.
Once I found out the cost of the treatment I immediately told Bennett there is no way we would, or will ever go. Bennett, on the other hand, wanted to board a flight and go the next day. 🙂 I told him that I would pray about it but I wanted to try the “Vaginismus kit” first. One session of that was enough to tell me that I couldn’t do this on my own. God started to change my heart. God brought Jessie and Philip into our lives for a reason- and I firmly believe to be cured. Jessie struggled with Vaginismus for nine years before being cured. She tried 10 different doctors/treatment methods (including surgery) with no success. If it wasn’t for meeting her- I could have been doing the same thing. Dishing out money and time, putting more strain on our marriage and our emotional/physical state for years- and all for nothing. Jessie and Philip continue to tell us how awesome it is that we are dealing with this now, getting a cure, and getting it behind us so that we can have a healthy, happy marriage as well as have children later in the future.
We continued to meet with Jessie and Philip. They continued to pray for us. God continued to work on my heart and I began to feel a peace that this is what God wants us to do. We did a video chat with the doctors from Women’s Therapy Center who did confirm that I had Vaginismus by my symptoms and assured us that I would be cured.
After much heart struggling with the cost, time and craziness of it all we have decided to go. July 18th-29th we will be in treatment at the Women’s Therapy Center. We are trusting God with the cost, as it is a substantial amount of money. But we know that God will provide. He has already blessed us financially and we will be able to pay for hopefully a 1/4th of the cost on our own. We are hoping to get some reimbursement from our insurance company but that will not happen until our treatment is over and done with and are unsure of how much we will actually receive.
God continues to confirm that this is where He is leading us. He had us leave our church which caused us to meet Jessie and Philip who have supported us, loved us and prayed for us. I have earned enough sick time that I will be paid for the full two weeks I will be in New York. Bennett just started a job at Lowes and he was unsure if he would be able to get off and they said it wouldn’t be a problem.
For those of you who are not quite on board-that is understandable. It’s a lot of money and it seems odd that a doctor here in Roanoke can’t fix it- but here are a few things I want to reiterate.
1) God has commanded a husband and a wife to be one and Bennett and I are not able to do that. I feel that me putting my treatment on the back burner and not actively trying to find a cure is sin. This condition prevents me and Bennett from being one, fosters temptation for us to fall into sexual sin and puts a continuous strain on our marriage. This condition is Satan’s perfect foothold to get into a marriage and we do not want him to have this foothold any longer. It would be selfish of me to ignore the problem and to essentially ‘make’ Bennett have a sexless marriage.
2) We want to have kids. Having this condition makes it extremely hard to conceive.
3) This pain is not just ‘a little bit of discomfort’. Gynecologic exams have me practically jumping off the table. When Bennett went to my first OB/GYN appointment and saw the pain that I was in he promised that we would never have to have intercourse again until I was cured. Relaxation techniques, different lubricants, ‘setting the mood’- these are things that are ‘nice’ but do not make a difference for this condition.
4)Jessie Hatter has tried various doctors in Roanoke and outside of the Roanoke area. It would be pointless for me to waste the money and time doing the same thing when I can clearly see what did work and what did not work for her
5) Shortly after I was diagnosed I remember telling Bennett that ultimately, the only thing that could make all this pain worth it is if God could use us and our condition to bring glory to Him. Jessie and Philip have been used so greatly by God in our lives and we want to be used as well. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 states “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
Jessie and Philip have been a ‘comfort’ to us and we have clearly seen the Lord through our relationship with them. Philip told us the other day that him and Jessie said that the nine years enduring this condition is all worth it because they are being used by God in our lives. We want to be used as well-especially in our unique ‘taboo’ situation which often goes unspoken about. I am so incredibly thankful that Jessie and Philip cared less what anyone else thought but spoke boldly about their condition and how God used it in their lives.
Ultimately- this condition, this trial, this diagnosis- it’s not about us. As easy as it is to focus on ourselves through this- God allowed this to happen so that HE could be glorified. Exodus 19:6 states, “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Already God is using this condition for me to connect with other women- through email, facebook and even a few phone conversations. One individual lives in the New York area and we are planning to meet up while we are there for treatment. These are individuals that I would have never crossed paths with- but now we are sharing our personal life stories with each other and they are definitely hearing about the great God of my life story.
With all that being said- please pray for us. The cost is daunting, the treatment will be difficult and all the details before and after will be stressful. But one thing I know for sure is that God cares, He loves and He is active in our lives. This post is already getting lengthy but I will soon post specific and tangible ways that God has clearly laid out this path for us. I am humbled by how easily and often I doubt- yet God continues to prove Himself and His plan to me in spite of myself.
Also, if you or anyone you know struggles with this condition- feel free to give them our contact information (firstname.lastname@example.org or for any husbands who need support email@example.com). God does not want any marriage to struggle through this. He desires healing for all. Praise be to our God who loves!