Be forewarned: I have zero medical evidence for what I’m about to say. I am fully aware that I am about to sound like a crazy person making ridiculous claims, on par with the colon cleanse/multi-vitamin/essential oil/obsessed with “toxins” people who also have no actual medical research to back up their claims. But still. I want to tell this story, if only to potentially reach another woman who could be in a similar situation. Maybe to give her hope. Maybe to give her an option. Maybe to give her a fellow sidekick. Maybe to create a community of similar women who are fully aware that, to a medical doctor, we’re on par with a guy wearing a tinfoil hat and yelling at the clouds.

Or maybe I just want to show off how cool my tinfoil hat is to all of you.

Either way, I get it. This could, and likely will, sound crazy banana pants.

I make no sense. I am one in a million. One in several million. Even scrolling through to the fifth page of a Google search reveals not one other person who can claim the crazy, the wonderful, the insane, the ridiculous, the completely unbelievable medical miracle that I am finally willing to claim. Not a single other conspiracy theorist nut job on an international forum. No other person seems to have actually experienced what I am now going to declare. Here. Publically. Fearfully.

My C-section cured my incontinence.

Cured it, you guys. Like, gone. Like, mama don’t need no Depends no more. Like, I can go for a long run without fear of leaking. I can laugh and sneeze with impunity (well, unless I already really have to go, then I need to do a little leg-cross-and-squeeze to avoid a dribble). I can jump. Jump.

Because I delivered my second child via C-section.

Perhaps I need to start at the beginning:

I have already written about my first child’s vaginal delivery. I was in complete denial the entire time that it would actually work, and apparently my instincts were spot on. I pushed for over an hour and a half to no avail while my baby remained stuck behind my pelvic ridge. The nurse set up a mirror in front of my hooch while my daughter was crowning (completely against my wishes—I’d like to put that on record. I did not want the damn mirror. I did NOT want to see what was happening to my poor little coochie), and I watched, helpless, as her head wiggled, adjusted, shoved, and bulged against my pelvis. But she never advanced. Then, suddenly, her heart rate plummeted. The nurse tapped my OB on the shoulder, and pointed to the monitor. Just an instant later, the mirror was gone, my baby’s monitor was turned away from me, and a tray appeared next to my OB with scalpels and surgical equipment on it. Quietly, he murmured, “Rachel, I’m going to have to cut you.” I must have nodded, though I don’t remember the exchange at all. My husband had to tell me all of this later. I just remember the sharp pain as he gave me an emergency episiotomy, and the strange contraption that appeared—a suction cup—and affixed to my daughter’s head. There was a loud pop as the cup lost its grip on the small part of her crown that was exposed. We all jumped at the noise, then laughed, more nervous than amused. He reattached the cup, and on the next push, my daughter was finally born. After almost two hours of pushing and crowning, my daughter was yanked out of me within the span of a minute.

This final violent push on the day of her birth wreaked havoc on my body. Ten weeks later, while trying to take my newborn for a walk, I called my OB, crying, while urine dripped uncontrollably down my leg. His voice was gentle on the phone, and he said exactly the words I wanted to hear at that moment: “No, you’re right. This isn’t normal. Come in. Right away. This isn’t normal.”

I saw my OB, and he recommended me to a urogynecologist. I was given catheters. I had a scope placed inside of my bladder. I underwent months of pelvic therapy. The diagnosis? “Nerve damage, resulting in atrophied urethral muscles.” My urethra had lost the ability to close, leaving only my external pelvic muscles in charge of keeping the urine from dribbling out. Kegels couldn’t help. Abdominal exercises couldn’t help. Luckily, my bladder was itself still healthy and functioning (the sphincter that connects my bladder to my urethra was still functional, which meant that, when I did go to the bathroom, I was successfully emptying my bladder, giving me a few moments of relief where I didn’t have the constant leaking). But it was sagging now, falling into my urethra and pelvis. The only solution was surgery. Vaginal mesh surgery. They would have to put an artificial sling around my bladder, connected through my vaginal walls, and lift it up, taking the pressure off my urethra and hopefully relieving most of the incontinence (though the best number the urogynecologist could give me was “80% relief.” Not the best scenario). They could do nothing for my open urethra (which left me susceptible to “walking bacteria” and severe UTIs. I was in the emergency room twice with those things. I can’t even describe how horrible they were. From fine to pissing blood within the span of an hour. It was misery). They could do nothing for the nerve and muscle damage around my vagina, which made me—ahem—significantly looser than I was before having my daughter.

And I couldn’t have any more children. I’d have to be finished with children before going under the knife.

But it was my only option. It was my best choice, even while it felt like I had no choice at all.

So, I got pregnant again. What the hell? I was already pissing myself. May as well complete my family first.

Everyone agreed that a scheduled C-section was going to be the best course of action for me. It would minimize any damage; keep it contained to what it already was.

The pregnancy was miserable. During the height of my morning sickness, we were staying with my in-laws while waiting to move into our new house. Every morning, I’d have to leave my mother-in-law in charge of giving my daughter breakfast while I went and threw up. The force of vomiting always made me pee on myself, and I spent most mornings, sobbing on the bathroom floor, using my own sopping pants to mop up the puddles of piss that I left behind. I quickly learned that I needed to run to the bathroom, take off my pants, and throw a towel down on the floor before puking (if I had enough time, that is). I didn’t want my mother-in-law to know, so I would try to be discreet as I ran for the cleaners and paper towels, trying to hide my shame, the smell, and my own tears.

My daughter was born over three weeks early, after two weeks of early labor. I was already 6 centimeters dilated when I was wheeled in for my C-section. I could have delivered her vaginally. She probably would have had an easier time than my first child. But my new OB (we had moved, so I changed practices early in this pregnancy) had already assessed my medical records and agreed that mitigating my nerve damage was essential.

It was three days after my Caesarian when I first noticed it. I coughed. I was in the NICU with my baby, and the dry hospital air gave me a coughing fit. I pushed a pillow over my incision, and hacked for a good fifteen seconds. I looked at my husband, happy that the soreness from my incision wasn’t really that bad at all. Then, I looked at my legs. I stared at them as though they were a strange genus of algae. They weren’t crossed. They were straight out in front of me, propped up on a footrest. Lifting my legs had proved to be the most painful part of my C-section recovery, so I hadn’t bothered trying to cross my legs during the coughing fit. Didn’t think about squeezing my thighs to stop the urine. And I didn’t pee myself.

Since the C-section, my incontinence has all but disappeared. For perhaps the first three months, I still wore a light Poise pad every day, more out of habit and fear than necessity. Then, I switched to panty liners. Then, I just stopped. When my baby was still a newborn. By six months post-partum, I tentatively went for a run, with a pad. The next time, I used a panty liner. Then, I found myself running without any protection. My youngest is now almost two years old, and I haven’t worn any incontinence protection for at least a year and a half.

So, what happened? My OB couldn’t really explain it. She said that she had seen something like this happen just once before. She shrugged, “Your body is an amazing thing. It’s always finding new ways of healing itself. It’s like sympathetic nerve pain, but in reverse.”

“It’s like all the healing powers of my body rushed to that one area and fixed everything in the vicinity??”

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She chuckled, “Sure, Rachel.”

So, I coined a new phrase, “sympathetic nerve healing.” It’s actually called something like “neuroregeneration” and “axogenesis” that occurs at the “nerve repair site.” Usually, though, neuroregeneration just doesn’t happen on its own. It requires a skilled surgeon to physically reconnect the nerves that have been damaged, either at the nerve site, or directly in the brain. And it’s not supposed to happen suddenly, and never after an occasion of physical trauma (like a C-section). But, basically, it’s sympathetic nerve healing. My brain suddenly realized that there was a big trauma to my generalized girl parts area, and sent my immune system and blood cells and nutrients to that part to fix everything. Then, while it was busy repairing the big slice in my uterus that the OB left behind, some of those blood cells noticed that my bladder and urethra needed some attention too. So they went to work on those. And voila! They nudged those nerves, and woke them up from an 18-month-long hibernation.

At least, that’s how I like to think about it.

So, there it is. My freaky body. My tinfoil-hat level medical claim. My strange miracle. I am no longer a candidate for vaginal mesh surgery. I no longer get UTIs. I’m not crying on the bathroom floor in a puddle of my own urine, and things have gotten, ahem, tighter down there again. I’m cured.

I have no medical proof that any of this is actually what happened to me. I have no other testimony from another woman, making similar claims. I have no facts, figures, or studies to back me up.

But I have an opened, yet unused, package of Depends in my bathroom.

And a new PR on my 5k time.

So I guess that’s all the proof I’m going to get. It’s all the proof I need.

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