Why I Got A "Designer Vagina" After My Divorce

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Chrissy is a 47-year-old nurse clinician living in Missouri who decided to get labiaplasty and vaginoplasty. The following story was told to Alix Tunell and edited for length and clarity.
Before getting a divorce, I was married for 22 years and I'd had two very large babies with episiotomies. Two decades ago when they did episiotomies, they just stitched everything closed, but didn't actually do muscle repair, so everything was stretched-out and didn't feel the same. When I would sneeze or laugh, I would pee in my pants a little, and I was always self-conscious of the appearance of my vagina.
My ex-husband never complained about it, but it always bothered me — I never wanted him to look down there, especially in daylight. So when I was suddenly thrown into the dating world again, it was hard. About a year ago, I decided to finally do something about it. Internally, I wanted to feel tighter; externally, I wanted the appearance of the labia minora — the extra skin — to be reduced.
I'm a nurse clinician board-certified in plastic surgery. Being in the profession and knowing so much about plastics certainly helped when it came to researching the best doctors in the field for vaginal rejuvenation surgeries. Nobody around where I live [Columbia, Missouri] wants to touch labiaplasty or vaginoplasty with a 10-foot pole. I don't know if it's an old school thing, but it's controversial for women to want to do this, so I had to go to the big cities to find physicians who had mastered the art of it. I did consultations with five or six different doctors from Boston, LA, Seattle, Denver, and Dallas. I wanted someone who had done thousands of these procedures.
I ended up picking a physician in Dallas who had four kids, had gotten the procedure herself, and put me at ease by letting me talk to some of her former patients. I'm a big believer — and this is just my own personal preference — in female physicians when it comes to breast augmentations or anything OB/GYN. I just feel like women can better understand what's going on down there. I found it disheartening when male physicians who do vaginal rejuvenations told me they understood how I feel... I really don’t feel like they do.
I didn’t tell anyone at work or any of my family I was getting this done because they would've freaked out, but I did tell my best friend and my partner Jake. He was a little upset with me; I think he felt kind of intimidated, like maybe I was doing it because he wasn't big enough, but that wasn't the case at all. It was a personal, self-conscious thing.
I took two weeks off from work, drove myself to Dallas, and hired a private duty nurse to take care of me for 48 hours. I wasn't nervous — I was ready to get this party started! Before the surgery, my physician asked me what size I wanted to be. I had no idea how to answer that. She explained that when she did her physical exam on me, she could get four fingers into my vaginal opening comfortably and move her hands back and forth — that's how stretched it was. I was considered a size four. She recommended going to a two — it's what she did for herself — for more tightness and friction during intercourse, so that's what I chose.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
My biggest fear was the recovery. I knew that I would like the final result, I wasn't worried about that, but I knew all the muscle repair was going to be pretty significant. I was warned ahead of time that there was no intercourse allowed for six to eight weeks, I would have packing inside the vagina for the first 24 hours, and I would have a urinary catheter in my bladder for the first two days so I didn't urinate on any fresh incisions.
The procedure itself took about three hours and was done under general anesthetic, though you can choose to do it under local. Afterward, the nurse brought me back to my hotel and got me settled in. Being a nurse myself, I felt comfortable because I know how to take care of a catheter and dressings, so I wasn't too helpless.
Really, I didn't think it was all that bad after surgery; I was anticipating it to be much worse than it was. The labiaplasty was a piece of cake because that’s just removing extra skin, but the vaginoplasty was more uncomfortable. Muscle work affects our core and how we sit and stand, so that was pretty uncomfortable for three or four days.
But sex the first time was HORRIBLE. Oh my goodness. I can't even describe it. My doctor told me to use lots of lube, be on top rather than missionary, and recommended getting a vibrator and trying to stretch things out on my own first. She said it'd be like losing my virginity, but I definitely didn't remember the first time being that bad. I was literally clawing his back and crying, thinking I would never do it again.
After eight to twelve weeks, intercourse finally felt normal again, but the couple of weeks in between were so painful. You just have to let your guard down and relax. Now it's better than ever for both of us — I'm far more comfortable with the appearance, and Jake says it's a night and day difference.
Some people say this type of surgery is anti-feminist, but I'd say the complete opposite. As women, we're told to just live with these things, to not talk about our breasts or vaginas or childbirth, but I disagree with that. If I can look a little better, make things function better, and feel better about myself in the process, I’m all for that. I think people need to educate themselves and do their research and not just go to anybody, of course, but if this is something that bothers you, you should know you can fix it. It shouldn't be taboo.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids right now or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.
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