This piece’s title was shamelessly stolen from Gywneth Findlay, whose courage in baring her raw experience earlier this month is a big part of the reason this piece exists. Thank you, Gywneth.
“I’m not afraid of flying anymore,” my husband announced. “Oh? How’s that?” his dad asked. “God just took it away, I guess.” There were approving nods around the table, though mine was admittedly half-hearted. The other half was held back by a swift, hot pinch of jealousy, like a hermit crab had perched on my aorta.
I don’t know how miracles work, but surely God’s not that capricious. My husband’s flight anxiety is well controlled with medication, he’s never asked for it to be lifted, and—more salient it to my wicked selfish impulse—miracles are rare and precious, and the one I’ve begged and pleaded and soaked my pillow with tears and snot for hasn’t come in nearly three years—and counting.
It’s not that I don’t believe in God or in miracles; it’s that I believe God is ever-present and miracles are not. They can’t be.
The miracle I need is only needed because I’m married. I didn’t have cause to know my body was broken until I took my vows, and shortly after learned I have dyspareunia. Severe dyspareunia. The less that is said of it the better, but suffice to say it means sex is the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced—like being repeatedly run through with a flaming blade. As horrific as it sounds, it’s not uncommon. Gywneth Findlay beautifully, wrenchingly, depicts this same phenomenon, and many million other women suffer it too. Despite what you (don’t) hear, it’s an incredibly prevalent condition.
The wedding night Gywneth recalls dreading… I had that night. I had the inexplicable (but prescient, as it turned out) idea to suggest we wait one night longer—I didn’t want our wedding day to end with something so foreign and possibly disappointing. We instead spent it taking 40-some bobby pins from my hair, scrubbing makeup from my face, and reveling in sharing a bed. It was the following night that highlighted the extent of my ailment. I lost a significant piece of my identity when I walked down the aisle. Before, I believed myself to be whole and healthy: able-bodied. Then I discovered a brokenness I didn’t know was there, and it’s—now—an enormous piece of me. I am not healthy. I am not whole, but I was before I was yoked.
So I prayed. Hundreds of times I’ve prayed. Dozens of times I’ve endured grueling physical therapy sessions. Countless times, I’ve subjected myself to painful exercises with the curtains drawn and lights dimmed (this malady is a shameful one, after all), to little avail. It can’t be the case that miracles just drop into unsuspecting laps unasked for… right?
It has always seemed to me that miracles don’t work that way. I know from bitter experience that prayer doesn’t work the way it’s sometimes presented either—it’s not a talisman or guarantee or panacea. It’s a request that may or may not be granted. Christ accepted that and surely I, who am not walking to my death by torture, should too.
And yet. My agony is so pointless. Is there anything less purposeless than unendurable pain with every attempt to be intimate as wife and husband are meant—one might even say designed—to be? Christ’s pain opened the gate to heaven; mine only opens—fleetingly, excruciatingly—pleasure for one.
This sounds excruciating — physically, emotionally, psychologically. And I’m sorry you discovered this about yourself in a context that the church insinuated would be the best, most transformative night of your marriage. I wonder if it would be empowering to read some materials written by disabled folks who find intimate pleasure with partners in ways that don’t include/go beyond penetrative sex.
The embodiment of faith and physical is beautifully spoken here. Gracious and honest, you represent the best side of femininity. Thank you, Ladies.