What It's Really Like to Have Vaginal Reconstructive Surgery

"It was desperate—just not the way you might think."

Flower, Petal, Purple, Pink, Flowering plant, Violet, Lavender, Botany, Plant stem, Pedicel,
(Image credit: Archive)

Vaginal reconstruction might seem like the most frivolous of plastic surgeries. It's a procedure that an insecure Real Housewife would sign up for. A supposed signal of feminism's continuing decline. Along with vajazzling, or increasingly ornate bikini waxes, reconstructing your own genitals so they resemble your past probably seems like a desperate act.

Unfortunately for me, it was desperate. Just not in the way you might think.

By my mid-30s, my vagina was ruined. My third child weighed almost 10 pounds when she was born, and her delivery tore me so badly that I had to remain in the hospital for five days due to the internal bleeding.

I lost control of my urinary system after that. Urine would leak out whenever I coughed, or ran, or even laughed. I started wearing a pad at all times, changing it three to four times a day. It felt disgusting, like I was just sitting in my own puddle for hours.

You imagine that your sex life will suffer after having kids—who has the time, the energy, the clean(ish) hair?—but not like this. My husband and I had sex less frequently, sure, but when we did, I was too loose-feeling to reach an orgasm, and I couldn't tighten my muscles around him so he could feel any pleasure, either. Each encounter felt sad and incredibly frustrating.

I tried to regain my tightness through exercises. Everyone's heard of Kegels, but I also bought a little machine that I'd put between my thighs and contract, contract, contract. I googled endlessly for other tricks or at-home remedies. I read about a tea made of boiled almonds, honey, and cinnamon that you then inserted internally, like a douche. Surprise, surprise: It didn't work.

Ileana Figueroa

(Image credit: Archive)

I found out about laser vaginal rejuvenation (LVR) through a work friend, of all people. My husband had started cheating on me, and I opened up to her about our struggles and how I was considering divorce. She revealed that she'd undergone LVR due to her own issues and told me it changed her life. After hearing that, of course I decided to go in. I didn't really consider the risks. I just didn't think things could get any worse.

"I didn't really consider the risks. I just didn't think things could get any worse."

My husband and I met the plastic surgeon my friend recommended, Dr. David Matlock. He was wonderfully patient, and talked me through the entire procedure. During LVR, the surgeon cuts the muscles of the vaginal wall with a laser, then sutures them back together so they're tighter than before. I would have control over my muscles again, whether for better sex or better peeing.

My husband and I decided to take a chance to save our marriage. Insurance doesn't cover LVR, and it cost us $15,000. We could have put a down payment on a house, or bought some incredibly nice wedding ring for me. But this was more important to us both.

I was knocked out for the surgery, which took a couple of hours. Healing didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. I iced the area a bit because it swelled up, but I didn't even take the pain medication. I think that once you've given birth, everything else feels like a paper cut. I went to work the very next day, albeit in sweatpants to hide the catheter. Five days later, the catheter came out and all the pain was over.

We had to abstain from sex for six weeks. When he finally entered me, I cried with happiness. I will never forget it. It felt like losing my virginity all over again—so monumental, and, yes, so tight.

Sex is normal again. It's good, and I love it. I can wear a bathing suit without worrying about needing a diaper-like pad. I get to laugh again. LVR gave me my life back. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Lane Florsheim

I'm the features editorial assistant at Marie Claire. Before working at MC, I spent time in the production department at The New Republic and writing about politics for Bustle. When I'm not writing, you can find me museum-hopping, practicing mediocre yoga, and stalking pugs on Instagram.