After enduring several chronic urinary tract infections in college, my campus health centre referred me to a urologist.
“You have a retroverted — or tipped — uterus,” the doctor told me, as dreams of dropping out of school to perform bendy straw routines with a traveling circus danced in my head. Ladies and Gentleman! The Girl with the Retroverted Uterus! The doctor’s voice jolted me back to the spotlight aimed up my hospital gown in the examining room.
“Many women whose uterus tilts in the opposite direction are prone to UTIs and experience pain during sex,” he said.
Debilitating pressure on my lower abdomen — check. Running to the bathroom every 30 minutes to pee a teardrop of urine like my vagina was crying — double check. But pain during intercourse was a box that I could thankfully leave unmarked.
Post-college, I began dating a surfer with bedhead hair and weathered hands that were constantly rewiring my electronics, tracing the curves of my spine, running a finger along my left clavicle down my breastbone. I always imagined dating someone who balanced a fiberglass board on his head, who clocked in at a job that was just a means to do what he really loved: surf, mountain bike, travel. Our relationship consisted of riding waves, walks on the beach (really), lunchtime margaritas, Netflix, and way too much chilling for this type-A girl who was perpetually juggling three jobs. When he put his hands on my shoulders, I would melt into him, into just being. Zippers yielded and fabric unthreaded in his presence. Our physical attraction was magnetic, exhilarating, and familiar. He was a spooner, a breakfast maker, a guy who would climb his neighbours’ orange tree to squeeze fresh orange juice before I emerged from the bedsheets.
It took a few months to see that he was other things that contrasted his cool, low-key demeanour.
What began as tantrums escalated to arguments, and finally fights — with doors slamming, car tires burning rubber out of the driveway, and two-hour silent treatments on the freeway as I stared intently at billboards for jail bonds and dental implants. Prison, dental work, or sitting next to my mute partner? It was a toss-up. We loved doing the same things, but camping, hiking, and watching movies were day-off activities me. For him, they were his life.
Make-up sex was our best form of communication. The frequency and urgency to make the wrongs right again resulted in what I believed to be several consecutive UTIs. I became a regular at urgent care where I peed into a cup and was handed a script for a ten-day supply of antibiotics. Take all of them!, they warned me, as if I’d throw caution to the wind on day four and release the remaining pills out of my car window while joyriding on the Pacific Coast Highway. I was also diagnosed by answering a series of questions from on-call “advice” nurses, a new option touted by my insurance company. I later learned that an on-the-spot urine culture only confirmed the presence of bacteria, but did not identify the strain of bacteria necessary for prescribing the correct medication. I surmised that ingesting Macrobid instead of Keflex was the culprit for my never-ending urinary tract infection.
My vagina knew months before I did that we weren’t going to paddle off into the sunset together.
After one sleepless night pacing the floor, my boyfriend found me doubled over on his bedroom floor. My primary care doctor finally sent me to a urologist. Lying on the reclining chair wrapped in white tissue paper like some lazy gift wrapping job, she stuck a speculum up my urethra as I nearly blacked out from the pain. Then she jimmied a hand up my uterus.