Growing up as an Orthodox Jew, my body was always kept private*
Now that I’ve reached the end of this long road, I feel it is my duty and obligation to share my story with others. Growing up as an Orthodox Jew, my body was always kept private. I abstained from any physical contact with men prior to marriage and was both nervous and excited to be together with my husband.
Throughout the first week of marriage, we tried several times but were unsuccessful. This only seemed “normal” since we were both new to the concept. However, days slowly turned into weeks, and we began to suspect that we were doing something wrong.
We contacted a Rabbi who told us to try several other positions, and so we did… but to no avail!! For some reason, we were just not getting it straight. “Drink wine,” I was told. So I did! We tried with lubrication… and without lubrication. Nothing worked! Every time we were ready, I would guide my husband towards my hole because I did not want him doing it on his own. I was scared that it would hurt me and I was terrified that something would stretch and get damaged! And anyway, he would never be able to find my hole; it was way too small. I couldn’t imagine how he would even get inside… It just didn’t make sense to me at all!!
But we tried and we tried… and we tried. My husband would ask me why I was pushing him away every time he tried coming in. When I thought about it I realized that I was, but I didn’t understand why, or maybe I didn’t want to understand why.
Finally, I decided to go see a Kallah teacher, thinking maybe she could help. She informed me that I was not doing the bedikos correctly and showed me how to do one. It was a traumatic experience. As she tried to push her finger with the cloth inside my vaginal opening, I pushed her hand away and began to cry. I felt like such a baby and I was extremely embarrassed. I came home shaken up and in tears. For the next few days tried as hard as I could to put the cloth in all the way. I dreaded every moment of it. For the first two days, I was able to get pretty far, but after that, I was back to square one! It just wouldn’t go in. She had told me that after the seven clean days I’d be ready for intercourse. For some reason, I didn’t think it was that simple. But through it all I was very hopeful: “This time we’re gonna get it,” I would say.
But we didn’t. It was extremely painful for me and my husband felt like he was hitting against a wall! Most of the time I ended up in tears, either from the physical pain or from the emotional pain. I felt guilty for not being able to give my husband what he deserved and was worried that our marriage was not yet consummated. And deep down I feared what that would cause and if I would ever be a normal woman.
At that point, we were married six months and were extremely frustrated that nothing had happened. Through our frustrations though, we grew closer to one another. One night after yet another unsuccessful attempt, my husband suggested that maybe it was time to seek professional help. I had to agree. The next day I came across a medical book and skimmed through all the sexual disorders and conditions. And there on the bottom left-hand corner was a paragraph titled vaginismus. I read it… and reread it. “I think this is me,” I cried silently… .” An unconscious fear of penetration which causes the vaginal muscles to tighten making intercourse painful or even impossible.”
When I got home I told my husband what I had discovered and he said that he had suspected something of that sort. Again my husband called a Rabbi who at this point referred us to The Women’s Therapy Center. We were ready and willing to do whatever it took. I was happy that we’d finally be able to take care of any problem, but I was uncomfortable that it involved psychological help. I never thought of myself as an emotionally unstable person and I hoped that my husband would not think of me differently. With his kind, sweet, and sensitive words, my husband assured me that he loved me and that we’d get through it together… And we did!! He traveled in with me for almost every appointment and was extremely supportive and helpful.
Together we developed a trusting relationship with Dr. Ditza and Dr. Ross, who were both caring, kind, and extremely understanding of our religious obligations. They informed us that they had treated many Orthodox Jews and we felt very comfortable speaking and working with them. Not only were they on-call for us at all hours, but they were truly happy when we called them with the news of success! “You’re cured,” they said happily. And I was!!! There really are no words to thank them enough…*
– Esther T.
* Results may vary from person to person