Shelley - life has never been better
"I snuck the pack of Tena lady pads into my shopping trolley, hiding them under the big bag of pasta I was buying for the kids' tea."
"Pretend they're for your Grandma, Shelley!" I told myself, as I queued at the checkout. I was only 23, and I hated the fact that I needed to wear incontinence pads. But since having my third little boy, Farris, who was six months old, I had no choice. I leaked when I exercised or jumped on a trampoline with my older boys Brandon, four, and Denver, three; and even when I coughed, sneezed or bent to wash the kitchen floor."
"The pads were so big that they showed through tight jeans and leggings, so I had to cover up with long baggy tops and smocks. I felt frumpy and unattractive - nothing like the sexy young thing I should be at my age. Not that my partner Duncan, 28, and I had much energy for sex, with three young children to look after."
"Or was I just hiding behind this excuse - because I knew I was no longer satisfying Duncan properly? When we had intercourse, he couldn't climax, and once asked, "Am I still inside you?" I was embarrassed, humiliated, and ashamed that I couldn't be a proper lover to him."
"Since having Farris I'd been doing my pelvic floor exercises religiously. But I knew they weren't working. Not only was I suffering with stress incontinence, but Duncan couldn't feel me, and I couldn't feel him properly either. He tried to reassure me it didn't matter, but of course it did. We both wanted another baby, and desperately hoped for a little girl to complete our family - but how could we even think about that if Duncan couldn't climax inside me?"
"If I even win the lottery, I'll pay for a Designer Vagina operation!" I told Duncan. I made it sound more of a joke than it really was. When Duncan, a quantity surveyor, was at work, I was trawling the internet for a surgeon who could tighten me up inside - because one thing was for sure, the pelvic floor exercises were not having any effect. When I discovered that surgery would cost at least £5000, my heart sank. But, against the odds, I was now pregnant again - so any decision would have to be put off until after the new baby was born. I knew I should talk to my GP, but I was too embarrassed."
"Then, on TV, Embarrassing Bodies did something on devices to exercise the pelvic floor, and I sent off for one immediately. It looked like a large clothes peg with an end like a penis to fit inside you, and springs to open and close the device using your vaginal muscles. I couldn't use it when I was pregnant so I kept it safe until after our beautiful baby girl Cherry-Belle was born last August. Then, as soon as I'd stopped bleeding, I started to use it. It was hard work and I had to stick to the exercises several times a week. But I wanted our first time after the baby to be extra special. If Duncan didn't notice a difference, I knew I'd be more upset than he was. Once I noticed I was leaking less when I coughed, sneezed, ran and jumped, I knew my pelvic floor was tightening up the way I wanted it to."
"I scheduled a romantic evening with Duncan. Not only did we both notice the difference, we had to use KY jelly to ease Duncan in because I was now so much tighter than before! Since then our sex life has been wonderful, and our whole relationship has improved because I'm happier in myself. I hadn't realized how snappy and short tempered I'd become until my mood lightened. I'm back in tight leggings, and don't have to worry about leaks. I feel attractive again and I can't stop talking about my weak pelvic floor now that it's strong again. Life has never been better!"
Shelley Perfect was interviewed by Karen Evennett for That's Life (7 April 2011).