When I first talked to Missy Lavender, I really had no idea if I would ever catch my breath. What knocked the breath out of me? Pick one: The sheer force of her charm, the drama of her comeback story, the strength of her will, the depth of her love, the remarkable cheer and impishness of her presence—even over the telephone. Or just the fact that we are on the same path, working on the same problem, with exactly the same drive… to make sure that women everywhere get to enjoy good pelvic health, for life.
With Missy, it’s been no holds barred. And so I jumped at the chance to join her advisory board, and I’m happy to be exploring what we might accomplish together. So, this post will be an introduction to Missy and her mission, because we really want you to know all about her and the BelowYourBelt.org, the organization she founded as her response to, as she would say, “things going sideways” in her pelvic life. That’s kind of putting it mildly.
But this Kellogg Business School MBA lost a lot after childbirth left her in pelvic trauma, with a babe in arms, and struggling, despite all of her many resources, to get the help she needed to recover her urinary and sexual function post childbirth. She made up her mind that the difficulty she had finding solutions to pelvic problems would never have to happen for other women.
With the kind of energy no new mother in her 40s usually has, she jettisoned her former career in investor relations, and established the Woman’s Health Foundation with the goals of improving women’s pelvic health and wellness, driving research, developing and offering education and fitness programs, fostering conversations, creating communities for women, and serving as a national resource on pelvic wellness issues.
And if that sounds like a lot to pull off, just know that now, in their twelfth year, they are doing it. All of it. And doing it really well, too, from their offices in Chicago, with their amazing and dedicated team, and largely because Missy herself is a force of nature.
We struggled and huffed and puffed, but eventually caught up with Missy, for a moment, over the holidays, for cup of tea and a chat about this path she has been on. She was preparing for yet another pelvic surgery to manage the aftermath of that difficult childbirth, a situation she will share completely with her readers in the blog she writes on the Foundation’s website, where you can keep up with all of the projects they are managing, and all of the many good souls making their work possible.
Some of the people you get to meet are her favorites, the “Grumpy Patients” and mine, the “Grumpy Patients.” Here’s Missy:
I’m a grumpy patient. Grumpy patients are a blessing! Grumpy patients have made all the difference. The proactive patients are the ones who change the world. But you ladies already know that at MiddlesexMD. Your readers are all the grumpy patients already. Seekers, I suppose.
We all need to be turning around and talking to our female relatives who are not online, our sisters and mothers and daughters. What keeps me up at night is knowing that so many of us are out of touch with our pelvic lives. As a culture, we don’t understand our lives below the belts at all. Culturally, we aren’t raised to pay any attention to it.
As women we should really be owning this wonderful center of our bodies, the center of our divine feminine, our procreative center, our digestive center, our urogenital center, we should understand it all, how it works, where everything is and how it functions. We should start understanding it all, in all of its dimensions, from a very early age, so we can see it all in our mind’s eye, and remain mindful and in tune with our pelvic health and well-being so that we can stay on top of problems and learn to get help quickly when things start to go wrong. Never ever just sit back and live with pain and dysfunction the way our mothers and grandmothers did. In silence, imagining this is a woman’s lot in life!
In generations past, even now! Once a woman got past her late 30s, more than half of us, for most of us, things start to go wrong below the belt, any of a number of issues, pelvic organ prolapse, endometriosis, twisted tubes, cysts, simple fungal infections—oh, you name it—and there was very little help or information available. And societal silence!
And then what happens? The last thing we feel like doing is having sex. Consciously or unconsciously partners, just get shut out. My hypothesis, and I’m setting out to prove it, is that more than half of marriages end because of problems below the belt, and pain and shame that is not shared or managed.
My goal is a world in which women don’t have to stumble around. There really is so much help. There are so many therapists and doctors. It doesn’t have to cost you. There is so much that can be done that is not invasive these days. So much we can do for our own pelvic health. The point is, we have to all keep asking until we get the right answers. And we just have to make it easy to have these conversations. Take the hush-hush out of it.
Our work has been focused on helping provide pelvic health education and outreach for every stage of a woman’s life. And encouraging sharing the transitions, woman to woman, so we know what to expect. Right now we have to fix the silence up and down the generations. We have to help our children and our mothers and grandmothers because the silence has been too big of a problem for too long.
Women just don’t have to live with discomfort and dysfunction below the belt. We don’t have to. There are so many therapies that are non surgical, and so many barely invasive surgical procedures. And so many surgeries that will simply give you your whole life back. It’s worthwhile to know all of your options.
So that’s a bit of Missy. The whole Missy is transforming. Her books (including this one for daughters and granddaughters) are charming and so worth having in your home and giving to the women you love. I’m giving them to the women I love. We’re looking into offering them through our site.
Meanwhile, do check out BelowYourBelt.org, throwing light on pelvic health in all its complexity and beauty. Demystifying it and keeping it all working for us, happily and comfortably for life
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