Awful reason bride couldn’t have sex
Climbing into bed with her new husband, Kendra Blair was excited about the prospect of consummating her marriage.
But what should have been a night of passion turned out to be pure agony.
The hospital insurance worker, 39, from Missouri, US, was overcome with a crippling burning pain which made her so distressed she even hyperventilated.
And the pain she felt from sex meant Kendra remained a virgin newlywed for 12 years - which ultimately led to her and her husband divorcing.
Since then, Kendra, has been diagnosed with vaginismus and is sharing her story to raise awareness for the agonising condition.
She said: "Not being able to have sex and fall pregnant - things other people take for granted - left me feeling isolated and broken.
"This condition really messes with you mentally.
"Normal conversations you hear day to day - about someone being pregnant, or people talking about having sex - make women with vaginismus feel really messed up.
"I felt like I wasn't a real woman."
Raised in a Christian household where sex before marriage was banned, Kendra first realised something was wrong during her first attempt at intimacy at 19-years-old.
She said: "We tried to have sex when we went to bed the day after our wedding, but it just wasn't happening.
"I thought I was just nervous, because I didn't know what to expect.
"I grew up in a very strong Christian conservative home and sex wasn't something anyone in my family ever spoke about.
"But when I tried to have sex, it felt like there was a bone there that my husband couldn't get through."
Ever since that evening, whenever Kendra tried to have sex she was overcome with an extreme burning sensation.
After months of struggling with sex, she eventually called her mother to ask for advice.
"She thought maybe I had a thick hymen - the skin surrounding or partially covering the vaginal opening - and just needed to really relax," she said.
"My husband and I had endured months of frustration and I knew there was something else wrong, but everyone just kept telling me to relax."
Eventually, Kendra confided in her then husband's stepmother, who took her to see a gynaecologist.
But the doctor's examination triggered the same reaction as her attempts to have penetrative sex.
She said: "My automatic reaction was to hyperventilate, close my legs, squirm to get away and push the doctor away saying, 'Don't touch me'.
"She told me I'd have to make another appointment and they would put me out, so she could examine me, but I didn't, as she also told me just to relax and stop overreacting.
"She had no idea what the problem was, but I saw her smirk and, whether I was right or not, it felt like she was making fun of me."
Five years passed before Kendra plucked up courage to see another doctor, during which time her condition started to affect her marriage.
She said: "It did affect our relationship badly and we ended up splitting up after 12 years.
"We had other issues going on - not just the sex - so we didn't get divorced just because of vaginismus, but it was a factor.
"My ex started getting bitter and resentful towards me because of it.
"Unsurprisingly, he was very frustrated and questioned whether I was holding out on purpose.
"I think this was because, after a while I stopped wanting to work on it.
"I didn't want to try to have sex because it causes a really agonising burning pain and that's not fun."
Meanwhile, the second doctor Kendra saw, who diagnosed vaginismus, had told her to use dilators to stretch and retrain the vaginal muscles.
"I felt some relief when she told me what I had, as it proved I wasn't crazy," she said.
"She also told me I was not the only one that had this.
"But I was scared about using the dilators, because I couldn't even insert a tampon.
"Despite his occasional frustration, my then husband was pretty supportive. He stood by me more than a lot of men would, considering that we didn't have sex for 12 years.
"He was getting impatient, though, and had started putting a timeline on having kids. I understood his frustration, but it felt like extra pressure."
She added: "I tried the dilators but failed. I couldn't get any of them in - not even the smallest one which was the size of a small tampon. I just couldn't do it. It was too painful.
"It seemed like nothing was going to work."
Despairing, Kendra sank into depression - fearing she would never have a normal sex life.
She said: "There were days when I even thought about dying.
"I had decided to talk about the vaginismus within the first three dates with a man," she said.
"If I waited longer than that it felt like I was being deceitful.
"I seem to remember chatting to Sean online and sending him a text about it before we even met.
"He said, 'I'm not in it for the sex, I want a relationship with you. We can deal with this down the road.'
"It was an amazing response and one you don't get very often."
The couple, who now live together and will be celebrating their first anniversary in May, have now had penetrative sex twice, according to Kendra.
And she puts it down to a combination of Sean's sensitivity and her finding a Facebook support group in 2017 with over 2000 other sufferers, with whom she has shared stories about everything from diagnosis to treatment.
"My confidence has been boosted a little bit," she said. "I don't feel as broken as I once did.
"I've been able to have penetrative sex a couple of times, so that's made me feel less guilty and less like I'm stopping Sean from doing something he wants to do."
Kendra swears that the physical therapy recommended by people in her Facebook group has helped her to become mostly cured.
It involves performing pelvic floor exercises to stretch out the vaginal muscles, as well as practising insertion with dilators.
"I knew physical therapy was an option and something I should have considered doing, but I didn't have it before this as I had no idea what to expect," she admitted.
"When I joined the vaginismus support group, a ton of women had already been going to physical therapy and shared their experiences. That kicked me into action. - they took the fear of the unknown away from me."
Also seeing a physical therapist, Kendra practised pelvic floor stretches for five days.
"I then tried dilating and got to one of my largest dilators with no pain," she said.
"It felt amazing. At last I didn't feel broken, as I'd clawed back a bit of control."
Kendra fears that many sufferers are still self-diagnosing, as they are not taken seriously, even by the medical profession.
She said: "A lot of women diagnose themselves, because they see the doctor and get told they're overreacting.
"Luckily, physical therapists seem to know all about it and are very sympathetic, but, in my experience, doctors often aren't.
"And it's very belittling to be dismissed."
Now on a mission to raise awareness of vaginismus, Kendra has started her own Facebook support group, which has some 70 members.
But her own therapy is proving a lengthy process, with her often taking one step forwards and two back.
"I've met some women who've been able to dilate and once they've got past a certain point have found it's never happened again," she said.
"But for some of us, we progress and then we have a 'bad muscle day' and go backwards, which can leave you feeling down in the dumps."
While she is not cured, however, Kendra hopes the progress she has made is taking her one step closer to achieving her dream of having a child with Sean.
She said: "I've always dreamt of being a mother and so have always felt a void there.
"I'm worried about my age now, but Sean and I have decided if we can't have our own biological child over the next couple of years then we will adopt."
Praising Kendra's bravery, Sean said: "I think Kendra is an amazing woman. Feeling broken can be tough and I try to be there for her and give her encouraging words and help her not feel so isolated.
"Being open about it is cathartic for her. Not understanding her own body must been really difficult.
"Her being open about it and honest is amazing and it helps to build her confidence - and that's what she needs."
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission