I had Girly no2 9 months ago and started this blog not long after. I never really stopped to think about what people would say, I certainly didn’t expect some of the lovely comments I receive. Most unexpected though, was that people would regularly ask me how my vagina was. It still happens now…
(Dads, there is a lot of Vagina in this week’s blog. Let that be your warning!)
I started writing this blog because I was genuinely perturbed at what I had experienced during childbirth. And how, despite the fact I already had a child, this time it all felt new again. Not the baby bit, that was pretty similar, but the “me” bit. How I felt, physically and emotionally. I put pen to paper (well, finger to screen), showed my husband and sister what I had written, and was told that I absolutely must share my thoughts with the world. I had visions of the group of girls that plagued my school years starting a club whereby they met up each week to read it and laugh. But then I remembered I didn’t give a shit about them and that actually there were people in my life whose opinions I did care about and they thought I was honest and funny, which was what I was going for. I genuinely never really thought about what the other people would say. I definitely didn’t stop to think about the secrets people would share with me. I never expected to learn about vaginal physiotherapiy (yep, that’s a thing); about what the right amount of drunk is to have sex for the first time after childbirth; or what THINX were (sanitary wear, if you’re not in the know either). None of this occurred to me until quite a few blogs had been posted. You see you don’t get much back online. Some of you are kind enough to like or share my posts, but I don’t see people smile or sneer as they read. I just assume people start to read and get bored, shrug and move on. I often wonder if it’s worth continuing to share my thoughts with the world until I see someone face to face that I haven’t seen in a while. At that point almost everyone mentions it and, more importantly, tells me how much it resonates and makes them laugh. After that, I hear all sorts – and I love it! Not because I’m nosey (I totally am) but because it makes me feel like what happened to my body 9 months ago and ever since, has happened to so many other people. In fact, worse has happened to other people. And I don’t feel like quite so much of a drama queen.
Childbirth is of course shocking and most people have some horror to share. I continue to be surprised, though, by what happens in the year after childbirth. I’ve heard more than one story about women whose pelvises have been so broken as the baby came out that they have had to have physiotherapy to put them back together again. Literally like Humpty Dumpty. But instead of 10,000 horses and 10,000 men it’s taken 10,000 pelvic floors and 10,000 leg lifts. The word prolapse was not even in my vocabulary before this blog. I’ve spoken to people who have experienced a vaginal prolapse. Their baby has literally taken their body with them as it tried to squeeze them out. You know why you shouldn’t run in the first 6 weeks after birth? Because your vagina might fall out. If you are lucky enough to have successfully ejected your baby, and your bones are back in the right place and your vagina hasn’t fallen out, then eventually you might make it through to the point where you think about having sex again. Besides dryness and tightness-paranoia, I haven’t heard too many stories about this. Mostly because people don’t like talking about it. No one wants to voice their inner fear about having a vagina like a cave that no penis can reach the walls of, and the worry that their partner might run away to some one with a tubigrip vagina. This one really goes on too, I’m not sure you ever stop thinking about whether your vagina will go back to normal, wondering whether your partner secretly longs for your old-school-vag. But it gets better and better until you’re back to whatever tickles your pickle again as you get braver and braver and stop having visions about sex re-tearing you from front to back. No doubt after that some time after that your periods will come back depending on feeding, contraceptives etc. At this point, more never-considered-before hurdles. Thinking I could just whack a Tampax in and continue about my day recently, I walked out of the bathroom like someone who had just sat inappropriately on a (very dry) telegraph pole. What is that?! No one had mentioned this before, just another joyous reminder of childbirth. A few Googles later, I’ve found nothing formal on the subject, just a load of Mumsnet threads of people experiencing the same tampon discomfort I have. Proffered explanations range from scar tissue dryness right through to needing a bottle-sized tampon. I’m going with the first explanation. Some people say it never goes, others say 2 or 3 periods later it will be fine. Either way, not fun and definitely not anticipated. Alternatives? Nappy like sanitary towels; Mooncups, which are egg cups that fit inside you to catch it all requiring manual emptying – not my bag, thanks; or the newly available THINX – pants that soak it all up and you wash them along with everything else. With the pants there is apparently no smell, they’re environmentally friendly, and they don’t rustle like a pair of paper trousers. I’m still undecided myself, but luckily I have another three weeks to think about it.
The post-childbirth body has been well documented by many more competent writers than I. I think the most confident of people have moments where they long for their pre-baby body. I assume most people like me search the internet for pictures of Kourtney Kardashian and Heidi Klum in a bikini, zooming in, obsessively searching for signs of wrinkled skin and stretch marks. Or under-eye shadows on Amal Clooney and Princess Katherine. Any Facebook beach shots from beautiful friends with multiple children I wonder why their boobs don’t look like just-emptied udders. It’s easy to obsess over other people and the difference between now you and pre-baby you. But in time you have to accept the things you can’t change back, and move on. I am very lucky in that Husband is amazing when it comes to my body and constantly reminds me of what I have done for him. He only ever notices the good things and anything he really can’t argue away (like the Braille underground map on my belly), “battle scars” he says, gazing adoringly at our two little girls, “I don’t care. I don’t see them”. That helps. And it reminds me to find my inner confidence and be proud of what I have achieved. He still finds me beautiful, and I’m not really that different on the outside….besides the bulging rounded tummy, the ridge over my csection scar, my one-shoe-size bigger feet, and the 3+ increase in ring size. They don’t matter. So if ever you were wondering how I, and my vagina, are since the first few blogs, I’m good! I’ve come a long way since those first few weeks where I felt like someone had set fire to my pelvis, and whilst my vagina might not be exactly as it once was, it’s OK. Healing still, but getting better all the time. My paranoia about sex has greatly reduced, all thanks to my Husband who says (and does!) all the right things. I don’t care if he’s lying, what he says makes me feel like I need to, for both of our sakes.
There’s so much talk after birth about getting our bodies back in shape, I never anticipated all these other things. We don’t just worry about getting our figures back; whether the fact that we cried every day for a week means we have post natal depression and whether that look on your babys’ face means she will be a psychopath, it goes beyond the first few weeks. The first year is full of surprises, mostly around the revelation that “normal” is no longer something you know and probably never will know in quite the same way. It takes a year for my tummy not to be rounded to the point where I could pass for being 12-weeks pregnant. I have fat fingers and feet that will never go back to their original size and have reduced my pre-child-and-therefore-extensive shoe and jewellery collection by half. I manically do pelvic floor exercises every day lest I leave a trail of wee or, even worse, period blood behind me or be the butt of a “that-baby-just-fell-out” joke from the boys. But the truth is, that you never really go back to normal. There’s a new normal you, and it just takes a bit of getting used to. I do think we should do each other a favour and talk about more of this gross stuff though, we would accept our new selves far more quickly. So next time we meet for a coffee, or if you’re feeling brave then leave a comment, tell me your “new you” woes and how you came to terms with them because I’ll bet me, or one of my friends, will be going through exactly the same thing.
Thanks as always for stopping by. I look forward to your comments. If you need a backing track for reading this blog, I would choose My Sharona, obviously replacing Sharona with vagina. See you soon! xx