Your flaps should be haps
I think it’s fair to say that women have complicated relationships with their vaginas.
It’s more than fair.
It’s a fact.
Nothing complicates that relationship more than pushing a baby out of a cavity that has always held a certain strangeness and danger and, admittedly, pleasure, for girls and women.
Few messages exist that ask women to really, whole-heartedly embrace and love their vaginas.
Instead, girls and women receive messages about how to
protect their vaginas from invasion by men who they are also supposed to keep their vaginas clean for.
It’s confusing to say the least.
But then, you have a baby.
And it comes out of your vagina.
And it’s normal and “natural” and all kinds of other bullcrap that people say that has nothing to do with the number that goes on in your downstairs after you push a however-many-pound baby out of what you understand vaguely as a place of pleasure, and hopefully, rarely (if never), pain.
I cannot speak to a C-section, but I have been told that there are effects overall in the pelvic floor region regardless of how the baby comes out.
Feeling alienated from your vagina is not uncommon after birth.
Your vagina is part of your body which has shifted and changed and become unfamiliar to you in so many ways.
It may even feel alien to you, like mine did.
After birth, I felt bloody and torn open – and not just immediately after birth – but for some time after birth.
Smells, sensations, pains, shapes, and even hair growth – all different.
We don’t talk about it.
I mean, we do, in whispered conversations with our closest friends who have already been through it.
In sobs to our partners about how you’ll never be the same.
At least, not as he knew you.
We don’t talk about the brokenness we feel, the disconnect from ourselves and our centres of pleasure.
We don’t even get encouraged to heal.
I mean, someone might act like you need to take it easy, but as long as you are upright and not cowboy straddling your adult diaper-filled pants, you’re fine.
Women’s vaginas need more attention.
More conversation needs to go into what happens to them before, during, and after birth.
Women need to be encouraged to own and come into close contact with their vaginas and ultimately, their pleasure, and their power to give birth to life itself.
But we act like they don’t.
We act like they’ll be okay in the shadows.
Or we are ashamed of their new smells, sights, sounds, and shapes.
We put up with numbness and pissing ourselves and prolapses and sometimes pain because no one fucking talks about what’s normal or what’s not.
Vaginas are women’s secret shame.
Vaginas are glorified or vilified.
They are not public.
And when they are, it’s often gruesome – some man’s idea of hot sex which is really just vagina pounding with no effort at a woman’s pleasure.
It’s terrifying to wake up one day – no matter what age you are – and have to deal with your changed genitalia in silence.
Who can you turn to?
Other women, that’s who.
We need to stop being silent about the effect of birth on our psyches. On our ability to love.
To explore our bodies without fear that we are damaged and irreconcilably changed.
We need each other.
We need to speak the truths of our vaginas, vaginal change, pleasure fluctuations, hormonal difference, scar tissue, pelvic floor exercise, masturbation, sex – whatever about your experience that needs to be voiced.
So are other women.
We’re in this together.
(Photo: Paining by Georgia O'Keefe)