I don’t know why, but people tend to say things like ‘EWWWW, don’t GO THERE!’ and ‘ARRRGH, TMI!’ whenever I start to talk about my post-birth fanjita.
This, I have never understood. If men were torn literally in half by the enormous head of a baby, they’d do the same thing as fisherman and make big expansive hand gestures, saying ‘My perineum was THAT size’ or ‘I had a fourth degree tear THIS big’ to anyone who would listen. Women, however, are supposed to STFU about it and sit on a bag of frozen peas with a weak smile on their faces. What’s that about?
So I’m going to tell you my story, a) in the hope that you and your poor stretched post-natal fanny feels less alone and b) because if I keep trying to laugh about it, maybe me and my hoo-ha will get over it sometime before 2030.
Before I gave birth, seven long years ago, I probably should have massaged my perineum in olive oil, like the books said. (Yes, people with no children - they really DO say this.) But although I’m not squeamish about my body, I really wasn’t in the frame of mind to baste myself every day like the last chicken in Sainsbury’s. Anyway, even if I’d shoved a lemon up my arse and sat in the oven for an hour at gas mark 6, I probably wouldn’t have got out in one piece.
Anyway, I was in the last stages of labour, grunting, swearing like a docker and so out of it on gas and air that I thought I was hearing the theme tune to Fifteen to One on a loop. Everything was going ok, until the last stages. That’s when my son decided to punch his way out with his fist in the air like Superman. (KAPOW!). And I pushed a bit too hard and kicked the midwife in the face. (DOOF!). And that’s also when me and the body part I’d known my whole life changed irrevocably. (OWWW!)
After attempts to stitch me up with a local anaesthetic failed, I was taken to theatre and given the epidural I would have had if I wasn’t being such a bloody natural-birth-y-Gwyneth Paltrow-first-time-mum-martyr. (If I’d had an epidural in the first place, I could have read a copy of Reveal and had a fag while it was all going off. But you know, hindsight, etc.).
However, I was now so off my face with gas, air and painkillers that I thought it was all hilaaarious. ‘Don’t stitch Home Sweet Home’ down there!’ I said happily to the registrar, who was looking like she’d opened the curtains and been confronted with the apocalypse. ‘You can go to sleep now,’ she said, sternly, so I did what I was told.
Like most women, a few months afterwards, my downstairs area was officially the Disputed Region of Vaganistan. A no-go zone. But it soon became clear, when I had my first period (not to be confused with that fun 4 week continuous afterbirth period!) that something was wrong. There was a ridge of scar tissue where my fanny used to be. It had grown over it. If I even wanted to get a tampon in there, I had to flip it over the Great Wall of Vagina. Sex was impossible, and painful. For almost a year.
In the meantime, I complained about it to every medical person I could. I went to my very lovely and understanding GP, who referred me to a horrible gynaecologist. This man, with no lady parts as far as I could tell, told me that it was all in my mind, because he could get a speculum up there. (Thanks for your input, dude.) Then he referred me to a physiotherapist, a very nice woman who presented me with a lovely gift box of pink dildos of various sizes. It was a joke.
So I went back to Mr Horrible. If I had been a delicate lady, who didn’t think it was appropriate to discuss such private problems with a man, my marriage would have failed and I wouldn’t have had sex ever again. But, as you can probably tell, I’m not. I told him ‘I have a ridge of scar tissue across my vagina. You can SEE it. I want to be referred to a specialist. NOW.’
Desperate to get rid of me, he transferred me to a plastic surgeon. The plastic surgeon took one look and said: ‘WELL THERE’S A RIDGE OF SCAR TISSUE RIGHT ACROSS IT, NO WONDER YOU CAN’T HAVE SEX!’ Honestly, if I hadn’t been in such a state, I’d have humped him with joy.
2 operations, a feature in the Lancet medical journal and several traumatised medical students later, I’m back to normal. Well, it’ll never be normal, but then after children, nothing really is. My consultant looked at me at the end of my long treatment and said: ‘You women are amazing. If this was something men went through, they’d have to be pushed out of the hospital in a wheelchair.’ And you know what? We ARE amazing. We go through so much, and yet we’re supposed keep our mouths shut about things like this, because ‘TMI.’
Well, sod silence. If there are problems after you give birth, DEMAND to be treated. Be vocal. If you want to talk about your fanny, talk about it. Talk about it to anyone who’ll listen. Talk to your friends, to other women, to men, to random people at the bus stop. Take pictures of it and post them on Facebook (actually, maybe don’t do that.)
Anyway, thanks for listening. I don’t know about you, but it’s made me feel better.
By the way, I really hope you weren’t having your tea.
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