It’s difficult to think about pregnancy and childbirth without thinking about your vagina and let this be a warning - this is the first of many times VAGINA will be mentioned!
Whichever way you birth your baby or however your pregnancy came about – your vagina almost always plays some part, it's amazing in its own right and it connects the uterus to the outside world!
Despite all of its wonder – one of the least comfortable topics in my hypobirthing classes is your vagina, well that and perineal massage which of course is massaging an area of the vagina!
Maybe it’s the word? Perhaps it's because we are only okay with talking about vagina's in the context of sex? Whatever the reason may be, I think this it's a really neglected topic and something that needs to be talked about a lot more.
I’d say the majority of men and women have an alternative name for vagina's as it seems a word we are culturally uncomfortable with; I think the name I had for mine as a child was affectionately learnt from my Godmother, but I do try and stick to the anatomically correct word now because I need to say it a lot in both of my jobs and I'm okay with the word in case you hadn't noticed!
So, what has inspired this vagina driven post?
Well as I'm in the throes of preparing for my August Hypnobirthing class, I've been thinking about this, but I also stumbled across an ad a couple of months ago that I had a surprising reaction to which was aimed at pregnant women;
It was slightly different to the ones I've seen in the past including offerings of luxurious massages etc; this was instead promising to serve your every waxing need.
I have to admit – at first I kind of scoffed at this. Not because I have anything against bikini waxes or beauty treatments, but I guess it was more about my cynicism in what the message was!
I then felt swiftly ashamed at feeling like I was momentarily passing some sort of judgement.
Firstly I began to think about what my reaction was about?
And secondly in almost equal measures - what might motivate someone to go and get their ‘hollywood’ bikini wax done prior to giving birth?
Just in case you are not familiar with the ‘hollywood’ wax - it’s basically the removal of all of the hair on your vagina.
And I began to consider how I felt leading up to both of my births.
Now whilst I would never torture myself through a 'hollywood' bikini wax (pregnant or not), I do remember really wanting my toenails to be nice and I do recall asking my husband to help with the grooming of my bikini line; however, this request was revoked when I saw the care he took painting my toenails!!!
Even when I knew the first time I really hadn't given a shit what my nails or my bikini line looked like in labour - the moment I suspected my labour had started the second time, I had the sudden urge to jump in the shower and shave my legs – I even put my make up on and dried my hair - this of course alongside my hynobirthing breathing!
So my issue is nothing to do with vanity or the way in which any woman makes herself feel good, sexy, beautiful or empowered; I guess my concern was more around the vanity of birth as opposed to the true, raw reality.
A reluctance to talk about our vagina’s even in an antenatal class makes me feel a little nervous about any woman's real preparation for how you might feel about your vagina pre and post birth and about the actual changes taking place. And if it isn't the word that's off-putting, what is it?
So as a woman who likes to shave my legs (and bikini line) and always puts my make up on before leaving the house - little rituals that make me feel good; I'm also a woman that knows the value of my vagina and being acquainted with it before conception, before birth and post-birth too!
I shared lots of the fears that hear other women talk about it in my classes including episiotomies and tearing.
And as someone who has experienced both and several operations to repair things,
I wanted to give myself and my vagina the best chance at coming through my second birth intact which meant preparation – physically and mentally.
I researched and I chatted with the wise women of birth (midwives) and almost all of them said a similar thing. The most useful advice was to get reacquainted with my vagina and some other tips for birth.
I was scared. My body had felt foreign to me for so long, it no longer felt like it belonged to me. It’s a hard thing to admit or describe, but after experiencing trauma – I guess I had dissociated from this part of myself.
But, I did as suggested and had a good look down there and I’m so glad I did because all of that fear was for nothing. It was still mine and at the end of the day – I was aiming to birth a baby again vaginally, so this was necessary work!
It was the perfect time to begin perineal massage and a good time to reclaim my body.
It didn't come naturally. It's awkward with a big belly in the way and quite frankly it was a challenge, but it was as important physically as mentally.
For those who don't know, perineal massage is exactly what it says...massaging the perineum.
The aim is to encourage elasticity and tone in the perineum.
If the mere thought of massaging your perineum puts shivers down your spine, as I say to all the women I teach, don't do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, but think about how you might become more acquainted with your vagina prior to birth.
It also isn't necessarily a negative experience. Some women get their partner involved - it may even remind you that your vagina can be a source of pleasure...
YES I SAID PLEASURE AND VAGINA!
And there is no better time to remind ourselves that babies often find their ways in through an act that is designed to bring pleasure and likewise the perfect conditions to bring them earth-side are those that aided conception!
So if the ‘hollywood’ wax is your thing or a bit of pre-birth pampering helps you to feel prepared... get all the treatments and even if your choice of word isn't vagina, just don’t forget its importance when preparing for your birth.