Come on girls – it’s time to make friends with our labia! This isn’t necessarily easy. In fact, even the thought of posting this blog leaves me uncomfortable. How can it be that talking about something as basic to birthing as our vaginas leaves me feeling anxious about upsetting or offending people?
During my sex education classes at school, we had diagrams of our ovaries and uterus, and the triangle between our legs, but no diagrams of our labia. Our rather uninhibited teacher suggested that us girls take a look at our nether regions with a mirror. We recoiled in horror! Disgust! How gross could people get?!!! Yuck! I hadn’t read Germaine Greer at this point, but I do remember thinking there was something slightly wrong with my friends’ reactions. Is it really that bad? I had looked at it with a mirror, (though I wouldn’t dare admit it) and it seemed okay.
Have you ever noticed that as a culture, we have easy, well known, friendly words for male genitalia (willy, dick) but female genitalia is either never really called anything (“front bottom”, “down there”) or it has a personal pet name which others don’t necessarily use (what is yours?). This is a common problem for parents of little girls – as to what to call it. For parents of boys, it’s easy. It’s your willy. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something as simple and straightforward for your girls’ special parts too?
Ironincally, there is one place where, in our culture, we can get a really good look at labia. This is a place where vaginas are celebrated. Revered. Explicitly displayed and labelled. This is in the realm of pornographic material. In men’s worlds, not womens.
So, my point is that either our vagina is gross, or it’s invisible, or it’s a sex toy. I think, in terms of birth preparation, it is important to address all these three, because they all play a part in our fear of birth, and thereby can threaten the best of birth preparation courses. So when it comes to childbirth, this gross or invisible or sexy part of ourselves has to rise up to the challenge of turning us into mothers. If we can get our heads around that, it will help our vagina get itself around our baby’s head. We don’t want to view birth as gross (it’s amazing and beautiful), we don’t want to ignore the role of the vagina (it has quite an important role!), and we don’t want to fret about the sexy part (you’re amazing and feminine when you birth a baby).
So get cracking (excuse the pun) with your birth preparation, from a psychological as well as educational point of view. Depending on what your issues are, you might want to practice the perineal massage which we cover in class (don’t worry, we don’t actually do it, or demonstrate it. It’s all out of a book….). This will help you to make friends with this important and feminine part of your birthing outfit. If you’re worried about not staying sexy, ask your partner to stay up at the top end during the elaborate exit. If you don’t want instruments or fingers in your special bits, you might choose to decline internal examinations. Either way, don’t ignore your vagina. Whatever you want to call it, it is a special and important part of birthing and it deserves some proper respect and admiration.