Childbirth, and the state of your poor postpartum vagina, are no joke. Of course, that doesn't stop people from poking fun at the entire situation all the time. I find that, for the most part, these jokes are sexist, gross, and creepy, usually demonstrating a complete lack of knowledge when it comes to childbirth and women's bodies. After three deliveries, I have heard way too many childbirth and vagina jokes that will make you rage. It honestly makes me want to commit acts of violence, but I don't because I'm a decent, kind, respectable human being. Instead, I stare blankly at some random human who, for one reason or another, thinks they're funny, as if to ask, "What did you just say, and why do you think that's in any way hilarious?"
So why do people make these kinds of jokes? I think part of the problem is that our society is painfully uncomfortable with reproductive anatomy that we, for the most part, associate with women. When we get uncomfortable with things, we have a tendency to joke about them. Many people — male and female — can't even say the word "vagina," let alone bother to learn how one works. Plus, as women we are used to being the butt of people's crappy jokes, and are constantly told to be polite, so we laugh along, even if these jokes suck and make us super uncomfortable.
We also live in a culture where people with vaginas are expected to use those vaginas to please people with penises. If you listen to the way we, as a society, joke about postpartum vaginas, childbirth complicates sex in both the short and long term. People assume spouses are irritated by the six week postpartum sex wait, and think childbirth irreparably damages vaginas by turning them "loose hot dog tunnels." People, that's not how this works. That's not how any of this works. But individuals who've never had babies only have what they've heard or seen on television to go off of, so the stereotype of the angry, irrational, out-of-control woman in childbirth, with a broken vagina, just won't die.
Maybe I just don't have a sense of humor, or maybe I am just freaking tired of casual sexism taking over my world. Regardless, these jokes about birth and vaginas kind of make me want to burn it all down:
So, here's the deal: my postpartum vagina is fine. Yes, my vulva looks different now than it did before I had babies, but my vagina — you know, the part on the inside — is an amazing muscle, designed to expand and contract. I certainly don't appreciate jokes about it's size, shape, tightness, or ability to please my husband.
Besides, why the hell doesn't anyone ever inquire about my pleasure after childbirth? (The answer, of course, is sexism). Honestly, the only people I am interested in discussing the state of my vagina with are my sex partners and my OB-GYN.
Pretty much the last thing a person who is about to push a baby out of her vagina wants to hear is a joke about her partner not being the father of her baby. I was asked this multiple times, by multiple people, and while I was freaking in labor. Who asks that? A lot of creepy people, apparently. Why is it funny to joke about infidelity? Besides, what if he wasn't the father? What if the father was violent or abusive, and my now-partner has decided to be the non-biological father to my child? That's an incredibly sensitive thing to joke about.
I know a lot of people find jokes about poop funny, and by a lot of people, I mean the 5- and 7-year-old children I know. My point is, most pregnant people are nervous and embarrassed about pooping on the delivery table and don't think it's very funny. Can we please stop making the gross parts of childbirth the punch line of jokes?
When I heard this particular "joke," I remember thinking that I must have heard the so-called comedian wrong. Were they really joking about my sex life? I was under enough pressure after childbirth to get my body back and want to have sex again. The last thing I needed was to hear jokes about when I'd "do it" again, as if it was a job and not a choice.
Labor hurts. A lot. Back labor was the worst pain I have ever felt. I wish I had owned a labor simulator for the jerk doctor who suggested he knew how I felt when I was suffering through contractions. Can we please stop minimizing women's real pain in childbirth? It's not funny.
I was told to quiet down and stop being hysterical throughout my second labor. Nurses went so far as to joke with my now ex-husband about childbirth making women crazy and irrational and that I was a "firecracker." Umm, childbirth freaking hurts. I wasn't crazy. I was in pain and angry with the staff and the way they were treating me. I needed support and understanding, not a punchline that made everyone who wasn't in labor laugh.
I don't understand why people make jokes about episiotomies. It's a painful procedure, and one that is often administered without the laboring woman even knowing.
Ask yourself this? Would you ever ask a man if he had to have "a little snip" made in his perineum or scrotum? The answer is, probably, no. So, why do people think it's OK to joke about with women in childbirth?
Even if this was a particularly effective way to induce labor, no one should ever feel pressured to have sex. Jokes like this make pregnant women feel like they have to have sex "to get things started," whether they want to or not. That's not OK.
I have actually heard this joke all three times I gave birth — from my brother-in-law, sister, a nurse, and even my midwife, who actually asked my husband at the time if he wanted her to give me an extra stitch for daddy. It's so gross. She was talking about adding an unnecessary stitch to my perineum to presumably make my vagina tighter for my husband, and she called him "daddy" which is so gross I can't even deal.
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