Six years ago, when I was pregnant with my first, there was less information online about pregnancy and childbirth. This was probably a mixed blessing: less time wasted on Google but more time spent quietly agonizing over unanswered questions. Only a few friends of mine had babies, so it was hard to get some of my more specific questions answered (and harder to know exactly what questions to even ask). For example, I had no idea what was going to happen with my vagina postpartum, and there are a lot of things people don't tell you about your vagina after having a kid.
Maybe the reason none of my friends gave me the Vagina Down-Lo was because they felt like there were a bunch of more pressing things we had to get through before that, like what it feels like when your water breaks, or what happens if your baby's heart rate drops in the hospital. Perhaps the vagina doesn't get a lot of attention because it kind of ceases to play as important a role once the baby has exited the body. It's like our attitudes become, "Oh, the vagina? That old thing? Who cares? Here's some oversized, unflattering underwear. Let's cover that old lady up and pretend she never existed, OK?"
But I'm here to tell you that we need to talk about your old friend The Vagina. She's been with you a long time and weathered a lot of storms. She's seen you through thick and thin (uterine linings, heh). The following is a list of things your friends don't tell you about your vagina after having kids, but have no fear, because I will:
Immediately Postpartum, It Will Simply Be An Uncomfortable Bleeding Orifice
No one told me about the postpartum bleeding. Literally, no one. I would like to give the women in my life some credit and imagine that perhaps their reason for keeping this from me was to not scare me from having a child in the first place. After all, the idea of heavy bleeding for weeks on end could have been enough to put motherhood to bed for me forever. I was shocked when the nurses in the hospital handed me two armfuls of the supersize, extra long pads to take home with me and were like, "Here, you're gonna need all of these." I accepted the bleeding in the hospital as par for the course, but had this notion that once I'd physically left the hospital premises, my vagina would magically seal up and cease bleeding, like I'd be leaving the "bleeding forcefield" and be safe from all that horror. Yeah, no.
You Won't Be That Interested In It For A While
I'd heard my mom and my aunts snicker about how everyone loses interest in "doing the nasty" after kids, but I always thought that was hooey. "You must be talking about lesser folk, who are not as sexually enlightened as I," I would think to myself. But honestly, even after a c-section, the idea of getting it on was so far from my mind, I was happy to take a rain check until, like, my son's first birthday.
It Will Be Shrouded In Granny Panties For Some Time
I would have been happy walking around in a chastity belt, so it didn't bother me that granny panties were a close second to that. Also, they were great for holding up those aforementioned super long, extra thick pads that I continued to wear for over a month for all my heavy postpartum bleeding. Double win! Talk about sexy times all around.
You Might Forget It Used To Be An Object Of Desire
Once upon a time, long ago, my vagina was a sensual object, a luxury item, and a destination worth the trip, all wrapped in one sexily dressed package. Before pregnancy, I had been shy about showing it to just anyone (even medical professionals), and would have to get to know my sexual partners for some time before letting anyone "go there."
After my pregnancy, I had gotten so used getting undressed from the waist down, being poked and prodded, and having various instruments inserted into me, that my vagina had become just about as intimate as my ear canal.
It Will Likely Return To It's Natural, Ungroomed State
When my vagina ceased to be of any real importance to me, I forgot about its general appearance. Luckily I experienced the joys of laser hair removal in my early 20s, but that doesn't mean I can just "set it and forget it" (as the saying goes). There is still a little maintenance every now and then to be had. Since my lady parts meant as much to me post-kids as my knee caps, the first time I had to put on a bathing suit was a bit humbling.
Occasionally, Your Partner Will Try To Drop Not-So-Subtle Hints About Its Presence
If I had lived a more solitary existence, raising my child in an exotic beach locale where there is an abundance of mangoes and papayas, and white sands, and obviously no predators, I may have been happier. My husband, however, was a regular human being who had not just given birth and who was not breastfeeding at the time. His hormones were not completely messing with his brain and his body chemistry. So it was frustrating I am sure, when he was like, "So?" and I was constantly all, "Um, absolutely not." For a long time.
Of course I had heard about partner frustration when a postpartum woman wasn't into having sex, but like so many things, I either thought it wouldn't apply to me, or that people were making it up and that it was mostly cliche.
If You Attempt To Engage In The Activity For Which It Was Intended, You Will Likely Regret It
Then there were the one or two times when I tried to be game because I really wanted to, but my vagina was not having it one bit. Let me tell you, that lady can be a huge b*tch when she isn't fully down with something. Seriously. Ouch.
No one told me that sex would hurt even if you didn't have a vaginal birth. I thought that the upside to having an emergency c-section would be that my vagina would be totally good to go come game-time. That would be a false, my friends. It was like nails scraping against my vaginal walls, thanks in part to the vaginal dryness that accompanies breastfeeding.
Your Kids Will Be Fascinated By Its Mere Existence, Once They Learn You Are In Possession Of One
There comes a time when children start to notice their own parts and your parts and, well, they have questions. Lots and lots of questions. My son wanted to know if I had a penis, like he has a penis, and I told him that, no, I have a vagina. He couldn't believe that my part was different than his part. Luckily, by the time he was old enough to be aware of my parts, my vagina and I were on much better terms.
But no one had ever told me about the insane fascination my children would have with the existence of my vagina, and how often they would enjoy pointing it out.
Every Now And Then, You Will Remember The Woman You Used To Be
During the first year of my son's life, I occasionally would get flashbacks to when I used to be a feminine, sexy being. It was like peering into a past life, and I would see myself dressed in skimpy underwear, or selecting some Massive Attack from an iTunes playlist to listen to for a make out session; "remembrances of sexiness past" was how I would refer to it.
Then my kid would say something like, "Take this," and I'd look over and it would be a booger and the memory would disappear as if it hadn't ever existed in the first place.
There Will Come A Magical Time When You Will Be Inspired To Welcome Your Vagina Back Into Your Life
No one had told me it would take as long as it would to make friends with my vagina again. For a long time, I thought something was broken. However, after talking about it with other mom friends, I soon realized I was far from alone.
Finally, one day, I was able to rise above all the noise of motherhood (like, literally, all the whining, the requests for a different colored sippy cup, the tantrums over there not being any more pink lollipops in our diaper bag) and see my vagina again as an exciting and fun place. Or, at least, something more riveting than an ear canal (apologies to people who are into ear canals, you do you). It took time, and I didn't believe it when people told me that I would get my mojo back, but eventually I felt, well, not like the old me, but like a different me. In a good way.