There are some discussions I didn't expect to be having with my daughter. Not now (when she's three). And actually not ever (before I became a feminist).
"What's that a picture of Mummy?" said my daughter looking at my Google search results.
I resisted the temptation to fob her off and summoned forth my most ardent feminist archetype.
'Well darling that's a picture inside a very poorly vagina. It's a grown up vagina like Mummy's but these ones need medicine because they're sick.'
'I don't have a vagina'. She replied. 'I have a willy like Daddy and my brother'.
As I looked down I saw a green Duplo Lego flower innocently nestled between my daughter's labia.
"Are you sure? It looks more like a plastic flower darling."
"Nope," she said proudly. "It's a willy."
It's a conversation that's surprising (for me) on two levels.
- That once upon a time I couldn't say the word vagina comfortably and would definitely not have been able to speak so openly about poorly yeast infected ones to my daughter at any age (let alone three).
- Neither did I expect my attitude to a Duplo flower prosthetic to be so blasé… especially with a ‘willy’ I had seen lying on the [not 100% pristine] bathroom floor half an hour earlier.
Over the last ten years, I've come to realise the fluidity and beauty of gender. Nothing will stop me accepting my children, whatever they have or choose to have, between their legs. And if it turns out to be dirty Duplo, well I'll teach them to wash it first and themselves afterwards.
Onwards. So why the poorly vaginas? Well, since I have the honour of being (or rather attempting to be) a sex-positive blogger I also get a lot of vagina-related freebies to test out and review (yeah it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it). They sent me a book, called "Fighting Yeast Infections - The Natural Way 2.0."
Like most women who have a vagina, I'm no stranger to yeast infections, but they all had pretty much one name.
Chaffing condoms with chemical lubricants, two day knickers, tight jeans, high sugar diet, antibiotics and of course the usual reason - no identifiable reason whatsoever. I've gone round smelling like ripe sour milk from smearing probiotic yoghurt on my undercarriage and having done so, when it comes to thrush, I'm not a fan of 'natural.' I'm a fan of pessaries.
Nevertheless in this book, there were still more things I don't understand about my body even though I'm 37. I find that scandalous. So I'll pass them onto my children; yes my son's going to get the lecture too.
There are three broad broad categories of vaginal infection (so the book says) -Yeast infections, Bacterial vaginosis, and Trichomoniasis. But the difficulty is how to tell them apart. For example,
Bacterial vaginosis feels a lot like yeast infection. This is because it sometimes can make the vulva area itchy, burning and painful. But unlike yeast infection the discharge can be yellow, grey and greenish and may smell like fish or rotten food.
As opposed to yeast based vaginitis, which can sometimes can make the vulva area itchy, burning and painful. Sometimes this discharge might have an odor similar to that of the yeast that is used for baking bread, whilst at other times, it will be completely odorless. Not particularly helpful.
Let's have a look at this discharge then.
"Gloopy," said my daughter admiringly.
As a natural preventative measure, the book instructs:
“Just to be on the safe side, every time you have washed your underwear, boil it for five or ten minutes immediately afterwards in order to purge the residue of detergent and/or chemicals.
No. Just no.
Luckily science has given concrete ways to cure these infections. In the form of heavy-duty torpedo-like pessaries.
There are also some other gems in this book, including some surprising and sensible prevention measures. Drinking slightly saline water and taking probiotics for example. And then there are the 'privileged' clangers -
So just to be on the safe side, every time you have washed your underwear, boil it for five or ten minutes immediately afterwards in order to purge the residue of detergent and/or chemicals.
Seriously, undies on the cooker? EVERY time you wash them?
But wait a sec… we all know there are times when we must take antibiotics to combat other health complications. This includes those times you have pneumonia and your doctor prescribes weeks of antibiotics. In this case, you really have no choice.
Good advice. Take antibiotics when you have pneumonia (duh).
The book cost $27.00. I don't recommend it and luckily I didn't pay for it. Even though it did give me a good opener to talk to my children about poorly vaginas.
The Vagina Voyage
I've been on quite a journey to try and love my vagina. Many of the people I grew up with are appalled. Others I've got to know, love me for trying to love myself. And I think that's quite a beautiful thing.