After my children were born, I was no different from any other mom. I longed for some quiet time and for my jeans to fit the way they used to. But what I truly wished for was to be able to sneeze or do jumping jacks without dribbling in my panties.
Luck was on my side, however, because my kids were born in France. And you know how those French women are so perfect? They don’t get fat, their kids eat everything, and they bring up well-behaved children. Well, now you can add another item of perfection to the list: They have strong vaginas.
I know this for a fact.
Now, I may not have a French vagina by birth, but I have lived in France for some time now, and my private parts have received a dose of French nationalism twice over!
My daughters were both born in France, so hearing midwives and doctors shouting “Pousse! Pousse!” while my knees are up around my ears was nothing new to me. Having had my kids in France means that I received the same standard pre- and postnatal care as French women.
After childbirth, the ladies of France take their pink parts (whether French-born or imported) for the standard six-week checkup. This is when I, like all French women, received a prescription for 10 sessions with a midwife, or sage femme, to start my rééducation du périnée.
Don’t worry, I didn’t know what that meant either.
So there I was, being all French. I had a prescription in one hand and a baguette in the other. I was ready for my appointment, my sleeping baby was in her car seat, and I had a big smile on my face, because I had no idea what was about to happen to me. After exchanging pleasantries with the midwife, she handed over a little something that she said I could keep and to bring to each of our sessions. She called it a sonde (wand), but I liked to call it my joystick. You can take the words “wand” and “joystick” and use your imagination.
Wand in hand, we began our consultation. She asked me a series of very embarrassing and personal questions without batting an eye: Do you pee when you sneeze? Can you have a shower without peeing? How is sex? Can you feel your husband inside you? I wondered, did she really need to know all this, or was she just curious?
After our little Q&A session, up onto the examining table I hopped, and in went her fingers just to “check things out” up there. Now I understand that all women have had quick internal exams, but this was like nothing I’ve experienced before. This was no one-minute job! She stayed in there for ages, having me contract and relax for q0 seconds at a time, all the while making polite chit-chat.
The first time I was there, I must have looked terrified, eyes as big as saucers, trying to concentrate on this conversation (in French to boot) while we were possibly breaking world records for the longest internal exam. But like anything, if you do it enough times it eventually becomes normal. And, after a few visits, I would hop up on the table, assume the position, and get ready for a good chat with my new midwife BFF. We developed quite the sisterhood after many visits with her fingers in places where only tampons and my husband belong.
But that was only the beginning of the road down the path of the wonderful French vagina. Remember the “joystick” she gave me? Well, after a lot of contracting and relaxing, her fingers were replaced by this magic wand. The wand had a cord on the end which was plugged into a computer. During our sessions, I’d get “plugged-in.” The screen would come alive, and I’d be thrust (pardon the pun) into a gamer’s paradise. That’s right, I would start playing video games with my vagina. It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “plug and play.”
On screen, I was represented by a yellow dot. The aim was to keep my yellow dot between the lines as it moved along the screen, controlling the movement by contracting on and releasing the wand inside of me, all the while receiving light electric shocks from the wand that were meant to strengthen my pelvic floor. Wild right? I have to say, I got pretty good after the 10 sessions with my midwife friend.
Fast-forward two years, and I was back up on the examining table with baby No. 2 looking on from the sidelines. I was about to saddle up with my joystick for my final session of vagina video games, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit like an Olympian in training for the Vagina Olympics.
The midwife was at the computer, turning up the level of electric shock coming through the wand, waiting for me to give her the OK. She started looking at me strangely as I told her I still felt nothing—she could put it higher. Hesitantly, she cranked the voltage a bit higher, and higher some more.
“I must have the world’s strongest vagina!” I said with a smile. However, my humor was lost in translation, and then she just thought I was weird. She told me that it was strange I couldn’t feel anything, because it was on a very, very high setting and that she better not put it any higher.
Clearly I was ready to win the gold medal in the French Vagina Games, I thought. That’s when I shifted slightly on the table to make a kissy face at my daughter, and—WWWAAAAAA!!!
I released a subhuman sound that I was sure could be heard from the top of the Eiffel Tower. My body was electro-jolted into a starfish position on the examining table where I lay in shock. Apparently, my gold medal vagina just had the wand in on a bad angle. The midwife dove for the “off” switch and came to my rescue before I scared away her other clients in the waiting room.
It took five days before I stopped walking around like I’d just returned from my honeymoon.
Moms sacrifice a lot of shit, and their bodies are at the top of that list. Dads can’t even come close on this one. Can you imagine a man tazering his “boys” of free will? I think it’s fair to say that only women would willingly mildly electrocute the most sensitive part of themselves in an attempt to have just a little piece of their pre-childbirth body back.
It’s been almost four years since I became a mother, and from day one, I haven’t been able to sneeze without thinking of my own mom and sending her a silent “I’m sorry” as I reach for the Kleenex box.
I’ll let you decide if I’m grabbing the tissue to wipe my nose.