I recently wrote about my experience with a labial tear during the birth of my first child. At my six-week postpartum visit, my doctor casually informed me that the stitches hadn’t held and I was essentially left with a charming little flap. My own Red Badge of Courage, if you will. No worries, she reassured me—we’d fix it when I had my second.
I couldn’t have anticipated the reaction my vagina would have on the internet, but my goal was to inject some levity into an otherwise traumatizing situation and hopefully help others who had experienced something similar.
Ultimately, I learned four important things when I decided to bare my labia flap to the World Wide Web:
1. Some people are seriously squeamish about vaginas.
“Omg, I can’t believe she wrote about her vagina! That’s so gross!”
True. You know what else is gross? Childbirth. No matter how that baby comes out, it ain’t pretty. Either you’re cut open and some combination of your uterus/bladder/intestines is physically moved or lifted outside your body, or you have a melon-sized wrecking ball squeezed through your birth canal. Should your vagina miraculously remain unscathed, there’s more than likely a surprise waiting in the back that will require the TLC of some Preparation H. But, please, excuuuuuuuse me for grossing you out. I bet you had a perfectly planned natural birth and didn’t even poop on the table, amiright?
What it comes down to is this: if my husband still thinks I’m smokin’ hot after watching our own wrecking ball enter this world, then I am A-Okay with my flappy vagina, thank you very much.
2. But they’re glad I shared anyway.
After my piece went up, I was overwhelmed by literal strangers reaching out to tell me their stories and thank me for having the courage to share my own—overall, women seemed relieved to know they weren’t alone.
Labial tears are more common than you’d think, but they don’t get as much love as their gnarly second cousins, perineal tears. Despite their somewhat benign nature, I’d argue the aesthetic shock value is way higher. As I’ve said, I don’t see a career as a porn star or vagina model in my future, but my confidence is not entirely, well, unflappable. It’s nice to know that others found not only humor, but solace, in my experience.
3. A LOT of people need a lesson in female anatomy… including my mom.
“Em, I really think you should share that piece with Granny—you know, the one about your lab-ee-ya.”
“Seriously, Mom? It’s pronounced ‘lay-bee-ya.’ You make it sound like it’s some kind of weird lab/Chihuahua mix.”
You’d be surprised how many people don’t know you can tear your labia. Hell, you’d be surprised how many people don’t even know what a labia is. One friend told me she used my piece as a teaching opportunity for her husband, and I’ve never been more proud.
It’s amazing how poorly educated many of us are about our own anatomy. In all the prenatal classes, you learn everything you wanted to know and more about what to expect from your baby after birth (in all likelihood—puffy face, shriveled skin, pointy head). But no one really talks about the state of your vagina, except that you should use ALL the ice packs and you’ll be living in mesh underwear for the foreseeable future. Not a lot of discussion about tearing or the aftereffects. In fact, when my friend who suffered a fourth-degree tear mentioned it for the first time, she was confused by my horrified reaction.
“Why? Is that bad?”
“Let’s just say there are only four degrees of tears,” I replied. She had assumed that a fourth-degree tear was like a four on a scale from one to 10.
So here’s to bringing more awareness to female genitalia and giving that good ol’ lay-bee-ya the recognition it deserves.
4. I should really call my insurance company.
And I did. Okay, I tried. The wait time to talk to a representative was 94 minutes, so I actually said, “Screw it” and hung up. But I’m going to call them back tomorrow. Or whenever the hold time is less than 30 minutes. It might be awhile.
In all seriousness, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from sharing my experience so openly, it’s that, as women, we have to be our own strongest advocates for our health. So many times we fail to speak up when we are uncomfortable—to our doctors, to our insurance companies, to others who can help. Whether out of embarrassment, shame, or ignorance, we’d rather stay silent than say, “I don’t like the way this makes me feel, so what can we do to fix it?”
You better believe that before this next kid arrives, I’ll be chatting with my provider and insurance company about my options. The last thing I want is to be chilling in L&D after pushing another miniature boulder out of my hoo-ha and have my doctor say, “Well, I’d stitch this up for ya, but I’m not sure if insurance will cover it because it’s technically a cosmetic procedure.”
So if you’re a mommy who doesn’t like her postpartum va-jay-jay, you and only you have the power to speak up.
I promise that if you do, my labia flap and I will be right there beside you for moral support.