Part One: Women don’t talk about ‘below the belt’

Women my age are reluctant to talk about what my mother called their ‘nether regions’ or ‘girly bits’.

10pm: fasting isn’t a worry – getting to sleep is.

5am: the shrill of the alarm ensures a swift shower, no breakfast and leaving in pre-dawn darkness. A large, round moon bathes the world in a gentle glow. I’m glad the full moon was last night, I don’t need any banshees , bogymen or hobgoblins any where near Cabrini Hospital tonight.

This journey towards vaginal repair started long ago during childbirth. A titchy depression in a weakened vaginal wall meant the bladder dipped ever so slightly forward like a brief nod in recognition of a job well done. I blessed that dip and the two boys who have bought so much joy over the years.

Now fifty years later the dip had become a bulge which meant getting up every two hours at night to empty the bladder. But the prolapse didn’t hurt. I hardly knew it was there. A prolapse is a medical condition where an organ or tissue falls out of place, or “slips down”. Pelvic floor exercises didn’t cure it but it certainly wasn’t getting worse, well, not much anyway. So why see a surgeon about a getting it repaired?

I decide to ask some of my women friends whether they had the same problem. That’s when I hit a brick wall. Women my age are reluctant to discuss things relating to ‘below the belt’. I discovered that men still had, according to them, a tossle (never a penis). This reluctance isn’t anything new.  I had recently read about a woman in earlier years who married and didn’t know that she was born with no womb and a one inch deep vagina preventing her from having sex or children. A close friend gave me a copy of God’s Triangle by Ian Richardson.

godstriangle

Below is a section of one of many positive reviews.

Poor Florence probably never knew what was different about her or why. It is difficult to imagine the early days of the early 20th century where just about everything controversial or distasteful was suppressed. I thought this was a fascinating story (and wonderfully well written, if you don’t mind me saying!) It held my interest throughout. – NL, London.

I am not one to go quietly into the night and by constantly bringing up the subject I uncovered the best kept secret ever. Nearly every one of the women  among my family and friends had a prolapse of varying degrees. I was staggered. We talk openly about problems with cancer, osteoarthritis and hip replacements. We compare notes, with a tinge of pride, about hearts, lungs and kidneys.  So why don’t we talk about problems with our vaginas? Just mention a prolapse and the subject quickly changes or the conversation dies.

However, when I did get women talking I found out that at

60 yrs: there was ‘A bit of a problem.’

70 yrs: ‘It doesn’t hurt.’

80 yrs: ‘It rubs against my nickers and I get infections.’

85 yrs: ‘I’m incontinent. I wish I’d had it done and could still live in my flat.’

90 yrs: I’m in trouble but it’s too late now. I can’t take an anesthetic. How I wish I’d had it done earlier.’

From the women I spoke to it was like discussing childbirth and horror stories were plentiful. ‘It’s like being kicked in the stomach by a horse’ (ouch). etc. etc. I asked all age groups and from the sixty and seventy year olds I was given many reasons why I should, ‘Leave things alone.’

‘Why have it done if it’s not hurting?’ ‘You can get dementia after an anesthetic.’ ‘It will collapse and you’ll have to have it done again.’ ‘I don’t want to be asleep and can’t tell them, ‘Don’t touch that.’ ‘Every operation is risky.’

I know that can be the case.  During my second hip replacement I was given gelofusine. After going into anaphylactic shock, (a severe and sometimes fatal allergic reaction to a foreign substance to which an individual has become sensitized, often involving rapid swelling, acute respiratory distress, and collapse of circulation) I woke up in intensive care wondering why my hands looked like balloons.

However, a close friend has had to give up her flat and move into assisted care because, among other things, she is incontinent due to a prolapse. She suffered constant bladder infections, pain and suffering. Her only option, because an anesthetic is out of the question, is to have a ring inserted which only lasts five months and then has to be replaced. She’s had three so far and one became infected. I feel like an old car and want to say ‘I’ll have my 70,000 ks service and make sure you repair my vagina before it collapses.

It is time. Now the research begins in earnest. What type of vaginal repair will be best for me?

 

 

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5 responses to “Part One: Women don’t talk about ‘below the belt’

  1. Great post Glenice, hope this will help others talk about their ‘girlie bits’ – too many suffer in silence or fear. God’s Triangle indeed:(

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  2. Thank you for mentioning my book, God’s Triangle. I was astonished by what I uncovered about the ignorance and social repression surrounding my great aunt, Florence “Florrie” Cox. My mother and two of her sisters both told me that when they had their first period, they thought they were about to bleed to death because no-one had forewarned them about menstruation. And Florrie died thinking she was a freak. (She wasn’t. It was just that she had a rare intersex condition.) One of the experts I consulted when writing the book told me that the attitudes that existed in Florrie’s time — in the late 1800s and early 1900s — are still around in many sections of society and cultures.

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  3. Well done, Glenice, I’m sure you agonised about whether to ‘tell all’ but I bet many women are reading this and thinking ‘good on you’.

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  4. Thanks for your feedback Mairi and Lisa and it’s great to see you here Ian. God’s Triangle is informative and thought provoking. I kept thinking about how Florrie must have felt at the time. I can’t wait to read your next book The Mortal Maze http://www.themortalmaze.com/.

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  5. Thank you, Glenice. The Mortal Maze is fiction and an entirely different type of story. I pompously describe it as a “morality thriller” because I am fascinated by how people behave when under pressure to do things they wouldn’t normally do. Early readers tell me that the found it a gripping story with a surprise ending. That’s good. That’s what I hoped it would be.

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