A Brief HERstory Of My Vagina
I remember the first time I became aware that I had a third hole. I was 7 years old and my mom and I were with family friends in Mexico. We’d been on a fishing boat where I’d spent the entire time heaving over the side. The man whose boat it was told my mom that he had a local remedy in his hut at the end of the pier. When we finally disembarked the man took my hand, told my mom he’d sort me out and walked me away. I remember him telling me I had to sit in his lap for his cure to work and when I did, him forcing what I’m pretty sure was his fist up my middle hole.
I remember being at tennis camp (most improved player!) sitting cross legged on the baseline after having run multiple “suicides” and my tummy was killing me. I remember one of the women coaches coming over to me crouching down and whispering “I think you might wanna go to the bathroom Anna.”
Mom and I had always had an easy open dialogue about sex, religion, politics, drugs and rock n’ roll (and we shared a tiny bathroom…) so I knew all about periods and was pretty sure that this time I wasn’t dying. I remember pulling my underpants down in the cubicle and seeing blood everywhere a red rivulet making it’s way down to my ankle.
I remember having no change of clothes, no sanitary products and no cell phone (it was 1981). I remember sitting on that toilet for at least 20 minutes and the immense relief I felt when a bunch of other campers came in. I heard my friend amongst them and whispered her name. I was reached under the door to guide her my prison but when I looked down and realized I had bloody hands. When I could see her toes under the door I whispered something like. “Aunt Mabel (how my friend Stacy who’d already gotten her period referred to menstruation) came to town.”
I remember Sara totally coming through for me. She went to her locker and brought me her towel and bathing suit. I remember putting her still wet suit on and wrapping the towel around my hips. Then for the first of a thousands of times I grabbed a bunch of toilet paper and shoved it between my thighs. I feel like I threw my bloody bottoms into the garbage can but I can’t remember...
Mom couldn’t pick me up for a couple hours and I remember spending most of that time going back and forth to the bathroom checking and changing my makeshift maxi. My stomach aching in a way it never had before. I remember how I kinda rocked and moaned.
I remember that night mom pulled out her massive box of Kotex (the kind with a detachable belt…) and showed me how to truss myself up. I remember the hundreds of times I asked my friends if they could tell I was wearing a pad.
I remember a year later being at camp (this shit always happens at camp….) and seeing on the schedule hanging around my neck that I had waterskiing that afternoon. I was having my period and didn’t know what to do. I remember a co-camper saying I should just put a pad on with* my suit.
3 hours later I’m zooming around the lake. I was/am crap at skiing (both kinds) and only managed to stay up for 30 seconds before wiping out magnificently (the stuff of camp legend).
I remember the counselor circling back, leaning over the side, grabbing me under the arms and hauling me up to my knees out of the water. I remember he and I looking down at the same time and seeing a sopping bloody (it was the second day) giant maxi mess hanging out of my suit and the dirty grey granny underwear* I’d stuck the pad to being held up by the crotch with the sides sagging down to my knees. I remember the crowded dock where everyone was watching and waiting.
I remember the counselor being a true gentleman, lowering me into the water and turning away. I remember trying to tuck my undies back in my suit while treading water. I remember losing my grip on the pad and watching it float away. I remember grabbing it, wringing it out, and grasping it in my fist. I remember telling him I was “ready”. (As if…)
I remember going to the outhouse, taking off my underwear dropping it down the hole, grabbing yet another wad of TP and lining my wet bottoms. I remember holding that soaking bloody pad in my hand for another hour (there was no garbage bin around and I was told to never put pads down the toilet.)
I remember asking mom to teach me how to use a tampon and laying on the bathroom floor while she inserted the OB sans applicator kind.
Until I realized (2 years after my first tampon) how deep my vagina actually was I remember pushing the tampons up just enough to be out of sight. I remember everyone saying how they couldn’t feel their tampons. But I did and it was fucking uncomfortable. I remember thinking what’s wrong with my vagina?
I remember having bad cramps and my mother telling me to go ride my bike and do sit ups. I remember hot water bottles and my mom showing me how to old school douche. OMG….
I remember the first time I found a huge bloody clot on my pad. That time I did think I was going to die.
I remember being in 7th grade and playing chicken balanced on some dudes shoulders. I remember my friend Gabe tapping me on the leg and saying “I think you should go to the bathroom.” Which after years of periods I knew meant “you have blood on your pants/skirt.”
I remember him taking off his sweatshirt so could tie it around my waist. I love you Gabe.
I remember at 16 losing so much weight that my period stopped (and my arms got even more hairy). I didn’t stain my any of my favorite underwear for almost 3 years.
I had sex for the first time just three months shy of 19. I remember he was/is Hungarian.
I don’t remember it and I wasn’t drunk. I think we had sex 3-4 times and it didn’t get better.
I remember telling that him I didn’t want to see him any more and him completely not understanding that just because I let him put his dick in me did not mean that I’d love and worship him forever.
Four months later I met the guy I married. I don’t remember our first time either. Just all the dry humping in the months beforehand. It got a lot - first orgasm - better. Twenty-nine years on and we’ve done it 3,016 times. I make a scratch on the wall every time…...
Kidding, not kidding, kidding.
I remember being lazy about taking the pill and getting pregnant at 20. I remember knowing I/we were a long way from ready to have a baby. I remember staring at my naked toes while the doctor performed the abortion.
I remember being raped and sodomized in an alley at 22 years old by a guy who’d followed me home from my cocktail waitress gig. I remember staring at my red sparkly toes while the doctor completed the rape kit.
Two of the 3,016 times my husband and I made love and I got pregnant on purpose. I remember loving not having a period (until I started to have so much discharge it might as well have been one). I remember the frequent painful OB exams.
I remember sitting down on the toilet and having my bloody show make waves in the water.
I remember the nurses in the hospital reaching up to check my cervix every hour for nine fucking hours.
I remember five hours of pushing, the forceps and the episiotomy then the feeling of my daughter sliding out of my insides. I remember staring at my perfectly pink toes while the doctor sewed up my cervix and vagina.
I remember having to wear diapers for a week while my uterus emptied itself out.
I remember forgetting all about all of it and doing another version of it all over again minus the pushing and sliding (C-section, so no vagina memory there).
I remember after I had kids finding tampons really uncomfortable. Like they were heavy and the weight was pulling my insides down.
I remember at 44 going to the doctor and asking why my period had become so erratic and scary heavy and her saying “welcome to perimenopause”.
I’m 47 now and my periods have once again become regular and lightened up considerably.
I wonder what’s gonna happen next…..
*(not in, you can understand my confusion…)
Article by Anna Quick-Palmer