V is for Vagina

My 3 year old has begun doing representational art. I am so excited about this, as it means that she no longer simply fills a page with scribbles, but now her lines are drawn with more precision and are meant to represent something in particular. So far, her favorite things to draw are people. The other day V (the 3 year old) and her father (Thomas) and I were all sitting at the table while she was working, and she produced this:

And then she volunteered this description of her work:

  • (indicating the two large circles at the top) “These are the eyes.”
  • (pointing at the lines) “These are the arms and legs.”
  • (finally, indicating the small circle at the bottom of the page) “This is the vagina.  That’s what it looks like.”

Somehow, Thomas and I didn’t laugh (credit our years and years of experience working in child development centers) and instead made some sort of appropriate response to her work. But inwardly we both were cheering!–not so much at her artistic ability, but at her nonchalant use of the correct anatomical term for female genitalia. This is what we have been working toward.

This might seem strange to some people, but Thomas and I are giving our all toward our goal of helping our V have the best body image possible. And we figure that starts with her not only knowing what she’s got, but also knowing proper anatomical names for it and knowing that not one bit of her body is dirty or shameful or embarrassing to talk about in front of her parents.

Thomas and I just this past Sunday finished up leading a sex ed course for middle schoolers and their parents at our church (the wonderful, inclusive, progressive United Christian Church), and one of the things the author of the curriculum did which I particularly appreciated was to address what she called “the issue of female pride.” She wants every girl to know that God made every bit of her, including her reproductive system, and that every bit is “fabulous”. It reminded me of a passage in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, in which Ina May Gaskin (author, midwife, and natural childbirth advocate) writes, “There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ, they would brag about it. So should we.” I am sure Ina May would agree that the same could be said for our vaginas.

But some women experience anxiety about whether their vaginas will ever return to normal after childbirth. Fear about this can be a real distraction from doing the work of labor and birth. My advice is this: give it time, do your kegels, and remember that your body was designed for this. Which reminds me of another classic quote from Ina May (also from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth):

Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth as well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.

Can I get an amen?