A French woman I know posted this article on Facebook and I had to share it. I was very eager to read this as it was about postnatal care in France through the eyes of a non-French person. It was funny to see how she felt about the whole ‘vagina work-out’ when I was myself very surprised to realize that I was left alone to do it. After the birth of my daughter, I was sent home with a brochure explaining how doing pelvic exercises was necessary and how it had to be done. To be honest, and I hope I am not going to regret it for the rest of my life, I didn’t work out as much as I probably should have. I was sent home, with my baby, could barely walk, or pee actually and I was exhausted. Lying down on the floor with bent knee and all that, was the last thing I felt like doing. I wish I had been given the opportunity to get those sessions. And because every French mother I know were coached to do it, I thought I would too. She talks about “organ descents”…Isn’t it a nice thing to think about !? I actually worked at a hospital when I was younger and remember the issue very well since I was working with elderly people. I wonder if that lady hadn’t done her exercises…
A different kind of workout for new mothers
Illustration by Rob Donnelly.
Last week I began re-educating my vagina.
Let me explain: I live in France.
Shortly after my husband and I moved to Paris, I became pregnant, which was a relief, because I would get fat for a legitimate biological reason, not just because of all the pain au chocolat. When I gave birth to our daughter last November, my husband and I spent five government-sponsored days in the maternity ward at Clinique Leonardo Da Vinci, where we learned that French hospital meals come with a cheese course and that as part of my postpartum treatment I would be prescribed 10 to 20 sessions of la rééducation périnéale. This is a kind of physical therapy designed to retrain the muscles of the pelvic floor, including the vagina, and is one of the cornerstones of French postnatal care. Two months after our daughter was born, I summoned the courage to teach my vagina some new tricks.
Hmm, this is becoming the kind of story that uses the word vagina a lot. I know anatomical terminology can make people a little squeamish—as one of my guy friends pleaded when I was six months pregnant, “Could you please stop saying the word uterus?” But not to worry! I’ve Googled common euphemisms for vagina, and I’ll incorporate the gentler ones as we go along.
As you can imagine if you’ve ever watched a Gallic romantic comedy, the French are a little more blasé about the female body than Americans are. I realized this the first time I went to the gynecologist here. “Take off your pants and underwear,” he said in a bored voice, barely looking up from his computer. Wait, he’s not leaving the room? I thought. There’s no little paper gown? But then I realized just how stupid that little paper gown is, after all. Yes, just take off your pants and underwear. We’re all big kids here and we’ve seen it all before; no need to get into a lather about some exposed lady parts.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this !