The Personal is Political: On Writing About the Body

 Okay, so I just wrote that nothing life-changing happened in my life while I was away, but that’s not entirely true. I did “give birth” to another kind of “baby:” my dissertation. I’m happy to announce I graduated this summer with a PhD in American Studies!

Okay, so I just wrote that nothing life-changing happened in my life while I was away, but that’s not entirely true. I did “give birth” to another kind of “baby:” my dissertation. I’m happy to announce I graduated this summer with a PhD in American Studies!

I’ve abandoned this blog over the last two years. There’s no getting around that fact. It feels awful and embarrassing to say out loud, but that’s the truth and I’m so very sorry for this long absence.

I wish I could tell you something totally life-changing happened, like having surprise twins or being deployed to that one corner of the world without internet, but that would be a huge lie. Truth be told, my life took an uneventful turn and I was faced with choosing between two passion projects: this blog and my doctoral dissertation.

In the end I chose my dissertation. But the eternal optimist in me earnestly thought that I could blog once in a while to take breaks from academic writing. I was so wrong.

As the momentum of writing the dissertation grew, I knew I wasn’t going to get back to this website until I graduated. By that point I felt too embarrassed to say bye, offer an explanation, or let you know when I’d be back. I actually didn’t know when I’d be back running this blog because I actually didn’t know how long it would take me to finish my dissertation. (That’s a story for another time.)

But as I was nearing the finish line with doctoral work, I found myself thinking more about this blog. Heck, I was (and still am) dealing with lingering health issues exacerbated from giving birth.

And the Postpartum Saga Continues 

So, I’m still working through some pelvic pain. I uncovered lots of underlying health issues when I first went to pelvic physical therapy for postpartum complaints. I made a lot of progress with my PTs (like I wasn’t crapping myself anymore), but I still had some pain, trigger points in my pelvic floor, and a pretty grumpy vulva, which also made for a pretty grumpy me.

 Yup. More of this.

Yup. More of this.

My PT suspected that I had underlying hormonal issues that were causing vulvar pain, which in turn stressed out my pelvic floor making it constantly tight and ultimately weak. The PT sent me out to see a specialist in vulvar pain and sexual dysfunction. That specialist found that I, indeed, had low testosterone, causing pain and a chain reaction with my pelvic floor.

“Through all this, what’s become even more clear to me is how bad we are, as a society, at talking about women’s bodies and women’s health in ways that encourage us to know and take care of ourselves without shame or embarrassment.”

Around the same time (late last year) my endometriosis symptoms made a slow creep back into my life. (I had some relief from the endo pain during pregnancy and while I was breastfeeding.) As I struggled with intensifying flareups, I felt like my progress with physical therapy was unraveling and I was dealing with my postpartum issues all over again.

So yeah, three years is a long time to still have lingering problems from childbirth but I also know that childbirth didn’t necessarily cause my issues. Either way, giving birth certainly exacerbated problems and brought them to the forefront.

I also know I’m not alone.

My PT says she often sees women like me and that research is only starting to investigate issues like pelvic pain, pain with sex, women’s sexual health, sexual dysfunction, prolapse, pelvic physical therapy, hormone imbalances, and more.

Through all this, what’s become even more clear to me is how bad we are, as a society, at talking about women’s bodies and women’s health in ways that encourage us to know and take care of ourselves without shame or embarrassment.

The Personal is Political

 At the 2017 women’s march. I asked my husband to make sure he gets the pink sign behind me too, “viva la vulva.” So good.

At the 2017 women’s march. I asked my husband to make sure he gets the pink sign behind me too, “viva la vulva.” So good.

As long as women are giving birth, the need to support postpartum moms remains. We’re far from ensuring that support, and in the past few years it seems as though access to comprehensive women’s health is increasingly threatened.  

But there’s also been this really exciting energy and movement among women across the country (and the world) who are demanding equality and recognition on all fronts. I’m reminded of the slogan from second wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s: “the personal is political.” Then, as with now, access to health and respect for women’s bodies were central concerns.

I was reminded of this history during my studies and kept thinking how that slogan still rings true, especially when we think about how society treats postpartum women and women’s health concerns, generally.

“I’m so incredibly excited to revive this website and blog. It’s been on my heart to return to this project since leaving it.”

So, even though my studies took me away from this blog, during that time I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for how postpartum healing is so much bigger than going to check ups and seeing a pelvic physical therapist. I’ve realized that we need to have better conversations about our postpartum struggles and triumphs, with more frequency and honesty; change the language around women’s bodies and their health; and most of all, find a way to create that “village” of support for postpartum moms.

For those reasons, I’m so incredibly excited to revive this website and blog. It’s been on my heart to return to this project since leaving it.

I’m doubling down on my original vision to use this platform as a way to bring more attention to postpartum health issues, offer helpful resources, and to tell it like it is. The good, the ugly, and the smelly!

With the forthcoming posts, I’ll be interviewing experts to help answer some of your pressing questions, integrate peer reviewed research, highlight other women’s stories, and share my own.

In October I’ll be talking to a nurse practitioner who specializes in sexual health and to a pelvic physical therapist who helps rehabilitate women who’ve experienced sexual and birth trauma. I’ll also be chatting with a fellow mending mama who wants to share her experience with postpartum depression and navigating with mood disorders after her second baby.

My mission is to serve you. So, as I rebuild this site shoot me ideas for topics you want covered and resources you’d find helpful. Or if you want to just say hello, that would be a delight!! If you’re a mending mama or you work with postpartum women and have a story you think would benefit readers, let’s definitely get in touch!

I’m around now :)

In the meanwhile, I’ll also be on Facebook and Instagram (@mama.on.the.mend). Come say hi!

Looking forward to reviving this much needed conversation about postpartum and women’s health!

P.S. In the coming weeks I’ll be tinkering with technical stuff like layouts and design, so please excuse the weird mess.