I grew up calling it a tuppence. I’ve heard Lady Garden, bits, privates, snatch, front bum, money box (?!) and many other cutesy names for that part that all of us that are biologically female have: a vulva.
We’d said from day one that we would teach Eden the anatomical names for her genitals, but there’s something about the word “vulva” that just sounds… unpleasant. It probably comes as part of that big old thing called The Patriarchy, but even knowing that we should encourage anatomical names, we still shied away. We had taught Eden, but more often than not it was just “bits” or sometimes “foof”.
That was until last week.
Last week Eden started complaining that her bum hurt. It came on very quickly mid afternoon and an hour later she was jumping up and down and shouting “ouch mummy! My bum!” So, so I followed my instincts and put her in the bath. I know that worms are fairly common in kids her age, and that kids can often get “itch” and “pain” mixed up. So I figured a bath would soothe her. It did for all of about five minutes. I looked and I looked and I still could not see any sign that anything was wrong. I called 111 (non emergency medical) to see if I could get an out of hours doctor appointment because, as per sod’s law, this was in the middle of the day on a Sunday. The call handler I spoke to was really helpful and didn’t dismiss me when I explained that it seemed minor, but the way Eden was behaving was just not normal for her. At this point Eden fell asleep and the call handler advised that a doctor would call back within twelve hours. Two hours later I received that call and we deduced between us that it was probably worms and that I should go to the pharmacy in the morning and get medication for that. He said he was happy for me to bring her in if I really wanted her seen, but if I couldn’t see anything it’s unlikely he would be able to. We agreed to see how she went at home, after all it couldn’t be that bad if she was asleep.
When Eden woke up, she seemed fine. She said her bum still hurt, along with pointing and “inside!” I asked her if she’d put anything in there and she said no. I gave her some ibuprofen and she didn’t mention it again until Amy got home late that night. On her last nappy change of the night, Amy had a quick look and spotted the problem.
My poor baby had a grass seed lodged in her vulva. A nasty, pointy little shit bag of a grass seed. It had probably got in there while she was playing in her swimming pool Amy gave it a nudge and out it came, followed by much screaming from Eden and a little bit of blood. She said it felt much better.
The next day I called my doctor to see if antibiotics would be needed. They advised to bring her in, so we did. They gave her a quick examination and she was declared fit as a fiddle. No antibiotics needed but as always to keep an eye on it and go back if anything changed. My call to the GP was interesting, though. The receptionist repeatedly asked me to repeat the word “vulva”, before saying “oh! In her vagina?” I had to correct her. “No. Not in her vagina. In her vulva”. I’m still not completely sure that the receptionist knew what a vulva was…
After this experience, I felt horrid that we hadn’t been more clear about bum vs vulva. Apparently a lot of kids still get the two mixed up at Eden’s age, but I still felt quite sad about the whole thing. Those grass seeds hurt like hell, so I can’t imagine having one lodged in the most sensitive part of my body.
No lasting damage. But now we’ve ditched “foof”, “privates” and “bits” for vulva and vagina. Because who knows what would have happened had it been left there to cause an infection? We have to give our kids the tools to communicate these things. If something is wrong with Eden’s vulva, I want her to be able to tell me. Unfortunately it took this experience to make me realise just how important that is.