Not so far along in my second pregnancy I went to my GP with swollen veins on my vulva. He wasn’t able to diagnose (I came home with Lactulose and Anusol) but I later discovered vulval varicosities on google and bingo, that’s exactly what they were. As I was sitting at my dining table/crafting station I had a desire to paint. A friend of mine had brought me over some gouache to try out and my eldest was out. I was feeling sorry for myself and my throbbing vulva and so that’s exactly what I decided to paint.
This painting fuelled my passion and I found my niche. Having painted for the sake of painting in the past, this came freely and easily and so have most of my paintings since! I’m amazed and fascinated with pregnancy and birth and I’m passionate about breastfeeding, so you’ll see a lot of this in my work.
Delving into this vulva painting scene has introduced me to a community filled with body and sex positivity and it truly is a fantastic place to be! I suppose my body positivity journey began whilst I was pregnant, I felt like a fucking GODDESS! I took hundreds of pictures of my growing body and had portraits painted by my talented friends to cherish forever.
My youngest is now 4 months old, and naturally I have days where I have some niggles about my body, but generally speaking I’m as confident as I was before pregnancy (and I was confident then too!) But one of the biggest changes is my relationship with my vulva. Now if you’ve never even had to think about it, and have never been shamed then I’m pleased for you! But many people have negative thoughts and feelings of shame about their own, whether it’s through someone taking the piss or lack of knowledge about REAL VULVAS. This journey made me think about and question why exactly I felt like mine was ‘ugly’ or abnormal (side note: IT’S NOT! and neither is yours.) and I have a vivid memory as a young teenager when my labia started to change and I thought I’d damaged it somehow. I had an accident on my bike as a child and bashed myself on the frame of my bike when my foot slipped off my pedal. I was bleeding, and I had a small cut around my clitoral area and that memory came flashing back into my mind and I thought to myself oh my god that must be it.
I‘ve been with my husband since I was 16 (I’m now 28) and for years and years and years I was so shy about my vulva, I felt embarrassed getting changed or if he was looking at it. My first realisation that maybe I wasn’t the only person with larger labia came from having a conversation with a friend aged 20. Fucking 20!!! She’d also had the same hang ups about her own labia, and had just started her first relationship with a woman. It was her partner who told her that her vulva was beautiful and used the term ‘frilly’ and this has always stuck with me. It was an “oh my god me too!” moment and I’ll never forget it.
I suppose it’s really been since having 2 children I‘ve started to feel less shame and more appreciation for the wonders of vaginas, but remarkably more so since finding my niche and filling my insta feed with the most amazing #vulvaart (you should follow that hashtag!) I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the diabolical sex education in this country that’s to blame in my case. The only times I ever remember seeing female genitals at school was in an anatomical diagram with arrows and labels... I’m sure you can picture the same one!
Coming back briefly to the vulval varicosities and wonders of pregnancy, my vulva was absolutely fucking spec-tac-u-lar this time around!! I swear it doubled in size and as soon as I was no longer pregnant it shrank right back down, I actually thought to myself “where’s it gone?!” when I had my first shower! It’s now back to its normal size and I’m pleased to say I think she’s a beauty.
So let’s stop being so embarrassed about talking about vulvas, clits, masturbation, periods and all the other things that make people cringe. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, we are all unique and beautiful in our own way. Grab yo’self a hand mirror and give your vulva some love!
Thanks for reading! I’ll leave you with my favourite motto: VIVA LA VULVA!