Thursday, 6 July 2006

Hip hip hooray!

Thursday 5 July 2007

It was raining very heavily on Tuesday afternoon when I left Paris for going to my second post-operative consultation at the Louis XIV Clinic. My feet were soaked but nevertheless I was feeling tranquil. In the RER which was taking me to St Germain en Laye, I felt nothing particular.

However as the station approached an irrational tension took hold of me. As I walked towards the clinic, through the sunny town, the tension grew and my legs started to go numb.

As I had arrived early I stopped at a café, the same one that I had waited in before my first consultation. The tension that gripped me changed into a more diffuse fear.

What concerned me most was that the healing was possibly too slow and that I was perhaps going to have to return to St Germain en Laye. I didn’t want to return. Not for a long time anyway.

There were very few people in the waiting room. Few people and no black women. I was surprised with that but I didn’t have time to think about it because, hardly had I sat down than I noticed Dr Foldès who was moving towards his secretary. And strangely, I wasn’t as worried or concerned to see him as I was the times before.

I almost didn’t have to wait at all. Leaving his secretary’s office, he came into the waiting room and called me. It was at that moment that I noticed my fear had returned.

In his office, he started by joking about my guitar (I was to have a lesson a bit later in the day so I had to cart it with me to the clinic). He was smiling and seemed in an excellent mood.

He started by asking me the date of my operation.

He was in the process of consulting a multicoloured file carrying my name when a telephone call interrupted him. Apparently it was about a woman who wanted to arrange a date for an operation. He turned the pages in his diary and I could see that every Wednesday and Friday were full of African-sounding names, circled in light blue ink. Perhaps they were the names of the women he was going to operate on?

After turning several pages, he asked the person at the other end to contact him again at the end of July. Then he put the phone down and gestured me towards the end of the room where his examination table had pride of place.

As he got up, he asked if I still had a discharge. “Almost none” I answered. “That’s normal. It will stop altogether soon” he assured me.

After a rapid examination he enthused: “Perfect! You have a magnificent clitoris! Good position, good size, good colour. It is per-fect! Are you happy?” “Oh how I am” I replied, really proud. In truth I was more than happy. I felt delighted and strangely relieved that all went so well.

“From now on you are no longer a circumcised woman”. That sentence brought tears to my eyes. I considered I was no longer a circumcised woman once I left the operating theatre but to hear that, from his mouth, that really touched me. It was as if he were liberating me from something. As though he were absolving me.

He explained that the first part of my healing, the most difficult, was over. I now had to approach the second part which would give sensitivity to my clitoris.

This second part, he told me, was at least as important as the operation itself.

And the good news had started to flow.

So, finished with the iodine cleansing four times a day.


Goodbye to the roving washbag! Goodbye sterile swabs! Goodbye washbottle! Our history stops here! I am free of you!

From now on, for six weeks, I need do only two washes per day, one in the morning and one in the evening and .. Marseille soap. He made a point over not using either intimate gels or shower gels for washing my clitoris or labia. He said Marseille soap was the only cleanser which wouldn’t harm the area.

Each morning (and only in the morning), after my shower, I have to apply a small amount of cream called JONCTUM to my labia minora and clitoris. It need only be a very small amount to form a fine protective layer.

This miraculous cream is going to be a sort of dressing which will make “the operation zone more comfortable” to use his terms. Moreover it will let the skin form and cover my clitoris again. Finally, the application of the cream will have the effect of making my clitoris more sensitive.

Taking advantage of a pause in the conversation, I told him about my anxiety over my labia minora which I still couldn’t see. He explained that was normal, that they were certainly there at the base of my clitoris but that the latter, which still hadn’t returned to a normal size (excellent news, I found it still to be just too big) was masking them somewhat. What’s more, they are quite small, the process of reconstruction chosen having been to inject the flesh which had escaped the knife of the circumciser. So I will see them better (if I can say that as I have never had the honour of seeing them at all) in a few days.

He carried on by saying that he had given me back my clitoris and that it belonged to me. “It’s as if I had given you a finger or your nose, it would be part of you and, accordingly, it belongs only to you”. He explained that to rediscover its sensitivity, I shouldn’t depend on men or anyone else. “It’s for you to find this sensitivity by familiarising yourself with your clitoris little by little”

He said that the unpleasant sensations that I was feeling currently when touching my clitoris would disappear gradually in the next few weeks and that it would take about six months before it would be completely sensitive again.

I asked him when I could start up sport again and he said I could do it from now on. The same with swimming.

I also asked the question about sexual relations. And I can restart those too from now on. He said it wouldn’t be terribly agreeable to start off but it would soon be more comfortable. Joking, he asked if my man was in a hurry. When I answered that my love wanted to wait for the green light before doing anything, he answered it was to his credit.

Then there was silence. Then I said to him, “Thank you doctor, many thanks”. My voice was faltering as I spoke. I wanted to clarify to him exactly why I was thanking him, explain this “thank you”. But nothing came out, I had a lump in my throat.

He nodded his head, silent and smiling…

Accompanying me to the door, he said, while shaking my hand, “Good, now we have to convince other young women to come for the operation!” So I told him about my blog and its subject. He said it was a good idea, that reading the story of women who undertake the operation could perhaps encourage others to take the plunge.

It’s really because I don’t chat easily in public that I satisfied myself with smiling. Because it was extremely difficult to prevent myself from purring contentedly.

“You can write on your blog that I am only a doctor. I cannot push women to have the operation. It’s their choice. Theirs alone. I will accompany them, operate but the decision to reject this custom and to want to rediscover their bodies belongs to them. I can’t take it for them, “he added.

“Good the, I’ll see you in December for a little update?”. On these words and on my “Yes, of course” rather strangled by emotion that Dr Foldès and I took our leave of each other.

Going to his secretary to pay for the consultation, I was smiling broadly. Sitting down opposite her to write the cheque for 50 euros, I couldn’t stop myself exclaiming that I was so haaappy!!

She asked me why and I explained to her that it was because everything had gone so well. Smiling she said “You doubted it?”

Leaving, ecstatic, I wanted to skip about like a kid. I called my man and I submerged him in my joy, poor thing (he didn’t take anything in, he had to wait until I explained everything again once I had got home).

Then, when I going to the station, I remembered a question that I hadn’t asked Dr Foldès. I called him and told him that in my happiness I had forgotten to talk to him about these dratted stitches which had still not come out. He answered that it was imminent, that it would happen within the next two weeks.


God I am so happy.

Since the consultation I have the feeling of being incredibly light. There is lively music in my head all the time.

If that is what joy is like, I wouldn’t be at all surprised!

[Original in French]

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  1. Oh your really made me laugh a lot, your happiness is communicative Papillon :-D And above all your joy is very moving. What good fortune it is to follow such an important part of your life which you are taking the time to recount, it's so encouraging and gives hope. Imagine, 6 months without going back to St Germain en Laye!! :-D
    And I've made a note about Marseille soap.

  2. Hello Papillon, thank you for your story which lets me hang on from day to day and not regret the day that I pushed open the door to the Louis XIV Clinic (I had the operation a week ago and I recognise so much in what you are describing). Thank you again.

  3. Valérie de Haute Savoie16 July 2007 at 20:18


  4. Hi, I was going to write but Elté did: Hooray! a big HOORAY!
    Because it's a victory after a long battle: you have been brave and you have got no more than you deserved!
    I am happy for you.
    You see, it's becoming even more interesting as you set off on the discovery of your clitoris, and you will be pleasantly surprised by certain feelings. Great! You'll tell us won't you? :D
    In any case, hugs and kisses to you, keep looking after yourself as you do so well.

  5. Your happiness is communicative Papillon, you have just spread some sunshine into an awful day :o)

    And you are right to (almost)chatter easily about the subject of your blog, it's a courageous act and very constructive, well done!

    - and what's more you learn things: I never knew about Marseille soap...

  6. Congratulations!!!

    Ah, and about Marseille soap: I had problems with a wound two years ago, and it ended up by resolving itself by getting rid of all classic disinfectants (too aggressive for wounded flesh my dermatologist told me) and cleaning the wound just once a day with Marseille soap.

  7. That's the nicest post I've read in a long time, Papillon. It's true, you want to shout YAY!! with you and do somersaults.
    Dr Foldés is great.
    And Papillon is great too, with her new clitoris ;)

  8. Dearest Papillon
    I am happy that the "process" is finally over and that soon this new clitoris is going to have a second wind... I haven't yet made an appointment with Foldès but I am psychologically ready to take the step... and thanks to you.

  9. I read this post with a big, happy and affectionate smile for you, Papillon, thanks for sharing the happiness with us.

  10. Many thanks Elté! Actually the idea of not having to go back to St Germain en Laye for six months sends me into raptures! :)

    Hello and welcome Miss Anonymous. Congratulations on your operation! You will see, things get better day by day during the convalescence. How do you feel? If you have any questions, I'll give you my email address papillonblog {at} gmail {dot} com

    Thanks Valérie!

    Hey, hey, hey, Nono, after the effort, the comfort. That's going to become veeerrrry interesting now that the worst of the healing is over. Kisses to you and thank you for your encouragement.

    Cély, I am delighted (I don't know where you live but in Paris sunshine is worth gold in the grey start to the summer)
    Well, between you and me, I am going to allow myself a little chirp of happiness :)
    I too am so surprised that Marseille soap has such virtues., and from what you say Anna, it's really a miracle product. I've bought some in liquid form and I find it really mild.

    Well Claude, I agree. Dr Foldes is a really good man. I'm sorry I didn't jump at him to give him a big kiss on each cheek.

    Zeylac, my HIP HIP HOORAY doubled! I am so happy that you have taken the decision and I am honoured to have been able to contribute to clarifying your ideas favourably. Yippee!!!!

    It's nothing Hélène :) It's also because of all the encouragements and all the kind messages I have received (from you amongst others) that my wish to share stays so keen. You can see me, smiling as I tap at my keyboard. It makes me do that every time I think of Tuesday afternoon...

  11. So, I've shed my little tear of emotion reading your account!! Congratulations!!

  12. I am delighted for you :-)
    It's wonderful!!!
    Lots of love and kisses.

  13. I've made you cry Fyfe? Well that touches me a lot you know?

    Thanks for sharing my joy Mlle Crapaud!!

  14. Go on, I can't resist, like you ....
    After a few computer problems, I found your last message today and I was surprised in the end with having time a broad smile, a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes, all at the same time.
    I am so happy for you.
    Go on my beauty!

  15. This weekend my partner told me a bit about something a friend who is a paediatrician has been doing. She works a lot in social centres and deals with a large number of African patients. Systematically, when she takes charge of these little girls, she writes in their notes "genital area intact". It's a way of signalling to the parents that if they subject their child to circumcision, they won't be able to exonerate themselves by saying it was done before they came to France, and if they mutilate their daughter, they will be denounced by the doctors. Of course a lot of the parents of these little patients complain about her methods.
    It's only a drop in the ocean, it can't stop the practice, but I think all practitioners should do it to protect these children.

  16. Thank you for sharing my happiness Lilou!

    and you see Elté, I too think that's an excellent initiative. And a drop of water plus a drop plus a drop... makes an ocean...

  17. It's the first time that I've been so interested in the daily life of a clitoris which isn't my own ...

    I wish you a long life together!

  18. Uh huh, I've been having the exact same thought as Anita! :-D

  19. Wonderful Papillon!

    Reading your post is a real pleasure! I can feel you are so happy, it's great! In fact it's a relief that you are doing so well and that things are going smoothly.

    You bring some "sweetness to this world of brutes" and it's really wonderful.

  20. I came across your blog by accident some weeks before your operation. Then, after being away for a few weeks, I found you again, reassured and happy. Having known nothing about circumcision other than television reports, from you I was able to realise and really understand the physical and psychic impact that such an act creates.
    As for your parents, forget reproaches. They were caused no doubt because of not knowing any other reality. On the other hand, speaking to them, yes, that would be an immense extra step for you. However, I'm giving advice, not paying the price lol..

  21. Thank you for this blog, it's the first time I've had the answers to so many questions. And congratulations, if I may say so! I am 19.5, I was born in Mali but was adopted by a French couple when I was two. When I was small I noticed my difference but I quickly forgot but it came back when I was about 16 when I started to go out with boys and I panicked I couldn't bear to be touched and I strangely hated my body. I spent a lot of time making the link between my circumcision and my disgust with my body and beyond perhaps with myself! Because my parents never speak to me about it and I haven't spoken to my best friend who started crying with rage that anyone could do such a thing to me, that day was all the same a big step but I still need to do more to have confidence in myself and to feel a WOMAN. The problem is that I don't feel I have the courage to speak to my parents about it and they don't speak about it to me, even though it's three years since missed my appointment with the gynaecologist out of shame, perhaps because of fear? The blog has let me know already that I shouldn't feel guilty and that I am a WOMAN that I am not alone that you can find solutions...I am a little lost because I don't know where to start it's all new to me to be able to speak openly to people who have lived through the same thing! Perhaps I sound a bit desperate but it's mainly impatience to have answers to my questions, to have a connection! Best wishes!

  22. Anita, Kozilka, your comments made me laugh out loud! It did me a great deal of good :D

    Moira, reading your comment gave me equal pleasure you know.

    I am very touched that you came back for my news Krys. And I am happy that I have been able to illustrate, by this blog, the effect of circumcision on a life. So that those who have suffered the same thing can know that they aren't alone. And also that men and women who haven't suffered it will know what this mutilation leaves in its wake. And above all, that the world should know that you can rebuild after chaos...

    Dear Anonymous, I am so happy that you came this way!
    I understand that you can't manage to talk to your parents. And especially twice rather than once! At 31 I haven't managed either, but still, I haven't given up hope that it will happen one day. About the gynaecologist, don't worry. Unless you happen upon a complete moron, he won't look at you like a bizarre animal. There is even a good chance that he won't say anything to you at all. If it really worries you, why not go to see a woman? I don't know if reading my posts answers all your questions. Whether that's so or not, please don't hesitate to write to me on papillonblog {at} gmail {dot} com.
    Speak to you soon I hope.


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