Friday, 3 March 2006

The consultation

3 March 2007

Yesterday I opened my eyes at 6:37. I had slept badly and I woke up several times during the night but I felt as though I had slept well. I was scared and, at the same time, I couldn’t wait.

2 March 2007 seemed to me straight away an important day. Perhaps it was one of the most important days of my life. So I explained to my body what was going to be done to it, explained that it was going to be examined, and I would be told if it could be rebuilt, to give it back what was once taken away, when I was 4 years old.

I smoked a cigarette outside, but it didn’t calm me down. My heart was beating very fast.

At 7:05 I was ready. My man asked me, from the depths of the bed in a thick voice, to call him after the appointment. That reassured me a bit, softened this sense of loneliness which I was feeling.

At 7:14 I was on the metro. I arrived in Saint Germain en Laye far too early. But above all I didn’t want to arrive late and miss my appointment. (I was warned when I made the appointment not to be late, the doctor was overwhelmingly busy and wouldn’t be able to wait for me. )

In the waiting room my legs went numb with anxiety. When he arrived, I was overcome and intimidated. I followed into his office this tall man with a soft voice and blue eyes.

He started by asking me questions:
Why are you here?
How old were you when you were circumcised?
How old are you now?
Have you any children?
Do you smoke?
Do you take any medication?
Have you ever had an operation?
Does the scarring hurt during intercourse? At which point?

Then he examined me and explained that I had suffered removal of the clitoris and damage to the labia minora. He told me that the labia minora hadn’t been deliberately damaged (as in the case of pharaonic circumcision) but because of my anatomy at 4 years old (the procedure was approximate, imprecise). In scarring, they became joined together and the clitoris was positioned out of its normal place. My vulva is inflexible, less elastic than it should be because of the scarring, which could give me problems during childbirth.

“We can make a complete repair”. When he said that, my heart leapt out of my chest and something swelled up in my rib cage like a flower blossoming. My God but that was good to hear that sentence!

Returning to his office he explained that he would remove the scar tissue, separate and reconstruct the labia minora, then free the clitoris.

He also proposed that I take part in an experimental procedure for improving the structure of my labia minora by way of a product which would be injected and would be absorbed in 18 months to 2 years. Up till now, 100 patients had done this and seemed happy. I agreed (I believe I would have accepted anything that Dr Miracle suggested) That would give a complete reconstruction, he told me, of my vulva.

I will have nothing to pay if my insurance takes care of the excess fees of 300 euros. Social security takes care of the 5000 euros which is the charge for reconstructing my clitoris and labia minora. The 1600 euros for the aesthetic improvement of my labia will be taken care of by the people who are leading the experimental procedure.

We came to the moment of arranging the operation. He asked me when I would like it to be done. That amazed me. I thought he was overwhelmed. I asked if it would be possible during May. His reply surprised me: “Not before?” The operation is going to take place on 16 May 2007. I will be admitted to the clinic the evening before and I will leave during the morning of 17 May. My man will come for me by car. To prepare for the operation I have to have a blood test, meet the anaesthetist on 11 May and stop smoking (smoking heightens the risks of complications from the operation) at least 6 to 8 weeks before the big day.

The doctor showed me that the information on the operation which will reach the social security was coded. They would not know therefore why I was having the operation. It’s not very important for me but perhaps it could be a disadvantage if it were known (I really can’t imagine how, but one never knows …. ).

I found the doctor really kind, I felt an individual, unique, important and that was ridiculously good. He was attentive and I felt good. Moved but relaxed. He asked what my gynaecologist had told me about my circumcision. I replied that she had never said anything about it but that was already better than the previous who had told me it didn’t matter and in any case, it was done, full stop. He finished by “pleasure, it’s all in the mind. What do you want? There are women who never have an orgasm, that’s how it is.” Yippee.

The doctor seemed overcome by what I told him. We chatted a little. I asked the doctor if a woman in the position of my cousin, who had several children, could be operated. And I had the confirmation yes.

He worried me a bit by saying “Good, well, if I don’t die first, there should be no problem.” That was perhaps a joke but seeing how I worried about his death before, I began to regret not having asked for an earlier date for the operation.

He was very clear and very complete in his explanations. For the operation I would have a general anaesthetic and a local anaesthetic. I would be in pain for a week and then the pains would decrease. I would have a follow up visit after 2 weeks of convalescence, then a month later and then 6 months later. After that last visit he would suggest a follow up by a sexologist if I wanted one.

During the 6 weeks of healing, there will be some discharge but it is normal, there is some drainage to be done. I will have treatment and dressings.

It is necessary to wait for 6 weeks to pass before resuming any physical or sexual activity. As I don’t have a job where I need to move about a lot (I don’t need to walk much for a start), the doctor thinks a certificate for a week off work should do. The clitoral sensation, pleasure, reappears after on average 6 months.

The appointment is over, I paid the fee, made an appointment with the anaesthetist, and registered at the reception to reserve a room.

Leaving, I felt strange: I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. And I was very anxious (don’t let him die, don’t let him die too soon). It made me feel better to talk to my cousin when I called her as soon as I returned home. My man and my best friend were delighted along with me.

I can’t wait for 16 May 2007. Can’t wait, can’t wait!

[original in French]

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  1. Hello
    I am a Swedish woman, so pleas excuse me if my French isn't quite correct.

    Your story has pained me because of your suffering, but also admiration for your strength. I hope everything goes well for the operation.

    Like most European women I knew a little about what is a circumcision but I have never read a story written by a woman who had one. All I knew was numbers, anonymous pictures, which horrified me but touched me to the bottom of my heart, as the things you wrote did ...

    Also I didn't know at all that there existed the means of reconstruction. I don't know if there are surgeons in Sweden who can do it, but I'm going to contact some politicians and if there aren't any, I'm going to work to have one opened. There are many immigrants here, and even though female circumcision is illegal here, there are families who go outside to have it done to their girls. (That's equally illegal, and there has even been a father who was charged and imprisoned for that.)

    Once again, I admire your courage and I wish that everything goes well with your operation.
    4 March 2007 11:41

  2. Another anonymous added to you joy and excitement. Your consultation seems to me to be exactly what you would hope: practical, human, realistic ... I am delighted for you. It's not so bad to have chosen to wait a bit, having only taken a proactive step, and you need to get used to it.
    I know a little about reconstructive surgery from a totally avenue and I would reassure you that fortunately there are a good few competent and committed surgeons - not only to reassure you but also to give hope to all our sisters who don't say anything but who are possibly looking to follow your example.
    I'll be thinking of you in May. It's going to be a lovely spring.

  3. Hello to you and thanks for your comments.
    @jenny: Unfortunately, in Europe too, parents have their daughters circumcised. I didn't know that, in Sweden, as in France that parents would be prosecuted. I think that's important because this horrible practice must stop. In my opinion, it necessary above all to have the parents think about what they are doing. I believe that excision could be eradicated if parents started to think and take account of its needlessness.
    @Alethea: Since Friday I have thought again about that phrase "Not before?". I am ridiculously afraid that he will die. To know that there are other competent surgeons who could take over from the doctor has nevertheless reassured me a bit. When I put theses thoughts to one side, I say to myself that effectively, I need time to gauge the impact of what I have done, of what is going to happen. I don't want it to become insignificant in my thoughts. In short, for the moment, I steer between doubts, fear and hope, a big hope. Yes spring 2007 could indeed be a very beautiful spring.
    5 March 2007

  4. Hello and bravo, bravo for your courage. It's fantastic to have dared to take your life in your hands, and especially to have decided to share your experience with with those who may need it.

    I was extremely shocked by the comments of your first gynaecologist. Without having suffered an injury of the scale of yours, I have myself been regularly confronted by the arrogance of these "gentlemen" when it's to do with the life and sexuality of their patients.

    So ladies, let's say to ourselves, and let's have this truth circulated: it's not for our doctor to decide for us "it's nothing" or "it's all in your head". IT'S NOT TRUE. If your gynaecologist takes the high ground, scornful that you are alive, change your doctor! That could change your life.
    6 March 2007

  5. I am completely in awe of you. You are so brave. Fingers crossed for May. This year is a good year!

  6. Hello V. and thank you very much for your comment. It's not easy to take your life in hand I find. Doubts mount up, courage sometimes weakens. But thanks to people like you who so kindly give me support, things are easier. Thanks again.
    6 March 2007

  7. You see Papillon, he is good, this surgeon. But the one who is even better is you. You have tremendous courage. Continue to go forward, and well done.
    7 March 2007

  8. I discovered your blog via "mon blog de fille", I don't know if a man's comment will be acceptable here, inasmuch as I could only ever have the vaguest idea of the suffering you have undergone.

    The fact remains that it's not necessary to understand all to know that the practice must stop. I don't know where it comes from, if it is purely cultural or if there is for some reason a benefit to health (like circumcision for men which is also hygienic, even though there are also consequences on the sensitivity of this region). In short the origins are of little importance, it is unjustifiable in our days, in our country in any case.

    I find you very brave to share your experiences of that sort here, I hope that it will help other women concerned by the subject.

    I hope your operation will go well and that your physical injury will be repaired, and that you will also be able to repair the more psychological injury which was done to you.

    Good luck for the rest, and well done again.

    14 April 2007

  9. Hello Atryu!
    Of course a man's comment is welcome here too :)
    Circumcision is justified by its practitioners in several ways. The most often put forward is the necessity of "cooling the sexual ardour of women" so that they will stay faithful to their husbands. They also say that the clitoris can kill or infect the husband or the future baby.. So that makes up part of an initiation ritual through which girls girls pass to become adult women. This practice is rooted in the Islamic regions of black Africa because the populations think it is written in the Koran. It's only recently that this idea has been refuted, supporting evidence, which is little by little reducing this abomination. However, the pressure of culture remains, with the result that in certain regions an uncircumcised woman is considered impure and can't find a husband.
    It's not only "in our country" that this practice is unjustified Atryu. It's that everywhere. The integrity of the human body is a sacred thing and no mutilation is justified in any way.
    Thank you for your encouragement.
    15 April 2007

  10. Thank you for these details, that only goes to reinforce the idea that they really are a practice of another time.

    Again good luck for the future, I hope you succeed in repairing this injustice which has been done to you, and that thanks to this blog, others will follow your example.
    18 April 2007


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