Monday, 22 May 2006

Analysis of the pain

22 May 2007

Today I am walking almost normally. Almost. Because I am holding myself oddly when upright. I’m exaggerating the arch of my spine and as a result, obviously, I have backache after several minutes standing.

The daily reduction of the pain has been a lovely surprise on awakening since Thursday. I can’t really even say pain, at the time of writing these words. It’s more of a dragging feeling. As a result I have started to ignore my best friends, the painkillers.

Nevertheless, contrary to what you might think, it’s not better to be dragged than to be in pain. Far from it even.

The dragging is worrying enough that I have the impression that something is going to give way, causing a haemorrhage or destroying all the work of the surgeon. So I take note of my feelings, I change position when I feel tension increasing in the region of the operation. When I am sitting or lying down I need one or two minutes to find a comfortable position. And so, standing up, I hold myself in a way that minimises the tightening while letting me find my balance, to the detriment of my back.

The pain and the stinging have a use all the same: that’s what makes me diligent in the care I need to give myself. In effect, I have to carry out intimate cleaning 4 times a day with the sterile swabs soaked in dilute red iodine. And I have to rinse thoroughly. Which means using the shower head. And so I take a mini-shower each time. Four times a day. When waking (well that’s not too much of a problem it’s true, as I take a full shower in any case), at about 2:00pm then about 7:00 pm and finally before going to bed. It’s frankly annoying. So it’s fortunate that there is this pain, that there is this pulling. If I didn’t feel anything at all it would be very difficult not to skip some of the care.

The clitoris is a very long organ (approximately 11 cm/4 inches) of which only a little is found outside the body. Circumcision consists of cutting this end which protrudes, while damaging the labia minora at the same time.

In order to do the repair, the surgeon therefore had to remove the scar tissue from my circumcision, then he cut and disengaged my clitoris. He reconstituted a clitoral gland at the end which he then repositioned so that it would protrude. So that the clitoris would not retract to its anterior position (so that it doesn’t “go back” again) he “wedged” it and sutured it with reabsorbable thread in front of the labia majora so that they keep it in place.*.

In my case he also injected a product into my labia minora so thet they would take on the normal shape again.

The pulling and pain are from where? All my genital area is swollen, tight and sensitive. I also have a slight pink discharge (nothing compared with the haemorrhage I imagined when I saw the giant sanitary towels in the clinic on Tuesday evening, nor with periods either) but the flow is not much at all.

At the time of my daily cleaning, I use a little mirror to see how things are going. The day before yesterday, for the first time, I noticed a little pink button between my labia majora. My clitoris. The little piece of flesh, that was my clitoris!

Damn! My mouth drops open.

I have been so obsessed by the pain since leaving the clinic that I completely put to one side part of the reality: I HAVE FOUND MY CLITORIS AGAIN! For good!

Damn, damn, damn, it’s coooolll!!

So, true, I don’t feel it at all at the moment. I can only wait for the pain, the stinging, the pulling to pack up for good. That should be before next Wednesday at the latest. At that time I believe I will notice its presence (and that will surely be reeeaaally strange to feel I have an extra organ). For it’s own sensitivity, to “feel it internally”, that should happen after six weeks of healing.

I still don’t know too much of what awaits me on the healing of my labia minora …

I am not in any rush to know what I am going to feel. For now, my need, what I am looking forward to, is the moment when I will no longer have any disagreeable feelings.

I understand perfectly now what that lady meant when she said she “still felt circumcised in her head, in spite of the operation”. For the moment, I feel no matter what has changed in my body, there are unpleasant things which prevent me from feeling it and so realising it. And nothing notable has happened in my head. It has certainly noticed the theory of what happened last week, it knows my body has been reconstructed, but it remains an abstraction.

I am waiting, I am waiting, I know that it will come ….


- Victoire sur l’Excision, Pierre Foldès, le chirurgien qui redonne l’espoir aux femmes mutilées, l’excellent livre d’Hubert Prolongeau (Editions Albin Michel)

- Urofrance, le site de l’urologie française

- Excision - On peut soigner les femmes victimes d’excision - Doctissimo

[Original in French]

Next post


  1. No doubt you have a fair way still to go, but the most disagreeable part is done ;-)

  2. (That was the way I normally talk to you, but in fact I would prostrate myself at your feet to show my infinite admiration for your courage!)

  3. (At the same time, I don't know how to preostrate myself on a blog)

  4. (Tell me if you are fed up with me monopolising your comments!)

  5. Hello Papillon!

    Thank you for your well explained answer and thank you for the links. I hadn't really understood what the operation consisted of and now it's clear. In fact it's about bringing out the invisible end of your clitoris. I was thinking it was a sort of clitoris transplant, but I was wide of the mark. I will go to sleep less stupid this evening. 11 cm? I really didn't know that, I am astonished to read it. Thank you for your information. Well done to you for your courage. I am sure it will all go well, there is some psychological adjustment to be made, true, but I think it started the moment you decided to have the operation.
    I have another question:
    After the operation and healing, will one be able to tell that you had been circumcised, or is it not visible? Looking at it, would you know it had been circumcised or not?
    So, I'll wait for your next posts and wish you a good convalescence.
    Love and kisses!

  6. Fyfe!
    Rogue! Hooligan!
    It's because your first intention was to prostrate yourself that I let you put the dawa in my comments :))

    Nono, it's true that the changes in my thinking started the day I made the appointment with Dr Foldès. To do that showed that something good was starting ...

    If you looked carefully I think you would know that someone had been circumcised. The surgeon reconstructed my labia minora too, that's true, but not the hood of the clitoris. At the time of the consultation I asked if my clitoris would not be "vulnerable" without a hood, he replied no, that the labia would ensure sufficient "protection". Generally the operation consists just to "discover" the clitoris by another centimetre. As a result, no labia minora, no hood in the basic reconstruction. I believe the reason is that restoration of the hood and labia minora would be cosmetic surgery while that of the clitoris is reconstructive surgery. The collateral damage from the circumcision isn't taken into account at the moment in an operation for repair.

    I don't want to seem to be making a heartbreaking generalisation, but from my personal experience and from my reading, but a lot of men don't realise at all that their partner has been circumcised. It's their absence of pleasure that alerts the. But rarely the unusual anatomy of their sex. On the other hand, (to be equal-handed) some women don't know either where exactly their sexual organs and openings are in this mysterious region which is the feminine sex....

  7. Thank you Papillon for all your explanations...
    Before reading your blog, I had cold sweats just thinking about the word circumcision...(well, I admit I looked at the links a bit sideways so as not to faint!..) You are doing a great job of increasing awareness of this subject!
    Now I am really happy that you can be repaired of this barbarity, and I have only one wish, that there will be no more victims!
    What can one do?

  8. You are right about that, most women don't know properly how they are made, and men even less so. In this aspect, a male is made with pure simplicity!

    I am very sensitive about what you say. I no longer work in a multicultural place as I did, but this question troubles me (I am a medical student) I very rarely can broach this subject with adolescents (fear of adding violence to violence), and a single father, from Mali, was prepared to discuss it with me. I would surely have like to have done more, or better. I don't know if it is possible to broach the subject with adolescents, it so much involves them being sufficiently themselves to reject their parents' choice and to do something else.
    I am full of questions when reading your account - I am impressed by the response that you have had, I don't know if can reduce the price to be paid for others, for the young ones...
    In any case, sweet wishes for you, and kisses.

  9. Good evening Papillon

    I'm keen to tell you that not only am I happy that the pain is becoming duller, but I am in total admiration of your self-effacement, modesty, frankness, and your extreme sensitivity of writing ..

    Really, well done!

    Hats off to you, and good luck for your treatments!

  10. I've just no been thinking about you, while reading Amnesty International's "La Chronique". It seems that FGM has been forbidden in Eritea. It said the penalites are still fluid, but to my mind the government has made a step (though not mandatory if not followed by a step).
    Thanks for your news :)

  11. Good evening!
    Now that you explain I realise that I knew the clitoris was 11 cm, but you don't really realise when you hear it on a documentary! I'm very happy that the pain is lessening!
    Thank you anyway for your intimacy which you share with us!

  12. Valérie de Haute Savoie24 May 2007 at 19:40

    I'm happy for you Papillon :)

  13. Your account has great value, reading these words, as a woman, you feel involved a bit more inside than reading a book on the subject. It needs courage to go towards a new body even if it is a body where pleasure has more likelihood or chance to exist.
    Suffering is not at all cool! Happily it's reducing and you have the painkillers if necessary.
    Good luck to you. I admire you!

  14. So happy to read your last posts... Waht a victory over foolishness, violence and these practices which must disappear.
    You have given such hope to so many women...
    Plenty of luck for what comes next, everything is behind you now.
    You are a wonderful woman, I am certain of it.

  15. So, it's done, you are assuredly in the owrld of "normal" women, and you can think with reason that the most painful experience is behind you...
    So, welcome to our world, "intact" women who don't know how lucky we are(though more so now, thanks to you...)
    And again all my affectionate admiration for your journey :o)

  16. you can be reassured, the pain will pass, it's just because you have something you didn't have, you are in pain, before you didn't have a clitoris and you couldn't feel anything.
    it's a necessary pain and it will make you constantly remember the operation, which means from now on you have a clitoris.
    myself I was frightened because I had no pain at all, I was afraid that would predicted the future and that I would feel nothing there - ever, because I thought that the more you suffer now, the more you'll have pleasure afterwards ( a bit like the relationahip some people have with religion), but take heart, you will see that in a week you will be walking normally, you will no longer be in pain but be careful with the painkillers, you can become dependent very quickly...

  17. Thank you Papillon for recounting all that in detail, precisely and minutely. I find that wonderful and generous on your part, and I am very happy for you that everything went well in spite of the negative aspects after the operation.
    Really well done for all that, for having done it, for telling us about it, sharing it and so helping others!

  18. You are invited to my blog. Answer the question and win an album. Go to

  19. Quiche je suis, quiche je reste ! [I haven't any idea how to translate this, not a clue!]
    You might ask why I dated my words 27 April, I'm caught (I don't know what I did with my bookmarks!) I've just recently discovered almost a month of notes. pff!
    So, of course I am delighted at the good progress of the great adventure! I hope with all my heart that it will continue, and I am stuck to my screen waiting for good news.

  20. Not at all, Cornélie. Honestly I don't know what can be done to stop it. Undoubtedly follow and encourage the ant FGM associations in their diligent task. But it's difficult to make contact with them...

    Anita, your comment has touched me a lot. It strikes me too. You know I believe it's difficult to broach the subject with adolescents who don't want to talk about it. Because it makes them take note of the gravity of what has happened (at the start of my therapy I thought that circumcision was an experience had been hard to endure but which was totally commonplace and without consequences), deny or even "betray" their parents, and also overcome their shame.

    I thought about what my mother said to me, that her mother would never have required our circumcision. And I say to myself that perhaps there is hope. Some of the justifications for circumcision are in the process of falling. All the world knows now that the clitoris isn't a poisoned dart which can kill a man during love, or a baby at its birth. There are enough non-circumcised women in the world who make love and babies without killing anyone by means of their sex, so that this reason for mutilating their girls really is no longer true. In the same way, the idea that an uncircumcised woman is a thoughtless woman who will never find a husband is in the process of losing credit in the eyes of parents. What I want to say is, if the reasons for this abomination fall, mainly thanks to information, little by little the practice will reduce. The tradition alone will not be sufficient to justify this barbarity in the eyes of parents. At least I hope so.

    That's it Caro B. You've won: I'm humming :)
    One reconstructed young woman spoke to me shortly before my operation, of her encounters with other young women who had had the operation. The latter hadn't practised the care prescribed by the surgeon. They had become infected and suffered such enormous pain that they had returned to see him urgently. Considering my bravery in the face of pain, this story served as a warning. I applied myself s as not to find myself in their position. But even ore, I haven't done all that, waited such long moths, to fail at this point and become infected or whatever. I say this last sentence to myself like a mantra. And your comment encourages me effectively to continue in this way.

    Mlle Crapaud, the region Ethiopia-Eritrea-Somalia is the "worst" on my personal map of circumcision. There, young girls are infibulated as well as circumcise them. And it's rather consistent. Even if the initiative is quite symbolic, the ban says a lot about what is happening in Eritrea. Let's hope it will be followed by changes, and that other countries will follow suit.

    Lalita, it rather that I should thank you for living through this journey with me.

    Loïc! A celebrity of the blogosphere on my blog?!!! I am amazed. I heard of you on Kozilka's blog whose writing you looted. I don't like terrorists. So I decline your invitation.

    Valerie de haute Savoie, thank you for your kindness.

    Emelire, I'm telling you: suffering is downright useless! It's much better from this side. I no longer have any pain at all and the pulling is getting less each day. Thank you for your kindness. I am happy that my account brings another point of view on the question of circumcision and its consequences.

    Elene b, let's hope that reading my posts will bring other women what it brought to me by writing them. To be honest I am not marvellous every day but I'm training, I'm training hard. :)

    Christine yessssss! I'm there, keep me a place amongst you, girls!

    Ah fafa! Your comments are precious, have I already told you? Thanks to you and your experience, I can see another path from mine, different from mine. And as a result I can think about what you say and the differences. And that lets me leap ahead each time. I hope others will follow your example in order to have several points of view.
    The notion of "suffer first, then happiness" like an advance payment for all pleasure you will have, I know it well, I've been bathing in it all my life. Apparently it's not true. There is no need to pay to be well. And I am delighted for you that you weren't in any pain (even though I understand it made you afraid). But you didn't even feel any pulling? Nothing at all?
    Thank you for your words, they fill me with hope. I can't wait for the week then, when I will be able to leap like a kid :)
    Don't worry, I parted with my friends the painkillers several days ago. I'm snubbing them.

    Thank you Hélène! These days I am happy with myself I have to say :)

    Lilou, I laughed when I read your comment (« Quiche je suis, quiche je reste », I love it!) I did ask myself why you commented on 27 April, so the mystery is solved. :)


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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