This one’s for the Ladies

National Health Blog Post Month, Day 1 – Thursday, Nov. 1,  “Why I write about my health”

I am a woman. And I love being a woman. I love girly things, like miniskirts and painted nails. I love the challenge that childbearing and breastfeeding brought to my body and spirit. I love my “women’s intuition,” well known as a phrase only because it actually does exist. I love being part of a deep sisterhood that is without words; that lets me look in the eyes of a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo, hold hands with her, share a smile and know that we share a connection as women that doesn’t need me to speak Swahili or her to speak English (or ask for help from our male interpreter!).

Women are beautiful and complex and strong, and profoundly amazing. I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by many people who share that sentiment and strong enough not to be brought down by those who don’t. Women can be sensual, tough as nails, tender and resilient all at the same time. And yet woman, upon woman, upon woman embodies resiliency to a fault by putting the needs of others before her own—to the detriment of her own health. Despite pelvic pain that renders sex un-enjoyable for her she bears it for the sake of her partner “because it’s not fair to him to not have sex, so I just bite my lip, suck it up, and get through it.”

I love women that are strong. One example is the recently departed and deeply missed Lyn Lusi, who together with her husband Jo Lusi, a Congolese orthopedic surgeon, founded Heal Africa in Goma, DR Congo. She committed her adult life to her family and the development of an amazing place that is more than just a hospital. It is hope and help and stability for people in DR Congo, where war and insecurity and violence have been a way of life for far too long. For women in particular, it meets unique and sometimes devastating needs for physical, social, emotional and spiritual healing.

In an entirely different way, strong is also Brittany Howard of the band Alabama Shakes. I don’t have many conventional hobbies, but good music—particularly good live music—is a part of what keeps me in balance (or some semblance of it!) with life as a mother, healthcare provider, wife, etc. Given my love affair with both women and music, seeing Brittany own her rock star status is monumental. Don’t just take my word for it. My 61-year-old mother went as my last minute date to the show and raved about how captivating and empowering it was to see a strong woman bringing everything she has and “rocking out” (Mom’s words!). I can’t sing OR play guitar, but when I grow up I still want to be Brittany—or Susan Tedeschi, another female inspiration, true to her passions of motherhood, marriage and downright BRINGING IT with her soulful vocals and guitar, all while in a fabulous dress!

So why do I blog about health? Because of women who are strong, and for those who are looking for strength, for women who are inspirational and looking for inspiration, women who can rock out and those who still want to be rock stars when they grow up! Because despite the advances in women’s health in our country (kudos to pink ribbons!) too many people still squirm at the mention of sensitive issues relating to female genitalia, and too many women wait too many years before seeking care for pelvic health issues such as urinary incontinence and pelvic pain. There is no reason for us not to move toward open, engaging and meaningful discussions about female pelvic and perinatal health (perinatal = preconception, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum). We may need to first collectively learn how to have these conversations—yes Virginia, you do have muscles down there. And it’s not un-ladylike to talk about them or want to know how they work!

The quality of life of millions of women is at stake here and my stand is to empower women to retain or regain that.

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