The Vagina is Remarkably Good at Self-Maintenance

Vaginal or urinary infection and problems concept. Young woman holds paper with questionmark above crotch.

About once a week, approximately 15 minutes after we’ve put my four-year-old to bed and left the room, I hear “Mommmmmy!”  After another 15 minutes of trying to ignore this incessant bellowing, I finally relent and go see what’s up.

“My vagina hurts.”

I think in our quest to ensure that our children are comfortable with their bodies, my husband and I might have erred too far on the side of talking freely about their private parts. The other day we were at a Nationals game, and my daughter kept grabbing her crotch. “Do you need to go potty?” I asked. “No, I just like holding my vagina,” was her matter-of-fact answer, much to the amusement/horror of my best friend and her 11-year-old daughter.

My husband despises taking my daughter to the indoor pool because she likes to gape, open-mouthed at all of the penises in the locker room; he’s terrified she’s going to start a running commentary. Last time he took her, she said to him, “Daddy, your penis is HUGE.” This was infinitely better for his ego than when she remarked, amidst all that swingin’ salami, “Look at your cute little tushy,” and then proceeded to pinch him on the ass.

But back to the sore vagina. My response is usually to have her go commando overnight and—voila!—everything is better in the morning. Until she goes to school and tells all of her teachers that mommy let her sleep without underpants last night, but that’s OK because sometimes mommy sleeps without underpants too. (Sidebar: one time we gave her a suppository because she hadn’t pooped in, like, weeks. The next morning as I’m dropping her off at school, she says to me, “Mommy, you’re not going to put that thing in my tushy again, right? Because it really hurt.”  I’m surprised Children’s Services didn’t show up at our house within moments.)

So a couple of weeks ago, we had been dealing with a sore vagina more frequently than usual. It may well have been because it was a zillion degrees outside and my daughter sometimes forgets to go pee on a regular basis, thus creating some sort of primordial stew in her Dora the Explorer underpants (Sidebar #2: Am I the only person bothered by the fact that “Dora” and “Explorer” do not rhyme, unless you are from Boston?). But I was worried that perhaps my laissez faire attitude toward vaginal irritation was overlooking a larger issue. So I did what any parent of a sore-vagina’d four-year-old would do—I Googled it.

And what did I come up with but a very helpful article that began with the sentence: “Vaginas are remarkably good at self-maintenance.” I mean, who, in all seriousness, starts an article with a sentence like that? Of course, that’s as far as I made it in the article before I started texting it to all of my friends.

If I could draw, that would be the title of my children’s book. The main character would be Veronica the Vagina, clad in gray jumpsuit, wearing a hardhat, maybe holding a little hammer.  She’d have all sorts of misadventures:

-Veronica Meets Mr. Tampon.

-Veronica Just Says “No” to Douches!

-Veronica Hopes that the Baby’s Head is Shaped Like a Torpedo

-And All the King’s Doctors and All the King’s Men Couldn’t Put Veronica Back Together Again: Veronica’s Life After Three Humongous Babies

So next time you are wondering about some of your own little misadventures down there, just follow the advice of our trusty pediatrician to “go on and air out the cave” because remember: vaginas are remarkably good at self-maintenance.


About the author: J.E. Golden’s writing has been featured in The Washington Post, the Imperfect Parent website, and The Best Women’s Travel Writing.  She is the mother of two daughters, ages 4 and 8, and a late son. Find more of her writing on