When I was at an ante-natal class, back in the mists of time, I remember the midwife describing the pelvic floor as a hammock. It’s a kind of sling of muscles down below that keeps everything supported.
Well, back then, my pelvic floor was one of those tightly strung hammocks, the sort that’s pretty tricky to get into and has a habit of summarily ejecting you straight out the other side.
Now, however, three children and fifteen years later, my hammock is more of a low slung one that you climb into, only to find that your bum is actually resting on the floor.
I remember the first time I gave any thought to pelvic muscle tone. I was about sixteen, and going to stay with a friend. She said by the way, don’t make my mother laugh. I asked why not. I shouldn’t have done, because she answered when she laughs her Tampax falls out. Needless to say, I spent all weekend terrified that I might be inadvertently amusing, and find Mrs Ponsonby’s (not her real name) tampon skittering across the kitchen floor.
About three years later, I encountered the other end of the pelvic spectrum, so to speak. I was travelling in the Far East, and was hanging out with an international group of backpackers who decided to go to one of the ‘girlie bars’ on Pat Pong. It was all part of the authentic Bangkok experience, they said.
They found a bar which didn’t charge an entry fee (we were all surviving on about $5 a day), but we discovered, once it was rather too late to back out, that they charged a fortune for drinks.
I paid for a small beer, which I knew would have to last me for as long as I was there. I feel deeply uncomfortable now, knowing how badly the women in that bar were being exploited. I didn’t understand any of that back then, I just thought what incredible muscle tone they had. They did a show where they fired ping-pong balls from their vaginas, as fast as bullets, into the audience.
With a sickening ‘plop’ one landed directly into my very expensive beer. I left, but never forgot what could be done with an impressively trained pelvic floor.
My pelvic floor has held its own fairly well, all things considered. But there are times when I become rather aware of its age. My trampolining days are, for example, behind me.
I also had a number of rather tortuous experiences a few years back, when some friends of mine and I clubbed together to hire a personal trainer once a week, to put us through our middle-aged paces in the park. On the upside, he was utterly gorgeous. On the downside, he had a penchant for a skipping rope. Every time he produced the rope, my pelvic floor and I would groan inwardly, and I was way too embarrassed to confess the reason why I hated skipping.
I’m aware that the gradual slackening of the old pelvic muscles is common in women of my age. I know this because I am being stalked all over the internet by advertisements for Tena Lady pads and something called pee-proof pants. I accept that my days of wearing Agent Provocateur are behind me, but waterproof undies really is a step too far.
Pelvic-floor wise, things are only going to get worse. I know that the trick is to do regular pelvic floor exercises, or ‘kegels.’ But, like flossing, they’re the sort of thing you do for a while, in a flurry of righteous enthusiasm, then forget all about. Someone told me that the way to remember was to get into the habit of doing your exercises whenever you’re stopped at a red traffic light.
I tried this for a bit, but just became obsessed with looking at the other female drivers around me, trying to work out whether they were doing the same. What expression do you wear on your face, I’d wonder, when you’re tightening your pelvic floor muscles? Slight surprise? Mild pain? Or just a faraway stare?
In the interests of this blog post, I thought I’d Google how to strengthen the pelvic floor, to see if there was any alternative to boring exercises. I realise that typing that into a search engine will result in a doubling of the incontinence stalking. I’m taking one for the team here, you understand.
Anyhow, it turns out there are these devices called intra-vaginal probes (I kid you not. How long did it take the marketing department to come up with something that sounds so alluring, I wonder?)
The claims made about these things are pretty impressive: no more frequent visits to the loo, no more accidentally passing wind (those embarrassing moments in the yoga class could be over), and even no more lack-lustre love life: you and your partner will both notice the difference. Gosh. I hadn’t actually worried about my love life, but now I’m paranoid that it’s a bit like waving an arm in the Royal Albert Hall.
So, time for some reader feedback. Has anyone tried one of these things? Do you think that it’s worth buying one of these lovely gadgets and giving it a whirl? (Gosh, I hope they don’t whirl. That could be painful). Please let me know in the comments below. My pelvic floor is in your hands.
I’ll leave you with that unnerving image, and a reminder to check out the Life in the Hot Lane Facebook Page. This week there’s an excerpt from the brilliant book by my friends over at the Age Well Project, a wonderful blog post on mid-life crisis underwear by Lisa Timoney, and the genius monologue from Fleabag by Kristin Scott Thomas on why you should look forward to the menopause. ‘Like’ the page to stay updated!
Coming up on the blog next week: INAPPROPRIATE LUST!