by Natasha | Feb 22, 2022 | Body Image, Raising children with a healthy sexuality, Vulnerability |
**Inspired by a breast cancer survivor I worked with, who asked me to share with other cancer survivors how I helped her accept her body again. I helped her in much the same way I helped myself, so here’s my story.
I started hating my body was when I was a teenager. My legs were too big and muscular, my breasts didn’t touch together like the women in magazines, and I knew I hated my vulva without even looking at it. I found ways to hide these things by wearing pants all year round, using my arms to push my breasts together during sex (yes I’m serious) and never looking at my vulva. As the years passed and I became a mother, I added a cesarean scar from 4 births and endless stretch marks that made my skin wrinkled to my “hate list.” I hated my body.
One day, while touching one of my five children, I wondered what he felt receiving touch that stemmed from a source that I loathed. Sliding my hands over his perfect little body, I wondered if he felt the love in my heart for him or, if he could feel my hatred of the body it came from. Worse yet, did it feel sourceless like tea pouring from an empty pot? There’s nothing I love more than my children and I wanted them to feel that love in every touch of my hand. So, I decided to try bringing the love I felt for them — towards myself, and see if I could fill up my own tea pot. If I could do that, I would be confident in the love they were receiving from my touch.
Making the decision was one step but the question of how to find love for my body when I hated it, was another. I thought of all the ways I showed my children love by looking at them, touching them softly and offering them kind and loving words. So (with the term “fake it til you make it” in my head) I imagined I was touching someone else I cared about, and slowly began to touch my body. It was really difficult at first — excruciating actually — and often brought me to tears. I’d avoided my body for so long and now here it — no she — was and the depth of how little I knew her and how much I’d rejected her, was right in my face. With commitment, I touched her everyday and started to remember the stories of the scars and stretch marks and other remnants of journeys I’ve been on.
Lines on my face reminded me of the sun in Kenya and all the beautiful relationships I had there. “Thank you my body.”
The loose skin on my belly reminded me that it was the first home for four of my children and I wondered about the belly of the mama who birthed my 5th child. “Thank you my body. Thank you Selam’s birth mamas’ body.”
I felt my cesarean scar and the lack of nerve endings across it. Slowly, finger by finger, I replaced the shame of my body not working properly to birth my children, with compassion for what my body went through to bring me 4 of my children. What a journey we’ve been through and you’re still here carrying me. “Thank you my body.”
Years later, I discovered I had thyroid cancer and the tumor, along with my right thyroid, was removed and there was a new scar with new feelings of shame. What had I done or not done to make myself get cancer? What am I doing now that could make it happen again? Why me? Why has my body failed me? Thinking again of my children and imagining how much love I would give them if they had cancer or a scar, and how I’d feel even more love for that part of them — I gave that to myself. I touched my neck gently and expressed appreciation for helping me find my voice that had been silent for so long. I spoke to her and under my touch, felt her soften.
“I see you and I know you’re here even if some of you is missing. Thank you my body”
It’s been 12 years from that first time I touched myself, and now I know my body so well. She’s my best friend. She’s honest with me when I eat something that doesn’t feel right for her and she’s taught me that she likes to be seen and validated and loved too. Sometimes I get caught in the trap of comparing her to others or of wishing she looked different, and I just come back to her and how she feels under my fingers and the stories she’s carried me through. When I do this, I can’t help but love her. Thinking of how I love my loved ones unconditionally, I remind her of all the ways I love her unconditionally. I love her scars and stretch marks, the thyroid still here and the one that’s gone, and her beautiful vulva. I tell her that she’s made perfectly and that I wouldn’t want her any other way, and with my touch and my words, I feel her soften under my fingers. “Thank you my body”
Today, when I touch someone else, I don’t doubt that they feel the source of this love coming through each of my fingers. With this love, I filled my own tea pot.
by Natasha | Feb 4, 2018 | Q&A, Raising children with a healthy sexuality |
I’m the mom of 3 girls ranging in age from 7 to 15. I’ve told them the basics about sex in the terms of making babies but never anything about pleasure. Do you have any advice on how to talk to my daughters about pleasure? I don’t know where to begin.
Great question! The fact that you’re asking this says a lot to me about the kind of parent you are. 🙂
Having a conversation with our daughters about pleasure can be extra difficult because we’re culturally conditioned to think of pleasure as shameful and bad — especially in reference to females. It isn’t uncommon to hear a mother joke about her son who can’t keep his hands out of his pants. However if she said the same about a daughter others may think there’s something “wrong” with her, or that somethings been done to her to make her “that way.” The fact is that masturbating for pleasure is a part of our sexual development that begins even before birth.
“We recently observed a female fetus at 32 weeks gestation touching the vulva with fingers of the right hand. The caressing movements were centred primarily on the region of the clitoris. Movements stopped after 30 to 40 seconds and started again after a few minutes. Furthermore, these slight touches were repeated and were associated with short, rapid movements of pelvis and legs……. We observed this for 20 minutes.”
— The Story of V, Catherine Blackledge
So how do you start? Start by using correct terminology when discussing their sexual anatomy and avoid “dumbing it down” with terms like “front bum” or ”pee pee.” We use these terms to lessen our own discomfort and in fact they just feed the already imposed cultural shame around our genitals. If you don’t know the correct terms then please learn them before you talk. You can explain to them about their clitoris and how it’s the only organ in our body that’s sole purpose is for pleasure. I’d tell them that masturbating is normal and natural and that basically everyone does it and that it’s a 100% safe way to have sex. (only say the safe sex part if it’s age appropriate) I’d even go so far as to say that you and your friends masturbate so they know that you’re not just speaking rhetorically. This may feel a bit awkward to say at first but I think you’ll notice from their response that they appreciate hearing it. It also helps for them to know that pleasure through masturbation is normal at different stages in life. Of course discussions about masturbation should also include discussions about appropriateness and safety and you will most likely have a different conversation with your older girls than your younger one.
With your older daughter(s) I would also tell them that the pleasure they experience through masturbation can and should also be experienced in sexual experiences with others when they are ready. This bit of information was a missing link for me as a teen because I masturbated for pleasure alone and had sex with my boyfriend without pleasure. It didn’t even occur to me that pleasure had anything to do with sex or that I could have both at the same time because no one told me that was possible. I want my daughters to know this. Sex for my own pleasure was a completely foreign concept and I see this carry through with adult women who talk about “good” sex. When questioned on what this means it is often apparent that “good” simply means not awful and has very little to do with actual pleasure.
I hope this helps as a starting point for the conversation with your daughters. I find in my Orgasm Coaching practice that the best indicator of sexual satisfaction as an adult is if the woman masturbated as a child. If you have any other questions or would like some anatomy diagrams to print out please don’t hesitate to email me again. You’re a wonderful mother to be seeking this information for your daughters!
by Natasha | Jan 16, 2018 | Bodysex workshops, Posts, Raising children with a healthy sexuality, Sex and mothering, Vulnerability |
As I continue to grow and learn and get more comfortable incorporating parts of myself and my beliefs into my life and my work, I’ve started to feel uncomfortable using the word “heal” when referring to what I hope to help women achieve through my work. The definition of heal is “to become healthy or sound again” and to me that implies that we were once healthy and whatever we did or was done to us needs to be fixed so that we can become healthy again. I don’t believe that any of us need fixing. I believe that our pain, “brokenness”, trauma, and shame are just as valid parts of ourselves as our greatness. In fact often our greatness is a direct result of our brokenness.
I can see now that when I feel like I need fixing it’s usually because I’m waging battles — both consciously and unconsciously — with my stories and experiences that I deem shameful and bad. By not accepting or allowing them to be a part of me and my view of myself, I become fragmented — and a separation is created within me. It takes a great deal of energy to keep these parts separate and much of my energy is fed into hiding these perceived imperfections from others. Hiding and living in shame creates not only a separation within but a separation with out — and essentially distances me from the people that I most want to be close to.
I saw examples of this separation in my daughter whom we adopted as an older child. When she first came home she tried her best to be perfect and any time she made a normal mistake she would either apologize profusely or do whatever she could to hide it. The behaviours she used to cover her mistakes were often far more damaging than the mistakes themselves and after awhile trust between us became a problem. She seemed to be putting her energy into separating her “flaws” from herself and in doing so, was separating herself from me. Sensing that she felt the need to be perfect in order to be loveable, I began to praise her for making mistakes. I expressed my love for her “flaws.” Her spilled milk, forgotten lunch containers and messy room. Then I took things a step further and told her that I didn’t need her to be perfect or “fixed”, as adopted children often believe, and that it’s okay that she may always feel a sadness or brokenness about losing her birth family. I acknowledged that her wounds from this loss may never fully heal and that no matter what, I accept and love her as she is. I didn’t want her to think she “should” be anyone other than herself or that I needed her to feel better in order to love her. To deny the painful truths in her story would be to deny a part of who she is. I can honestly still feel her entire body sigh with relief upon hearing this.
I’ve carried this understanding with me ever since as a reminder to not gloss over or try to “fix” her or my other children’s pain or shortcomings, but instead to acknowledge and accept them as a part of their whole being. I don’t need them to be any “better” than they already are.
Through my work these past few years and in particular the shared vulnerability that happens within a Bodysex circle, I’ve learned to stop hiding in shame and acknowledge the parts of myself that aren’t so pretty to look at. In this acknowledgement and in the acceptance mirrored back to me from the other women, I’ve largely come to trust and stop fighting those parts of myself that I’m in battle with. When I stop resisting, the stories lose their power and — like a tapestry with many different threads — they become just another part of the intricate story of my life. They integrate into me. The meaning of the word integrate is “to put together parts or elements and combine them into a whole.” To be whole I don’t need to be perfect.
If you choose to sit in the circle with me or work with me in any capacity — I will not proclaim that you’ll be healed because I don’t believe that you need fixing. I don’t and won’t see you that way. I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that I’ve “arrived” at a place that you should also be. I will however, do my best to allow you to see me as a whole person with many curves and corners of both darkness and light. In the end, maybe healing is just realizing that in spite of my brokenness, I’ve been whole all along.
*** people who know me well know that I love words and their meanings and I don’t take it lightly which words I use. Just because this is how I feel about the word heal, doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong for using it. This is just what fits for me.
by Natasha | Sep 17, 2017 | Bodysex workshops, Raising children with a healthy sexuality |
With my Bodysex retreat less than a week away, it’s common to see jars of lube cooling off on my counter beside a pot of home made chicken stock and a cutting board of shredded zucchini. Even though there is a lot of work that goes into planning and preparing for the retreat, I enjoy thinking of each of the women coming and wondering what they’re hoping to get from the weekend.
“Mama why are you making all those creams?” asks my 7 year old while her 13 year old sister looks on.
“Because it’s my gift to each of the women who come to my retreat. I think people feel nice knowing someone made something for them.”
Nodding she goes back to watching her 17 year old sister practice different ways to apply make up.
“And what are all of these chairs for? They look so nice” she says as she sits down on one and proceeds to drive it around the room.
“These chairs are what we sit on at the retreat. It’s important that everyone feels comfortable in the circle.”
“They are comfy” she says as she drives one over to the bathroom to brush her teeth and I start to sew a tear in the seam of one of the chairs.
Ready for bed she sees the blue lights glowing from the vibrators charging in the darkened dining room.
“What are those for?” she asks.
“Those are massagers for each of the women to have, and take home from the retreat.”
Nodding like it’s the most normal thing in the world she says “You make it nice for them mama.”
Tucking her in she stands up on my bed and reminds me that “we have to do a real hug, not a half one.” So we hug, chest together, heads on each other’s shoulders, both of our arms around each other. I tuck her into my bed under the quilt made by one of my Bodysex sisters. Heading back into the living room to mend the chairs, I marvel at the ordinariness of my extra-ordinary life.
by Natasha | Jul 16, 2017 | Raising children with a healthy sexuality |
This past month I had 3 orgasm coaching sessions with women who had never experienced an orgasm before. One of the women expressed frustration at being “robbed of this education” saying “I’ve basically lost ten or more years of this because of it.” By “this” she meant pleasure. She went on to explain that growing up her sex education consisted of no education at all. Raised Catholic she was taught nothing about basic sexual anatomy, sex or pleasure. When she began menstruating her mom gave her pads to use but didn’t explain where the blood came from or how to use a tampon. It was almost like she wasn’t even supposed to know she had a vagina. She could recall no memories of positive or negative words being spoken about her genitals and because of this, grew up completely disconnected to this part of her body.
You might read this and think it’s horrible and sad but in my experience it isn’t at all uncommon. While we openly talk with our children about other parts of their body and name these parts using accurate terminology, we often avoid teaching our children about their sexual anatomy or using the correct terms when we do. Instead of saying vulva, penis, testicles, and clitoris parents often use dumbed down terms like “front bum” “back bum” and “pee pee.” While we may think this makes it easier for children to understand, I think it actually does the opposite. Do we change the language for any other body part? If a child can understand that legs are called legs, and eye brows called eye brows, then why can’t they understand that a vulva is called a vulva? By avoiding these terms we pass our own sexual shame on to our children.
Children are great receivers but not great interpreters. They readily and easily receive information from everything and everyone around them — parents, teachers, friends and the media. Their interpretation of the information they receive however, is often not accurate. When parents fight they may think it’s their fault. If we make a disgusted face while changing their diaper, they may think that they are disgusting. When we cover our naked bodies they may think there’s something shameful about being naked. And when we avoid or dumb down talks about their sexual anatomy they might interpret those parts as being bad or dirty. In fact what we don’t say to our children teaches them much more than what we do say.
Even though I use the title “Orgasm Coach” for the work I do, in some cases I think a more accurate term would be “pleasure” or “self awareness” Coach.” The women I work with often speak of a complete disconnect between their self and their genitals. When a woman has grown up with little to no understanding of her sexual anatomy, has never masturbated and only learned about her “expected” role during sex from porn, she may have have absolutely no baseline or knowledge of pleasure. This same women may be (and often is )married and having sex in a variety of positions with her husband several times a week. Just because she has had sex doesn’t mean that she has ever experienced pleasure or can even begin to know what that would look or feel like. I can tell you that learning to let go and trust enough to experience pleasure for the FIRST time as an adult is not easy at all.
You may wonder what we can do as parents to support and educate our children to be sexually healthy as adults. First and foremost we can teach them by modelling ourselves what it means to be a sexually healthy adult. What that means to you may be different than what it means to me but I think it begins with using the correct terminology when teaching them about their sexual anatomy and not wincing when we do so. If you have difficulty saying the word clitoris out loud then your child will interpret something from that. If you can’t look at your own genitals without disgust and shame your child will likely not be able to either. What about conversations regarding masturbation? Encouraging natural self exploration will give them a base of knowledge about pleasure and connection for their rest of their lives — especially if it’s not met with shame. We can talk to them not only about boundaries but about pleasure, self care and ENTHUSIASTIC consent. When we feel healthy sexually ourselves, we can speak confidently and matter of factly — giving them the message that sex is a normal part of living a healthy life just like exercise and eating healthy is. We can tell them age appropriate stories about our past sexual experiences — from childhood masturbation, our own sexual shame, to teenage sex or the sex we wish we had had — so that they know we’re safe and have been there too.
As parents we need to push past our own learned sexual shame. Let’s give our children the education they need to live a healthy, pleasure filled life as an adult, so that that in 20 years time they don’t need to come to me to learn where their clitoris is or how to feel pleasure. Educate,educate,educate. <3