With three girls, this dad is only half a credit hour away from earning his OB/GYN certificate.
There are many reasons why taking care of little girls’ vulvas and vaginas might seem intimidating.
First, as fathers we don’t have the advantage of owning girl parts. Second, when we are lucky enough to see and touch them, we concern ourselves with putting something into them instead of taking stuff out. But changing girls’ diapers has more importance than just hygiene.
This seemingly simple activity is more complicated than it seems both in doing and in the implication. Caring properly for this tiny cave is the first chance for us to care for our girls. Making sure the labia and vulva are properly clean takes time and effort to do properly, as I learned the hard way. But more importantly, this activity is our first chance to nurture our daughters, a road that leads to leads towards helping them do whatever they desire, regardless of having XX chromosomes and the accompanying genitals—you know, the same goal we have for our sons.
After changing three daughters worth of dirty diapers, I believe that I am only half a credit hour away from earning my OB/GYN certificate. I have examined vaginas almost daily for at least five of the last eight years, though only for one specific purpose. I’m a white coat, two stirrups, and a head lamp away from being able to start my own practice. But I didn’t start out as a pro.
My teacher was the first post-partum nurse after our oldest, a girl, was born. “Your wife needs her rest,” the nurse said, “so you’re on diaper duty. Here’s how you do it, dad.”
She then showed me how to clean the meconium off of and out of that tiny little vulva. Not only did I now understand what the baby prep books meant by “tar-like meconium,” but I also knew how to clean all the poop out of the girl’s complicated lady bits. And trust me, shit gets everywhere.
Everything went well for the first two years. Then our oldest got a diarrhea bug from daycare, which flowed out of her like a beer keg at a frat party. While I thought I was cleaning her girl parts out as well as I could, I evidently missed something sometime. When our little keg eventually ran dry, a urinary tract infection appeared in the days right after we brought her newborn brother home from the hospital: a mild fever, and constant complaining about her “pee hurt.”
So there we were five days after our son was born, waiting for our toddler to pee into a cup so they could see if she had an infection. When she wouldn’t pee on demand, we waited. She spent a good amount of time marching back and forth on the exam table pants-less because she liked the crinkling sound the paper made. Every ten seconds we’d ask her if she needed to pee.
Every eleven seconds she said no and continued to make the crinkling sound.
One moment the girl was marching, then she had stopped and looked down at her crotch, I knew what was coming. With ninja-like reflexes, I grabbed the specimen jar off the end of the table and got it under my daughter’s squatting bum right as she began peeing. Unlike the juniper bushes, though, this time I got some on me. And unlike the juniper bushes, this was for a good cause. That urine proved she had an infection, and we went home with the antibiotics that cleared it up.
Since then I’ve taken diaper duty much more seriously with all the kids, but especially with the girls.
I currently have a toddler girl who is potty training and an infant girl. So there are lots of diaper changes for the next two years. Since the toddler is almost three, her shits are virtually the same as an adult’s, only on a (very slightly) smaller scale. So I still get many opportunities to continue using the nurse’s lessons from eight years ago. And because I’m paranoid of another UTI in my little girl’s little girl cave, I practically go spelunking in order to get her clean: I part lips, wipe inside out, front to back in order to make sure everything is shit-free down there. Three wipes in a row must stay paper white for me to declare my job done.
The comedian Dana Gould, who has three daughters himself, jokes that he is convinced one of his girls will be in therapy and uncover a memory of him with his head down between her legs, needing even more therapy. My daughters might very well have the same memory eventually because that is the level of dedication you must bring to the job in order to keep your lovely girl clean and avoid a UTI. This is just one of the many unpleasant things you do and will continue to do as a parent. And wiping out a poopy vagina might seem horrible, but it isn’t that big of a deal. Especially after the inevitable being pooped and peed on during diaper changes.
Once diaper changes are a thing of the past, caring for girly bits will continue as they approach puberty and adulthood, eventually getting their periods and all that “entering womanhood” stuff. And while I’m not scared of talking to my girls about menstruation and helping them as they learn to take care of themselves and their lady parts, I think I’ll leave most of that to my wife: fourteen years after delivering a baby, she should be rested enough to handle this on her own.