By Jessica Lloyd, creator of My Vagina
I get it a lot: how do you end up running a giant vagina website? The short answer is because we need it, but the long answer is funnier and grosser. You’ve been warned!
I had unequivocally decided to be a travel writer – in my mind, it didn’t get much better than that. I would roam the world, work from the beach with a margarita in my hand, and if not be very rich, at the least be free from the drudgery of full-time work.
Fast-forward a dozen or so years, and travel writing is off the menu, but I’ve managed to pull off true freedom from a dull life. I now have the absolutely glittery, glamorous title of ‘vulvovaginal specialist naturopath’. (Nobody understands what that is and it gets weird at parties.)
So how did I end up here?
A UTI walks into a party…
I’m at uni studying computers, living in a share house with mates, age 20. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are plaguing me, but I don’t have enough money to keep going to the doctor to get antibiotics.
In New Zealand, we have free healthcare but pay $40 for the doctor out of pocket. It’s not a lot, but when you’re a poor student, $40 is like $4,000.
There’s this one UTI where I’m like, ‘Eff this, I’m going to solve this for free with lots of water and cranberry juice!’. I like fixing things on my own, but importantly, it’s close to free. I’m invested.
This awful, crippling UTI strikes me down for a week – that’s a full seven days of peeing razor blades and everything else UTIs thrust upon us.
My cranberry-and-water treatment doesn’t work, at all. It doesn’t even touch the sides. Hunched over like an old grandma, considering my options, my housemate pipes up that she has an idea. She hands me a worn-out red reflexology book with a postage stamp-sized foot map in it, though she too has no idea how to do reflexology.
I’m on my own.
With no job and on break from uni (read: all the time in the world and no money), I start poring over the book. Remember, this is The Year 2000 and the internet is rather underdeveloped – it’s the doctor or nothing.
Foot map clutched in my sweaty hand, I direct my obedient, kindly boyfriend around my feet, poking and prodding. We diddle around like this for half an hour. Now, here comes the good bit.
Drum roll please…
Miraculously, and I do mean miraculously, my UTI symptoms disappear completely in half an hour. I can pee again like a normal person. What’s more, the UTI doesn’t come back. True story!
Intrigued, I decide to test the limits of reflexology so start practising on anyone who has anything wrong with them. This tends to occur mostly at parties – you’ll find me in the corner, a foot in hand, testing the limits of my new superpower in a low-stakes environment.
I get so good at clearing up people’s weird problems at parties that I become the go-to person for headaches, period pain, infections, backaches, and even this one girl got something in her eye. Reflexology quickly becomes my one true love. I’m hooked. It’s magical.
Enter stage left the loosey-goosey boyfriend
Uni finishes, and at age 21 I move to Sydney, Australia, and immediately get myself a boyfriend with a late diagnosis of ADHD. Saying life is a rollercoaster just doesn’t do it justice, so I’m on the hunt for answers. Sadly, reflexology has its limits.
Wandering around one day, I pick up a book called Fed Up With ADHD for a buck in a discount book store. I read this gem cover to cover and find out that food is making kids – and adults – wild, sick and weird. Everything in the book rang true in my beau, so, me being me, I start a very poorly-advised but enthusiastic fix-it mission.
Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t work out at all. The lover doesn’t last, but the stuff I’ve learnt keeps me buzzing.
It’s out of these two discoveries – reflexology and food intolerances – that my deep love of natural medicine emerges. There is nothing like an elegant solution to a problem to get me going, and natural medicine applied well is a problem solver’s wet dream.
How my vagina swallowed me whole
So why vaginas? After the relationship goes belly-up, I decide to soothe my soul by going overseas for a year to do what Downunder we call the Big OE (Overseas Experience).
These trips last anywhere from a month to a year, just to make it worth the 24+ hours and thousands of dollars it takes to get anywhere from Australia and New Zealand. I’m in Brazil getting up to mischief when I develop my very first case of bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Because I’m in foreign countries with very little money or language skills, the fledgling internet is my only hope. I try everything I possibly can to get rid of this dreaded scourge, but BV is like chewing gum on my shoe. No dice.
Once back from my Big OE I’m at a loose end, still broke, still with bad vag, but now trying to figure out what I should do with my whole entire life. My writing career is not taking off quite as quickly as I expect. Penguin, Oprah and the New York Times are yet to call.
I get a full-time job as the lowliest clerk in the accounts department at a newspaper, which I lie about when anyone asks what I do, saying I’m a copywriter. I hate my job.
My life needs to change. This is not it.
So, at age 27 I decide to move to Melbourne, Australia, to study naturopathy.
Back to the future, age 33, and I’m at naturopath school. We’re learning about fermented foods, and everyone’s kitchen bench is laden with disgusting, lumpy, smelly, slimy, germy foodstuffs in jars. That’s where I learn about milk kefir.
Milk kefir has bacteria loosely similar to vaginal bacteria, so on a whim – and at a loss of what else to try – I decide to give myself a course of intensive vaginal and oral milk kefir to see what happens to my BV.
After a little trial and error, to my disbelief and utter joy, this treatment cures my BV completely and forever.
The only truly logical next step, as a burgeoning naturopath and a (now paid!) writer, is to write a book and tell everyone about it. I call the book Killing BV as a slight nod to Kill Bill.
My new and very real problem is figuring out how to sell a book on the internet. As is traditional, I start with a weird, ugly little blog, then I realise blogs are child’s play and graduate to my very own website. Killing BV was the very starting point of My Vagina as you see it now.
Fast-forward many more years, My Vagina is enormous and I’m a fully-fledged vulvovaginal specialist naturopath. I absolutely love My Vagina, for many reasons.
One of my favourite reasons is that the name never gets old, whether that’s talking to the post office or bank, or when an awkward acquaintance wants to ask how my business is doing, and they can’t work out if they should say, how is your vagina? or how is My Vagina?
I love My Vagina because it’s a truly unique space in the world, where there’s always more to learn. Helping people with their vaginas or the vaginas of those they love, offering kindness and educated, thoughtful support where there is typically not much around is an absolute joy.
So watch this space, there’s always something brewing. And, welcome to My Vagina!