The Ins and Outs of My Vagina with Karin Freeland: Podcast Episode #153
Karin Freeland chats about her book, “The Ins and Outs of My Vagina: A Penetrating Memoir” with Kristin. They discuss everything from body image to postpartum depression. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas! I’m Kristin, and I’m joined today by Karin Freeland. Now, Karin is a recovered corporate workaholic. After years in high pressure leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies, she’s traded the boardroom for the bedroom in a hilarious tell-all book, The Ins and Outs of My Vagina: A Penetrating Memoir. Karin recounts the mishaps and misadventures she’s had over the past 40 years with a special partner in crime, her vagina named V. Women of all ages can relate to the raw and honest journey of first long-term relationships and finding pleasure. Karin is also a speaker and certified life and reinvention coach focused on helping women transform their lives and achieve their dreams. Through her signature Edit Your Life program, Karin offers one-on-one coaching, giving women all the tools and techniques needed to conquer fears and find their purpose. Welcome, Karin! So happy to have you here!
Karin: Hi, Kristin! Thank you so much for having me!
Kristin: So let’s get into some of the topics that you cover in your book related to pregnancy, the postnatal phase, and anything else you’d like to share with our listeners and our Gold Coast Doula clients.
Karin: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there is so much, and I guess I’ll just kind of back up for a second because a lot of women may be wondering, like, why would someone write a book called The Ins and Outs of My Vagina: A Penetrating Memoir? And it might sound crazy, but it actually has everything to do with me getting pregnant because this is how the book was actually born. So back when I was seven months pregnant with my first son who was born, I went to the OB, and she told me I needed to start preparing my body for birth. And I was like, yeah, cool, I’m in a Lamaze class. I’m good. And she was like, no, no. I need you to start doing – I think the proper term is perineal massage. I’m not sure how you pronounce it. But basically, that entails, if anyone hasn’t heard of this before, putting some olive oil on your fingers and stretching out the vulva to make way for the baby so you don’t tear. I had never heard of this before, and I thought it was cray cray, so I was like, I’m not doing that. But of course, I got bored on a Friday night, and my lovely vagina who is a character in the book named V sort of talked me into trying this. So it was a disaster. I mean, long story short, you can read all about it in Chapter 30, All Lubed Up With Nowhere To Go, but I just – I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t get my fingers in the right position. There was more olive oil on the floor than there was actually on me, and I finally called it a day. And when my husband came home, he was like, what on earth happened in the bathroom? Why is olive oil everywhere? I mean, can you imagine this poor guy’s face? Like, what is happening? So I tried to explain to him really poorly about what I’m trying to do, and he just looked at me with the most serious look and was like, you know what you should do? You should write a book, and called it I Don’t Know My Vagina, because it’s clear you don’t know how this thing works. And, you know, he was right. I don’t –
Kristin: Most of us don’t. It’s so true.
Karin: Yeah. And so it was like a seed that was planted, and I started thinking of all the stories and all the things that I could share with other women that I just didn’t know about going into pregnancy, and then what I would find out even more going through birth and after pregnancy. So I spent a lot of my maternity leave writing this book, and then as you saw from my bio, you know, corporate got in the way. I worked for another ten or so years. And then finally in 2019, I picked the book back up and said, no, I have to finish this story. So that’s kind of how the whole thing was born, and in it, you know, I really give women insight into some of the experiences that they will likely encounter over their life with their vagina. So things like having pregnancy sex. Like, who knew what kind of – what to expect with that? No one talks about sex during pregnancy. No one talks about ectopic pregnancy. I’d never even heard that word before until I was sitting in the emergency room of a hospital being told that it was my situation. You know, no one talks about postpartum other than, hey, there’s this thing, postpartum, and you should check a smiley face or a sad face on your six-week checkup or whatever. But no one really told me what to look for. What are the symptoms? How does this really manifest? No one told me about episiotomies and torn labia. I mean, there was just so many things, and I was like, I have to warn other women so that they don’t end up in the same situation I’m in.
Kristin: It’s the things you wish your friends would share with you, but it’s almost like we’re too embarrassed to discuss. So as doulas, we talk about a lot of these things with our clients, but it’s not something they’d ever heard before. So the fact that you were brave enough to talk about your personal experiences and use humor with a lot of really serious topics – it’s huge.
Karin: Yeah. Thank you. And it was hard, especially the chapter where I talk about the miscarriage and having an ectopic pregnancy was hard to write in the sense that I didn’t want it to come off as too humorous or as cavalier. You know, like, oh, here I am, just talking about losing a baby. But I did want to keep elements of dark humor because that is my authentic response to a lot of trauma and tragedy is to find a way to just cope, and a lot of times my coping goes to sort of this, like, dark humor. So I hope – I think from what I’ve heard, you know, that that’s kind of resonated with people, also, and made it sort of an easier read because it’s hard to read these types of experiences that women go through.
Kristin: Exactly. Yes. So your read is light – I mean, it could almost be a beach read compared to most pregnancy and parenting books. They can take a while to get through, and it can be boring at times. But you made it really interesting and lighthearted. I had so many laugh out loud moments. So thank you for devoting the time it takes. I’m working on a book project yet to be published, and I know the time that’s involved and balancing that’s required to be a professional and mother and everything.
Karin: Yeah. It is a lot for sure. But when I started really writing it, when I picked it back up in 2019, it was such a fire in my belly. You know, like, I was so inspired and just felt this draw every day to write and to get it out on paper that it was almost like another force was, like, taking me over and just had to get this story out on paper. So, you know, I think everybody has kind of that different experience where it’s just like it was so easy to prioritize it because I was so called to it in that moment.
Kristin: For sure, and I love how you broach everything from wanting your husband to be more of a hand-holder during your labors, and that is so common with clients. Like, no, I don’t really want you to see baby get born. Or some women are really wanting their partner to be there engaged in the process and don’t mind if he sees the change in the vagina during that time. Or even like how you discuss having sex for the first time after giving birth, and even looking at your – you know, just taking a mirror and looking at the changes and the swelling and things, again, our friends don’t talk about with us.
Karin: Yeah. I think that was probably one of my favorite chapters to write was Hotdog In A Hallway, and that’s a chapter – the names of the chapters, they’re so fun. So even if you just go read the chapter headings, you’ll get a laugh. But yeah, that was such a fun chapter to write because it was such an unexpected experience. You know, here you are. You finally got the clearance after your six-week period to have sex, and my poor husband is, like, chomping at the bit. He’s like a dog salivating at the door. Can we do this? And I’m like, okay, we can, but I need you to take it easy, buddy, all right? Like, we’re not getting in there and, like, jackhammering me to death. Like, we got to take it slow and, like, let’s just communicate and really kind of be on the same page here the whole time. So he’s like, okay, no problem, I can’t wait. The kids are in bed. This is going to be amazing. And of course, you know, you’re breastfeeding if you choose that route, and your boobs are leaking everywhere, and you’re trying to look sexy. There’s this huge wet stain on your teddy, and they go to have sex, and it doesn’t quite meet your expectations. And all of a sudden, you’re like, is this what it’s going to be like for the rest of my life? Am I doomed to almost sensationless sex? Or is this going to bounce back? And there’s just so many emotions that go through your head in that moment. Meanwhile, like, in my case, my husband’s, like, laying next to me with his hands behind his head like he’s on cloud nine, and I’m over here going, oh my gosh, my sex life is over. This is ruined. Is this – I was so confused by everything that was happening.
Hey, Alyssa here. I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming. Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between. You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood. You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more. You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most. And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls. If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at email@example.com, or check it out at www.thebecomingcourse.com. We’d love to see you there.
Kristin: Yes, it is different, and again, it’s not something that’s openly talked about. So just the preparation, and like you said, I mean, I experienced the same thing with breastfeeding, and it’s like, oh, is the baby going to wake? We have this small window, and I don’t feel sexy. My body is still healing. So there’s all of that. But yeah, and just – I mean, a lot of women have body image issues, and they don’t even feel attractive, let alone feel like they’re ready for intimacy at that point.
Karin: Oh, yeah, and I had mastitis twice with my first one, so it was like I had just kind of healed – oh, it was awful. I mean, I couldn’t even stand up with him. I was so dizzy, and I was afraid that I was going to drop him, and my husband worked nights. So I would literally hold the baby in one arm and crawl across the floor from the couch to the diaper changing station and, like, change his diaper and then get back down on the floor and crawl back to the couch because I didn’t want to, like, fall over and pass out or something and drop the baby. Which now I look back, and I kind of laugh at how ridiculous I must have looked, but, like, I was just so sick, and I had no idea. I’m like, it’s a breast infection. Like, I’m going to be on medication. Like, why isn’t this getting better right away? But it really took a tool.
Kristin: It feels like the flu. It’s very intense, and if you haven’t gone through it, to try to function as a mother, I mean, obviously, you know, in an ideal world, we’d have a postpartum doula or a mother or someone to help you during that time, but most of us just have to make do. I suffered as well with mastitis. It’s miserable.
Karin: Yeah. It really is. And so just being able to talk about some of those things, and how I don’t know that I’m providing world class education over here, but just insight. So if you’ve never gone through these things, you’re going to be so much better prepared for that. And then if you’re going through it right now, you know, there’s that opportunity also to commiserate, and even if you’ve already experienced it, just looking back and going, oh my gosh, I wasn’t alone. This was a normal experience. You know, other people have gone through this, too. And having that comfort and maybe some additional realizations about the relationship you have with your body, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to have those moments and those epiphanies and that camaraderie, if you will.
Kristin: Yes. And with your loss, I really liked how you took some time and advocated for yourself during a potential loss and really talked it over with your husband and got a second opinion. So I really love when clients of mine feel confident enough to advocate for themselves. So can you talk a bit about, you know, what really led you to call your provider and really get some time with the news that you received?
Karin: Yeah, absolutely. So in the book, I talk about both of my births, so my first son and then two years later, being pregnant again with my second son. And with my second son, I took a pregnancy test, and I guess it was very early in the process. So it said yes, you’re pregnant, the stick, but then when I got to the doctor’s office, they were like, eh, it’s not really that strong. It’s kind of inconclusive. Like, let’s send you to the hospital because I want to make sure that we don’t have another ectopic situation on our hands. And so of course I was feeling really deflated, like oh no, not again. I don’t know if I can handle going through this again. Why is this happening? What is wrong with my vagina? Why can’t it get its act together? I mean, there’s all the feels. But I also didn’t want to freak out and get overly emotional because I’m – for all I knew, I was going to go there, and they were going to be like, everything is fine, and it was just a precaution. And while I was sitting there and they’re doing the test, you know, which took longer than I thought that they should take, so I was definitely starting to get concerned, they came in and said, yes, we indeed believe that you do have another ectopic situation on our hands. And I instantly was just crushed. I mean, it’s amazing how our vaginas are the source of sometimes great pleasure, great –you know, the sexiness, and sometimes frustration or sometimes they gross us out, and also this great source of pain sometimes and trauma and devastation. And I just was really feeling that devastated moment, but I don’t know if it was an inner voice, because really, the next step was to terminate the pregnancy right then and there. You know, that’s what they wanted to do, and maybe it’s from some of my religious background; I don’t know. I just had this gut feeling that I can’t go through with this right now. If this ultimately is what we need to do, it just feels too inconclusive. You know, the tech, who I think isn’t really supposed to talk to you when she’s doing things, but she’s like, it could be a burst cyst. It just didn’t feel like there was enough conviction from the people around me saying, yes, this is 1000% ectopic, and this is what we need to do.
Kristin: Right, to save your life, so sure.
Karin: Yes. I just felt like I need to reach out at least to my husband to start, and he was very much like, no, like, don’t do anything. He really backed me up and was like, let’s talk to the doctor. Like, just wait and see. Don’t do something right now. So I called my doctor, and of course, she was gracious enough to say, I believe you. If you don’t feel confident in this, let’s hold it out, but just know we’re dealing with a potentially very serious issue. If you really are ectopic, we’ve got to do something before this becomes life threatening to you. I was like, that’s fine, but I don’t think we’re at that stage yet. It’s that early in the pregnancy. You know, the fetus is still very small. Just wait even 24 hours. I just need to sleep on this. And fortunately, we ended up waiting, and it was not ectopic. And that for me is, like, just – it blows my mind that Ryan might not be here if I had followed that guidance on that day.
Kristin: Yeah. I mean, you know your body better than anyone else, and you got a second opinion. So you gave yourself a little bit of time, and yes, it was risky, but what an amazing story.
Karin: Yeah, thank you. And sometimes I forget, like, that that even happened, and so writing that story was like, oh my gosh, yes, what if other women are in similar situations, and they read the book? They decide to advocate for themselves and save their baby’s life or something. The ripple effect that this one story could have is just amazing to think about.
Kristin: Exactly. So getting into the postnatal phase, Karin, what did you do – I know you talk about intimacy and so on, but really, getting into body image, how did you in small ways start to encourage yourself and help yourself to feel beautiful other than trying on some clothes that fit pre-pregnancy and trying to take a few minutes to do your hair and makeup and whatever with a new baby? But I would love to give our listeners some tips on feeling good about yourself after baby.
Karin: Yeah, absolutely. Some of that was a lot of self-care. You know, I took the time to go get my hair done and get my hair cut and colored, and some of those external things that do seem so superficial, but it is what made me feel closer to my old self, you know, and that person that I used to be. And I remember being in the hair salon, and my breasts were so engorged, I literally had to go stand in the sink of the bathroom and squeeze my breasts out and just, like, dump the milk because I was like, I can’t sit here for another hour with this hair color on my hair. It hurt so bad.
Kristin: Yes, it’s painful!
Karin: Yes, again, something no one told me to expect. But so much of it came down to just reminding myself that it’s okay that I don’t look the way I used to look. I gave birth. I brought a life into this world. And that little life does not care if I have 15, 20 extra pounds on me, right? All that little life wants is love and affection, and I can do that regardless of my size and my appearance. And it’s sounds so cliché, right, and it’s such an easy thing to say, but sometimes it’s very hard to put that into perspective. And so little things like just looking in the mirror and saying, like, you’re a great mom. Keep going. You’re going to get back in shape. Finding ways to, like, work out, and it didn’t have to be, like, going to the gym for an hour because as a new mom, the chances of that happening are probably really low. It’s like, hey, I’m just going to grab my hand weights and I’m going to put my hand weights in the TV room, the den where we hang out most of the time, and when he’s sleeping, I’m just going to do, like, a couple reps. I’m just going to tone up my muscle again. Didn’t have to be crazy, but those little things, and just showing myself love was so helpful. And I was very fortunate to have a husband who was also very supportive, and so, you know, he would kind of say things like, I think you’re beautiful. Don’t worry about it. You’re always in shape. You’re going to lose the weight. He was just very supportive, and if I was like, hey, I don’t want – don’t buy any chips this week at the grocery store, or don’t bring ice cream in the house, and he’d be like, okay, no problem. You know, he would kind of support me in that, as well, which was really great.
Kristin: Nice! So any tips how to, with the change in the relationship, whether it’s baby one or baby four, how to keep the romance and the relationship a priority? With the new role of parents or adding yet another child to the family.
Karin: Oh, yeah. There is something so important about that communication and keeping the intimacy alive. Remembering why this baby is here in the first place: because of your love for each other. And I think it’s so tempting for us as new parents to just prioritize the baby and forget about our spouse. And so I would have to – I tried to be cognizant of that and ask him, like, am I paying you enough attention? Do you feel like I’m prioritizing you? And if he would say, no, like, we haven’t spent enough time together this week, or we haven’t been intimate enough – okay, great. Here’s what I need you to do. Could you help me with the dishes, and I’ll get the baby into bed? That way, we can go upstairs and have more time for each other. It’s a great way to also rope them into helping you and doing stuff if they’re not – if you don’t feel that they’re pulling their weight.
Kristin: That’s perfect. I love it.
Karin: Yeah. Keep that communication open, and really just remember why you’re together in the first place. It’s totally normal for women not to feel super sexy right after they’ve had a baby. Like, that is also part of evolution. We don’t feel sexy because back in the day, like in the caveman days and stuff, we were breastfeeding and we were doing other things and we didn’t want to have another baby right away back to back, so it’s kind of like nature’s way of preventing that from happening right away again. Maybe for you it’s also like turning off the lights. Or I wore a shirt for a while after I first had the baby because it just made me feel more comfortable, especially because I had a diastasis recti and hernia and so was just kind of like – my stomach was just sort of hanging there, and it didn’t matter how much weight I lost, it wasn’t going to go back to the way it used to be until it was fixed. So, you know, you can do the little things that allow you to keep the intimacy but also make you feel comfortable.
Kristin: Exactly. Love it. So any final tips for our listeners, Karin?
Karin: I am just so appreciative of the opportunity to share this story today because I think a lot of people still look at the title, The Ins And Outs Of My Vagina, and they assume it’s just going to be a collection of conquests. You know, people that I’ve been intimate with. And really, it’s not. It’s just sort of a beautiful story about our relationships with our vaginas and all the different things we go through on our journey to womanhood. And I would just tell women out there, like, if you’re going through something, chances are you’re not alone. You know, there’s really very few unicorns out there. We’re not that special in that way. We’re all going through something similar, and it’s just a matter of finding that trusted resource and people that you can speak with, whether it’s your doula, whether it’s your doctor, whether it’s a girlfriend, someone at your work even or in HR. Wherever you are, there’s someone else who’s probably gone through something very similar and can support you in that moment. But we have to be brave enough to speak up in the first place to find that connection and that person who can support us.
Kristin: So true. I love it. You might have to do a second book later in your life on menopause and entering that stage. That would be really fun.
Karin: Oh, my gosh, yes. I’ve already got the title. The Ins And Outs Of My Vagina: The Second Coming. That’s what I’m thinking of. Yes, because I am starting to go through perimenopause.
Kristin: So am I. It’s such a whirlwind.
Karin: It is. Make it stop. How do we make it stop?
Kristin: Exactly. Yes, I need a book. So get it out there! So how do our listeners find you? How can they buy The Ins And Outs Of My Vagina? I know you’re on a lot of different social media sites, so feel free to share.
Karin: Yeah, absolutely. So the book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Pretty much anywhere books are sold digitally, you can grab it. There’s an ebook or paperback depending on what your preference is. I am on social media as Karin Freeland, on Twitter and Instagram. I have a Facebook page for my business, Karin Freeland Life Coaching. And of course, you can always go to my website for all things life coaching and book related.
Kristin: And before we go, fill us in a bit about how you work with women as a life coach and who your ideal client is.
Karin: Yeah, absolutely. So I spent many years in corporate, and towards the end, I just felt like, what is my purpose? Why am I here? Is it just to make PowerPoints all day? There has to be something more. But I felt very stuck. I didn’t know what that was. And as I started writing the book and totally revamping my life, I realized that I could actually help other women who felt stuck and frustrated and knew that there was more to life but didn’t know how to go after it. So I developed a program called Edit Your Life, and Edit is an acronym for envision the goal, document, invest in the goal, and take action. And I really walk my clients through a six-month program to help them get clear on what it is that they want out of life, map a plan to achieve it, help them own their power, overcome any of those limiting beliefs or things that are really holding them back, and hold them accountable for actually taking the action that they commit to so that they can bring those goals to fruition, whatever that is. Whether it’s getting promoted in corporate, leaving and starting their own business, being a better mom, dating. I’m helping one client find a date. So typically, they’re women between 35 and 55 who are just ambitious, hungry go-getters but are just feeling a little lost right now and want a little help getting that direction set.
Kristin: I love it. So it covers pretty much everything, like you said, from dating to motherhood to career changes and aspirations. That is amazing.
Karin: Health and fitness. There’s so many aspects of things that need to be good in our life in order for us to have a happy life.
Kristin: Yes. So true. Well, thank you, Karin. It was lovely to chat with you, and when you get your next book out there in the world, let me know. I’d love to chat about it.
Karin: Yes, and thank you so much for reading it, and thanks to everybody for tuning in and learning about it!
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