The Husband’s Stitch And It's Reality
Trigger Warning: This article contains traumatizing events experienced by women, and includes topics like abuse, non-consensual surgeries.
The episiotomy stitch, more famously known as and referred to as the husband’s stitch, the daddy stitch, the husband’s knot, or the vaginal tuck is a surgical procedure that is carried out across the globe. After author Carmen Maria Machado published her critically acclaimed short story titled ‘The Husband Stitch’ in her book ‘Her Body and Other Parts’ the issue has come into the public eye . Considered to be an abhorrently sexist practice, it is sometimes carried out after women give birth via the vagina. It is done without the consent of the women it’s carried out on, usually because of their husband’s wish, hence the name. Having severe bodily repercussions, here’s a look at this unethical and sometimes physically and mentally damaging practice.
A little science first,
When babies are born through their vaginas, often their perineum gets torn or sometimes, it has to be purposefully cut to facilitate a smoother delivery for the mother. And that is completely normal. However, irrespective of whether the tear was natural or not, to repair it, doctors always need to perform sutures in the region.
Here’s where the catch comes in – sometimes, doctors, either at the behest of the husbands or on their own will, perform one or two extra sutures, or do them tighter than necessary.
This makes the vaginal opening tighter and the claim? It is supposed to make penetrative sex more pleasurable – for the husbands of the women who get the procedure.
The social dilemma
For something so horrific, whenever someone hears of the issue, the first reaction should be shock and disgust. However, surprisingly enough, it is widely believed to be an urban legend. And when one takes a closer look, it becomes apparent. Very little credible information about the procedure is available online. Almost no legitimate medical information is available, the information available are mostly the accounts of the mothers who have undergone the scarring procedure. Concourse women from all over the world share their stories online in hopes of spreading awareness about this issue.
But it is not an old wives tale. It is indeed, very real and something whose repercussions are faced by many. There are no scientific studies as to how many women have been affected nor is there research as to how prevalent the practice truly is in the field of obstetrics. Most of the time, women don’t even realize that they have undergone the procedure until years later. But there are stories. Blogs and articles that serve as cautionary tales; warnings to other women about a threat rarely ever spoken about out loud. The proof is in the words. The proof is present in the bodies of these women.
The story after
Irrespective of whether it is a cut or a tear, it’s not even possible to tighten a vagina via stitching. According to an OB/GYN, the tightness of a vagina has nothing to do with the opening size that the husband’s stitch claims to fix. It is much rather a function of pelvic floor-length and integrity, something the husband stitch can do nothing about. However it is possible to tighten the perineum skin and outer vulva with stitching, but it is highly debatable if partners can feel that during sexual intercourse.
The actual purpose of a routine episiotomy stitch is to stitch the skin so that it has an easier time healing. It’s the extra suture that gives lifelong healthcare problems to the people it’s carried out on. Many believe that it is a remnant of a time when doctors thought the stitch would return the women return to their prime sexual function after birth, without a proper understanding of vaginal tone.
Often in the aftermath of birth, when the stitch is performed, the post-childbirth exhaustion places mothers in a vulnerable position and it is this vulnerability this procedure takes advantage of. Women feel rather out of the loop as to what is happening to their bodies and hence can never actually properly consent to the stitch – it’s the healthcare professionals and the partners who make the decision for the women and ultimately cause lifelong health issues. Sometimes, so much so that many require reconstructive surgeries. This boils down to the crux of the issue.
The misogyny affair
From the very name itself, it is apparent that a woman’s body is objectified in these scenarios. It is thought of as a commodity that belongs to the male partners. Keeping aside the incredibly harmful medical consequences this stitch brings, the gore violation of a person’s free will is the hardest pill to swallow. Their control over their bodies is taken away without their consent and somehow, they are supposed to be okay with that. It ultimately brings the issue at the root of many social issues in modern-day society- the patriarchy. It is this inherent system that allows for such a violent invasion of a person’s boundaries in the first place and allows it to be propagated throughout the globe. A woman’s body is her own. It is for her to decide what happens to it, at every stage of her life. The hubbub of post-childbirth daze doesn’t give anyone the right to make decisions about her body, especially in the way the husband’s stitch does; her body does not belong to her husband.
Cover Illustration: Healthline.com