In partnership with Icon Undies.
I have yet to sprout any sizable wrinkles or gray hairs, but more cellulite appears on my thighs every year, and the stiff hair on my chin seems to grow faster by the day. I can only assume the other bodily markers of age aren’t too far behind. Despite what so many beauty companies would like me to believe, the changing nature of my body is, if nothing else, unstoppable. But it can also be beautiful, surprising, gross and straight-up funny. Above all, I know it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The lack of frank or even joyful public conversation around our collectively evolving bodies, however, sometimes contradicts that inalienable truth. It makes sense; so much beauty marketing hinges on the reversal of change, rather than the acceptance of it. But most of the women I know don’t shy away from these things in private conversation — I’m pretty sure I’ve seen my mom and aunt cry-laugh over how often they pee their pants on multiple occasions, all while peeing their pants. For the record, I, too, pee my pants when I laugh too hard. It just makes me laugh harder.
In partnership with Icon, a new underwear brand made expressly for women who experience bladder leakage (by the same women who brought us Thinx!), I asked a bunch of women to talk to me about all the bodily business we’re often encouraged to keep private, but don’t. Read their answers below, from leaking boobs to spider veins, and then add your own in the comments.
(By the way, in celebration of World Continence Week, you can get 33% off your Icon order any time between 6/18 and 6/24, plus an additional $5 off with code: REPELLER5!)
“Being pregnant taught me that my body can be a vessel to produce healthy life as opposed to an object that can sometimes feel like it belongs to the public gaze. This radically changed how I think about appearance in that I stopped thinking about it at all. Wine can never be grapes again — my body is still a vessel for healthy life, it’s just all my own now. Also, though, I wore adult diapers for the first 6 weeks postpartum, which to be honest was the most rewarding experience of life after birth.”
“I have to cross my legs and squeeze tight every time I sneeze or I’ll pee my pants a little.”
“Well, after motherhood, there are just so many, but one of the most inconvenient aspects of breastfeeding for me was that any time someone pulled my hair, my milk would let down. This turned all blowouts, haircuts and highlights into wet T-shirt contests.”
“I was diagnosed with Graves disease a few years ago and, because of the medication, gained 15kg. I started eating almost nothing and exercising obsessively to change that, but nothing worked. I finally made peace with my new body and appreciated that it was healthy and able to walk, run, and function properly. My style changed as a result; it became more me, more personal, more about the clothes and textures and less about the body it clothed. I am in a different place now, all healed and back to my previous weight, but through that process, I gained a different perspective on what life should be about. At the end of the day, my jiggly hips will let me sleep at night, but an empty stomach and mind full of insecurities won’t.”
“I’m 28 weeks pregnant with my first. I’ve struggled with body image since always, also have always wanted a family, so this pregnancy feels like the best and most difficult time of my life. Two days ago, I noticed some milk leaking from my breast, a perfectly normal sign, but for me it just felt like the total loss of control over my body. It got me in scare tears and joy laughter at the same time. I couldn’t be more grateful for my baby, couldn’t be more scared.”
“Cancer at age 15 gave me a lot of perspectives on body image. Chemotherapy led to loss of an arm; surgery led to a not-your-average-looking shoulder and scar on my left arm. Body dysmorphia ensued. Once I turned 30, I finally was able to drop it and care less about the stares or the questions.”
“When I was in my early twenties, I went through a phase where I wasn’t eating because of panic attacks and depression. Now I’m 25 and I haven’t had a panic attack in two years. I’m grateful that I get to eat food every day without feeling nauseous or having a panic attack. I’ve gained a fair amount of weight, but it’s the reminder that I’m doing okay now. It’s my happy weight!”
“My niece got a trampoline for her birthday. My older sister advised me that, as a grown woman, I would pee myself jumping on it. I brushed it off as a postpartum issue and learned a difficult yet valuable lesson, as did my 31-year-old childless ego.
“My mom told me that she was flat-chested until she had kids, so when my breasts began to swell during my pregnancy last year, I was excited for my new physique. Then they kept growing and growing, from tangerines to pears to oranges and when I gave birth, grapefruits, bigger than my babies head! Then I weaned off breastfeeding and they deflated like week-old balloons. My nipples are now smushy. But my baby is thriving and I’d give him anything.”
“At age 42, I had a surprise pregnancy! On top of that, I developed a placenta accreta, where my son’s placenta grew through my uterus and cervix AND made its way through my bladder! It became a dangerous pregnancy where both of us could have died. Thankfully, I had a phenomenal doctor and not one but five teams in the delivery room. I required three major surgeries. My bladder was repaired but still changed. There have been a few times I have fully peed myself (drinking rum and trick-or-treating with the kids are only good with regular bathroom stops), and I continue to have leakage. It ain’t fun. But I’m grateful my son and I are alive and I still have (most of) my body parts (I mean, who really needs a cervix and uterus anyway?!).”
“When I was 21, I had to have my large intestine removed because of ulcerative colitis gone wild. I went to sleep with a normal-ish looking abdomen and woke up with a piece of my small intestine on the outside of my body (necessary for the temporary ileostomy I would have for the next couple of years). At first, it totally freaked me out, but eventually I learned how to care for my ostomy, and with the help of brave strangers on the internet, I learned to be thankful for how it saved my life. Nine years later and I no longer have an ostomy, but my abdomen is an abstract work of scars. In a way, it feels like a badge of honor for all that I survived.”
“I recently had a nasty UTI that required a hospital visit and two rounds of antibiotics. After it cleared, I noticed that I was still having problems controlling my bladder! Everywhere I went I had to make sure I went pee before I left just to avoid a possible pants-wetting. I can’t catch them all, and it makes me feel gross. I try to explain that I just can’t hold it in, but it’s still embarrassing, especially since I’m young and haven’t had kids. But sometimes I leak, and that’s okay.”
“In the last two years, I’ve had a hysterectomy, lost my house in a wildfire, and had my best friend of ten years (we spent almost every day raising our kids side by side) move out of state. My belly has gone droopy along with my soul in sadness. My body is reflecting what’s happening in my spirit. Blah.”
“I have epilepsy, and during a seizure, as your brain does all sorts of weird things, so does your body. Muscles contract, you clench your jaw, and yes, you may wet yourself when you’re unconscious. Not so pleasant, if I may say so myself! Thanks, nature!”
“I peed my pants yesterday while jumping rope at the gym. At first I was embarrassed, but after the first set of reps I was over it and was proud to exceed my max each time. I’ve had two kids, and my body continues to surprise me with all its new quirks over time. Also, orgasms are better postpartum — who knew?!”
“Black facial hairs.”
“I have recently discovered the start of spider veins in my legs. This is completely genetic; my mother and grandmother have them. I almost cried when I first saw them and more when my doctor told me these would only keep appearing. The way to reduce them is using compression hose, which are terrible. I never thought I would get these before 30.”
“Not peeing my pants on a daily basis is a psychological feat. I began noticing this in my early/mid-twenties. When I’m out of the house, I’m usually running a hundred errands or busy at work, class, etc. Once I enter the 50-foot radius of my apartment, I’m squirming like a fish out of water (pun intended), trying to wriggle out my keys before I piss all over my doorstep.”
“A couple of months after I had my second child, a very handsome young man came to do some work in my garden. He was always very friendly and polite. One day when I was outside talking to him, my vagina started farting and would not stop. I was mortified but unable to move away from him as this would surely make things much worse. He very politely ignored the noise and kept making conversation. Good man.”
“I have always been someone who prided myself on not caring too much about my looks. I felt confident and happy wearing nice clothes or lazy clothes. Hair done or undone, it didn’t matter much to me. But even at just 28, I can say for the first time I look at pictures of myself from ’09 and think, ‘Oh my god, I’ve aged!’ My boobs are big but saggy, my face looks a little tired (it’s been a rough couple of years) and I can no longer keep count of the grays on my head. I never owned makeup my entire life, but I’ve bought concealer, foundation and an expensive face wash, among other do-dads, all in one month! I’m desperately trying not to become too vain, but damn it, my boobs are sagging!”
“After the birth of my son, I was super happy to finally be able to bend from the waist and stretch my lower back. So there I was, 18 hours after birth, stretching and chatting to my boyfriend and best friend as they are cooing over the baby, when suddenly I step into a puddle. Confused I look down and realized I had weed myself without even realizing and was still weeing. I can still hear the laughter.
“When I was 16, I was diagnosed with PCOS. I spent my whole life going to nutritionists and doctors trying to figure out why I was gaining weight way faster than all my friends. When I was 13, I started growing copious amounts of hair, especially on my face. I blamed my werewolf-like features on my Persian heritage, but little did I know it was because my hormones were so out of whack. I went into a deep depression thinking that I was alone and could not understand what was wrong with me. Finding out I had PCOS not only gave me peace of mind but a community of women going through the same thing. Now I know I’m not alone and that everybody is beautiful and that my body doesn’t define me.”
Get 33% off your Icon order any time between 6/18 and 6/24, plus an additional $5 off with code: REPELLER5!