As a person who's been known to post up in a well lit hotel bathroom plucking face hairs I never even knew existed, the value of a great mirror isn't lost on me. I could spend hours inspecting every pore, blemish, and follicle, familiarizing myself with each mole and freckle. My vulva on the other hand? Barely know her.
Ok, that's not exactly true. Up until recently I'd only ever inspected myself a few times. Once after my "special" health class in fifth grade to confirm there were three holes down there (WHAT? Why was I just learning this???), once to make sure I hadn't ripped out my stitches post childbirth, again when I thought I'd lost a menstrual disc to my lonely uterus, and one time just for funsies. (It wasn't fun enough to do it again.) Then I was introduced to the Nyssa VieVision Between Legs Self-Check Mirror.
What's a self-check mirror?
As the name states, the VieVision was designed with the most intimate part of your body in mind–and it shows. Created by co-founders Mia Clarke, Eden Laurin, Ellen Kellogg and Aubrey Howard, the hands-free mirror features curved edges so you can comfortably hold it between your legs while standing or laying back. It comes equipped with a soft LED light that makes it feel more like a spa and less like an interrogation and looks pretty enough you can leave it out on your bathroom counter. The packaging is gorgeous and includes an OB-GYN-approved checklist and playful anatomical illustration to guide you if you need it.
"By creating VieVision, our hope is that more people with vulvas have a beautiful, effective tool to take care of their health and wellbeing in a practical sense. But also the information they need to realize the power of simply looking with regularity."Mia Clarke, Nyssa Co-Founder
The first time I settled in to use it I reflected on the fact that I'm almost 40 with two kids and could count on one hand how many times I'd seen what I was about to see. (And have fingers left over.) I've used menstrual cups for years but manage to fly blind, not because I'm a prude, but well, it's just a lot of biology to inspect. I'm far from the only person who couldn't identify herself in a line up.
"Unless we actively choose to look at ourselves, we can go our entire lives never once seeing this essential part of our anatomy (an OB-GYN in our network recently told us she had a 65-year-old patient who had never seen her own vulva). Because there is still so much shame and stigma around vulvas, and so little education, girls and women just don't look," says Clarke.
Suddenly, my ignorance struck me as sad. I mean, what's more empowering than knowing your body? Every single inch of it?
Of course, knowledge is power and regular self checks can help you understand what's normal for you. Having a baseline allows you to have better conversations with your doctor when changes crop up. Common issues like yeast infections make themselves known with discharge and discomfort, but they're often accompanied by redness and swelling–two things that you might not even recognize if you haven't looked before. And minor things, like ingrown hairs, can feel like a big deal until closer inspection. All made easier to check out with this brilliant (and dare I say elegant!) little tool. I only wish I'd had it when I was pregnant. I may have even tried to shave if I could've seen anything.
"Why not just use a compact?"–Someone who's never tried to look at their vag with a compact.
According to Clarke, "For those of us that have looked at our vulva, we've probably had the wobbly experience of hovering on one leg over a toilet with a cosmetic mirror. It's hardly ideal. And while people can certainly use different mirrors to look at their vulva, I think a huge part of what makes VieVision special is the fact that it’s a tool for critical conversations about the importance of knowing our bodies."
For me, becoming more comfortable with my body isn't just about my own health and wellbeing but my daughter's as well. She's 10 and on the cusp of puberty. And while she'd rather pull out her eyelashes than talk to me about her impending period, I want her to know that when she's ready, I'm here for it. Whatever she needs. Normalizing the vocabulary and being able to properly identify it is such an important part of becoming an adult who knows, trusts and appreciates their body. The more comfortable I am, the more comfortable she will be. She's not quite there yet, but at least she already knows you don't pee from the same place you put a tampon. And that's more than I knew at her age, so we're on the right track.