This is an excerpt from Billie's blog Trust Your Gut. Check out Billie's instagram @billieandersonx for more updates.
Before I delve into this… Mum, Dad or any of my family, please don’t read any further, I’m not sure I can handle the awkwardness over the dinner table…
One of the most common questions I get is ‘can you still have sex?’ and I find this is a weird question. Last I checked, your colon doesn’t have anything to do with your sex life…
I don’t know about other ostomates, but I didn’t get much advice on this. Two days before surgery a nurse asked me ‘do you have a boyfriend?’ When I replied ‘no’, she brushed it off, saying ‘oh well, ask when you’re ready’. I found all the pamphlets and info pages say the same:
‘communicate with your partner’
‘Talk to your stoma nurse’
The NHS even says ‘you may be concerned about body image, self-confidence and how your partner may react’
Which, I think is the wrong thing to say! My bag has given me more confidence than before, and if my partner doesn’t like what I look like, they can take a freaking hike!
But, what if you don’t have a partner? How do we jump into the dating pool? What about one night stands – why do I have to be in a relationship? Should it change for us simply because we have one less organ than the people we’re dating?
I’ll start with dating:
It took me a while to be confident enough to jump into the dating pool. I took a very honest p.o.v. and made a pact with myself: If someone doesn’t like the bag, or they have a problem with it, they’re not worth my time. I have this photo on my account (below) and if I’m asked questions about it or they ask for my Instagram, I explain briefly over message but prefer to continue it in person. For me, it’s a first date conversation because it gets it out in the open and if they don’t like it, thank you, next.
Dating for me has been a mixture of good and bad – I mean it’s online dating, we all get the odd weirdo – but generally I was pleasantly surprised. Some pity me and don’t know what to say. A few ask me disgusting questions and get deleted straight away. Ive had my fair share of body-shaming messages about my bag and some disappear when they find out. But surprisingly, I get respect more than anything else. Showing how I’ve overcome my illness/surgery seems to go down pretty well!
Regardless if you have a bag, dating is all about being honest with what you want – not just with someone else, but yourself too. If you want a relationship, great. If you want to shag and never see them again, that’s fine too. Even if you don’t know what you want, you’ll figure it out as you go! If I can pass on one bit of advice, don’t jump into it if you’re not 100% ready; take it one step at a time. You have to love yourself before you let someone else. And NEVER let anyone make you feel sh*t about your body!
Now onto sex:
When I was about to undergo surgery, it’s hardly a surprise that sex was the last thing on my mind; I couldn’t even walk… And because I didn’t ask my nurse at the time, they didn’t give me anything in the way of advice.
Pre-surgery I was very single, but being single was actually very empowering. If I date someone now they chose me, bag and all!
The first thing I ask myself is – ‘am I completely comfortable with this person?’ – and if the answer isn’t a definitive ‘yes’ then it doesn’t go any further. There’s a big difference between talking about my bag and letting someone see it in real life. If someone doesn’t respect that, bye hun…
There are logistics to overcome: Having a full bag isn’t the easiest thing to work with, so I always make sure it’s empty or as flat as I can get it. This doesn’t stop spontaneity – some people pee before sex – it just means a trip to the bathroom, along with a quick check that it won’t leak! (Ostomates might be used to having sh*t down their leg from time-to-time, but someone without a bag probably isn’t!). Be aware that any weight on your stomach isn’t the most comfortable, so if someone is on top of you, stick to leaning on the non-bagged side. Talking of positions, (FYI I won’t go into detail here, this blog isn’t Kama Sutra for ostomates)… This is something completely unique regardless if you have a bag or not! It’s trial and error – they do say, practice makes perfect! Another thing to keep in mind is, the bottom of the bag does flap about – not exactly sexy – so I turned to places like LoveHoney, Ann Summers and OstomySecrets. If you don’t want to bare all, they offer a bit of security and confidence in things you can wear to make you feel more comfortable.
It’s about honesty with yourself and the person you’re with. If I’m honest, I totally forget the bag is even there! Most of the time you get so wrapped up in the fun, it doesn’t have any impact on sex.
Ultimately, my dating and sex life hasn’t changed! I’ve dated and I’ve done the one-night-stand-never-to-be-seen-again. I find the upfront approach works for me, because that’s who I am, but it is down to YOU. If you want to leave the I-sh*t-into-a-bag conversation till you know them a little better that is completely ok! Just enjoy yourself! Dating, relationships and sex should be fun!
Find that inner spark of confidence, have a laugh and you’ll find your way!
I found inspiration for this blog post with Hannah Witton’s Video here!
** Disclaimer: This is personal, what works for me, might not for someone else**