Ostomy Love Myths – Undressed!
With Valentine’s Day being this month, I wanted to talk to you about some myths surrounding stoma surgery and love & relationships, in my experience. I am going to de-bag 5 myths below & help show that having an ostomy bag doesn’t mean the end. For most people, it is just the beginning.
I’ve been engaged since 2019 and in my current relationship since 2017. We met via a dating app and before my partner met me, he had some knowledge of bowel disease but very little about stomas. He always does whatever he can to support me in all aspects of my life, not just with my health and is always pushing me in the best ways to be who I want to be. He has never made me feel like I’m not enough because of my illness or surgery and has shown me that I do deserve to be loved. My stoma bag doesn’t affect that and to the right person, it never will in a detrimental way.
1. Nobody will find you attractive after stoma surgery
Wrong! I can count on one hand the negative comments I’ve had towards my stoma bag since 2011. It definitely hasn’t impacted my dating experience in the sense that it has put people off me. I did worry early doors that nobody would ever want me with a poo bag on my stomach, but then everybody poos, just how I poop is different. In some ways, it’s more hygienic than going to the toilet in the normal way and I can choose most times when to let the smell that comes with it out. Even then, there are products to help with that and nobody’s poo smells of roses or should be expected to.
It has taken me a while but I am comfortable in the skin I’m in and feel empowered and sexy thanks to my bag. The right person won’t be put off because you have slightly different “plumbing” to others, nor will they mind that there is a small bag on your stomach. The right person will do anything they can to make you feel comfortable and will show you how attractive they find you.
If they can’t hack it, then that says more about them than it does about you. They are doing you a favour by not wasting your time in the long run, trust me. You deserve to be loved for all that you are.
2. A stoma bag will get in the way of intimacy
There are ways around this. I won’t lie & say that my bag has never bothered me during sex because it has, but that’s more about me, not my other half. I have found that if I empty my bag before intimacy and use hair grips to hold my bag up if I fold it upwards in half, this really helps as it’s usually my bag hanging down that gets on my nerves.
I did struggle early on post-surgery having a bag that I never felt fully naked because of always having to wear a bag but I rarely think of it this way now. It’s a small price to pay for not being in constant pain due to Crohn’s Disease and actually feeling healthy enough to have a sex life. When lost in the moment, I don’t often think of my bag anyway now. It very much is just a part of me I have grown to accept and embrace.
3. Bag leaks are a deal-breaker
They do happen, thankfully rarely for me. If they happen more regularly, this is not the norm and definitely not something you should have to be used to. There are plenty of solutions to try out there so please speak to one of your medical team such as your stoma nurse. Do not suffer alone and feel you just have to get on with them happening often. Wearing something such as an ostomy waistband can help to keep your bag secure and more in place during intimacy.
Having a bag leak in bed especially is something that I fear, whether that be when sleeping or during sex. It has only happened to me once in the past and thankfully it was only minor. The person I was with at the time didn’t kick up a fuss and was more concerned about making sure I felt okay than bothered about it interrupting intimacy. They started a shower for me and let me clean off whilst they put the bed sheets in the wash and got my stoma supplies for me and were very reassuring afterwards. Even though it was only a minor leak, I was mortified as it reminded me of life pre-stoma surgery, but they weren’t bothered by it in the slightest. It didn’t make them run or put them off me. I know for sure that it would be the same with my current partner and that’s when you know you’re with the right person.
I had a bag leak on one of my first dates with my fiancé and he was so good about it. It was lucky as we had finished our meal but I couldn’t have wished for anyone more understanding. We got back to his place and he helped me clean up straight away and ran me a shower. We giggle about it looking back now as he remembers how worried I was that it would put him off me for life!
4. You’ll be very limited with underwear
In my experience, definitely not. There are so many choices out there as a woman with a stoma. From babydolls to pretty high waisted underwear sets, there is plenty that can boost your confidence. There’s something to be said about going about your day with a pretty matching set on underneath your outfit – it definitely makes you feel like you’ve got your life together!
I love high waisted knickers, but I also love low rise underwear and even simple cotton thongs are fine to wear for me as I don’t have issues with my bum with having had “barbie butt” surgery. Early days post-surgery when my bum wound was healing, I wore normal, low rise knickers.
Everything else I don’t wear down to personal preference except girl boxers which I don’t wear because the waistband always sits directly on my stoma.
Ostomy brands such as Comfizz and Vanilla Blush do ostomy specific underwear. There is also White Rose Collection underwear. High street brands such as Ann Summers or Boux Avenue also do some gorgeous underwear to treat yourself to or wear for a romantic evening.
5. You will be defined by your stoma
Absolutely not! Your stoma is just a part of you but it isn’t all of you. You are more than your stoma or your illness. You have interests, things that you love and things that make you you which span far & wide outside of the medical world!
Anybody who uses your stoma or illness to define you merely isn’t giving you the appreciation or the love you deserve for your entire being. I am Amy who has a stoma bag and IBD, I’m not Amy the girl with a stoma bag & IBD. I have those things, but they don’t have me.
Dating after stoma surgery or with any illness is a very personal experience and when or if you decide to tell someone about what matters to you, illness or otherwise, is up to you and a decision you should only make when you feel comfortable or more ready than not to do so. I don’t think when the exact time or point will be that that will be needs overthinking as in my experience I just had a feeling when that time was right. Trust your gut (even if some of it is missing!)