Every woman has secrets in her underwear draw, but since my operation mine has been filled with the most hideous underwear known to mankind. Gone are the lacy shorts and girly panties from the days before Winnie, now my top drawer is filled with underwear that even Bridget Jones would be ashamed to be caught out in.
Ok, maybe I’m being a little unfair. The ostomy underwear has saved me from some extremely humiliating moments post surgery, where bus loads of pensioners, tourists and even crowds of rich race-goers have been saved from the sight of my full to bursting ostomy bag and red raw scar by my sturdy prescription pants after rouge gusts of wind whipped up my skirt around my waist Marilyn Munroe style while walking through Chester city centre.
But although they were saved from a flash of Winnie the onlookers did get a flash of most probably the most ugly knickers they have ever seen. You may disagree but all the underwear I have had to date which caters for women with a stoma either resembles washed out grannie pants or those magic knickers Gok Wan enjoys promoting so that all us girls can suck in layers of fat and miraculously loose inches off our waists to fit into that dress which is two sizes too small.
My ‘prescription’ knickers are exactly as they sound. Yes they might be a step up from the paper ones you get given at tanning salons (which I can never figure out which way to go on), and yes they may cover your modesty completely by being the size of a tent, but they definitely look like the sort of thing you would find in any NHS stock cupboard. They are in basic colours – white, black and navy blue – and have a little bow along the seam, where some thoughtful designer has added a little frilly trim in the attempt to add a tiny bit of femininity to the otherwise unflattering look the underwear gives. I class this underwear in the same bracket as my laundry day knickers, or the ones I used to wear as period pants as a teenager…I definatly wouldn’t go on a night out in them, and I even have a separate part of my draw reserved for them just so I don’t put them on by mistake (which I assure you wouldn’t be easily done).
I must sound hideously ungrateful. I know that these knickers are designed to help me feel more confident about life with an ostomy. I know that the little hidden pouch is meant to make me feel more safe and secure. I also know that millions of women probably adore this underwear and it has probably helped so many people to regain their femininity and adore their figures again. But this blog is all about me being honest, and I have to admit that when I am wearing the special underwear I feel far from special, and to be fair, I don’t think Winnie enjoys it too much either.
I have the whole range, white, black and navy blue. Why? Because when I had the operation I was given a pack by my stoma nurse which had leaflets in about all the products you could get that would make you feel more attractive with your ostomy. I have to say I was excited by this…I had been dreading life with a stoma and the idea of my boyfriend seeing my bag made me feel sick to the stomach, so I thought some sexy underwear would do the trick. Unfortunately what the nurses failed to tell me was just how shockingly expensive this specially made underwear would be for me to buy. For the price of one pair of the anywhere near nice knickers these brochures had to offer I could have bought at least one high quality sexy, lacy launderie set from a high street store.
Some of the stuff in the brochures was nice, and yes I think it would have made you feel much sexier. But it would seem feeling sexy with a stoma comes at a price, and it is not a price everyone can afford to pay.
I ordered as much as I could on prescription. And when it came I was excited, that was until I put it on. The knickers are plain (which is what I like), as high-waisted as Simon Cowell’s trousers, and extremely high legged. Ok, I’ve always had my bad Crohn’s day panties and I have to admit since I was a teenager I have always carried around a spare pair of panties in my bag in case of a IBD related accident, but these are really something else. Winnie and Oscar (my two bags) get squished together under a protective panel, which, in fairness to the designers does help control them and hide them from the world when wearing clothing, but makes the plastic opening to the bag dig into my groin in a really painful and uncomfortable way. And, I tend to find that the knickers can be counterproductive as you don’t notice your bag is full until you really are on the edge of a nuclear explosion!!
There are other designs available, but from the leaflets I have to say the leopard prints and garish colours just don’t look classy enough for me. If I didn’t have an ostomy and was forking out those kinds of astronomical prices I would be expecting silk and pretty designs, not bold floral patterns, and that goes without saying you will never find a bra to match them.
Ok, I have to admit I do wear them when I’m doing exercise or going on a long day out where having the extra support wouldn’t hurt. But the moment I get home I peel them off as quickly as possible in favour of my pre-op shorts and knickers. To date the only ones I have grown to even slightly like are my Comfizz knickers and vest, which help to keep my forever peeling away bags and dressings in place by sucking me in like someone has wrapped me in cellophane. Credit where it’s due, these vests and pants really do hide your bag, they smooth me down so much you wouldn’t know Winnie existed, but peeling them off at the end of the day, you will breathe a sigh of relief as your ostomy escapes the tightly gripped prison and gets a gasp of freedom for the first time in hours.
I just don’t understand why there can’t be more choice out there, and why there isn’t more tasteful underwear for younger women who just want to wear something that is comfortable and sexy. Since my bra shopping experience last week, where I felt the need to warn the poor lady (I don’t really know why) who measured me in M&S not to be alarmed as I’d had an operation (I think she expected to see blood and guts, not just a little rash and a clean ostomy bag), I’ve decided to wear whatever underwear I feel comfortable in.
Ok, I’ve not thrown it away, as it has its uses, and, well I’ve paid for it with my taxes anyway, but I’ve decided to go back to the land of no VPL, silk and french knickers (I know I’m sharing too much here). I just want to feel good. My new bras make me feel sexy and feminine and teaming them with NHS pants just doesn’t seem right.
Anyway I think Winnie likes the feeling of just being free.
N.t: If you disagree and have found some amazing ostomy underwear please share. I would love to find out where others have purchased from.