Navel piercing - unforeseen problems, rejection, and removal (but loved it)
My interest in body modification started when I was fifteen, and by the time I turned seventeen, I knew I wanted some kind of piercing. I especially liked lip piercings, but I'd already had problems with my teeth and gums and opted for a standard navel piercing instead (which was also my ex-boyfriend's preference at the time). I knew it would be a long heal but figured I could keep up with it.
I found myself in Rochester, New York when I was seventeen--and conveniently enough, there either was no required age for piercings without parent consent or the shop I found didn't follow it. I'm fairly sure it was the former. The shop was great--I don't remember who pierced me, but it was all done with new or sanitary instruments. The piercing was easy--he cleaned it, marked it, had me lie down, clamped it, and pierced it. They tell you it feels like a bee sting, but bee stings hurt worse.
This is more about the unexpected problems I had with it that you might want to consider before getting pierced. First up: sex. If you have your navel pierced and want to get intimate with someone, keep in mind that the piercing is going to be getting rubbed and bumped constantly unless you keep your hand over it the entire time. This might not be a problem once it's healed, but while it's healing, watch out.
Second: daily routines. There are little things you don't notice that you do until you have a piercing to bump, like pull your shirts on so that they catch the top ball or soaping up in the shower and bumping it with your hand or wrapping a towel around your waist. I did all of these a lot the first couple of weeks until I got new routines down. I never had any trouble sleeping on my stomach, though, and all my jeans hit below the navel anyway. You will have a small bump in your shirt if it's particularly tight or stretchy.
Third: sports. I'm an avid snowboarder and had the piercing done in November, right at the start of the season. I didn't think it would make any difference, since abs are not very involved in snowboarding, but I didn't realize that every time I bent over to strap or unstrap a binding, I would bend the piercing. (Part of this is that I apparently have bad anatomy for a navel piercing--I have a great ridge, but the 'crease' in my skin when I bend my torso runs directly through my navel and puts a lot of pressure on the piercing.)
I kept it clean by rinsing with a mild soap in the shower (from my piercer) and daily sea salt soaks. For two months, the piercing just hung out happily. I hardly even knew it was there--it wasn't red, it wasn't sore, it didn't ooze after the first week, and it seemed to be doing great. It felt fine and I assumed it was healing fine as well. Nonetheless, I kept up with my sea salt soaks and washing (if it's working, stick with it). For those curious, the best way to do this with a navel piercing is with a small drinking glass. Fill it about halfway with your sea salt mixture, hold the cup level, bend at the waist until your skin touches the rim of the glass and creates a seal, and hold the glass against your stomach to maintain the seal.
About three months after getting pierced, I noticed that the piercing seemed to be sitting a little crooked. I figured it was likely migrating (or had always been crooked and I hadn't noticed) and decided to watch and see what would happen with it. Over the next couple of weeks, the top hole kept dropping down as the bar tried to migrate out (quite successfully, I might add). The skin around the top hole got red, chapped, and peely. I started getting a ring of dried discharge on the end of the bar. It wasn't sore, hot, or exhibiting any other symptoms of an infection, so I figured that wasn't it. It just wasn't happy.
I tried stepping up the sea salt soaks to 2-3 times a day (I hadn't wanted to overclean and irritate it) but it made little difference at that point. Things just kept getting worse and I had no idea why. In March, I was forced to accept the truth and take it out before it rejected completely. I wanted to avoid having a big nasty scar from that and took it out when the distance between the two holes had dropped from about 3/4" when I got it pierced to less than 1/2". I couldn't actually see the bar at that point, but I could feel it under the skin.
Taking it out sucked. Not only did it hurt (externally threaded barbell, bad call) but anyone who's had to take out a piercing knows how emotional it can be. By then, I had a surprisingly well-developed fistula but I could also see the line of scar tissue between the top hole and where the top hole used to be. I kept cleaning it, doing sea salt soaks, and treating it like a piercing for a couple more weeks. About a week after I took the jewelry out, the redness, peeling, and discharge was gone and the hole closed up.
That was a little over two years ago. The scar is still visible (larger on the top hole) but I no longer have a pucker over the holes, either. I massaged the scar tissue with lotion a lot during the first few months to soften it up and try to bring it in line with the rest of my skin, which worked very well--I'd pinch the skin between my fingers and sort of roll it around for a few minutes every day.
I'm not sure what made it reject. It could have been the irritation of daily wear combined with the bad placement of my skin's natural crease, snagging it on clothes and towels, bad anatomy, or metal allergy. I think I took care of it as well as I could, so it was probably a metal allergy aggravated by the irritation. (I did have an unsuccessful attempt at ear piercing when I was younger with similar symptoms, though I blamed immaturity for not cleaning it well enough then. In hindsight, I think my skin needs something other than surgical steel.)
This isn't a scare story. If you want a navel piercing, go for it. This is just to let you know what happens when things don't go as you plan with a piercing, and whatever your parents tell you, it's not the end of the world. It's not permanently disfiguring. It's not life-threatening. The scar isn't even that noticeable--my mother never knew I had it done, and if she's noticed it today when I wear a bikini, she hasn't commented. You can't really see it unless you're looking for it, and even though I had to take it out, I'm still glad I did it and don't regret it. It was fun while it lasted!
(I hear navel piercings are prone to failure. For reference purposes, between me and two friends who had it done, only one of us still has the piercing three years later.)
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 12 Sept. 2007
in Navel Piercing