adventures in stirrups

I had been debating with myself on whether to even discuss this topic on a pseudo-public forum, but then a friend of mine overheard me and shared her own gynecological hilarity, so I decided to plunge ahead. (Kate is welcome to post her experience as a comment, if she dares….) Plus, I’m a Scorpio; I’ll discuss any bodily function with glee; I am, after all, someone who has photos and video of her own exploratory surgery.

For many people, however (including my sister), this entry will likely fall into the TMI (too much information) category.

I had my annual gyn exam this past week. Any woman can tell you that this is not the event she most anticipates during the year, as it is usually edged out narrowly by tax season in terms of popularity. And if you’re as “internally sensitive” as I am, the very idea of that cervical scraper is enough to set your teeth on edge.

Being new in town, this was my first visit with a new doctor — a naturopath specializing in women’s health — and while I was looking forward to meeting her, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I remember the time that one doctor, while doing my breast exam, got a very concerned look on her face and reluctantly commented on the “large number of lumps” in my breasts. Then she stepped back and, with a sheepish look on her face, said, “Oh. Not lumps. Those are your ribs.” Apparently she wasn’t used to examining skinny women.

Another time, while the gyn and her assistant were hovering between my knees, the assistant got very concerned and kept asking, “Are you sure it’s supposed to look like that?” No one wants to hear that while naked and in stirrups. Finally, she popped her head up to say, “Sorry! Actually, you’re perfect. I’m just used to looking at flabby old ladies.”

So I sat in my new doctor’s office the other day, wearing nothing but a flimsy gown and my watch; for some reason I’d remembered to remove my socks but not my watch. The doctor came in, went through the pre-pap routine (e.g., blood pressure, pulse, breast exam), and then realized that she had left one of her instruments in another room. Just before she stepped out to retrieve the missing tool, she handed me a metal wand with an angled mirror at the end of it. “Do you want to watch your exam?” she asked.

I was flabbergasted. I’d never been offered a mirror before. Cool! While she was out of the room, I practiced turning that mirror every which way — checking out the wall behind me, the table beneath me, and my scalp. When she came back in, she propped up the back of the examination table so I was almost sitting, rather than staring up at the ceiling: another novelty (however, I do give my former physician credit for hanging amusing posters on the ceiling). I’d not before had a doctor look me straight in the eye to speak to me during an annual.

As she began the vaginal exam, I was a bit shy with the mirror at first — not nervous about seeing myself, but concerned about getting in the doctor’s way. Let me tell you, though, and without going into detail, that the view I had was remarkable. It’s one thing to study drawings and diagrams in health class and quite another to observe your own body; and I do think that too many women are either intimidated by or ignorant of their own bodies. The next time you’re in for your annual exam, ask your doctor for a mirror. Or, buy yourself a speculum.

I’m also approaching “the mammogram birthday”…. at least for a baseline scan. Ugh.

Posted in news, thoughts from the spiral.

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