I suppose once you become pregnant or have birthed a child going to the gynecologist is just like going to the dentist. You schedule the necessary appointment, make sure to brush your teeth before you go in, and then obediently lay down when it’s time and just hope that the doctor has warm hands. It is what it is.
But for those of us who haven’t yet experienced the miracle of having a team of people stare at your vagina with the same intensity as a dog trying to spot a fish in a lake, while they’re all anxiously ready to yell “she’s crowning!,” a trip to the gyno can be slightly uncomfortable.
That’s right, I just said vagina. And I’m going to say it a few more times as we discuss the joys and sorrows of the yearly trip to the lady doctor. We’re all adults here. So let’s jump on board and have some girl talk!
I dread going to the gyno like I dread going to the post office. I put it off for as long as possible and then as the day gets nearer it hangs over me like a dark cold… metal stirrup you’re supposed to put your foot in. But then once it’s all said and done and I don’t feel completely violated and haven’t forgotten my underwear when I leave, it’s never usually that bad.
But that’s just the post office. A trip to the gyno is another story.
I walked into my appointment 30 minutes early yesterday as the receptionist requested so I could fill out 781 pages of paperwork, and then wait an additional 45 minutes to ensure an ample amount of time to stare at the Georgia O’Keefe drawings on the wall. But I for one love doctor paperwork. I treat it as a nice moment to reflect on all of the deaths of my loved ones and the various diseases that got them.
It’s also a good reminder for me that I need to wear my seatbelt. If you ask me, not enough forms in our world ask the question as to whether or not you wear a seatbelt. It’s nice to know someone still cares.
When the receptionist suddenly asked me for a urine sample I was caught slightly off guard. Of course I knew it was coming, but it still shocked me. I guess that’s probably a good thing. If one day it doesn’t surprise me when a stranger randomly hands me a small cup and asks me to urinate in it I’ll know I’ve seen and done everything and it’s time to throw in the towel.
However I think it’s safe to say that we as humans have this internal shame factor, when even though we’re all alone and no one can see us (hopefully) we still can’t help but feel humiliated when doing something so unnatural as peeing in a tiny cup. I won’t get into too much more detail here, but instead take this time to think about your own experiences in this situation. There’s got to be a better system than the current one. It was clearly invented by a man. Without a vagina.
I was then led into another room to sit and wait and stare at more O’Keefe drawings on the wall presumably to get me in the mood. Although these images were slightly different. They were more about what the drawings look like on the inside and when studied under a microscope. They also had words on them like “uterus” and “ovary.”
A nurse walked in wearing Precious Moment scrubs and handed me a sheet and a paper thin robe and told me “you know the procedure” and then promptly walked back out. Well that wasn’t a precious moment at all I thought. But she was right, I did know what comes next. We all do.
I started to make a fort.
I knew I had to work quickly because it would only be a matter of time before the doctor came back in. I tied one end of the sheet to the stirrups at the bottom and threw the other end over my head and onto the back of the chair. I fastened the thin robe to the outside of the sheet and hung it like a flag so the doctor would know I had claimed this territory as my own and I wasn’t just going to surrender it.
When I heard his heavy footsteps walk into the room I held my breath anxious to hear what he had to say.
“I see you’ve completed the first part of the challenge.” He noted.
“This isn’t my first rodeo.”
“Then let’s move on.”
At this point I’m supposed to “slide clear to the end of the chair” and get ready. This is the part we all hate. It’s going to take every bit of my strength as I lie on my back and put my knees to my chest with my feet in the air because what the doctor is about to do isn’t pretty. But it must be done.
He’s going to climb on my feet and I have to hold him in the air while he balances on his stomach with his arms stretched out beside him. That’s why I built the fort, for protection reasons obviously. Some people call this “airplane” but anyone who’s ever been to the gyno knows it’s actually called a Pap Smear.
It’s awkward and unpleasant, but if you close your eyes and try your best to relax and not worry about what he can see from his view, you can do it.
And I did. As the doctor climbed down he complimented me on my form and told me I did well. I let out a sigh of relief knowing the worst part was ever. He left the room and I slowly crawled out from my fort and grabbed a tissue to wipe away the sweat that had formed on my forehead.
On my way out I passed through the waiting room and saw a room full of other anxious women filling out their forms, refusing to make eye contact with each other.
I paused for a moment wondering if I should offer a word of encouragement or advice to them. But I knew better. This is a fight we have to fight on our own. And because we’re women, we can do it damn it. We can survive a trip to the gyno.