It’s that time of year again.
‘Summer?’ you ask.
Yes, it’s summer. It’s also time for my annual gynecological exam, the bane of many women’s existence. This anniversary of sorts prompted an odd trip down memory lane for me of the many exams I have endured in my life. I thought about how many people – medical professionals that is – had gazed upon my vagina.
I have a fleeting memory of my first internal exam. I had availed myself of the Health Services Department at college. I always tried to do the right thing at the right time and considering that I was ‘an adult’, I felt that I needed to take my health and wellbeing seriously. On my first visit to Health Services the physician’s assistant commented on my watch, it was a Swatch. I laughed to myself, ‘Good try lady, but there is no freaking way you are going to take my mind off of what you are doing.” No pictures on the ceiling. No dangling butterflies or planets. I know exactly what you’re looking at, where your hands are and what is, excuse the term, going down, down there. Let’s just keep the chatter to a minimum.
As my personal life developed I felt it was time for a trip to Planned Parenthood. Word on campus was that that was the place to go for cheap care and affordable birth control. So, off like a prom dress, I went. Poor Planned Parenthood, their operation was pretty minimalist. White walls rejected mismatched office furniture and a few posters tacked to the walls. The administrative employees were always the same as was the price for a pack of pills – a whopping $4. In my three years going there I don’t think I ever saw the same doctor twice.
On one particular visit I remember having a younger female doctor — they were all female. I assumed the position and she came at me with her gloved hands. “Into the sandwich,” she exclaimed. I was super-focused on the constellation map over my head so her comment didn’t sink in immediately and then it hit me. I laid there in a stupor. I felt a bit like a piece of meat – a nameless, faceless vagina. I’m sure after decades in that line of work it’s probably what it all comes down to, they may forget our faces but can recall the structure or attitude of our vaginas. I can hear it now, ‘You know, the lady with the tilted uterus, C-section scar, narrow hips … Nope. Well manicured landing strip, definitely doing her Kegels. “Oh yeah, I remember her.”
Well, this young doctor was green. Maybe she was eight years older than me but nevertheless too young to be using such jaded comments. I wonder where she is now and if she perfected her gyno shtick. Hopefully, she was just fulfilling her clinical rotation and moved on.
After that my annual visits are a bit of blur. I’ve moved around a bit so I have had quite a few gynecologists. Many a person has examined my lady parts. The one thing I do know is that all of these visits were scheduled first thing in the morning and that a cleansing of epic proportions took place before each and every visit. The preparation that goes into these exams is unparalleled. Every year it’s the same. The level of aesthetics is at its all time highest. Even your husband doesn’t warrant this kind of attention to detail anymore. I hope for the gyno’s sake that every woman takes the time and effort that I put in pre-visit. God bless them if they don’t.
At work I sometimes cross paths with my gynecologist. Initially he was my O.B. but sadly and gladly he is now just my gyno. I am not sure if he remembers my name but he knows my face, maybe he’s running through his mental rolodex of facts on me: four induced births, all full term, huge babies, reeks of Bath & Body products…’ He always asks how my children are doing.
One day a coworker asked me who he was and I told him. He was horrified. ‘Doesn’t it bother you he’s seen you naked?’ he implored. ‘Nope,’ I replied. “Well at least he recognizes your face,’ he snickered. I would hope so; I’ve been his patient for almost 20 years! We’ve had a great working relationship. He never comments on my weight and I never comment on his.
So, in retrospect there has been many a person that has witnessed my personal business. When you think about the process of labor and how many people examine you or ‘take a peek’ it starts to add up. I am most likely considered to be pretty modest with my body but as you age and the amount of views add up, in that particular area, you become more and more blasé about it yourself. It’s almost a separate entity.
It was ‘standing room only’ at our youngest son’s birth. He had an issue that was diagnosed in utero so there were three people in the room for the baby and four or five there, besides my husband, for me. We could have sold tickets. It was a teaching hospital and it seemed as though everybody and their brother did a drive by that day. ‘Can I take a peek?’ Sure, what the heck? It’s just the most personal part of my body but get on in there and take a gander!’ It was a far cry from when our first child was born and they asked if a student could observe and they got a resounding, “NO!”
So here I sit, writing this filled with nostalgia for my younger self. It’s funny how something can spark your memory or in this case tickle you’re fancy. It happened as I put on my Swatch watch on this morning. If you let it those experiences can be unpleasant and embarrassing. I try to look for the humor.
The way I see it I have 364 more days of regular upkeep until I am at DEFCON level again. I want my gyno to remember me in a positive light not: ‘Is she the one that seems like she bathes twice a week and does not tend the shady thicket?’