Well, it’s 2011, and in this New Year, I have been
sitting on my ars doing nothing productive on a writing hiatus, but today is the day to get back on the wagon (or to get off the wagon--I can never remember which one is right). And what better way to get back in the swing of writing than to write about vaginas?
I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t really understand what the calendar has to do with making my life better. I don’t have any of the typical bad habits--I don’t smoke. I drink in moderation. I’m generally health-conscious in my eating habits. And exercising? Well, when I hit my 1/3 life crisis last summer, I kind of took care of that one, too. So, if anything, in 2011 I want to continue doing what I’m doing so that I don’t turn into a smoking, alcoholic fat slob. Shouldn’t be too difficult.
In the spirit of maintaining healthy living, I had the privilege of going to my annual appointment this morning. I know a lot of people really dread the lady tune-up, but I don’t really mind so much. In fact, it’s nice to check it off the list and confirm that everything is in good working order.
Last month, I was cleaning up the files on my computer and came across something I started writing waaaaaaaaaay back in 2004. My, how things have changed:
The pregnant girl behind the counter hands me a clipboard with a stack of forms to fill out. For the life of me, I’ve never understood why doctors’ offices can’t figure out a better way to organize patient files. Every time—every single time, I have to fill in my name, address, phone numbers (home, work, cell, and emergency), social security number, date of birth, and insurance information. Because this is a military base and I’m a dependent, I also have to fill in my husband’s name, date of birth, social security number, squadron number, branch, and rank. I have to do this on seven different pages.
Today, I’m here for my annual exam—the old poke-a-poo-for-a-looky-loo, The Spread Eagle Tango, The Stirrup Waltz. So, in addition to the endless pages of personal contact information, I also have to put in writing the intimate details of my menstrual, sex, and social life.
1) Age: 23.
2) Total pregnancies: Zero.
3) Miscarriages/Abortions: Zero.
4) Total Live Births: Still zero.
5) First day of last period: Ummmmm…the third day that the green pills started. Damn it. Now I have to get out my planner.
6) Days between periods: Too much counting.
7) Would you describe your periods as light, moderate, or heavy? Well, since I’ve only ever had my own, I suppose I’ll go with moderate.
8) Circle any of the following, which you experience during a normal period: cramping, bloating, irritability, breast soreness, fatigue. All of the above plus spontaneous growth of horns and tail with inability to put down a pitchfork.
1) How many sexual partners have you had since your last pap smear? One.
2) Mark yes or no:
Bleeding between periods: No.
Vaginal discharge with odor, itching, burning: Eeew. No.
Bleeding after intercourse: No.
Leaking urine when coughing/sneezing/laughing: Well, there was that one time I laughed so hard during Tommy Boy…No.
Painful Intercourse: No.
Breast lumps or discharge from nipples: No. Thank God.
1) Have you ever had an abnormal pap smear? No.
2) Do you smoke? No.
3) Do you douche? People still do that???
4) Do you do a breast self-exam? Yes. How often? I don’t know. It’s not like I write it down on my calendar.
5) Do you exercise? Sure. (I vacuum, and I have a Pilates DVD.)
6) How many alcoholic beverages do you consume per week? Not enough to matter. Or just not enough, depending on how you look at it.
7) How many caffeinated beverages do you consume in one day? 1/15 is a fair estimate.
8) Are there any other issues related to female health that you want to discuss? Do I have to fill out any more paperwork?
I take my clipboard back to the front desk to a guy who looks like he just graduated from high school and take a seat. Thirty minutes later, I’ve looked at all the pictures from the May 2003 issue of People, while three children under the age of four have apparently decided I’m a maypole. Ending the game of run-around-the-nice-lady, I walk up to the counter again. “Uh, hi. Yeah, I was just wondering how soon it was going to be because I need to get back to work. I told them I’d be back by noon.”
The pregnant girl looks at some papers importantly. “You’re next.”
“Great. Thanks.” Luckily, I’m saved from having to pretend to be nice again when a girl opens the door and calls my name.
“That’s me,” I say, as I follow her to an exam room.
She takes my blood pressure and temperature and asks me how tall I am and how much I weigh. Yes, that’s right. Seven pounds more than my last exam. She hands me a bulky wad of material that looks like a tablecloth and tells me the doctor should be right in. The last thing she says before she shuts the door to leave is, “Make yourself comfortable.”
I’ve done this before, so I know that the tablecloth is really a giant paper smock that I’m supposed to wear for the exam. Undressing quickly, I am suddenly aware of the gust of wind coming from the air vent directly above me. My nipples are hard, and the hair on my legs seems to be visibly growing. So much for comfort.
I lay down on the table with my legs dangling off the end, staring at the ceiling. I’m rubbing my hands together and blowing into them like I would at a winter camp out. My nipples are permanently petrified, and I can’t feel my toes. My hair is actually blowing back from the air coming out of the vents. Just before the doctor comes in, I curl into a sitting fetal position, hoping that I can create warmth.
“Is it Leah?” The doctor, a well-over six-foot man in a green flight suit, comes in quickly with a girl behind him.
“No, it’s Leia. Like the princess in Star Wars.” I don’t like the fact that I have to say this to everyone I meet, but it’s the only chance that they’ll call me by the right name in the future.
“Oh, okay, sorry. I’m Dr. K, and I’ll be doing the exam today.” He sits on a rolling stool, as his assistant takes her place behind him. Motioning to her, he adds, “She’s just here to watch and make sure everything goes as planned. How are you feeling?”
“Well, I’m freezing, but other than that, I’m fine.”
“Okay, well, let’s start with the breast exam.” I lay back, hoping I don’t poke his eye out with my rock hard laser nipples. He starts circling under my arm. “So, do you do self-exams on a regular basis?”
“Yes.” Plus, my husband would definitely know if something were wrong. One time, he found this weird hair that had inexplicably grown to be an inch and a half long on my right breast. For about a month afterwards, he asked repeatedly if I’d teach him how to braid chest hair.
After circling both armpits and both breasts, Dr. K moves to the end of table. The assistant wheels over a tray of Go-Go-Gadget Pap smear tools, while I slide to the edge as instructed. Dr. K flips up the stirrups—the awkward, frigid stirrups. With my feet properly inserted, I move closer to edge so that it feels as if I might fall off. My calves push to keep myself on the table, and my thighs tense to keep my feet in the stirrups. My back hurts from pulling to keep my butt on the table, and everything between my legs feels—well, cold.
“You feel alright?” Dr. K is looking at me right in the eyes, so I know he’s serious.
“Um, I guess I’m as good as can be expected.”
“Okay, you’re going to feel my hands on your legs.” And I do. “And now I’m going to put the speculum in.” He shows me a newly unwrapped clear plastic contraption that looks sort of like dull gardening shears. “And I’m in.”
By some cosmic happening, I’m starting to sweat a little bit under my arms. I’m concentrating on breathing and not peeing.
“Now you’re going to feel my fingers.” A ripple of pressure moves over the walls of my vagina, and it takes all the energy in my body to not pee. “Still okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Real fine, Satan. I feel a little remorse about the thoughts I’m having, as it’s not Dr. K’s fault that I have to pee so bad. I close my eyes and pray silently. God, I need you to help me control my bladder right now. I don’t want to pee on this man. I feel a small pinch like a shot. And please forgive me for calling Dr. K “Satan” even if it was in my head.
My prayer is interrupted as I hear Dr. K say, “All done. I’m going to remove the speculum now.” And, of course, as soon as he does, I don’t really have to pee anymore. I think I’ll reward myself with some ice cream on the way back to the office.
Since that appointment (the first in my married life), I have had two children, one of which accompanied me to my appointment today. (Was I really that annoyed by those kids?) He’s well-behaved, and I think it’s a little bit silly to get a babysitter for an appointment that only takes a few minutes. I’ll pay for his therapy later if it turns out to have damaging effects.
Our insurance now covers an annual appointment from an off-base provider (re:no more flight docs who went to school with my husband), so I go to the OB/GYN practice that I used when I had Ben. What once was pages of paperwork is now a few questions that the nurse asks. She types my answers into a computer. The questions are similar to the questions from the way-back exam, and I still answer them sarcastically in my head:
- Age? 30
- Height and weight? 5’ 1” and 132 pounds. Fifteen pounds down from my last appointment, biotches--soon to be less as I am currently on the eat-what-my-kids-don’t-finish-while-my-husband-is-gone-for-six-months diet, always effective for weight loss.
- First day of last period? December 20th--just in time for a very Merry Christmas!
- Do you experience any of the following during your period: cramping, bloating, headaches, breast soreness, fatigue? Since going off birth control two months ago, I alternate between crying and wanting to kill someone at all times.
- Do you conduct monthly breast self-exams? Does picking up my breasts and heaving them back into my bra count? I have to poke and push all over to get them in...that’s something, right?
- Any significant changes in your personal sexual history? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This implies that there would be the possibility of having a new sexual partner. My husband is in the Air Force--I don’t even have my old sexual partner! I mean, standard morality aside, the thought of someone seeing my post-baby pendulum breasts and Kate Gosselin belly is so frightening, I want to vomit just thinking about it.
- Do you exercise? Yes. I try my best to exercise 3-4 times a week because I refuse to turn into that lady that Carson Kressley stops on the street for a much-needed makeover with my saggy everything and mom FUPA. I’m NOT going to be her.
- Any concerns you want to discuss with the doctor? Is my vagina ever going to be normal again?
While Ben munches on his goldfish, I strip down to just my socks (I mean, come on! Can we not get this air conditioning issue fixed?) and go over the questions I have for the doctor in my head.
I love my doctor. Love, love, love her! When she comes in, she moves quickly through some general questions and then listens to everything I have to say. Really listens. She answers my questions directly, addresses the issues I’ve been having, and even gives a little clap and “Hooray!” when I tell her my husband had a vasectomy. The exam is quick and painless, and I am out of the room in a few minutes.
So, I started off the New Year with a bang...I can only hope the rest of the year is as quick and painless. Happy New Year to you and your vagina!