It was an unfortunate intersection of events:
1) My gynecologist’s office decided that I am not allowed to get a new prescription for my beloved hormone patches via phone call; a check-up would be required,
2) My sitter had to cancel.
C’mon, kids! We’re going to the gyno! Everybody pick a toy and a blindfold!
The office has a waiting room with plentiful magazines and a water cooler. The water cooler, it is an invention to be admired… for it can evoke immediate, dire thirst in any child. While I checked in, Monkey and Chickadee squabbled over cups and each drank about 30 ounces of icy cold water. Excellent.
When I was called back, we three trooped through the door, two of us discussing the relative merits of being able to touch one’s tongue to the tip of one’s nose. I’ll just be mysterious about who didn’t partake in that important debate.
In the exam room, the nurse offered to fetch a second chair and I thanked her. I arranged Chickadee in the existing chair and told Monkey the next chair would be for him. The nurse returned and I took the offered chair and faced it towards the wall, back to the exam table.
“Hey! All I can see is the wall!” complained Monkey.
“Right. That’s all you need to see. Remember? I told you I’m going to have to undress, and you don’t need to watch.” He threw himself into the chair with a noisy sigh, and commenced tossing his stuffed puppy against the wall over and over.
“Puppy says the wall is hard!” he declared. “Ouch! Says Puppy!”
“I get to watch,” Chickadee offered to her little brother, disappointed to see him recovering so quickly. “Because Mama and I are BOTH girls. You’re a boy, so you don’t get to. I get to see Mama’s boobs.”
The nurse tried to stifle a giggle (she was, by this time, taking my blood pressure). I wondered what would be the politically correct thing to say at this time. Instead, the first thing that popped into my head fell out of my mouth: “Yep, you get to see my boobs. WOW! You are so LUCKY!” Chickadee rolled her eyes at me. She is far too cool for my boobs, of course.
The nurse finished up and directed me to undress, don the attractive paper shirt, and cover my lower half with the paper sheet. She pulled the curtain and left the room. I told Monkey to keep his eyes on that wall while I disrobed, and he immediately squinched up his entire face and started shouting, “Are you THERE? I can’t SEE anything! Where did you all GO?”
(I’ve gotta say; that’s the first time shedding my clothes has evoked that reaction from a guy.)
I stripped down and folded up my clothes as hastily as I could, pulled on the paper shirt (“Mama,” said Chickadee with a raised eyebrow, “There is no WAY that’s going to cover you all up!”) (seriously, she had a point; how much more would it cost them to use GOWNS instead of SHIRTS?), and plunked my butt down on the edge of the table. I told Monkey he could open his eyes or turn around or whatever, now, but he continued weaving his torso from side to side like a tiny inebriated Stevie Wonder, calling out “Where are you??”
(“We left!” Chickadee answered, just before slingshotting him with a ponytail holder she’d removed from her doll’s hair.)
The doctor arrived and fussed over the kids and looked over my chart and asked me when my last pap smear was. “Ummm… I don’t know. Isn’t that my file?” That may have been the wrong answer. But she looked in the folder some more and decided it had been a while.
[Side note: I’d always thought that after a complete hysterectomy, you got the Get Out Of Pap Smears Free card. I was wrong! Did you know you can actually get cancer of the vaginal wall? Yes! You can! So pap smears are a good idea even for the cervixless. Though it still TOTALLY creeps me out for my doctor to cheerfully bring up my vaginal walls as if we’re talking about home remodelling and not, you know, my crotch.]
This was when the doctor started being shifty-eyed. It was really interesting to watch, actually. She looked back and forth between the two kids (who were now discussing how Chickadee’s dolly had broken her leg) and me and finally mouthed, “Are you dating?”
I found this bizarre. I mean, I wasn’t thinking. I nodded, thinking that she was just extremely sensitive to the adjustment of post-divorce kids. Which would be impressive, really. But her eye-darting continued and I realized WHY she was asking at about the same time that she mouthed, “And are you…” and here she simply stopped and made the “and so on” gesture with her hands.
Which caused me to burst out laughing so hard that I nearly fell off the table.
This, of course, distracted the children from their game, and they wanted to know what was so funny, and I had to start saying things like, “Oh, look! A blood pressure cuff!” or “Wow, what a pretty mobile there is in here! It had stars, and moons, and, um, things!” And of course all of this was done while trying to stifle my laughter and my overwhelming sense of high school deja vu.
The kids were settled back into whatever they were doing and the doctor’s eyes were still darting around. “I just don’t know, with them here, if we can…” she stopped. “I mean, we need to…” again, she trailed off. She tried another tactic. “HPV is a very serious—”
“Oh, I agree!” I chimed in. “I totally believe that everyone should tell someone!” She gaped at me. “Ummm… those cheesy Merck ads? On TV? About telling someone? Wasn’t I supposed to walk away from that all jazzed to discuss HPV over coffee with hundreds of my closest girlfriends?”
She finally laughed. “Oh, right. Well. Yes. HPV is very serious, and you should be tested regularly.”
“Right. Well, I’ve never tested positive.”
“But it can lay dormant for YEARS,” she said, in a tone of voice that indicated that I was probably dying of cervical cancer RIGHT NOW even though I no longer actually have a cervix. “You should really be tested.”
“Ummmm okay, that’s fine. Whatever.”
“I have to go to the bathroom!” announced Monkey. Perfect. There was a bathroom attached to the exam room. He headed off to the bathroom while the doctor asked me to lay back and let her do a breast exam.
I did the standard hokey pokey moves for her (arm up! arm down! other arm up! now down! shake it all about, or something!) while she felt around and admired my lumpectomy scar and I pointed out that actually, I have a mammogram in a couple of weeks, so did we really need to do this? Apparently we still did, yes.
She finished up with that and Monkey was still in the bathroom, so she had me put my feet in the stirrups and slide down and I said a small prayer that Monkey was taking his time.
At this point, the doctor snapped on her gajillion-watt lamp, trained right on my crotch, and Chickadee suddenly decided that this was plenty more interesting than her doll. She leaned forward in her chair and craned her neck to have a look between my legs.
“What’s THAT?” she said with a mixture of horror and fascination, when the doc whipped out the speculum. The doctor obligingly explained that it would hold the area open while she checked to make sure that I was “all healthy in there.” Chickadee was transfixed as the doctor did the pap smear.
“Is she?” asked Chickadee.
“Is she what, honey?” asked the doctor.
“All healthy in there!” she demanded. Stupid doctor.
“Oh!” She chuckled. “Well, we send this to the lab to be looked at under a microscope, but it looks good!” Chickadee nodded, satisfied that the answer was acceptable.
And then we heard a small sob from the bathroom.
“MONKEY?” I was still in the stirrups, still being palpated for… who knows what, really—I tend not to ask many questions while someone with latex gloves is sticking their hands in me. “What’s the matter, sweetie?”
Monkey responded with an agonized stream of words that sounded like “I TRIED TO BLAHBLAHBLAH AND THEN THE BLAHBLAHBLAH AND ALSO MY POOP IS STUCK!”
I was unclear on several parts, but decided I could address the end and fake the rest. “I’m almost done in here, sweetie. Just sit there for a minute and relax, maybe you’ll get unstuck.”
“Okay.” He sounded small and pitiful and I mentally willed the doctor to HURRY UP ALREADY. But now she was reading what I’d told the nurse about how I’m having heat intolerance issues and wanted to discuss changing my hormones and having my thyroid checked and lady, I do not need to be having this discussion while I’m half-naked with my feet in stirrups and my son is sniffling in the bathroom.
Finally she wandered off to find me some samples of estrogen gel (I’m thinking of using it in my hair for both better curl definition and bone density!) and told me I could get dressed. I got my clothes on as quickly as I could and went into the bathroom.
Monkey sat on the toilet, kicking his legs, as if he was waiting for a bus rather than hanging out in a gynecologist’s office on the can. As soon as I walked in, he pointed at the clothing bunched around his ankles. “My stupid underwear is wet.”
“Don’t say stupid,” I replied, automatically. “Why are your undies wet?”
“I didn’t point down enough. And now my undies are weeeeeet…” and he was sniffling again, because you know, six-and-a-half is BIG and any time he feels less than big, it’s very hard for him to take. I knew instantly what had happened, because I’ve seen him do it before. He sat down on the toilet and saw something shiny and just completely neglected to aim for that first second. No biggie.
“Don’t cry, honey. Look, your shorts are still dry. Let’s just take your undies off. No big deal.” This was a thrilling solution. He gave me his underpants and I left the bathroom in time to receive a plain brown paper bag full of samples. I tucked the paper-towel-wrapped underwear into the bag. I could hear Monkey washing his hands, and finally he emerged and we headed back to the car.
As we were buckling, Chickadee asked, “So how come they have to look in there, really?” I toyed with possible answers.
“Oh, you know, it’s just to make sure everything’s healthy, like the doctor said.” I glanced at her in the rearview mirror to see if I was going to be required to say more. She appeared to be thinking about this.
“In WHERE?” asked Monkey. I sighed.
“In Mama’s VAGINA!” crowed Chickadee. “They doctor LOOKS in there and then uses a giant Q-TIP to check it all out! It was SO GROSS!”
Monkey considered this. I was about to begin damage control when the situation self-rectified.
“Hey, Mama?” said Monkey. “Does Chickadee know I’m not wearing any underwear?”
“Well I do NOW. Goober.” The giggling commenced, and the rest of the conversation as we rode home was blessedly vagina-free.