Mama, who invented the speculum?

By Mir
August 2, 2006

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.


  1. Susan

    I was already laughing, but when I got to “blessedly vagina-free,” I snorted a VERY NICE pinot grigiot OUT MY NOSE.

    Thank you.

  2. Cele

    Oh, mi God, Mir I can’t take it, you’re too much. And then I think, Oh mi gosh, Otto is going to read this. And Susan snorts pinot all over again.

    God Bless you Mir.

  3. InterstellarLass

    You are so much braver than I. I was almost 11 before I saw my mom’s hoo-ha. I was practically pushing the doctor out of the way when my youngest sister was born. Then there was this gross baby that everyone was oohing over. But there I was checking out the placenta with the doctor. It was waaay cool.

  4. Patricia

    Um. I’ve known that Mir’s vagina is public (or is it pubic) domain for so long now — I just never in my life would have thought that I would have laughed so hard at Chickadee’s complete description of every trip to the gyno I’ve ever had. Then, just as I’m teary from laughter, I stop and I think — Otto is reading this. He’s reading that she’s being tested for HPV and “telling someone” about it. And her dad is reading this. And Otto knows her dad is reading this. And it isn’t like a bunch of just her girlfriends….you see where this goes, right?
    Yep, I might have to ride home in the car without my panties, cause I think I peed a little.

  5. Catherine

    I’m still wondering who wasn’t part of the tongue-touching-the-nose debate? :o)

  6. chris

    You are so very very brave.

  7. David

    You know, after all of that, you should probably be certified: 100% Tested and Completely Unflappable. Sheesh!

  8. dad

    I find it necessary to where a disguise to avoid being recognized on the rare occasions I risk going out in public. My hair had turned totally grey by the time I was in my mid thirties. Such are the consequences of having progeny who just tell like it is.

    I have learned to read her blog only at times while not drinking or eating.

  9. Zuska

    Too. damn. funny. I tell you, you make me laugh the hardest when you go to the doctor. You make me laugh at other times, too, but your doctor visits are priceless.

  10. Antique Mommy

    My mom never had a pap smear until all her kids had left home. Now I know why.

  11. Ben


    I love your kids. I love you more, but only in a distant, stalker way.

  12. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah

    Note to self: Never take The Squad to the gynecologist. I don’t know how you remained so calm.

  13. Jennifer

    That is so funny! Those visits are awful enough without having a constipated and peed-upon child to make it more humiliating.

  14. Elleoz

    I absolutely love your posts. Too funny! I almost spit all over my computer. I hope I never have to take my babes with me.

    Glad to hear you are all healthy in there.

  15. Randi

    I am NOT looking forward to explaining to my daughter why she has to have a cold metal object shoved up her who-ha and a cotton (but feels like steel) Q-tip of death swabbed all around in there…

    You handled it WAY better then I ever could!

  16. Aimee

    Hell, I *still* feel a touch of “What’s THAT?” when I see the speculum coming at me. Just. So. Wrong. Thank you for a much needed morning laugh.

  17. Floyd

    I think I just peed my pants like Monkey.

    Too freaking funny.

  18. Meghan

    Oh My God. I totally forgot to have the HPV chat ALL WEEKEND! I am such an idiot.

    This post was priceless. Absolutely laugh out loud funny.

  19. Erin (erin-erin-bo-berin)

    I have all girls, and I would NE-VAH take them to the doctor with me. Of course, I don’t have a doc as nice as yours. My male doctor is also a Star Wars fan, and insists on having me call him ‘Ob-G-Y-Nomi’

  20. Heather

    ROFLMAO! Sounds like you had a better time than I did! My last visit to the gyno was worse that Chinese Water Torture. I had 6 VERY HOT male interns that were in the room with me and they were all around my age (28)! I wanted to just crawl up in a ball and cover myself with the TINY paper napkin they give you and DIE!

  21. Daisy

    Estrogen gel in your HAIR for better curl definition and bone density — all at the same time? I almost snorted coffee out my nose. Mir, when will you be syndicated? You have a unique and fantastic outlook on life.

  22. Jenn2

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Seriously, I’m laughing so hard, my eleven year olds is demanding to know what the heck is so funny. I’m really thinking about telling her. HAHAHAAHAA.

  23. Plain Jane Mom

    That is the FUNNIEST thing I have read in a long time, and now my coworkers think I’m insane. You are a BRAVE woman!

  24. Kestralyn

    You’d think that people would have learned by now: finish your drink/food, put it down and away from you, THEN click the link to WCS!

    Maybe we’ll need to do like the folks on a board I visit do: they put a line at the very top of a posting that says “SPOOT WARNING!” and then go into it.

    And Mir? I would have thought that you would have had a “get out of pap smears free” card also. WEIRD!!! (and what a wonderful description!)

  25. Nikki

    HAHAHAHA! That was great!

    To funny.

  26. kim

    oh my god that was so funny. and i’m sure so exasperating at the time but thanks so much for sharing.

  27. kim

    You had me laughing so hard i thought i was going to faint. I can remember taking a 5 1/2 year old Munch to ALL of my OBGYN appointments, where his interest in science was encouragesd by the young doctor with NO children…..He WILL get his just rewards though..he and his wife recently had twins..HA HA.

    I had forgotten about the willing him to hurry, or the speaking in codes until your post today!
    Thanks for helping me remember!

  28. Gillian

    Are you sure your doctor met the Family Friendly Gyno Exam seminar requirement in Med school? I looked in the dictionary for ‘aplomb’ and there was your picture! You were in the tiny paper shirt too!

  29. Christina

    Too funny!! Thanks for sharing the lesson :)

  30. Lisa

    Just found your site today and I will surely be back. You are a great story teller…or whatever you call it when the stories are real. Sigh. Your post made me laugh for the first time today!

  31. Carol

    That is RICH! LMAO! I giggled my entire way through it. I must commend Monkey on his self-restraint though. There is NO WAY IN HELL that my own 6 1/2 year old would have averted his eyes.

  32. jody

    Oh man. That is too funny. You have some well mannered kiddos. Mine would have been skidding across the waxed floors and spinning on the doctors stool. The last time Mia came with me, she opened one of the drawers on the exam table and pulled out a speculum. Ick, blek, nasty.

  33. carolyn

    I screamed OUT LOUD as I read this post. What a riot. Kids…ya gotta luv ’em!

  34. onetallmomma

    That was so funny! For my last exam, all 4 of my kids were in the room with me. No choice. Thank goodness my family doc has a sense of humor and can handle kids questions.

    And inquiring minds what to know….are you dating? If so….yipee!

  35. Melissa

    I have been through this too, with 3 monsters under the age of 4. No fun, but you handle it much calmer then me. I think I’m the only one who has to deal with these issues but I see I’m not alone, especially Monkey being underwearless. I’ve had to do this to, for similar reasons & I feel like the worst mom for doing it, even though it is for a short period.

    I love your writing skills.

  36. Elizabeth

    So funny! That reminds me, I have to ask my husband to take off work so I can go to MY appointment childless.

  37. stayathomemotherdom

    Ha! I am in the middle of a Starbucks and periodically was bursting out in laughter because of this post. I’m sure they thought I was insane. If I had to take my two children to the OBGYN, I would go insane.

  38. Bob

    “and here she simply stopped and made the “and so on” gesture with her hands.”

    I have a mental picture of someone wearing a lab coat and a stethiscope doing the international symbol of “doing it”. Another first. See, this never happens to me. I’m not sure which of us is the lucky one.

  39. Kristina

    The first time my son was present for a vaginal exam, he started whimpering in the corner. But now, since it seems I *live* at the gyno office, he just sits there, enjoying life and stuffing his goldfish crackers into the cool purple medical gloves. Train them early, I say.

  40. kate5kiwis

    love your cool-calm-and-collectedness about monkey’s slip up in the loo.. with your head full of all that… well done mommy…

  41. MommyHam

    My punkinhead has the same problems with the potty…though he’s 3, but you might tell monkey that I have it on good authority that this still happens to the BIGGEST of boys (I had two bros growing up….and well, I’m married).

    I also had a nightmare obgyn appt with kids at one point – thankfully though, they were 2 1/2 and 6 wks. LMNOB (dd) got right up “in” there with my ob and looked around while I lay helpless, listening to my Dr.’s godforsaken parent-ese-y sing song, “Oh, are you going to be an OBGYN when you grow up too sweetie?” I remember replying with gritted teeth, “Perhaps, but she won’t be MY OBGYN!” hint hint….oh the joys.

  42. Amy-Go

    WOMAN. Good Lord. I have to go lie down now.

  43. Christina

    My God woman, you are fearless. Taking your kids to a GYN exam? That takes courage. And your retelling was hilarious!

  44. GooberQueen  - Kris

    Well you know, there’s just never enough vagina talk around our house either.

  45. Mother

    I thought it was bad getting a vaginal u/s with my daughter sitting on top of me, however, I think you win the prize.

    And a very evil man invented the speculum. No woman would have ever come up with that crazy thing.

  46. Robin P

    When Lillianna was around 3 years old,she had to come with me to the gynecologist. She sat behind the curtain and couldn’t see anything. She was ok as long as she kept talking to me and I could answer her.
    A Pap Smear sucks on it’s own so I don’t know how you did it with the kids!! You are the finest mother on this planet!!

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