If These Lips Could Talk #2
If these lips could talk is a new feature with the aim to demystify and talk about all things weird, wonderful and worrisome when it comes to our bodies, focused on the telling of real-life stories from our readers.
Awkward sex stories, empowering sex stories, romantic gestures gone wrong (or so, so right), funny thoughts that pop up at your smear test, eye-opening period stories, confusing boob stories, those little things that you wonder if other women experience, or straight-up bullshit that you’ve heard.
Whether you're used to talking about these things or not, let's share the 'Oh, me too!' moments and spit-out-your-tea-outrageous stories of being a woman together to start a conversation, share our experiences and normalise our bodies and what they get up to.
In the second edition of this feature, we're sharing stories straight from the doctor's office. These are real stories from real women, in their own words.
The Head Torch
I was never reluctant to have my smear test. However, I was pretty shocked when my first one had low grade cell changes (meaning 1/3 my cells were abnormal) which led to a colposcopy, further examination and treatment. After that, I moved to yearly check ups., so I knew what to expect and felt pretty relaxed going in to my second one.
With a doctor and another nurse in the room, I lay on the bed, put my feet in the stirrups and let the doc have a look. The nurse starts making small talk and the three of us discuss the weather, my job etc. We laughed, we joked, we looked at my cervix on the screen. All the while, the doctor had her head between my legs, looking up my lady parts with a head torch.
I swear it’s not a huge crevice and I’m sure the natural light was fine the time before. What could change in a year?! The situation seemed so bizarre; I’m sure if my vagina could talk it would’ve laughed that a woman needed a head torch to have a good look at it.
The Robot Chair
No one really wants to have a smear test, but it’s especially weird in a foreign language.
During my two and a half years living in Japan, my Japanese went from appalling to sort of good. To the staff working at my gynaecology clinic, however, I probably looked like the same old stupid foreigner every time. After all, medical language is an entirely different beast – I might have improved radically but when my doctor asked me questions about menarche or whether I used a progesterone-only pill, I was totally clueless, and would just stumble my way through random guesses of what I was supposed to say until they handed me my pill pack and asked me to come back in two months. Oh yeah, did I mention that in Japan, you have to go back to the doctor every one or two months to get the contraceptive pill?
Occasionally they’d give you some surprise test: maybe they’d weigh you, maybe they’d take some blood. One time, the very smiley nurse pulled back a curtain and pointed to a chair with stirrups. Gestures don’t always reach across barriers of communication, but on this occasion what was being asked of me was clear.
I stripped off behind a screen while they waited. (Why do they always make you change behind a screen, by the way? For dignity? We all know you’re going to see my vagina.) I got in the chair and noticed that it was facing a wall, with no room for the doctor to stand in-between. I lay there for a minute, confused, when suddenly I heard a series of industrial robot noises, something like the sound of a dial-up internet connection or a VHS player starting up (sorry if you’re under 18 and don’t know what those are). The chair began rising off the ground, then slowly and solemnly turning me ninety degrees to the right. I was now facing a curtain, which was swished back to reveal the doctor, now wearing a surgical mask. The whole thing felt like some sort of occult ritual.
Since I had the usual napkin placed over my lap obstructing my view, I’m not sure exactly what came next, except that it felt a little more involved than a regular smear test. Something cold was in there, something pinchy. Afterwards I returned behind the Magical Screen of Dignity and put my pants on, only to immediately leak some kind of pale blue gel into them. This was far from the weirdest thing to have ever emerged from my genitals, so I didn’t think much of it.
Back at the desk, the doctor showed me an ultrasound. I had no idea she had even done an ultrasound or why, and for a minute I was terrified she was telling me I was pregnant. I scanned the black and grey wavy lines for anything that might look like a fetus, but saw nothing. She pointed out some random flecks, and a new horrifying thought occurred to me: it wasn’t pregnancy, it was cancer. I tried to listen as hard as I could but couldn’t catch anything I understood. She went on obliviously for about a minute while I nodded (you can’t help it, even if you don’t understand, you always end up nodding). Finally, I caught the two greatest words in the Japanese language – “daijoubu desu”. It’s not a problem. To this day I have no idea what those flecks were. Could be cysts, could be some bits of broken-off cornflake that got stuck up there somehow. No idea. Don’t care. Daijoubu desu.
The moral of this story? I know it’s not fun to have a smear test, but be grateful – after those few moments of awkwardness and discomfort, you’ll get the relief of knowing everything’s okay. Or if something’s up, the doctors will most likely be able to catch it before it becomes a big problem. I got called to have a smear test here in the UK this year, and I practically skipped to the doctor’s office, knowing I would actually understand what was being explained to me. Although I have to admit, I kind of missed the robot chair.
The Wonky Cervix
I was young, inexperienced and had just discovered the wonder of steady sex. The only thing is, with steady sex comes a sense that you and your vagina are invincible - let me tell you, they're not. Cue a visit to the doctors office to figure out why I was so sore. So sore I could no longer have sex, gasp! This was the first time I'd ever gone to the doctor to get my lady bits looked at, so I was a little nervous.
I talk to the nurse, explain things, and of course she wants to take a peek, so I comply. Knickers off, I'm up on the table-thingy with only a blue piece of paper to cover my modesty. To prepare for the examination, I'm told to bring my heels up to my bum as far as I can, knees together, and then to just let my legs flop open. I'd never spread myself so wide before, so that was new. She wanted to take a swab, so it was speculum time.
Now, as I mentioned, this was my first visit to the doctors office for such things, so I hadn't experienced a speculum before, and being relatively new at sex, I wasn't sure about allll the things that would feel good. Just as she was about to insert the speculum, I suddenly thought to myself "Oh my god, what if it feels good? What if I like it!? Am I supposed to like it!?". About two seconds later, I was given to answer to that question (a resounding "No it doesn't") as I blinked in surprise and just waited for the nurse to get it over with.
Unfortunately, she seemed to be having some trouble down there, which was quite unnerving. The nurse looks up and explains that she's struggling to 'find' my cervix. What!? Find it? Where did it go? Before I could say much of anything, the nurse runs to the door, opens it (not fully, but still!) and starts shouting down the hallway for one of her co-workers! All while I patiently wait spread-eagled in the corner. I was mortified.
Luckily, the more experienced nurse found my cervix (thank God), informed me I had a tear (ouch) and I got out of there as quickly as I could. That was enough to teach me to take it easy with my vagina from then on.
Would you like to share a story that your lips would tell if they so happened to talk? Share them with us so that we can open up much-needed conversations and feel an empowering sense of togetherness!
Send entries to: firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries will be anonymous. If you’re story is selected, we’ll contact you to let you know.
Artwork by Julia Misersky. Find her on Instagram @jm.illustrations.