I have a new gynecologist. Let’s call her Bev. She’s a mid-wife so she’s not actually a doctor, but I am already more impressed with her than any other lady doctor that I’ve ever had. That’s because while she was down there, collecting cell samples from my ladyflower, she offered to show me my cervix. And I was like, “Uh, okay. Why not?” No other doctor had ever offered and I had never asked, but in that moment, as Bev handed me the world’s longest armed mirror, I was like, Fuck yeah, I am about to meet my cervix for the very first time.
I went to Bev for a couple of reasons. First, it had been well over a year since my last schmear (that’s what I like to call a pap smear). I don’t check my boobs for lumps as much as I should and I wanted a doctor to do a thorough check following the recent breast cancer diagnosis of a friend. And I wanted to get myself tested for every STD under the sun, including HIV. I haven’t had any STD signs, mind you — no funky odors etc. — but it was time to make sure I was clear of everything. Lastly, I wanted to chat about fertility and whether I should go back on the birth control pill because I am sexually active or if I should just stick with condoms for the time being. Basically, I had a lot of questions, none of which was, “What does my cervix look like?” or, more specifically, “What does my cervix look like when I am ovulating?”
For the record, Bev said I should definitely go back on birth control if I am sexually active (I am!) and haven’t had any negative side effects in the past (I haven’t!) and that doing so wouldn’t impact my fertility long-term. I’ve written about wanting to have a baby sometime in the next 3-5 years so when I went off the pill a few months ago (because I forgot to refill my prescription in time to start a new pack), I was sort of like, Well, maybe I should just be off them completely. I’ll need to go off when it’s time to get knocked up. Bev assured me that I could be on the pill for as long as I wanted and then it would only take three months for my ovulation cycle to regulate and normalize in order to conceive. Also, she said, I’m only 32. I should be focused on not getting pregnant accidentally for the time being.
“What would you do if you found out you were pregnant tomorrow?” she asked.
“Keep it,” I said immediately.
“And what if you had sex with someone and the condom broke — would you take the morning-after pill?” she asked.
“Yes, definitely,” I said. “I’m not trying to have any ol’ dude’s baby. So if the condom broke, I would want to stop it from becoming a baby. But, I mean, if I got pregnant and there was no turning back, I would keep it over having an abortion. I think I would consider it the baby I was meant to have. At this point in my life, anyway.”
“So you’re not trying to get pregnant,” she said, “And you’re not trying to leave getting pregnant in the hands of fate or karma, so to speak. That’s why you should be on the Pill. And when you’re ready, really ready, you can go off it. Now, lay back and put your feet in the stirrups.”
And that’s when she got busy with the speculum before exclaiming, “Oh well look at that! You’re ovulating!”
“Uh, I am?” I asked. I guess that made sense. My period came the day of the Phish show on New Year’s Eve. So, basically 12 days ago.
“Yeah, you want to see? You can get a good look at your cervix when you’re ovulating, because it shifts position a bit and lines up a little straighter with the vagina.”
All of the sudden a piece of metal was in my hand, a long arm attached to the end of a medium round mirror.
“Sit up a little,” she instructed. I felt very glad I had gotten a wax recently, but was still terrified. I’ve seen my vagina before, obviously, but I’m not one of those hippie chicks who looks at her ladybits with a hand mirror every time there’s a full moon or throws ’70s-style feminist parties where everyone looks together. And I’ve certainly never looked inside my vagina. Have you? I felt like I was being given a very rare opportunity and despite my terror at what I might see, I needed to be brave because it might never happen again.
“Okay…” I took a deep breath, sat up, and positioned the mirror between my legs.
“Oh. Oh!” I said. There she was. My vagina. And there, in back, was what Bev said was my cervix. It looked kind of like a round bit of flesh. It was kind of pretty, actually, pink and pearlescent. She looked healthy.
“I love this!” Bev exclaimed. “I love when we have a chance like this, we should all know what we look like down there, how our bodies work.” She told me she would call me with the results of my various schmears and tests in a week or so and left me to get dressed.
Obviously, the concept of looking at my cervix before I’ve even had coffee is sort of funny; but doing so actually put me more at ease with some of the fears I’ve had about whether time or circumstances would make getting pregnant someday difficult or impossible. It’s hard to explain, but knowing I was ovulating on time, seeing my business up close — like, really up close — and hearing more about how everything works, gave me a little peace of mind about my body’s abilities. For now, the best I can do is take really fucking good care of it.
Original by Amelia McDonell-Parry @xoamelia