The Immortal Vagina



“Ma’am I am going to put my hand on your left thigh and then I will move it up to your vaginal area.”

I did it.

“Now, you will feel me place the speculum into your vagina and move it into position. I apologize if anything pinches.”

I did that. 

They told us to place the speculum in sideways so the duck bills were standing up and down, and then rotate them into the correct position. Mine was the fourth speculum in her vagina that afternoon and the perineum was slick with lube.

There was a preceptor, a female physician, standing over my shoulder making sure that I said the words exactly right and moved my hands and the speculum exactly as dictated.

My hands shook. This felt so stupid and wrong. This is not how I would want it done to me!

Thankfully, the woman spread eagle on the table could not see my hands or my face.

“Alright, now I am going to remove the speculum.” There was a sucking noise and a little jump. I had pinched her. I looked over at the preceptor to see if she had seen. She had. Damn. There would probably be a mark down.

“Do you have any critique for the student doctor?”

The woman sat up in a rustle of paper gown so she could look me in the eye.

“If you are going to do, do it with confidence. In and out. You want to be fast. You did fine you just need confidence. No one wants someone taking their time in their vagina. Do what you have to do and get out.”

I nodded and stepped over to wash my hands.

“We have seven more to go this afternoon,” the preceptor said from the corner.

“No problem!” The patient sounded happy, almost as if she relished the job. 

Curiosity was eating at me. I needed to know what would possess someone to volunteer for this most undesirable thing on earth done to them over and over again. Were they paying her $25 each like the prostate fellows? Equal pay did not seem appropriate somehow in this setting…

So I asked.

She smiled.

“I was your first. You will always remember me. I can teach you how to do it right.” She glanced quickly over at the preceptor who was writing out my score card, not really paying attention. The woman leaned in close and whispered, “Don’t do the twisty speculum or hands on the thigh thing, either. That is just creepy.”

And she was right.

There were whispers afterwards among the medical students about whether she and the other professional vagina patients were drawn to this as an erotic experience. Why do we say/think crap like that about women? 

I don’t remember her face, or her name, or even what her vagina looked like anymore. But I remember the experience in great detail. It made me a better doctor. 

All these years later, I no longer question her sanity or motives. I now understand completely. 

Someday, I just might volunteer for that immortality myself, so she can live on in another generation.

Photo: Dinosaur Valley, Glenrose, Texas.

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117 thoughts on “The Immortal Vagina

  1. I often let students examine me. It makes me feel like I’m helping medicine along. And sometimes they ask questions that my doctor hasn’t thought to ask, or that I was too embarrassed to offer.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for the photo description. I like knowing where they were taken. On the other hand, I like guessing, too. I loved the photo of the boat on the shore with a castle in the background. I have a similar one taken near the MacDonald clan museum—no castle in the background, however.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “No one wants someone taking their time in their vagina. Do what you have to do and get out.” That explains it…she also taught my first husband (speculum not included).

    What you did with the photo (again!). Snerk.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. When I was in NP school, they had women who worked at Planned Parenthood who volunteered to let us practice speculum exams on them just like you did. They would give us feedback too and I still remember my first one. Very helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lord have mercy. I have to believe the woman/women are/were paid for being the patient. I don’t think I could ever do that sort of thing unless I were desperate for money. Beats hooking! 🙂 But, that sort of person is needed what ever their reason- whether perverted or in need of money.

    Glenn Rise is 70 miles northwest of the central Texas town where I live. Nice shot. Dark as the inside of an unlit vaginal canal. .

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! It is interesting how this post has kind of stalled. Either the title is off putting or the post itself sucks or makes people uncomfortable. Maybe both. Same sort of thing occurred with my “Yes, Vagina, There Is a Santa Claus” post. Gets tons of hits from search engines but it stalled on WP until it had a few important reblogs. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I can’t believe you haven’t figured out it’s because of the word “Vagina”. Still makes a LOT of people uncomfortable. I took a college course called “Sex Education for Teachers” back in the 70s. First thing we did in class, Instead of introducing ourselves, the teacher had us say the words penis, scrotum, vagina, clitoris, and anus one at a time just to get us used to saying them.

        Later we watched a film where 5 professional women were talking at a women’s only conference about various women’s issues. One of the modern, proud women on the panel couldn’t bring herself to say “vagina”. While nobody else had a problem with it, she kept referring to her “uh…willywoker” as she waved her hand vaguely towards her waist and blushed.

        I remember thinking how brave she was to agree to be on the panel in spite of her personal reservations. Although she could have been the object of possible ridicule from the other women, they all took it in stride. Something, I might add, that a guy would never be able to do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I talk to people about their vaginas all day long but it is in a private, clinical setting so it is difficult to gauge how uncomfortable people are in real life. These are fun experiments here on the web, these little posts… 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  6. OMMMMMGGGGG…DOC you are hysterical. From the picture to the comments. This was great. Really made my lousy day much better. Thanks.
    I often volunteer for Phlebotomy class and Unna Boots for new nurses. I also play the non-adherent patient for our Start of Care class. I have had actually someone cry…and she and homecare were not a good mix. We found out before she was in the home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Soooo glad it made you smile! Thank you for volunteering. I bet you make an awesome noncompliant patient! You know all of the buttons to push having been in healthcare yourself and probably having had all of your own buttons pushed over the years! 🙂

      Like

    • I am so, so sorry you have had terrible experiences with it! Let’s face it, it is a terribly humiliating process that is not much on preserving dignity. I have some patients that say after having a kid, they have no sense of shame or privacy anymore, but I gotta tell you, I STILL cringe over the whole thing when it is my turn.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember the professional pelvic exam models in school too. I think I remember the professor saying that the two of them were nurses. They brought their own equipment-metal speculums because the plastic ones can pinch. One had a cervix that was difficult to find for the 3 students before me. I found it right away and must have whispered “yes” and was told not to look joyful when doing the exam. We were told all the things never to say (everything looks good). I will never understand why they chose to have 10 pelvic exams in a day. I am glad they do though.
    I am never as formal as I was taught. I often say things like ..I am now going to tell you the most ridiculous statement in medicine “relax”…I even used to have little tiny wedding favor plastic bubbles because you can’t tense those muscles while blowing bubbles.
    Thanks so much for this trip down memory lane. Hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Be right back! Do not have any words 😐 I am one of those scaredy cats who would run a mile at thought of a doctor – even though my mom is a dental surgeon. And my best friend is a doctor. Oh and that I had about 9 injections in 7 days last year.

    Never mind! Fabulous learning experience 😀 And you were lucky to get such a patient.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It is great when you have compliant first patients. I have quite a bit of reason to spend hospital time as both an in- and out-patient. The main hospital here in Ottawa is a teaching hospital and as a consequence there are always students around. I kind of enjoy them because you know they are more nervous than you are. I always allow them to participate in treatment if i am asked. I can tell some funny stories, but that aside, i try to be as understanding and helpful (with constructive criticism or personal suggestions and preferences before the procedure) as possible. ha! Last week I had a pre-op meeting with an ENT doc for a procedure next week (parathyroidectomy). She had two 2nd year students with her and they actually did most of the checking. It was fun. Then she told us that she had a short meeting and asked me to tell her students about my dialysis fistula while she was gone – as they had not gotten to that in their rotation yet – and off she went and left me to lecture her students for15 minutes. Ha! the hospital just wouldn’t be the same without our students. And they bring a lot of humor too. I had a new intern do an abdominal exam one day when i was an inpatient. He was pretty thorough and while he was tapping his way along I interjected with “Hey be careful there , that’s my six-pack you’re banging on.” I have a bit of a belly from too much desk-work and from age. The intern replied:”In your case it is more like a keg.”

    Great post Victo – it really highights the importance of patients in doctor training. Oh, and i would like to nominate Laura L. for the best comment on a post award.

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. The standardized patients used at my daughter’s school for vaginal and prostate exams did this professionally. They travelled from school to school and were very well-paid. She said they were very well-educated about the process and made the experience very comfortable for her. Her best friend wasn’t as lucky, the lady that she gave her first exam to, kept passing gas in her face!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I didn’t realise you had practice patients as doctors until I read your ‘prostate post.’ As I was reading through this,, when you mentioned that this was the’ fourth speculum’ to have been inserted, I really thought you were going to say that you had been using a dummy or something to practice on. Most of us women hate this procedure so much, you were so lucky to get someone that wanted to help you learn and was prepared to undergo this time after time. She needs a medal!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post. I don’t know how I missed this yesterday, and only showed up because of your comment today. I never knew there were volunteers for this kind of thing. I was the pincushion for my wife while she trained as a phlebotomist. Not nearly as brave as this, but there you have it. I know someone who served as a model for teaching Brazilian waxing to estheticiqans. It involved a stage and a roomful of students.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yikes! Phlebotomy and waxing are quite painful and to volunteer for those involves quite a bit of bravery! Kudos for you for letting your wife stick you! Now if you said you had volunteered as the Brazilian wax model, I would have really been impressed! 😛

      Like

  14. First exam was a nightmare. In a Planned Parenthood clinic where the Dr. clearly did not want to be there. Rude, rough, inappropriate. The nurse held my hand and apologized. If he didn’t approve of birth control, he had no business being there. It took a long time, and a few great OB/GYN’s to recover from the anxiety.

    On a lighter note…I always go back and look at your photo after reading the post…this one, OMG !

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I remember a trip to the free clinic, where male and female volunteers used their bodies to teach us the finer points of these exams. What a surprise for me, there was no preceptor with us….these people were using their bodies and teaching us as we went along to do the exam. BEST experience ever. I will not forget the young man who taught me I should not stand, but stay seated to be less intimidating to my patient… he taught me to say “lower your trousers” instead of “drop or pull down your pants”, because it is so much softer…. he made sure I felt his prostate properly, and not painfully. My female patient instructed me in the use of speculum using a mirror at her feet, I was terrified…. she was confident. They were powerful in their knowledge, and I was to thankful to have a “patient” to teach me this way. I think this was the absolute best learning experience and I was so thankful to them. I appreciate people who do this very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. First of all, when you blog about vaginas, I wonder how many extra views and likes you get? 😉

    But seriously, yes, she was right. But at least you’re a woman and can think what you would and wouldn’t appreciate. Once when I was 18, I had cervical pre-cancer. I was seen at an oncology facility that was a teaching hospital, so they had students overlook my hoo-ha while the doctor did his thing. (Isn’t that fun!) (Yes, a photo of the inside of my privates are even in a textbook somewhere!) The bastard insisted that when he took the biopsy, it would not hurt. He lied. Not only did it hurt… A LOT… but it left a permanent raised scar that I can still feel to this day. I wished someone would take a needle-nosed pliers to his balls and tell him not to flinch. I’m kinda vindictive that way. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Wow. I have never EVER considered that comments and questions during this exam could be rote OR that there was such a thing as a professional vagina patient. Mind blown. Now I’m wondering whether there are catch phrases and recommended actions for every exam?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I misread “…put my hand on your left thigh…” as “…put my head on your left thigh…” I doubled-back and had a laugh. That’s a different post entirely, isn’t it?

    I don’t have a vagina but I can tell you this made me squirm a little bit. I’d be a lousy physician. That woman was the patron saint of vaginas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bwahahaha! Yes, an entirely different post. (Though you may be entertained to know that this was during the time of poofy bangs for women and there was a rumor of a classmate who dropped a cytobrush on the floor and the poof hit the “patient” perineum when she bent over to retrieve it from the floor…

      Like

  19. So glad I found your blog. I never expected a doctor to write so well, expressively, and with feeling! (Talk about a prejudice, huh?). You use dialogue and sensitivity in this post, and I could imagine the entire scene. I have so much respect for the ‘patient’ who let you (and others) practice on her, and I admire you for writing about it. I always thought I should insist on a female GYN, but for almost 30 years I went to the same male doctor (we kind of ‘grew up’ together after I first saw him, both in our early 30s, so we compared marriage and children stories). He always put socks on the feet thingys to keep them warm, and he talked about interesting things to put his patients’ minds at ease. GREAT doc. Just retired.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I have to admit reading this experience of yours just made me crack up!
    I know how uncomfortable I get when I am in place of the women. Your experiences as a physician are very through and interesting it makes the reader feel how tense you are.

    * maybe instead of a photographer; you should consider writing as the alternate career.

    🙂 Riah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! If someone wanted to come along and offer me vast sums of money for my writing or my photos I would not turn them away! But for now I am happy to dabble in my little hobbies. I am so glad this post made you smile!

      Like

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  22. Reminds me very much of some of my recent reading about the male-dominated world of obstetrics and gynecology in Ina May Gaskin’s work and a collection by Shelly Romalis. What a novel idea to consider consulting a woman!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Apt photo for the post 😀
    I don’t envy you if I have to do it with the opposite sex because I just need to feel if something is strained inside … what?!? Actually it was me who was strained for even being given the task!

    Nice post as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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