Welcome back to what is becoming an increasingly long series of posts where I over-share on the internet for your benefit. As a sign of my growing maturity, I chose the grown-up title for this post as opposed to the runner up ‘Guess who got probed for science’, because I am a mature role model on the internet now.
Nothing screams reluctant adulthood responsibilities like attending one’s first cervical screening during a pandemic – it’s very weird, let me tell you, to be sat in the local doctors wearing a face mask and no pants. And Christmas socks, but in my defence I’ve not exactly been able to go clothes shopping this year. The fact that they’re from 2019 is neither here nor there, they’re good socks.
Cervical screenings (or the appetisingly named ‘smear tests’ as they used to be called) are one of those things any vagina-owning individual has to do, but never really discusses. I mean don’t get me wrong I understand why – it’s hardly a good topic for small talk, is it?
“How have you been?”
“Oh not bad, a strange lady shone a torch up my vagina and swabbed it yesterday, oh and I’ve just finished watching the Mandalorian!”
The fact that this conversation isn’t far off one I had with my best friend recently is telling, I feel. But either way, the torch was a surprise. At least it wasn’t a miner’s headlamp I suppose. More of a standing crafter’s light. Might look into one for cross-stitch purposes.
Cervical screenings are a simple procedure anyone with a cervix should attend every three years after about the age of 25. You get a special letter from the doctors and it is by far the shittest birthday present ever. Honestly I feel like they should at least send a voucher for nice pants to wear to your appointment. They are also, due to the fairly taboo nature of discussing one’s genitals in public, quite mysterious and often very daunting to those who haven’t been yet. Especially now, when the whole world has ground to a halt, the prospect of having to attend on your own isn’t a nice one.
To say I was nervous was an understatement. I am a being of anxiety held together by cosy jumpers and the aforementioned Christmas socks, and so I booked the day off work just in case I needed to cocoon myself in a duvet for a few hours afterwards. Lauren walked me to the doctors with our dog Vegas as moral support, and after they took my temperature at the door I was taken into the room by a lovely nurse. Nurses do tend to be lovely, which is nice because it would be doubly as awkward if the stranger peering between my legs with a speculum in hand was rude. When I explained it was my first one, she talked me through the very simple procedure and assured me that if at any point I wanted things to stop, we stopped. After a quick chat about how I’d get my results in about 4 weeks, and the various options after depending on what they were, I was allowed to semi-disrobe behind a curtain and given a large napkin for modesty. An odd choice given where she’d be looking, but it was nice that I didn’t have to watch that part.
Did it hurt? Maybe a little, it was more discomfort than anything. Honestly by the time my brain had fully processed the thought of ‘oh hey this is a weird sensation’ it was pretty much over. It took maybe three minutes in total, and the knowledge that I could put a pause on proceedings really helped put my mind at ease. I understand that this may not be the case for everyone – for example anyone suffering endometriosis or any condition that causes pain may find it more painful than I did. It is, however, mercifully brief and within five minutes I was lacing my boots back up and telling the nurse about our wedding plans because, as we all know, I share a lot. A short walk later and I was sitting on my sofa playing Stardew Valley and eating chocolate rice cakes.
I didn’t need the day off, it turns out, to recover. I used it to play The Last of Us and take a well-earned nap. In future will I book the day off? Probably, because I like days off playing video games. Will I be nervous next time? Not really, no.
I did ask the nurse if this part of her job was a weird one. She said that it wasn’t quite right to say that it was her favourite role, but it almost was in that she was very passionate about it. It’s a very simple procedure that can help save lives, and she’s a nurse, she’s seen all sorts. She was hardly standing there judging the state of my genitals (which I happen to think are okay and not worthy of judging), she was doing a job she’d done many times on many people. I was expecting mild mortification, and what I got was reassurance.
If any of you are anxious about your screenings, maybe putting them off a bit, I hope I’ve done a little to set your minds at rest. Any questions and I’m always easy to reach on my Contact Me page or my Twitter DMs, and I can promise an honest answer.
For any additional information if you don’t fancy asking some random blogger about the time a stranger swabbed her cervix, you can look at the following:
The official Government page about it for individuals with learning disabilities (Check with your local doctors as they may still allow a person to accompany you if you meet the requirements, you may just both need to wear masks and have your temperature taken)
Information for LGBT+ individuals (Because yes, we still need it)