In a flap by Emily Smart

Text from 4448119

Hi Emily, our record shows that your smear is overdue. We are concerned. Please call us to make an appointment or let us know how we can support you.

The young doctor wore a mask – I’m assuming due to Covid-19 not because of the coalface she was about to encounter.

As I lay back and thought about virus-ravaged lockdown Britain, I assumed the position, and involuntarily disobeyed her instructions to relax and breathe deeply, clenching every muscle in my body. She began to talk me through the process, in a manner not dissimilar to flight attendants asking passengers if they want tea or coffee.

Any woman who has had a smear test knows they are horrible. For those not in the know (mostly men I’m assuming), a plastic speculum which looks like a mediaeval sex toy is inserted into the vagina. It is then ratcheted up in what can only be described as a tyre jack fashion until the cervix is wide enough to be clearly seen.

 “I’m just going to lubricate the speculum” she said, and I watched through open legs as she pumped the bottle to her left and covered the instrument of torture with gel. As it was inserted, I felt the most searing pain I have ever experienced in my life. It was excruciating. I froze. She froze. I let out a gasp. She asked if I was ok. I winced and said no as quietly as I could.

No wonder they had texted their concern, there was clearly a huge problem. After previously giving birth to three children naturally, my front bottom had obviously shrunk. I suggested more lube. The speculum was retracted, and I checked to make sure half my womb hadn’t come out with it. She pumped more gel onto the speculum and went back in. It was agony. She asked if I wanted to stop and maybe come back another day. Through clenched teeth I insisted she carry on – the thought of returning for more of the same really wasn’t an option.

This girl is on fire

Swabs done, contraption removed and clean knickers back on, I sheepishly sat opposite her on the consulting chair. She asked again if I was alright. I wanted to cry after having what felt like a red hot poker shoved up my fine China. Through the misery, I suddenly had a thought and asked her to check the lubrication she had used. I wondered if I’d had an allergic reaction to it.

She popped over to the shelf with the pump bottle and turned the label towards me. In large black capital letters it said HAND SANTISER.

I burst out laughing, instantly relieved that my foof wasn’t broken. She burst into apologies, and I could almost see the words ‘litigation’, ‘struck off’, ‘ex-doctor’ and ‘oh shit’ running through her head. 

To add insult to injury, on my way out she charged me a nominal $10 for the privilege and suggested that if the pain continued I should seek medical attention urgently!

Privates on parade

As you would expect, I told everyone I know about the incident and was met by lots of laughter and ‘it could only happen to you’ comments. Others suggested I should complain and one even said I should sue. As my va-jay-jay cooled down and started to recover from being doused in alcohol, I banished thoughts of third degree burns and disintegrating womb linings from my mind.

I decided to sleep on it before making any, er, rash decisions about reporting the incident through official channels. But the next day, I spoke to the head honcho at the practice. It wasn’t about getting anyone in trouble but rather a preventative measure to ensure no-one else would go through that awful experience. 

I have since been informed by the surgery that a new protocol has been initiated. All of the pump bottles in the consultation rooms have been labelled – green for hand sanitiser and pink for lube. 

To the women of Grey Lynn, Auckland: I have taken one for the team so you can relax and be at ease during your next smear test. To the myopic doctor who may have scarred me internally for life, might I suggest a trip to Specsavers?  

This article was first published in the Jan 2021 edition of Woman magazine (without the dodgy sub-heads). By reproducing it, the author is trying to get as much mileage out of it as possible.

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