Colposcopy. The word is enough to make a vagina want to turn inside out. My friend is getting a colposcopy today. I'm going with her.
A colposcopy is a biopsy of the cervix. From my memory—which is not entirely accurate—a colposcopy goes like this: the duck lips, the bristly brush, the knife, the pain, the drive home. The cold duck lips are moistened with the biggest bottle of medical-grade lube, and they hold open your vagina and labia just like normal, just like when you're getting a pap smear. But then, this is not your average over-sized cotton swab. It's a sort of bristly brush, something that reminds you of barbed wire or a Furminator cat brush. It scrapes your external cervical wall, and goes into a tube. Then a sort of knife on a tiny wooden stick—or maybe it wasn't a knife—it goes into your insides, to a place you can feel but can't see, and it takes a bit of flesh. It'll just be a slight pinch. You breathe in quick. A part of you leaves. It feels like when you cut yourself shaving, but not at all because it's on your insides, right on your fucking baby-maker. The bloody tissue goes into a solution and the blue cap goes on the tube. I cry. You'll have some bleeding for a day or so. There are some pads in this drawer.
I got a mole biopsied once. It was right on the top of my head, and the blood trickled down while the sutures were getting caught in my hair, matting my bloody hair to the back of my head. My doctor worked afterward, with water and gauze to clean it. She had kind eyes and light brown hair just past her chin. She'd gotten her hair cut between the first and last times I would ever see her. The first time was for STD testing. Because I'm on Medicaid, I've had more then enough strangers hands on me and in me over the years, medically speaking. The regional differences are more striking than individual differences.
When my friend found out, we commiserated over bad bedside manner and the surprising pain of it all. My friend has had a colposcopy before. It's not fun. But once they find out you have HPV, they want to collect a sample of cells to see if they're cancerous. My last pelvic exam, I tell her, the resident was making lots of eye contact with me throughout our visit. She kept asking me things, kept making conversation while her hands were examining me, and then she told me how nice it was that I was thin, that she could easily feel everything, that there was one ovary and there was the other. And I guess it was supposed to be a compliment? Or maybe edifying. But I couldn't shake the feeling that she was flirting with me, you know, if her glove-hand wasn't several inches into me but we were at a bar or something. My friend and I laugh, and then we stop talking and go back to RuPaul's Drag Race.
I got an IUD last January, a Mirena. My insurance covered the procedure. Getting an IUD is about as painful as a colposcopy. The person who put it in was young, another resident, I assume, with an older female supervisor. They were virtual strangers. Kiss From A Rose played out of the speaker on the ceiling. My power, my pleasure, my pain. I looked up and back at the thing that would go inside me. It was like a tampon applicator, but longer and thinner. This part goes in your cervical opening—ow—and then I press here and the device goes in. Okay? I look back up at the ceiling. The older woman grabs my hand. The hard part is just getting through the cervical opening. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow! OW. And there we—whoops. Your uterus spat it out, she says. I've never seen that before. The older woman pats my hand. We're going to do this again, okay? Your uterus does not like to be rushed. I breathe and nod or some combination of mini gestures, or because I'm stoic, I do nothing at all. The pain is extreme. But acute. I cry a bit. It's over. They don't say something stupid like: well that wasn't so bad was it, but maybe something like: take your time. There will be bleeding and cramping. There are pads in this drawer.
Last night, "Senate Republicans voted to gut the budget from portions of the ACA that are funded with taxpayer dollars. They did this because they can pass these budget changes with a filibuster-proof simple majority. That is what they got. Now, House and Senate committees have until January 27 to introduce repeal legislation. This is not a firm date and will likely be bypassed as it’s obvious to us all that the Republicans have no idea how they are going to replace the ACA. But this sets the stage so that when Republicans are ready, they can gut the bill with ease," (The Establishment). I'm scared. I'm angry. I'm calling my representatives.
I barely get my period now. Initially, it was a couple months of cramping and spotting. Now I only cramp empathetically. Some of my friends hate their IUDs, but for me it's good. There is no one right choice. Listen: I'm going to keep talking about my vagina and the healthcare it receives. It is important to me that these stories be on public record.