She’s (not) having a baby

One of the big scoops in health news right now is the development of a home HPV test for the ladies. Which is great–as long as you know enough to use it.

I sat in the waiting room of my college infirmary nervously weighing my options.

If the test came back positive, I had two choices:

  1. I could go back home, have a baby, and figure out how to make money and parent.
  2. I could go against my patchy Catholic upbringing (we were devout in spurts), have an abortion, and get on with my life–looking like one of those cartoon antidepressant commercials where the woman is followed around by a small black cloud.

The nurse called me back to an exam room, instructed me on the proper way to pee in a cup, and showed me down the hall to the restroom. After following her instructions precisely, so as not to queer the test in any way, I went back and waited in the exam room.

Anxiously, I looked around. Posters on the wall showed what I looked like under all of my skin, fat, and meat. A small model of my reproductive organs sat on the counter, mocking me. “This is where the baby grows, slut!” Why hadn’t I been more careful? I made a deal with God that if I weren’t pregnant, I’d stay away from penises forever.

The nurse came back in and said the test had come back negative. Suddenly, penises and I were cool, again.

She asked why I hadn’t been using condoms since I was sexually active, and did I need any?

Condoms? For what?

She saw my confusion, went to a drawer, and pulled out a strip of condoms and a silicone replica of a man’s thing. She asked if I knew how to use a prophylactic–I could only nod. What the hell, lady? She didn’t take nod for an answer, but opened one of the rubbers and put it on the fake willy, demonstrating the tip pinch and the roll down.

It was as if it had dawned on us both at the same time.

“You had intercourse, right?”

“Yeah, but not THAT kind.”

The nurse asked a series of questions, and then gently explained that a woman can’t get pregnant from making out or rubbing a man’s private area through his pants, even if he ejaculates.

News to me. I was beyond embarrassed.

— ∮∮∮ —

One of the big scoops in health news right now is the development of a home HPV test for the ladies. HPV is the genital human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted infection.

According to the CDC website, approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Another 6 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

Oh, and did I mention that HPV is the cause of both genital warts and cervical cancer?

The good news is 90% of the people with HPV never develop symptoms or problems and their bodies do the work of clearing up the infection naturally. The bad news is that it takes about two years for that to happen and , many times, no symptoms means no precautions.

So, why wouldn’t you get tested all the time, forever? Well, the test for ladies has always been the dreaded pap smear, which involves a metal duck bill-looking doojangle, inserted into their tender bits, then pried open exposing the insidey parts to a cell scraping. I won’t go into it more, but I will say that every doctor I’ve had over the years has used the phrase “little pinch” to describe the pain (even the female doctors, j’accuse!). Yes, it’s a little pinch. INSIDE YOUR VAGINA!

Also, I don’t know if you’ve maybe heard it on the news or read it in the comics, but not everybody has health insurance and, therefore, access to the little pinch (INSIDE YOUR VAGINA!).

But a Huffington Post article states:

The self-sampling device, the Delphi Screener, is a sterile, syringe-like device containing five milliliters of buffered saline. One operates it by plunging the handle, releasing the saline into the vagina, holding it down for five seconds, then releasing the handle, so that the device retrieves the fluid. Next, one [puts] the … specimens into pre-labeled coded tubes, and mails it to the laboratory.

So, the at home test is a boon. I want to throw it a ticker tape parade. I want to smooch it like it’s a nurse and I’m a sailor and it’s V-J Day in Times Square. Throw in the fact that the Delphi Screener is rumored to be as accurate as a pap smear, and I dream of running through a field of wildflowers with it, spinning in circles while holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes, and falling to the ground, laughing, blissfully in love.

After my traumatizing clinic visit, I vowed to learn more about how, exactly, my body works, and I did. I can tell you things you’d never want to know about what happens inside your corporeal vessel. I don’t always use the knowledge that I gained (I may never get over that “Condoms? For what?” attitude, which is totally dumb) but at least I have it.

I like the idea of individuals having more control over their own physical well-being. I want every woman to feel empowered to pee on a stick, feel themselves up once a month, or douche with saline solution. To learn enough about themselves to know that you can’t get pregnant from hickies and pants jizz.

Some day the world will be all robot doctors and instant full-body scans that tell us, immediately, where we are broken and, hopefully, fix us just a quickly. For now, I suggest we get a little more proactive in our own care and home tests are a good step in that direction. Well, home tests and learning where our fertile parts are.

Photo by euthman

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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