Today I was subjected to a totally unexpected and, dare I say it, unsolicited pap smear. It must have stalked me for weeks, lurking behind parked cars and street signs, all the time surreptitiously keeping me under surveillance, waiting to pounce when my defences (and knickers) were down. It must have also recruited my obstetrician to its cause. Our conversation, started something like this:
"Well, it's been 6 weeks since your baby was born and it sounds as though everything is going along smoothly in that department."..
then suddenly took a dramatic and sinister detour into no man's land...
..."But I noticed from my notes that your last pap smear was in 2009...is that right?"
Yes, that's right...2009. Five whole years, 23 kilograms and two children ago. Back in the days when I wouldn't have given a toss about the number of the day or the word on the street. Sometime before I had discovered a hidden talent in reciting full Peppa Pig episodes word for word. A misty dreamtime when my bra matched my undies and I had the time, the care factor and the manual dexterity to hunt down and eliminate stray hairs from my bikini line. In fact, it was back when my bikini line actually wore the occasional bikini and wasn't sheltering from the world under its own collapsing veranda of excess baby housing.
So long ago that, had pap smears been a spectator sport it would have quite possibly been broadcast in black and white and screened on TV about the same time as the moon landing.
Our conversation gave rise to a stare-at-my-shoes moment. I didn't see it coming so I had no defensive manoeuvre in the form of an excuse lined up and ready to fire off like I usually do when my radar picks up an incoming inquiry as to the papped or unpapped status of my cervix. I wasn't wearing my best knickers. I hadn't shaved and hadn't had the opportunity to whip out the baby wipes and give my bits a once over or a liberal spray of genital cologne de something or other.
I suppose I could have cobbled some semi-plausible excuse together...'my vagina has eloped to Spain and won't be back anytime soon, so please leave a message'. Or even better, 'I've pencilled an alien abduction and probing into my busy schedule and I thought that I could get them to do it at the same time'. But I was lost for words.
Let's face it, a pap smear is not the most pleasant of experiences and as a general rule I make it my business to avoid the unpleasant, the embarrassing and the downright uncomfortable. And nothing was making me feel more uncomfortable than the thought of lying atop an examination table with my legs splayed like a frog ready for dissection.
I reluctantly agreed. Surprisingly, the Doc was in and out of there in the space of about thirty seconds, all the time making pleasant and comfortably distracting small talk. There were no gasps or horrified exclamations, no announcements of unexpected discovery in the undergrowth. Most importantly, I didn't accidentally wee myself or fart in her face. To be honest, it wasn't as bad as my imagination had made it out to be, and certainly nothing that would have warranted a 5 year delay or the level of anxiety that thinking about making an appointment for a pap smear usually generated.
Whilst a regular pap smear isn't something I'm looking forward to or adding to my bucket list anytime soon, it may very well save me from having to have a bucket list. It may save me from having to kiss my girls goodbye with the knowledge that I won't live to see them grow up and have their own kids and find happiness in the world. So what's a little embarrassment and discomfort in the grand scheme of things? Ladies, if I can do it, so can you...