Today I had an EMPOWERED Smear test! I’ve had many smear tests as most women mid-thirties will have, but today was my first empowered one!
As a Tantra practitioner, somatic educator and Sexological Bodyworker there’s very little that goes on in my body that I don’t feel. I can no longer disconnect at the dentists, or during medical tests, or go into my head or ‘happy place’ when in pain or discomfort. Instead I breathe and go into whatever is there. I believe this is a far better way to deal with and embody an experience, instead of detaching and potentially storing that as a negative experience in the body.
For those who don’t know, a smear test is a process that most women need to go through every 3 years, where a nurse puts a speculum inside of the vaginal canal to look at the cervix, and swipes a plastic spikey thing around to get some surface level cells to test for any abnormalities. Most women cringe at the thought, or just see it as something to get through.
You’re asked to lie down, they draw a curtain whilst you take off your pants. Why do they draw a curtain, as they’re about to look right at your flaps? Then told to lay down and cover yourself with a bit of tissue. Again, why, what am I covering? You’re about to look at my flaps and my cervix, is my muff offensive? Or is it that I may be offended to see my own bits?
What generally happens is the nurse will try to distract you by asking about your holidays or something similar, whilst they insert this lump of plastic inside your vagina when your vagina is tense and anxious, and just not ready.
I wondered, What if Smear tests could be different? Instead of being something which you grin and bear every 3 years, what if they were a learning opportunity?
So I walked into my smear test early, having made a choice to rewrite my story of smear tests being something that I just have to go through, get over with or survive.
First I spoke to the nurse and asked if speculums come in different sizes, she was happy to get them out and show me them. In the past I requested a smaller speculum but they doubted me as someone my age should be a medium / average supposedly. Vaginas don’t only come in one size! I’d been told by a previous nurse they wouldn’t be able to see enough using a smaller one, and for my age they use a medium.
Today the nurse was helpful and after I asked, she got out a small one. She confirmed that a small one is perfect for me and that I have a small cervix too. Who else knows this? How do we find this out unless we talk to these people? This knowledge of ourselves is helpful, and empowering and allows me to feel I’m reclaiming my body back from the medical practice of being seen as a patient statistic. What I’m learning is there is no ‘average’. Genitals are as different as faces!
I even asked to insert it myself as this is a huge part of the process for me. It’s a shocking event for a body to go through, having someone else quickly put something inside of you, usually unconsciously and by someone not very embodied themselves. No matter how much lube, how much deep breathing or how ‘prepared’ you are, especially if it’s the wrong bloody size, it hurts! Even the nurse herself said she’s always found it shocking when she’s had her smear. I really wanted to ask why she hadn’t asked to insert it herself?
It was easy, effortless and completely unshocking to do it myself, a completely different experience to all the other times. What’s more, I felt so chuffed with myself that I’d had the bravery to ask. Something else I found out that I had never known before: Blondes usually have a little bleed during it, more than brunettes. Red Heads even worse supposedly, and they also bleed more during childbirth. Nurses are usually open to talk about this stuff it’s just they think we don’t want to know or we’d get embarrassed.
I’d like to start a movement, maybe just a small one, of inserting our own speculum and taking responsibility for what and how things go inside our bodies. Please tell me if you do this and if so, how it went? Next time I’m turning up with a hand mirror and requesting to see my cervix too. Now I’m also wondering where I can order speculums from for my clients who’d like to see themselves internally.
Ladies, I’m interested to hear what stops you asking to insert the speculum yourself?Maybe you don’t find it uncomfortable? Maybe you go to your happy place? Maybe it’s just not the ‘done thing’.
I’m never going back! I’m a self-inserter “hand me one small speculum please nurse!” Embodied empowerment takes many forms. I found a new one today