Choose a Gynecologist Wisely
So, it’s awkward. Your beautiful goddess vagina needs checkups. Part of being an empowered woman is facing the vagina doctor. Most of us do what I did in my 20’s. We go to the cheapest person, covered by insurance, if we have it, or the one our moms or aunts swear by, and cross our fingers the doctor ‘down there’ will be sufficient and low on the weird or creepy scale. We swallow this appointment like a jagged pill we begrudgingly accept. Ugh.
My worst gynecologist appointment had to be age 27ish in New Orleans. I hadn’t been on birth control for years, decided it was making me ride a crazy hormonal roller coaster and was just plain unnatural and no longer worked for me. I had been on a mission for years, a holistic health mission, and knew my philosophies would send up a red flag to the very traditional ‘be scared of vitamins and anything making you not need my prescription pad’ medical doctor. She pushed the birth control on me, hard, it was annoying. Bad start. Treating me like my logic is stupid is not endearing. Upon asking about health history, I admitted knowing little with no relationship to either biological parents. And the doctor, medically degreed, but severely lacking in tact and people skills, began the oh-so-intrusive pelvic exam. Knees spread, heels in stirrups-yes, men, it is like riding a horse while laying down and being still-this doctor decided my vagina wasn’t the only thing she had a right to poke that day. ‘Why don’t you have a relationship with your mother?’ I wondered if my vagina was giving her an echo? What kind of health related question was this? I knew I had entered the vagina Twilight Zone. ’Lot’s of good reasons’ I mumbled, thinking ‘Does this lady know she is inside my body talking about my estranged mother? WTF is happening?’
I’m sure her medical degree was extra fancy, but I was giving her strong F’s for time, place, tact, and bedside manner. I didn’t want to tell her my mother married a known pedophile when I was 11. Didn’t I give up enough privacy just showing up for this appointment? She took it up a surprising notch. Now, I don’t want to mislead you and misquote her, because 2 things kept me from being able to form an accurate memory. Ignoring the tone in my voice, she kept pushing, kept speaking. I did not want to talk to her about my mother, and she kept pushing. ‘You only have one mother. Have you thought of forgiveness?’ The 2nd was hearing the word ‘Jesus,’ and something about ‘what he would do.’ In a flash I thought ‘I’m a sexual abuse survivor and she is in my crotch and talking about Jesus and my mother—I must be tripping. This is not happening.’ How I didn’t lift one foot out of a stirrup and kick her right in the fucking mouth, I will never know. I remain impressed with my own restraint, and in truth a little sad I didn’t kick her for her own good, the good of all future patients, as well as my own selfish, reactionary satisfaction. Not ok to play therapist while you are inspecting my most intimate parts Dr. Lady—does that really need to be said aloud? I left the office like a bat out of hell wondering how this person with little self awareness or people skills became a health provider to humans? I’d like to vote ‘people skills’ as a necessary skill sect for doctors. Especially gynecological ones. I’m pretty sure Jesus would support me in this, too. Obviously I never went back and warned every woman I knew in New Orleans about my experience.
The best gynecological appointment? Dr. Monica Roberson at The Healing Space in Houston, Texas. Let me compare and contrast this for you. No yucky, cold, typical medical building. It’s an old house, painted soft neutrals. The waiting room is a living room. I was the only patient in the office. The nurses were happy to see me, happy to be at work, happy to be working for Dr. Roberson in the happy little house office. ‘Hmmmmm. Different,’ I thought as the nurses made eye contact with genuine welcoming gesticulations. I filled out paperwork like I’d never seen before, questions that indicated this doctor wanted to know me as a whole human person, not just one section of my physical body or making me a list of symptoms. I wondered if she would push prescriptions on me or speak to me as if I were stupid for not being on a pill form of birth control while sexually active. I wondered if she would ask me deeply personal familial questions while checking out my girly bits. I wondered if I’d want to kick anyone in the face by the end of this appointment, too?
I wondered all these things as she lead me into her gentle office, into a comfortable chair. Then it happened. She offered me tea. A selection of teas. Not her nurse. Not an assistant. Not a finger pointing that I could serve myself at a sad little grimy drink station. The doctor served me tea, in a real, breakable, tea cup. She even said she would chose a tea for me if I did’t want to chose. I was astounded. I was again in a Twilight Zone gynecological appointment, but with a different twist I didn’t yet trust. Then more happened. She looked at my face and asked me questions and listened to me. She didn’t just listen for buzz words indicating red flags and potential diagnoses, she was actually listening to me as a person, a whole, real, feeling, more than vagina, person.
This doctor was different and I felt tears swelling in relief. I resisted melting into full trust just yet because the physical exam was still looming, still a potential for a lot of weird to go down. She handed me a gown to disrobe and change. This was a goddess robe. It was nicer than my at-home personal robe, cleaner, softer, 7 notches more luxurious and worlds away from a ‘hello here is my naked ass in a paper thin napkin’ hospital gown. And she didn't get weird. In fact, this was the 1st pap smear of my life that didn’t hurt and didn’t bleed later throughout the day. Dr. Roberson was gentle in all the ways I never knew a doctor could be. She hugged me when I left. Hugged. The human currency of easy comfort, she hugged me. I got in my car to leave this Twilight Zone appointment and remembered my worst gynecological appointment and felt some tears falling. Relief happens when we feel seen, cared for, handled with grace and gentleness, respect for the state of our current human condition. Life gives us some shit but it provides angels, too. I was able to tell her my extensive history. I felt comfortable because she comforted me, so I could share what was tough.
I’ve since sent every vagina-ed person who will listen to see this special, safe, woman. We’ve become professional allies. She has listened and asked thoughtful questions about sexual abuse survivors and the healing process. I am a survivor and an expert in my field as a psychotherapist on this subject. I have coached her on the emotional issues surrounding doctors, gynecologist appointments, shame, power, ego, fear and the courage it takes to disrobe post abuse and hand vulnerability to an authority figure named Doctor. I have sent women to her for years, and I have delighted in their tearful thank you’s, relief, and twilight zone shock after they themselves experience the best doctor in Houston(yep, I’m saying that).
Never settle for icky Twilight Zone. Keep searching. Healthy, kind, heart centered people are looking for you to give you the best care possible. You are not just a vagina, a leg, a big toe, or an elbow, or lungs, or immune system. You are a whole person. Always seek health care professionals who resonate with you. I swear they exist. Find Dr. Roberson and her excellent holistic staff at The Healing Space.
I hope to write a follow up article after I find the best gynecologist in Denver, too. If you know of one, please share in the comments. Please also share your best and worst doctor’s experiences in the comments if you’d like, too. If you are a survivor and would like to reach out to me for processing or resiliency coaching—find me at www.nikkieisenhauer.com
In Light and love,