Thank God for the nurse
I went in to a family planning clinic to get a pelvic exam I had been dreading for over a month. I was taken to an exam room by a nurse (we’ll call her Mindy). Mindy took my blood pressure and checked my pulse. Then she began to ask questions about my family’s medical history, my medical history, immunizations, medications I’m taking, any symptoms I’d been having, questions, about my mental illnesses. Then we got to the hard part. The sexual history section. It started off easy. When was the last time you had sex, did you use a condom, are you still together, had I been tested for HIV/STDS, etc. Then she asked about my first time. I never know how to answer this question. I consider the guy I was with in high school to my first, but in reality, I lost my virginity at 14. I struggled to find an answer for her. Eventually, I reluctantly said 14. She asked if it was with my permission and I told her no. She asked a few more questions about it like was there emotional and physical abuse? Was I safe now? I answered honestly, and she moved on to the next section; reproductive health. Again, started off easy; when was my first period, how often, how heavy, when was my last. And then ‘have you ever been pregnant?’ to which I had to answer yes. She typed yes and said ‘I wouldn’t ask unless I had to; did you have a miscarriage or abortion?’ I answered ‘miscarriage’. I could tell she felt bad for bringing up some of my most painful memories. After another series of questions, she said 'I’m sorry. I have to put this in here; you were raped at 14, correct?’ I looked at the floor and mumbled yes. 'Ok. That’s all we have to talk about it.’
After she left, the midwife came in. She grazed over my abuse, told me I didn’t need a pap smear, performed a breast exam, then had me dress and talked to me about birth control options. I selected a method, peed in a cup and came back to have my blood drawn. Mindy re-entered the room saying 'guess who’s back!’ I smiled, relieved to see her. The midwife was nice and did a great job and I felt comfortable enough with her; but it was a really hard visit for me. It wasn’t just that I had to tell 2 complete strangers about things my closest friends don’t know about, but I realized that anytime I talked to someone about my sexual or reproductive health; he had to be a part of the conversation. He was technically my first and his will always be the first child I bore. And no matter what happens, I can’t change that that will never not be a part of my life. That hit me hard.
As Mindy drew my blood, she asked exactly what I needed right then: 'Are you ok?’ She knew it couldn’t have been easy for me, no matter how calm and composed I seemed. All she did was check to see if I was doing all right, but because she showed she cared and I wasn’t just some other patient, I was able to smile and honestly answer 'yeah. I’m ok’.