For any guys who might be reading (Isaiah!), you might want to skip this post, unless gynecological things are fascinating and or don’t make you squirm.
I typically put off (ad infinitum) going to the doctor for the “lift the hood, check the oil” appointment. I hate it. I rarely use that word (mostly because Brendan reminds me that “We don’t say ‘hate,’ Mama!”), but I genuinely hate going there.
So fast-forward to a discussion a few months ago on a list I’m a part of where a particular doctor who had delivered many Ann Arbor babies was discussed. She had apparently left the University and was opening up a private practice in the city and was doing things ‘differently’ than a traditional practice. I checked out her website and liked what I saw.
My appointment was yesterday and it’s worth sharing (minus the intimate details)~because even if you’re not a local reader, to know that there is a possibility of having a place like this to care for your health and well-being, it’s worth reading about.
I walked in and was greeted by the nurse practitioner (who is also a certified nurse midwife). She asked me to take off my shoes and offered me slippers or socks, much like the traditional Japanese “genkan” I grew up with. She then took me to their kitchenette and showed me hot water, coffee, and tea bags and asked if I wanted anything to drink. I did, and made a lovely cuppa tea in a china teacup (a real teacup!).
The NP gave me paperwork that I needed to read through and sign and directed me to a sitting area with a sofa, an ottoman, and a water-feature that created an incredibly peaceful sound to my ears.
The floor was hardwood (bamboo, as it turned out), the walls were neutral, and the furniture was from Ikea. As far as I was concerned, it was “home” to me~at least, it was like my home, minus the legos scattered from here to eternity. There were plants, a noise-machine (I think to drown out conversation behind a closed door and to enhance the feeling of safety, security, and privacy), and there was an intoxicating sense of peace there. The windows had some custom-made pieces of poly-something over them; it was frosted and had beautiful leaf-patterns in it. It was gorgeous to look at (without question), but helped to create the sense of privacy and safety in the “office.” I put “office” in quotes only because that’s technically what it *is*, but it doesn’t feel “office-like” at all.
When I was done reading the privacy (HIPAA) information and signing it, I walked in to the examination room with the NP and was offered a seat on the exam table (more on that later) or the sofa. I chose the sofa. I curled up with my feet under me and we talked about my medical history, any concerns I had, etc. She explained that if I wanted to weigh myself I could, but they weren’t requiring it and they weren’t hung up on knowing what I weighed. I considered my options and decided against it~the scale still has too much emotional power over me~and we moved on.
When the NP was done with our discussion and her paperwork, the doctor came in. We sat and chatted about life, my medical history, upbringing, marriage, etc. for about 45 minutes, and it was as natural as if I was talking to a friend. I have NEVER had that experience in a doctor’s office before. NEVER. We talked about my PCOS and options to manage it (she suggested going back on metformin if I wanted to do so), but as I explained about my own research and successes controlling my endocrine issues, I made it clear that I was an informed patient and felt pretty comfortable doing what I am doing. And that was fine with her.
She left me with a robe (a real terrycloth robe!) and a real sheet and told me that I needn’t disrobe completely, but to let her know when I was ready. The table was a leather (napa leather, if I had to guess), very softly upholstered table designed for both massage and gynecologic exams (i.e., it had stirrups).
When the doctor returned, she brought the NP with her and explained every step of the way what was going to happen, what was happening, and what she was seeing (or not seeing). It was over in a few moments and aside from a reminder from the NP to ‘breathe, Sue!’ (did I mention she is a midwife?), it was as easy as I had hoped it would be, but honestly had built up to being horrible in my mind.
I redressed after the physical exam (which included a look over my back and any potential moles or skin lesions that might be suspicious), and we sat down to talk again. The doctor and NP were encouraging, supportive, and made me feel like I had done a courageous and heroic act for having my annual exam. Which in all honesty, I felt like I had done just that, as it had been several years since I “screw[ed] my courage to sticking place” as Lady Macbeth said and actually *went* to the doctor.
I paid the doctor personally (she doesn’t participate with insurance at all) and will be reimbursed by our insurance, but I don’t even care about that. I genuinely don’t. I would have shelled out twice as much as I did to have the same type of experience and to not feel stressed about the visit. I wish all women could have this experience and realize that there is more to medicine and self-care than what we typically receive.
When was the last time anyone referred to this type of exam and doctor’s appointment as “amazing”? I’ve never said it or heard it before from anyone else, and yet it truly was. .