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Monday, November 18, 2013

47

The Best Time I Lost a Tampon and Found My Cervix

I am notoriously bad at knowing when I need to seek professional help. I’ve waited for eczema to completely take over the top half of my body before calling my doctor’s office. Even after I was prescribed the life-saving cream that eliminated the concerned looks from co-workers who would walk by my office and find me wrist deep in my sweater scratching my left boob because it always seemed to get worse mid-afternoon, I would wait weeks before calling to ask for a refill. Maybe it’s not eczema, I thought. Maybe it’s just dry skin. And I would peruse the lotion aisle at Target and spend tens of dollars on creams for extra dry skin rather than inconveniencing my doctor and making the stupid call and picking up that tube of cream at CVS for a whopping $1.20. (No, really: Thank you, Obama.)

This fear of calling my doctor is strangely coupled with my fear of dying. I am always sure that I’m dying. Which, of course, we’re all going to die (and I have recently become so comfortable with this fact that I’m positive half of my co-workers think that I’m suicidal), but I am alarmingly quick to jump from, “Hhmm, my pee smells weird,” to, “Holy shit! I have cancer and it is in my pee canal and it is going to make its way to my brain and I am DYING.” My fear of dying, however, is outweighed by my fear of calling the doctor. I worry that I’ll simply be disrupting their day with what is sure to be my own neuroses and not an actual medical condition. And so I wait until both fears eventually subside.

Of course, I am always fine. It is always asparagus. Which is why when I noticed a funkier than normal smell during my last period I let it continue for three days. 

First, I convinced myself that I was just being crazy and paranoid. Then, I convinced myself that I had toxic shock syndrome and had undoubtedly left a tampon deep within my cavernous vagina. I rewound the past few days in my head, trying to think of a time that I may have been rushed, or drunk, or tired, and forgot to take a tampon out before putting in a new one. I told myself, again, that I was being crazy. And, after 48 hours of back and forth, I decided to just try and look for it myself. In college, I knew someone who'd forgotten to take a tampon out at the end of her period and put two and two together after noticing a not-so-sexy smell after sex. “Oh my God, what did you do?” I asked, experiencing second-hand anxiety just at the mere thought of it. She had simply gotten in the shower, relaxed, and pulled it out. Easy-peasy. Surely, I was capable of so much.

Months before, I had attempted to make the transition to a Diva Cup. There was something appealing about never having to worry about running out of tampons or having to take the trash out every eight hours. The thought of my bodily fluids just sitting there on a wad of cotton in my bathroom waste basket gives me the yucks. I spoke to a few friends who were converts and one mentioned that one of the most important aspects of getting used to it was simply getting used to your body, and to focus on aiming the cup towards your cervix. I had never actually tried to find my cervix, but I was an almost-30-year-old woman. I could figure it out.

I never figured it out. And so when I decided to go on a missing tampon excursion on my own I tried to go back to my friend’s advice: just find your cervix. My Google research—always dependable—had informed me that it’s nearly impossible for a tampon to go beyond your cervix, so if you get to your cervix and don’t feel a tampon, chances are there isn’t one in there. I went in with confidence. I’m a grown-ass woman. I pay my bills on time. I have renter’s insurance. This is no big deal. But when my finger touched on something that maybe possibly could’ve matched the description that all those Yahoo! answers said a cervix would feel like, it was less rewarding than I had planned. Who am I kidding? I have no goddamn idea where my cervix is! At this point I’m just a weirdo standing in her bathroom with one foot up on the toilet and one finger up her person mumbling, “…huh,” every five seconds. I slept on it and tried again the next morning with the same results. I knew that I had either lost a tampon or found my cervix, but I wasn’t sure which one I wanted more.

Defeated, I called my doctor’s office and awkwardly explained my situation. The receptionist was unfazed. I could’ve told her I thought I had a cold. She was able to get me in that morning with a female doctor that I had never met before. I secretly hoped that she was old and on her way out because, even at 30, I still want other ladies to think that I’m cool. The doctor was young, thin, and blonde, and as she walked in I imagined her reading my patient chart just a few minutes prior and thinking, “Oh, this bitch.”

We said hello and then went through the preliminary questions one expects before having a speculum inserted inside of them. No, I’m not sexually active because I told myself that I was only going to have sex if I was in a relationship and ugh have you been on OkCupid lately? It’s disgusting. Only meds are birth control and eczema cream and my last period just ended, but I think there’s a tampon stuck inside me so like, maybe I’m technically still on it?

Before I knew it I was on my back with my feet resting in plastic stirrups. Not even a minute later I heard, “Yup. There’s a tampon in there.” Immediately I yelled, “I’m so relieved!” at the ceiling. I found solace in the fact that I was right—something was up and I'd known it. I wasn’t a crazy lady panicked about nothing. Within seconds the phantom tampon was out of me, and the doctor proceeded to perform the pap smear that I was conveniently due for anyway. I was in and out of that office within 20 minutes and back at my desk by lunch, making the anxiety I felt about calling my doctor in the first place the most jarring thing about the entire experience. I wasn’t being crazy or delusional or paranoid. I felt, both literally and figuratively, that something was wrong. So I manned up and I called my doctor about my vagina like a goddamn adult.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find my cervix.

 

Photo via imjustkimmie/flickr.

Elaine Paddock is a writer in Boston.

47 Comments / Post A Comment

Jen@twitter

I can relate.

And the smell of a day-old+ tampon is truly horrific.

fabel

You should definitely find your cervix. It really does feel like a nose, like they all say.

BattyRabbit

@fabel I was all pumped to find my cervix until you described it that way! Now I'm afraid I'll also find, like...a mouth, and eyes.:(

brista128

@fabel It's true!

likearollingpin

Wow. I think maybe things aren't quite as, er, cramped down there for me as for some people, because knowing where my cervix is has never been a problem and I can't imagine not being able to retrieve a lost tampon if I put my mind to it. That's okay with me, though, because the idea of there being a foreign object in there I didn't know about is more than a little horrifying.

fabel

@likearollingpin yeah, same. I can touch my cervix basically anytime I want to (....humblebrag??) so I am thinking, what, I have a short vagina or something?

honey cowl

@likearollingpin My PP gyno was very excited about the extreme length of my vagina. She was like "no wonder you can't find your IUD strings!!! This is crazy!" And in conclusion I have no idea where my cervix is and having fingers long enough to discover that would be creepy as fuck.

lucy snowe

Sad to say it took having a baby for me to be sure where my cervix is. In my defense, it's rather a long way in-- hard to reach. I get the sense that isn't the case for most.

Nancy Sin

"and my last period just ended, but I think there’s a tampon stuck inside me so like, maybe I’m technically still on it?"

[applause.gif]

angelinha

If the beginning of this story happened to me in July, but I never went to the doctor, the smell subsided, and I've had my period every month since, I don't have a tampon stuck inside me, right?

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@angelinha I'm no doctor, but
....well, actually, that's all. I'm no doctor. Sorry.

MissT123

"At this point I’m just a weirdo standing in her bathroom with one foot up on the toilet and one finger up her person mumbling, '…huh,' every five seconds."

Something about this image (and oh, isn't it relatable!) made me laugh so hard that I alarmed my cat.

nothingcutesy

@MissT123 I snort-laughed quite loudly at work reading that sentence because I have been in that situation SO MANY TIMES.

My sex therapist (yep, I have one of those...thanks vaginismus) says that I don't have a great relationship with my lady parts. I blame it on situations like this...

Sarah C.@twitter

Hey! So, I haven't finished reading this yet (excited to) but I just have to give you props for being someone with health anxiety who is publicly mentioning that anxiety. I have been in and out (currently very much in) of the thickets of that since I was a little kid, and even though everyone (including ourselves) likes to be all "LOL HYPOCHONDRIA" it's actually not fun to be a hypochondriac. So just know that we are out here and we are reading and not judging and you're not alone. <3

RNL
RNL

After having 2 colposcopies and a very lovely and hilarious study nurse who liked to show me my cervix with a mirror, I know exactly what it looks like, which I think helps with feeling it. Also it's easier to find because my iud strings stick out of the middle. I like knowing my body that well. It feels good (not physically).

up cubed

@RNL I recently had an unplanned visit because I couldn't feel the strings. :( They folded back on themselves and the nurse nudged them back out again. I also was reminded that Mirena fluoresces in a sonogram. How convenient!

Emmettalie

Cervix-A-Lot! Best tag ever! I like Diva Cups and I cannot lie. You otha muthahs can't deny.

brista128

It's good you thought there might be a tampon still there...it could have been much worse if you'd waited longer! Also, I use a ladycup and love it! (Not that you needed another recommendation...but just in case!!)

(Unrelated PSA: Please be careful with topical steroid prescriptions for eczema since it can lead to topical steroid addiction/red skin syndrome and as someone who went through it, I can say it SUCKS and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy! /PSA)

shalalas

@brista128 re: PSA - does this include...hydrocortisone?

brista128

@brista128 Yes, any type of corticosteroids, even the over-the-counter stuff.

Mariah Mantis@twitter

I know where my cervix is but we don't have an interactive relationship. I learned when I got my IUD in that I have a vagovasal reaction, which means I want to barf/pass out when people get all up in my business. I just thought everyone was nauseous after pap smears/rough sex/tampon insertion...nope! It's just me! And the rest of the like 10% of the population. So I hang out with my Luna pads like a happy non-barfing hippie.

Blousey Brown

This is all very interesting, though now I'm ashamed that I've never "looked into" my cervix.

Adam Gilchrist@facebook

cervix plays an important role in reproductive health too.
free blog

Felix Wilson@facebook

Thanks for updating in your i need some help from your blog. Angeljackets

cocokins

Are you me?! Did I secretly write this post? Except, mine involved going to an urgent care center after a wakeful night of digging around in my vagina to find the offending tampon. I even watched a crazy video about it with this older woman who gave a demo on how it was impossible for the tampon to actually get "lost." Anyway, my story ended slightly differently, because the annoyed beautiful doctor at the clinic said, "Ugh. All I see is blood. There's definitely not a tampon in there." She said it with such disdain that I felt ashamed asking for help. Hahaha, that was a terrible/ hilarious morning. Maybe she hated me because I was the first patient of the day?

apples and oranges

@cocokins UGH I hate when doctors say or do things like that. Yeah, everyone has bad days but when your whole job is about interacting with people who are sick, scared, or otherwise have some medical issue, you gotta SUCK IT UP. I act professionally and politely with my coworkers when I'm having a miserable day! And they aren't depending on me the same way a patient depends on a doctor!

(Still bitter from the time in 8th grade when the doctor told me, harshly and in the same breath, that my spine was slightly misaligned and did I "want to do something about that back acne" .... )

notpollyanna

Diva cup! That is how I know where my cervix is and all that jazz. Because (TMI) when I empty it, I usually do so in the shower and "clean myself out". Stick my fingers up in there, pull out some blood, back in, back out, until there is no more blood to pull out. Grosser than tampons in some ways, but way less gross than tampons in all the ways that matter to me. Cleaning myself out got me pretty familiar with what is what up in there.

poptastic

I had this exact thing happen to me (minus smell actually, so basically just paranoia) and had the lady doctor get all up in there with the speculum and then tell me that the thing I thought I could feel was actually my cervix and not something stuck in there at all. She tried to reassure me that going to the emergency room was the best thing to do if you there's even a small chance you might have something stuck up there - better safe than sorry etc- but still, it was pretty embarrassing.

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Blushingflwr

So, I don't generally consider myself to have a super sensitive cervix, but when I touch it, I can tell that I'm touching a part of my body and not a foreign object. Both by the feedback from my fingertip and the feedback from my cervix itself. The beauty of the cervix is that it means it really is virtually impossible for a tampon to escape your vagina and wander about your body, but some women's hands/fingers just aren't sized appropriately to explore all the nooks and crannies. This is one of those times where having good control over the muscles there can come in handy.

On the health anxiety front - I do the thing where I am afraid to go to the doctor because the doctor might confirm my worst fears. AS though not knowing I have cancer would somehow be better than knowing and doing something about it.

avocadosandwich

Off topic, but what the hell's happened to the hairpin comments lately? All these sketchy robot people with their sketchy robot links? Sorry if I'm late to the conversation here.

selyse

If I went on an exploratory "meet my cervix" expedition, you would know I found it when I let out an earsplitting howl of pain. As a matter of fact, I can feel it curling up defensively right now, just thinking about it. My point is, be careful! Some cervixes really don't like being touched.

planforamiracle

If you're having trouble finding your cervix, try reaching to either side once your fingers are up in there. I couldn't find mine for ages and it turns out it was just because it's a lil' over the the left. Which feels like WAY over the the left, kind of in the same way that a candy feels bigger in your mouth than it looks in your hand.

Stacy H@twitter

Can someone, anyone, please explain how you forget a tampon is in there. 90% of the time I am aware that I am wearing one, either because it's a super or because the string is being uncomfortable, and the other 10% I am not wearing one at all because I hear horror stories about people losing them and I get nervous. I AM 26 YEARS OLD. How can you just forget???

jogod

Stacy h, I forgot once. It was a long time ago. Hell, now that I think about it, it was before you were born! I'll spare details because I've forgotten most of them and also I'm more squeamish than the rest of you. I got it out on my own, I remember that much. Just want to say, it can happen, but its rare, so don't stress about it because it probably won't happen to you. I do have to say back when I could use tampons I generally didn't feel them at all, so your body is a bit different than mine.

Michaela D@twitter

So this happened to me once, with supers (!), but because of unfortunate drunk sex, which jammed it up far enough that I could put a fresh one in the next morning without realizing/remembering my mistake. Couple days? Try a week, and me panicking that I was diseased, (THE ODOR) until I got brave in a bar bathroom and managed to extract it. Couldn't look the ladies waiting to go pee in the eye.

whatevs

@Michaela D@twitter Yep. Combination of lots of alcohol and sex usually does it.

cmcm

Thank you for reminding me that I was due for a pap smear several months ago. On the phone to reschedule it now.

MaximeHanes0

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swirrlygrrl

Not sure I have ever felt my cervix - the short fingers than ruined my pianist and guitarist careers (also not helping: lack of talent) stymie me at times. Like when I attempt to remove my sea sponge tampon post-sex, and it's both blood filled and slippery from cervical mucous, and mushed right up against my cervix. All the squatting and relaxing and reaching motions with my middle finger don't always do the trick, and I have to wait a few hours till it migrates a bit lower in my vagina. Those things are still the best though: non-messy period sex is possible!

Joe Joejoe@facebook

if you can lose a tampon in your vagina, and even have sex without realizing it's there except for a smell, you do indeed have cavernous vagina.

Miss B

Does the majority of the vagina-having population just have craaaaaaaaazy long fingers? Because I have pretty average-sized hands, I think, and there is no way at all I can even come _close_ to touching my own cervix. Not even fully relaxed, lying on my back, and really jamming my hand down in there. I think I must have a weirdly long and narrow vaginal canal or something, because while I can't come close to getting at my own cervix, there are many angles and/or degrees of roughness of penetrative sex that are almost immediately uncomfortable-to-outright painful/sick-making (depending, I imagine, on whether it's the sides of my vaginal walls or my actual cervix that are being bumped). Bodies, so weird!

honey cowl

@Miss B I agree with all of this.

shiv

I'm late to this game, but I'm so stuck on trash smell. You don't flush your tampons? Is that a thing?

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