The Land of Os

(One definition of the word “os”: the opening of the cervix leading to the endocervical canal.)

Part one

As I closed the door behind her, the young woman turned around and
burst into tears.

“You must understand,” she plead, “I can’t go through with it. My dad would kill me if he found out I was pregnant. It was the first time for me.”

Outside I could hear bickering between two people; the sound of a siren in the distance. Someone yelled, “baby killers”. It seemed stuffy in the small room, and the shades had been drawn to maintain privacy. The windows were latched tightly.

“Please understand, it’s important you do,” she began. “This was not supposed to happen to me. I am a Christian. My boyfriend found out and broke up with me. My dad would be so furious at me. He’d call me a murderer.”

I handed her a tissue as she tried to stop sobbing. My mind flashed back to the day I picked up a newspaper and noticed a job for a part-time health worker.

The ad asked interested candidates to send a letter stating a position on abortion and a resume. I knew this was to open a new chapter in life experience, and I knew I would respond that day.

The ad intrigued me, as did actually writing my position on abortion. I had refused once to even consider an abortion. I never felt that decision belonged to anyone but the pregnant woman, and for me, it was not even an option I would consider.

Within the week I received a call from the Women’s Health Clinic. The woman on the phone was friendly and told me a meeting was to be held for those who had sent resumes and a letter. She told me there would be a “self-help” group that day and that we would be invited to participate, though it wasn’t mandatory.

Again I was intrigued. “Self-help” she explained, was the experience of learning how to use a speculum to open and separate the walls of the vagina so you had a clear view of the cervix. A view of your own cervix (while holding a mirror) to see if it looked healthy.

My innate shyness blossomed momentarily, overtaken soon by the curiosity I felt to learn more about my own body. I wrote the date of the meeting on my calendar and mused how strange a thought it was to ponder checking my own cervix to see if it looked healthy. I had raised three children but never been taught to do that! It sounded like a good thing to know.

The abortion issue wasn’t discussed much at the first meeting. I wondered what feminist really meant, and what would happen next. I could hardly wait to find out.

The clinic manager made it clear. “If you have a problem with prejudice of any sort, think twice, maybe three times, about working here. That includes color, sexual preference, or any other matter regarding prejudice or personal choice. We are here to support a woman and her choice to have an abortion. Whatever the reason, it is her personal business, not ours. This place is dedicated to informing and helping women. We intend to shed the veil of secrecy about a woman’s own body, and give her all the information she needs to her her make decisions concerning it.”

I liked the sound of that. I liked the idea of finally getting good information about my own body, and from other women. The majority of my lifetime I had been forced to see male physicians because there were few female ones.

One of the women began to disrobe as she explained she would be teaching self-help. A flush spread across the faces of some applicants, and a rush of nervous emotions permeated the room. One woman made a joke and laughed nervously. Even the die hard type personality would have found this day an experience to remember.

Within minutes two women were laying on couches with a speculum “inserted” and a flashlight and mirror in hand. We were informed the speculums were plastic and not the cold, hard metal ones used in most doctor’s offices.

“Would someone like to look at my cervix?” Robin asked. “It’s healthy and pink.”

One of the applicants took the flashlight in hand and looked at that SPACE between the legs of a woman that makes the world go round. I was fascinated.

That day I found myself, along with many women, dropping panties and laying on couches, inserting a speculum and viewing my own cervix. I was impressed with the knowledge I gained that day alone.

Granted, the experience was not easy, but most women I know are tough and intelligent. I think we have an endurance and resilience that often surpasses even our own expectations in certain circumstances.

Considering the sexually transmitted diseases and infections that plague us, it seemed logical, a real benefit, to be able to check your own cervix for color and healthful appearances.

We also practiced using a preventative technique (catching a lump before enduring the finding of cancer) by examining our breasts. Come to find out, I am not the only woman with lumps in her breasts. A majority of women have fibrocystic breasts – you know, those lumps that make it difficult to check one’s self.

My husband was supportive but didn’t quite know what to say that evening. I am sure he had some pictures in his head, but he truly wanted to be supportive. All he could come up with was “Gosh, I wished I had been there.” I bet he did.

———————————————- Part two – soon

2 Responses to “The Land of Os”

  1. The Land of Os Says:

    […] The Land of Os […]

  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Thoughtful writing, Marsha.
    For all the seriousness of your commentary, your last paragraph evoked a hilarious image to my mind of a whole roomful of women, legs spread, all looking with a mirror at a bright shiny speculum in their nether regions.

    Hilarity aside, abortion needs to be talked about. Bravo to the women who stand up for their pro-choice convictions, who brave the invective insults of “religious” and “anti-abortionist” fanatics. Where is the love and compassion in that kind of attitude? Above all, God is Love.
    It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t philosophy. A woman gets criticized/damned if they opt for a pregnancy termination; or if they bring the pregnancy to term, get damned for a)for getting pregnant irresponsibly in the first place; b) not looking after the children adequately; c) shunned because they have a ‘bastard’; d) for needing welfare or financial support; ad infinitum.
    I really haven’t explored their counselling services, but it makes me wonder what the pro choice faction counsels thirteen year olds? Do they expect the child to give up it’s child to care for it? Where is the pro-choice assistance for a homeless woman, drug addict, who becomes pregnant? Or for a child mother whose family will not support her? Or for a terminally ill mother?

    How do they propose to protect a woman from a family whose culture would kill a woman or beat her senseless if she found herself pregnant before marriage? If she should survive the beating, she is cast out, shunned from her entire family and culture to fend for herself, usually on the lowest of pittances (read, minimum wage – inadequate to sustain one, not two, people in a decent life).

    And don’t think that doesn’t happen any more! Where our North American nations were more or less calmed down on that aspect, it has been brought
    back in with immigrant cultures, with a vengeance.

    How do the pro choice counsel someone who knows from medical testing that their child will have a fatal genetic disorder so grave that the child will never experience life except in a bed or a wheelchair? So grave that they will be need operation after operation to keep alive? So grave that the doctors know the child will die before its fifth birthday, and all those five years will be in pain and agony, most of it in a hospital being cut up, repatched, force fed, isolated? Is that worth it. Is that life? Sounds barbaric.
    In earlier centuries such a child would have died, lack of current medical miracles, in infancy, or in the birthing process. With all our modern medicine, what is it that makes people want to force a woman to prolong a life and soul that God, in other times, would have gladly taken back into His fold for another try, another place?

    How do the pro choice counsel a young woman who has been raped by an incestuous family member, who can expect violence and terror in the family to which they must return with the newborn.

    I don’t know what the pro-choice answers are so if a pro-choicer reads this reply and can explain, I’d be glad to read on.

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