I Decided to Go to the Clinic
Originally Published: October 24, 2008
Revised: September 25, 2018
I was a sophomore in high school and had been dating my boyfriend for four months; I thought I was in love. I had always said I was going to wait until marriage to have sex. I didn’t necessarily think I was ready for sex, but my friends were always talking about how close it made their relationships. And I was curious. I started to seriously consider having sex with my boyfriend.
So I went to the sex educator at my school. She told me about this teen clinic at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)—a hospital close to school. At the clinic, everything is confidential and free, so you don’t have to bring your parents. She also told be about “walk-in” day, when you can go to the clinic for an exam without an appointment.
When I got to the clinic, the waiting room was full of pregnant women. I felt out of place. It was like a wake-up call for me: This could be me, if I’m not careful.
I was called to the window to fill out forms. I had filled out forms before, but never like these. The forms included really personal questions: How many partners have you had? Have you had unprotected sex? Regardless of how uncomfortable I was, I understood that these forms were for the doctor’s and nurse’s eyes only. They needed this information to know how to take care of me. After I was done, I had to wait some more. Finally, I was called in.
I left the clinic feeling satisfied and sure of what I was going to do. I was going to continue to wait to have sex until I was sure I was ready.
The nurse took me into an exam room that had a bathroom. She gave me a hospital gown and told me to urinate in a cup. I walked into the bathroom, peed into the cup and stripped down. Just to be safe, I washed up a little, so that I wouldn’t have this stranger making weird faces at my vulva while examining me.
I was then ready to go through with the exam. I tried to block out my worries, but they were still there. Will the doctor be a guy? Will he or she think my vulva is weird or ugly? I was practically shaking by the time I walked out of the bathroom.
The same nurse took my urine sample and took my weight and blood pressure. Then she asked a lot of the same questions that had been on the forms I filled out: When was my last period? Am I sexually active? Have I ever received or given oral or anal sex? I answered her questions and reminded myself that the questions were personal but necessary.
When the doctor came in and introduced herself, I was relieved. Yes, it’s a girl! I thought to myself.
I told her that I was a virgin and was just coming to get a regular exam and possibly birth control. (When you go to see the doctor, this is the time to ask any questions you have.)
After we talked, she had me sit on the table, place my feet in the stirrups and slide my butt to the edge of the table. I held my legs closed tightly—the tightest I think they have ever been. She told me to relax—that she was not going to do a Pap smear or an internal exam because it’s not recommended until three years after you start having sex.
She did an external pelvic exam, visually examining the genital area and separating the labia (lips) with her fingers to check my vulva and the opening of my vagina for signs of redness, irritation, discharge, cysts, genital warts and other conditions. The exam was a bit uncomfortable. How often do you have a stranger checking out your vulva? The doctor told me everything was fine, and I had a healthy vulva. I was pleased.
Then she gave me a breast exam. I wasn’t expecting this. She explained how I could give myself one and how to identify a lump in my breast. She said to keep in mind that breast cancer rates among teens are very low, but I should get familiar with what’s normal for my breasts. After the exam was done, I put my clothes back on and breathed easy. The hard part was over.
Then I had to meet with a woman who I’ll call the “birth-control lady.” She talked to me about different hormonal birth-control methods—like the Pill, the patch and the ring. She said these birth control methods don’t protect against STDs, so I should use condoms as well.
After our talk, I decided I wasn’t ready to have sex. The responsibility of keeping up with daily pill-taking and making sure I always used a condom on top of all that was too much for me to think about. I wasn’t ready for all of that. The birth-control lady gave me a goody-bag full of condoms and lubricants, so one day, when I am ready, I’ll be prepared.
I left the clinic feeling satisfied and sure of what I was going to do. I was going to continue to wait to have sex until I was sure I was ready. And I’d come in for a regular checkup, because you don’t have to be sexually active or thinking about becoming sexually active to go to the gynecologist. It is recommended that you have your first visit to the gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15.
Although my visit to the clinic was embarrassing and challenging at times, I know that I did the right thing for me and my sexual health.
Find a clinic near you or call Planned Parenthood at 1-800-230-PLAN (7526).
Photo courtesy of Teen Clinic
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