I can see the pupils dilate and the wheels begin to turn when people find out that I'm married to a gynecologist. Paranoid as this may seem, I've answered enough questions and survived too many bizarre interactions to be caught with my pants down again. My husband commenced his OB-GYN residency two weeks after we got married 23 years ago. I've heard it all and then some.
1. No, he didn't deliver our babies.
The most common question I answer is, "Did your husband deliver your children?" The answer is no and the question never ceases to amaze me. I'm willing to bet that few OB-GYNs actually deliver their own kids. It's considered somewhat unethical, as emotions and medical decisions don't mix very well. My poor husband was so anxious that I nearly threw him out of the labor and delivery room. Did I really just feel sorry for HIM?! It seemed wrong that I was using my breathing techniques to distract myself from his pacing, nail biting, and anemic complexion, rather than my own pain. IT'S ALL ABOUT ME, people. At least when I'm in labor. In spite of his medical knowledge, or perhaps because he knew what could go wrong, my husband's emotions were exploding. He was going to be a dad for the first time and he was a mess. He certainly wasn't delivering MY baby in that condition.
2. It's not that he doesn't want to give free medical advice.
I was sympathetic when my neighbor called me a while back to report that she'd woken up with a urinary tract infection. "What can I do to help? Pick up your kids? Deliver cranberry juice?" I offered. "No thanks," she said. "I just want your husband to prescribe antibiotics for me because I don't want to bother my own doctor. Can you call him at work?" Why is it okay to bother my husband but not her own doctor? Never mind the bother -- it's reckless to prescribe medication without a culture to a non-patient! "But I would never sue him," she assured me. Well, that's a relief.
While attempting to procure drugs takes nerve, dredging up your vaginal discharge at dinner degenerates the atmosphere to a whole other level. I'm rarely speechless, but my jaw hit the table at a wine tasting dinner, when the woman seated next to my husband lamented her latest itch, and the hue and volume of its commensurate discharge. I nearly threw up into my glass of Bordeaux. You just can't make this stuff up.
3. No, I don't worry about him "spending his days with other women."
This line of questioning started the second my husband announced his intention to pursue a residency in OB-GYN. "Don't you worry about him spending his days with naked women?" Ummm, not so much. It's not exactly a porn shoot. I can see how some misguided men would think it's the coolest job in the world, but women should know better. We've all been to the gynecologist and it's neither provocative nor pretty. My least favorite part is getting weighed in front of another woman and I don't care if she's a nurse. Shivering in my paper toga while trying to look chill never works, and by the time the doctor walks in, I'm usually covered in cold sweat. No matter how I position myself, I'm told to scootch down and invariably have trouble positioning my feet in the fuzzy pink socks covering the stirrups -- like THAT makes it SO much more comfortable and appealing. Where's the glamour? It's a body part surrounded by a sheet. There's nothing even remotely menage-a-trois about the doctor, nurse and me. So no. I'm not worried about my husband spending his days with other women, naked or clothed.
4. No, I don't have an honorary medical degree.
This is a weird one. I regularly get asked questions that start with, "I'm sure you know the answer because your husband is a gynecologist..." Actually, no, I didn't go to medical school. Sure, I may know a little more than the average non-medical professional by virtue of audible proximity to calls from patients and other doctors. I've learned the names of drugs to speed up labor, slow it down, control hypertension. Heck, I could probably give the medical students a lecture on the basics (but I haven't been recruited yet). I wonder if the spouses of my CPA or attorney run a business on the side? I certainly don't want to advise anyone regarding bleeding or pain. And yes, when I refuse to speculate, I'm often asked if "I can just run it by my husband." (See Number 2 above.)
5. Yes, we practice separation of church and state.
Separation of church and state? Yup. It's EXACTLY what I mean. My husband doesn't treat me medically. In cases of emergency (we're stuck on an island and I know for a fact that I need antibiotics) he intervenes and prescribes medication, but it's not our norm. He has never examined me and never will. This works both to his and my advantage. When at work, he can view things professionally and clinically and when at home, well, I can be a legend in my own mind, believing that my parts are unique. This also serves to alleviate the concern that he's "spending his days with naked women." Let's face it, "Honey, does this look like a yeast infection to you?" is not exactly a turn-on for either one of us. Just as a breast exam is not foreplay. I don't want to turn into a body part surrounded by a sheet. By separating church and state, we can be partners without stuff getting in the way.
Please let me know if you're itching for me to answer any other burning questions.
*Originally published in The Huffington Post