By Maddie Womack
My name is Maddie, and I have a vagina. I am the CEO/Founder of Barrier Babes, and I also work at a sexual health clinic as my day job. This sexual health clinic has a microscope. So, naturally, I swabbed my vaginal walls and applied the swab onto a slide under said microscope.
Well, ok. First, I accidentally swabbed my urethra. (It’s right above the vaginal opening—don’t judge). That hurt. Like, really hurt. But the second time around I figured it out.
Before swabbing my vagina, I didn’t even know what a vaginal cell looked like. What even is a vagina cell? Are they just floating around in vaginas? What’s their purpose? Do they have friends? Thanks to my swabbed slide, I can explain all of this to you. Feel free to zoom in, my cells don’t bite 😉.
The blue arrows are pointing to air bubbles, because I’m not perfect at preparing microscope slides. I’ll let you know if that changes the next time I swab my vag.
The green arrow is pointing to a bunch of little lactobacili, aka good bacteria. They help keep my vagina healthy.
And now for the star of the show: the pink arrow. That’s a vaginal epithelial cell. Specifically, a stratified squamous cell that is found on the vaginal wall. The spot within the cell is the nucleus, aka the brain of the cell.
Isn’t it cute? I want it framed.
The whole experiment was empowering. Usually, the gynecologist handles the swab part, so I felt in control of my own health when I did it myself. (Regardless of swabbing the wrong hole along the way.) Preparing my own microscope slide and finding my own cell made me feel #smart.
To see that cell in general reminded me that I was a living human being. You know that feeling when you look up in the night sky and are reminded of how small you are? I wonder if my cell was feeling the same thing as I peered down on it from the microscope lens. Sure, a vaginal cell might seem small, but many of them together make something really spectacular: My vagina.
Life is crazy. Vaginas are crazy.
Maddie Womack is the Founder/CEO of Barrier Babes. Her degree in Community Health and Minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies reflects her passion for healthcare and equality within it. Through an intersectional lens, Maddie strives to find spaces to not only include sex education, but require it.