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In Our Own Backyard...Take a revealing look at yourself

There’s nothing more humbling than a hospital gown. Not only is it sadly lacking in style points (as well as adequate snaps to protect your you-know-what), but there’s always the little matter of whether to fasten it in the front or the back….

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In my earlier visits to the doctor’s office, I never seemed to remember to ask which it was supposed to be, depending, I suppose, on what they were about to do. When the nurse said, “Take off all your clothes and put on the gown — the doctor will be in soon,” I was too preoccupied with getting it done before the knock came at the door so I never thought to ask if I should snap the gown in the front or the back.

You know the drill — as soon as the nurse walks out the door, you rip off your clothes, hide your underwear beneath your shirt and pants on the chair, dive into your gown and settle yourself in with as much dignity as you can muster before the doctor makes his appearance.

In deference to the docs, I have never once had one of them who failed to discreetly knock on the door before entering. But somehow, the thought of being in the midst of peeling off my clothes when that knock comes at the door causes me to rush desperately through the disrobing procedure and spring onto the examining table.

That presents another problem — if you’ve snapped the gown up the back, the snaps always seem to fall just short of covering your posterior. And if you’re seated with your back to the door, it’s worrisome to think that might be the first sight the doctor has as he walks in….

I can still remember when I gave birth to my first child. As pregnant mothers often tend to be, I was fanciful about my upcoming hospital stay, purchasing an elaborate nightgown and robe to wear so I would look good when all of our friends and family came to visit and see the baby. It didn’t take me long to realize the error of my ways — and just why hospital gowns are designed the way they are. Needless to say, the fancy peignoir remained in my closet when my second child was born!

A few years ago, when I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks following surgery, I pretty much mastered the art of the hospital gown. I was inspired by the nurses, who somehow managed to change my hospital gown while I was still in bed without ever exposing me to the outside world. They mysteriously managed to do it in one continuous motion that revealed no bare skin that shouldn’t be revealed. I and my dignity appreciated it.

It was quite another thing to take that walk down the hallway they always want you to do before you feel like you can really do it. I had brought along a fleecy pink robe to wear during any “public appearances,” but I failed to anticipate the fact I would be hooked up to an IV for much of the time, making it pretty much impossible to slip the robe over my arm. And so, as my husband I took our obligatory stroll down the hallway, I slid the robe over my free arm and kind of swooped it around the other, reducing (I hoped!) any possible over-exposure.

These days, I’m an old pro. Every time I go to visit the doctor for an exam, when the nurse tells me to take off my clothes and put on the gown, I immediately ask, “Do you want it to open in the front or in the back?” I realize that the doctors usually leave you more than enough time to preserve your dignity, so as soon as I’ve taken off my clothes and piled my blouse and pants on the chair over my underwear, I stroll over to the examine table and settle in like a queen on her throne.

My last annual checkup kind of threw me for a loop, however. The young nurse ushered me to the exam room, signed me in and took my blood pressure. Then she said, “Take off all your clothes and the doctor should be in soon.” And then she left. I obediently began to tug my sweater over my head when suddenly, in a moment of horror, I realized she’d forgotten to set out a gown.