I sit in an unfamiliar doctor’s office, waiting. Minutes go by and I feel my pulse racing in anticipation. I try breathing techniques to calm myself down but I’m so anxious I can already feel my butt cheeks sticking to the paper mat protecting the operation chair from my skin.
As I continue to wait, I can’t help but think back to five years ago when my mom and I first had a conversation about long-term birth control. I was a junior in college and had just arrived home from a year abroad. I was sick of taking pills every day, and quite frankly, I was not good at it. My mom understood my desire for an IUD since it provides long-term protection with lower risk of human error, but her concern was the potential for negative side effects.
During insertion or in the weeks afterward, 1 in 1000 implant patients suffer from perforation, which is when the IUD pushes through the wall of the uterus. If it goes undetected, it can migrate through the body and harm other organs. A surgery is then required to remove the IUD.
So, fast forward ten minutes – all I can think to myself as I’m lying here, legs spread in the air, feeling the initial pain of insertion is please God, don’t let this kill me.
The deep, burning pain pulsating from within me is something I truly cannot describe. It’s maybe one tenth of what women experience during childbirth, and let me tell you, I sure as hell know now I’m not strong enough to bear a child. Holy shit. I break out into a cold sweat, my entire body trembling and after about five minutes I begin losing feeling in my hands and feet.
This is when she drops one of the tools being used to insert the IUD.
I’m trying not to panic as she calmly explains what happened and that she needs to call for assistance. I smile and nod, but in all honestly, it takes everything I have not to ask her what the fuck is wrong with her. Instead, I lay patiently, exposed and uncomfortable, fighting back tears.
There is a point at which I know I’m going to pass out. How do I keep myself conscious? I’m staring at a dirty light socket with fierce concentration, saying “you can make it two more minutes and then you’re done. You can do anything for just two minutes” over and over again in my mind. Then it’s over. I curl into the fetal position and thank all of the Gods in the universe as she asks me if I was okay, smiling apologetically.
Am I okay? No.
For the next 24 hours, I’m in and out of sleep, experiencing severe menstrual pains as my cervix fights to reject the foreign object so rudely injected into my body. I cry and scream and I sleep. I curse every man on the planet.
Sounds terrifying, right? Am I thankful I got an IUD? Yes.
I got an IUD because I felt I had to in our current political climate. IUDs last 5 years which means it will hopefully outlast this abomination of a presidency. I got it because I don’t know what kind of punishment Pence has in store for women now that he is in a place of such power. Prior to his Vice Presidency, he governed a state that sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison on “feticide” charges for allegedly self-inducing an abortion. He now promises to overturn Roe v. Wade and ban all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest, so it’s clear to me that more and more women will feel forced to take such drastic measures.
Before his abortion ban promises, he backed and signed Indiana bill HEA 1337, now blocked by a federal court that would have in part required women and abortion providers to hold funerals for the aborted fetuses. Because, you know, getting an abortion isn’t traumatic enough.
It’s better to be in pain for a week than carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. It’s better to be implanted in a doctor’s office than butchered in a back alley when you feel there are no other options.
Getting an IUD was ultimately the right decision for me. Even through the pain and trauma of the insertion, I knew it was what I needed to feel safe and protected moving forward. Even without the current administration threatening to dismantle reproductive rights and limit our access to birth control, the Guttmacher Institute reports that 51 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, and 95 percent of those pregnancies result from not using or misusing birth control we do have access to currently.
Many of my friends also feel that the IUD was the smartest thing they could do for long-term reproductive health. But what I want people to know is that even though getting an IUD is becoming a more popular option, I don’t think it should be discussed quite so casually. Every woman I’ve spoken to about this had a different experience. Everyone had personal reasons they felt it was necessary. For many of us, it wasn’t a spur of the moment “hey, let’s get IUDs!” like best friends and matching tattoos.
The procedure is still risky and everybody reacts differently to the insertion. The choices women are making in regard to reproductive health and protection are important and scary. There is always a downside to the birth control options out there, and weighing what you’re willing to risk is a daunting task. So be aware of this. Be conscious of what others around you are doing to feel like they are in control of their bodies.
Birth control can wreak havoc on mental and physical health. Hormonal birth control can cause extreme weight gain, increase acne issues, and influence the menstrual cycle to cause severe bleeding and even hemorrhaging in worst case scenarios. Depression and mood swings are also common side effects of hormonal birth control. So, some women are choosing to actively partake in medical decisions that can cause us to lose control of our physical and mental well-being in order to have control over our right to bear children. I’d like to hear straightforward discussions about that. I’d like to feel more appreciation for what women sacrifice for society’s population control.