I want to talk about my uterus.
I think it’s trying to kill me.
Not actually, obviously. I’m not suffering from anything wildly debilitating or life-threatening, but holy SHIT have I been in pain.
About 3 months ago, I started having a dull ache that spread across my abdomen. It felt like cramps, but less intense. Just a minor twinge that was always there. It got to the point where the pain was so consistent that I truly didn’t think anything of it, and I almost forgot about it. Most days. Some days, however, I left school, or work, or bailed on plans to hang out because I was in so much pain.
The pain got worse with sex, and when I first went to the doctor about it, I was immediately told that it was likely an STD. The shame that came along with hearing that was incredible. I’m a sexually active young adult, and I know STD’s are a part of life, but I felt like the doctors and nurses I was interacting with were “tsk-tsk”ing to themselves as they flipped through my charts, even though I reiterated multiple times that I was having the safest sex I could. I wanted to pull them aside individually and explain to them, “I’m not a slut. I’m just going through a phase or something. I PROMISE!”
I left the doctor’s office that day in February with a healthy dose of guilt, shame, and self-loathing. I also left without any answers, but the pain wasn’t going anywhere.
Fast-forward to two weeks ago. I had the most painful sex of my life, and not in a hot way, in a “something is definitely wrong” kind of way. I hauled myself back to the doctor, and explained to them AGAIN what was going on, and was faced AGAIN with that same sense of guilt and shame. The nurse asked me about my previous visit, and she inquired as to whether I was with the same partner or a different partner. I felt the blood rush to my face as I looked down at my lap and replied “different partner.”
I was ultimately referred to an OBGYN in the area, and a few days later I was sitting with the first woman who didn’t make me feel like a ‘slut’ for seeking answers about my reproductive organs.
She told me the pain was a symptom of my endometriosis. The word filled me with an immediate dread, though the explanation of the condition isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. Essentially, the tissue that is supposed to grow inside your uterus before menstruation grows on the outside. The way it was described to me was like a blood blister forming on the outside of your uterus. Y’all ever had a blood blister? Exactly.
The solution is a simple one. Birth control.
By ceasing ovulation, the tissue forming the internal blood blister stops growing, and the pain goes away.
I am 23 years old, and I have never once taken birth control.
I’ve never needed to. I have been able to use condoms effectively for the entirety of my sexual career, and I’ve always hated the idea of putting hormones into my body unnecessarily. I’ve come to a point, however, where birth control is non-negotiable.
My OBGYN and I decided that Mirena was the best option for me. I can barely finish antibiotic regimens, let alone try to take a pill every day for the rest of forever. The shot wasn’t an option because I already eat constantly, and it’s an appetite stimulant, so that’s a no-go. The patch, honestly, just didn’t sound appealing to me.
Shortly after leaving the office that day, I got a call letting me know that my insurance covered the IUD completely. I had figured as much and didn’t think anything of it until I got curious later and wanted to see just how much this procedure would cost.
I was shocked at what I found online. The Mirena IUD device cost roughly $1,000. Without insurance, this wouldn’t be an option for me. I don’t have $1,000 to spend on a tiny piece of plastic.
I suddenly realized the importance of keeping Planned Parenthood and other women’s healthcare providers open. There are thousands of women (1 in 10 in the US) in my exact same situation, and they do not all have the luxury of being on their parent’s insurance. These women DESPERATELY need access to birth control, and not to have peace of mind while being sexually active. They need it to be able to function in society without pain, and without being shamed into silence.
It’s been an incredibly difficult few months. There have been many times when I assumed that this pain was my new normal. I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it can’t come soon enough.