I feel a huge sense of liberation as I make the appointment to get my IUD removed. It’s ironic because I felt the same way when I made the appointment to get it inserted. The thought of being able to have as much casual raw sex as I liked without the fear of becoming pregnant provided me with the sexual liberation I wanted. This excitement only intensified after I had it inserted and could actually put it to the test.
I remember explaining it to the first guy I had sex with after the insertion when he asked if he could finish inside of me. He was so shocked that this tiny little t-shaped thing promised to fight off sperm for 10 years, but what neither of us knew was that along with that promise came many insufferable days. Though I had chosen the non-hormonal IUD, the side effects were almost intolerable. My periods became increasingly heavier, forcing me to bring extra pairs of underwear and pants with me anywhere I went. Unfortunately, I’d often bleed through those and sometimes even onto seats I was sitting on, which was humiliating.
Other side effects included severe cramps and back pain. In the first several months after getting my IUD, I’d pass out from the cramps. When I didn’t pass out, I’d cry and scream as I pushed through the pain. As a result, I’d always feel fatigued and drained and my skin began losing all sense of life and color. Yet even though I was feeling horrible, I kept putting off making the appointment to speak with my gynecologist about all of the symptoms. I would talk to my friends and though they encouraged me to speak with my doctors, I continued to say, “maybe next month will be better.”
The fatigue only became more consistent throughout the months, leading to me never being able to get any work done after 8 PM without having to force myself to do it. Going to school and working became increasingly harder as my body constantly wanted to shut down on me. I stopped working out because I physically couldn’t do it. I became weak, I couldn’t carry or open even the lightest of things. Every little touch or accidental bump bruised me. I began having cramps and pain in my abdomen when I wasn’t even menstruating. Eventually, sex became painful too. That wasn’t even the worst part. My eating habits changed and I started cravings things like chalk and dirt. I only gave in to the cravings twice and felt disgusting afterward.
I began looking up my symptoms on WebMD (as one does). I self-diagnosed myself with so many different things, including Endometriosis. I still didn’t go to the doctor, though. I never had any time in my schedule and I kept convincing myself it wasn’t as serious as I had been exaggerating it to be. But at the start of summer, I could no longer take it. I made an appointment and finally, after months of dismissing my body’s warnings, went to the doctor.
I told her all of my symptoms.
She ran blood tests and gave me an idea of what could be going on. A few days later my results were in. She told me I had Anemia and Pica, a disorder and symptom of anemia characterized by strange cravings for items (like chalk and dirt) that don’t offer any real substance. She went on to say that my iron and vitamin d levels were dangerously low and she was surprised I didn’t get violently ill. When I asked her why this happened, she said that because my periods were so heavy, my body lost a lot of blood, iron, and vitamin d. She then prescribed me some supplements and advised me to research alternative contraception methods and remove my current IUD.
After that phone call, I realized I had put my body through hell and I did it all to avoid pregnancy when having unprotected sex. This experience put into perspective just how much women’s bodies must suffer to provide the pleasure we all yearn for. I began wondering whether or not I wanted to get another IUD. The reason I chose the non-hormonal one in the first place was so the hormonal one wouldn’t mess with my anxiety or depression. There is no guarantee another IUD or form of contraception won’t do this or that my symptoms will go away if I make the switch.
Confused and searching for some advice, I talked to my current sexual partner about it. Throughout our conversation, however, I realized that nothing he said mattered. I had neglected my body long enough for sexual pleasure and his input could not change anything. I needed to make the decision to remove my IUD for myself and my health and stop postponing it for the sake of a man’s pleasure.
That thought alone – the thought of me neglecting my body to provide the pleasure of raw sex – makes me feel so guilty, like I am failing womanhood. I have often thought of how I have faked orgasms in the past to provide my partners with sexual validation which again, made me feel like I was failing womanhood. Yet, both of these thoughts come from the idea that has been ingrained in society for almost forever: that women must be the ones to provide sexual pleasure, regardless of whether received it back.
I feel guilty knowing I neglected my body for so long. I feel even guiltier for the reasons behind it being fueled by misogynistic ideals. But I feel a hell of a lot better knowing I stopped my anemia in its tracks and am making decisions for myself and my health now. I will not risk my health for the sake of a man’s pleasure any longer.