"Okay, take a deep breath and then I want you to do a big cough for me," said the woman stationed between my legs. I was spread out on a crinkly paper-covered table, my toes curling nervously over the top of the stirrup footrests. My insides were cranked wide open with what felt like a wildly uncomfortable medieval torture device. A sort of flexible flashlight was aimed up my crotch. I was 99 percent certain I'd put the supplied robe on backwards -- I'd thought it was supposed to open in the front like a kimono, but now I was thinking the opening was meant to be on my back? Well, whatever, the robe was of far less importance than what was about to happen to my poor terrified vagina.
Not for the first time, I marveled at how far we've come in terms of medicine and technology ... and yet my state-of-the-art birth control involved having a piece of hardware forcibly jammed into my nether regions.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of my personal birth control, which is the hormonal IUD (Mirena). Ever since it was factory-installed after my second son was born, I've been mostly blissfully unaware of its presence, and I love the fact that I have almost no periods whatsoever. I haven't had to buy tampons since 2008, can I get a hallelujah?
The only downside is that my IUD's five-year expiration date flew by before I realized it, so it was time to get a new one. Which meant the old one had to come out, and unfortunately no one's invented a Star Trek transporter for getting things into and out of women's uteruses. (Million-dollar idea, by the way.)
I know this makes me sound like the biggest pussy wimp in the world, but I was SO nervous about how painful it was going to be. My original IUD was inserted right after my C-section, when I was numbed and hugely distracted by the tiny human that had been pried from my body. You probably could have stuffed a toilet brush and 12 cantaloupes in there and I wouldn't have known about it, not that those particular objects would have been medically recommended. My point is, I had no idea what it felt like the first time, and everything I'd read online basically boiled down to, "It's not that bad ... it's not that great, though."
As it turns out, that's pretty much exactly how I would describe it. When I dutifully coughed on command, my doctor just sort of yanked it out in one smooth motion. Honestly, the worst part was beforehand when she'd been determining the shape and position of my uterus via a manual internal method I can only describe as "robust." Plus, there was the mental discomfort of being all spread apart with a speculum and worrying about my robe and all.
The insertion was a little more painful, in that there were a couple ouch-y crampy moments where I briefly wondered if maybe she was cranking open a beach umbrella in there or something. But the whole thing from start to finish was very fast, and soon enough I was dressed and on my way back to my everyday life, where hopefully I won't have to think about birth control at all until 2018.
Every now and then my husband and I talk about the possibility of him getting a vasectomy. He's squeamish about it, and while on the one hand I give him shit because come on dude, do you have any IDEA how many indignities my body has endured in the name of family planning (sub-category: creation/prevention), on the other hand I get it, because until a couple weeks ago I was terrified of a two-inch piece of plastic.
Honestly, of the currently available methods of keeping pregnancy at bay with a 39-and-a-half-foot pole, none of them are completely ideal. What I'd really like is a switch that I can just flip to ALL DONE WITH BABIES, THANKS. But in the meantime, I'm glad for the IUD ... even if it involves an intensely awkward experience every five years.
What kind of birth control do you use? Do you wish there was something easier/cheaper/less intrusive?
Image via ThinkTeen.Org