As I sat in the waiting room at my mom’s gynecologist, I saw the glares and suspicions of the people in the room with me. I was young, only 14. So, why was such a young girl seeing a gynecologist? I could almost feel their thoughts. Oh, she must be pregnant. How irresponsible. She’s so young, too. But in reality, I was just there to find out what was wrong with me.
My monthly joy first arrived during a basketball game when I was 9. I didn’t have any supplies, but my mom had prepped me enough to at least know what was happening. It didn’t rear its head a second time until several months later and things proceeded in a normal, monthly fashion after that. Until the month of October when I was 13.
For three months, it just didn’t end. And I’m not talking about some spotting here and there. I’m talking about your full-blown heavy day every damn day. Every morning I’d wake up, hoping that maybe this time, it was gone. But it persisted. I was afraid to tell my mom. I don’t even know why; like I would somehow get in trouble because my period wasn’t normal? Ridiculous 13-year-old thoughts. But finally, as the end of December neared, and I started wishing, “All I want for Christmas is for my period to stop,” I knew I had to tell her.
She took me to her doctor, and they scheduled an ultrasound for me. And they found absolutely nothing. So, the doctor chalked it up to me being young and my body not knowing how to regulate itself properly yet. A pretty common issue for teens. She put me on the pill and after a couple months, my body adjusted and normal life resumed.
And so began my relationship with birth control.
Now, as a 29-year-old woman, my body still has not regulated itself, so I’ve given up that quest. I’ve tried going off of the pill for several months a few times over the years, just to see if my body figured itself out. But after a couple months, the time span between no period and period would get shorter and shorter until it was a constant, nagging, heavy presence once again.
Fast-forward to late 2016 and early 2017. I started seriously considering my options. If my life is miserable without the hormones that regulate my menstrual cycle, what happens if, somehow, I’m unable to get the pill? Or what if the pill becomes too expensive because private insurance companies can make it as pricey as they want? I couldn’t take the chance. None of us can take the chance with our bodies anymore. It’s the horrifying reality we live in.
I decided the best thing to not only regulate my body, but also prevent pregnancy for many years and decrease the horror/pain of my menstrual cycle was to get the Mirena IUD. It’s good for about five years (my doctor said they’re using it for seven in Europe, so that time will probably be extended in the U.S. soon), but it’s also the top birth control method used for women with regulation issues, especially heavier/painful cycles. Why, that’s me! And since heart issues run in my family, the hormonal Mirena IUD does not have estrogen in it, which can increase those issues. So, really, all good things for me.
Once my doctor and I decided this was the right decision, I then had several other doctor’s appointments. Thanks to my freaky-deeky issues, I had to take two pregnancy tests (one before testing, one right before the procedure), STD tests, get several vials of blood drawn, and get a vaginal ultrasound! The fun thing about ultrasounds is that you have to drink a ton of water (~48 oz.) about an hour before your appointment. And then you have to hold it while they put warm gel right over your bladder — and then shove a probe up your platinum vagine for a good 15+ minutes! Good times. Same with my ultrasound nearly 15 years earlier, my ovaries are fine and the mystery remains unsolved. *cue Unsolved Mysteries theme song*
I had my IUD procedure on February 14, Valentine’s Day. Aww. I figured no one else was getting up close and personal that day, so might as well let two lady doctors get all up in there. About an hour before the procedure, they recommend you take about 800mg of Ibuprofen to dull some of the pain.
I, once again, had to take a pregnancy test upon my arrival because IUD + pregnancy = VERY BAD! Once in my room, I got undressed, put on my extremely fashionable paper gown, and met my new doctor. Once I answered all the appropriate questions, the other doctor joined her to assist.
With feet in the stirrups, she told me she’d first feel where my uterus was by hand so they could appropriately aim the device, accurately measure it, and set the placement. Once that was settled, the insertion began. She told me I would feel three distinct cramps. But that the third one would be the most intense. And hoo boy, she wasn’t kidding. Your cervix doesn’t want to open willingly unless you’re having a baby and mine was fighting back. (This is why it’s recommended to get an IUD placed right after you give birth because your cervix is more cooperative.) Think of the most intense period cramps you’ve ever had — and multiply it by A LOT.
But I just breathed through the pain, similar to if I was giving birth. The IUD was inserted/placed through what looked like a strange shoot. Kind of like a wider dart gun. I was very dizzy – probably from breathing so intensely for several minutes. But all in all, it was a short procedure that felt very long at the time. And I will admit that it was one of the most painful things I’ve experienced and it was very bloody as well (at least for me). TMI? Sorry not sorry, I’m talking about getting my lady parts cranked open and a foreign object inserted. (And many people want the real deetz!)
I lay there for a good 15 minutes after to make sure I wouldn’t faint. I texted a few people to bring myself back to reality. There was a certain ‘in shock’ factor I felt for a few minutes. But soon, I was up, dressed, and heading out. I ordered an Uber and went home. Unfortunately, I neglected to properly prepare for my recovery. I have many friends who told me I should have texted them if I needed supplies, but I ended up ordering some Amazon Prime Now (not an #ad!) for pads and a heating pad that I got within a couple hours. You’re not allowed to use tampons for at least 2 weeks or take a bath.
So began a night filled with intense cramps. I wondered if my neighbors thought I was being murdered or if I was having a really good V-Day. I was just moaning and crying out in pain. Sookie would lay on me, and I would hug her too tightly until she escaped. When you get an IUD, your uterus is super mad that there’s some weird visitor inside it, so it’s cramping intensely to try and get it out. Knowing this, of course, I was convinced it would be pushed out, and I’d have to go through that procedure all over again. I even had a dream that night it fell out. But it didn’t, obviously.
The next day, I was still cramping pretty bad but went to work (really only because it was my last day at that job, otherwise I would have taken the day off). And then I went out that night drinking with friends. So, about 24 hours was all I needed for recovery.
It’s been a little more than three months since I got the Mirena IUD. I actually wrote most of this right after it happened, but figured I should wait and see what the side effects were and if I liked it. I don’t just like, I love it.
I had my period for about a month straight after insertion but… I have not had it since. I gained a bit of weight after that month since cramps would come and go, making it harder to work out. And I started a new job at the same time, so my routine was all wonky. But I’m working out a ton again to work that off. When I work out, however, I now break out like crazy. So, I’m combatting those issues with my doctor, too. That seems to be how life is, fix one issue, create another. But I can deal with some zits if it means no period. And that’s really all I’ve ever wanted.
After dealing with something so unpredictable, painful, and awful for most of my life, it’s nice to feel free of that. And also to feel free from remembering to take a pill every day.
The whole not-getting-pregnant thing is a super nice bonus, but that’s not what it’s about for me. It’s about taking control of my body and not letting it dictate my life any longer. And not letting those in positions of power dictate what I do to my body to improve my life.
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