A few years ago, my birth control and I were going through a bit of a rough patch.
I began taking the pill shortly after I turned 19, lost my virginity, and decided I didn't want to skyrocket to fame via an MTV reality show. Determined to make it through the last months of my teen years pregnancy free, I gave the birth control pill the good ole college try.
For the first few months, I was responsible and took it at the same time every day. However, even with the help of state-of-the-art technology (e.g. setting a daily alarm on my iPhone), it wasn't long before I was slipping from my own schedule. As our one year anniversary rolled around, it became painfully obvious that we just weren't right for each other.
Although I’m sure it had nothing but fond things to say about me, I no longer liked the pill.
I knew it was high time I started seeing other birth control methods.
When my gynecologist introduced me to the tiny T-shaped piece of plastic called the Mirena, it was an instant connection. This intrauterine device seemed like the perfect birth control — I would get it inserted once and not worry about it for the next five years. She told me I had to check on it about once a month, but this was a minimal requirement compared to the ball and chain of the pill.
Although I decided to get an intrauterine device because of an inability to take the pill consistently, I realized the effectiveness of the Mirena lay not in its over 99 percent effective technical excellence. Rather, the IUD's true talent lay in its ability to give any woman who has it inserted a frighteningly accurate sneak peak into the excruciating pain of childbirth.
My gynecologist warned me it was going to hurt. She explained the process at least three times, once at my original appointment, once as a last-minute reminder before beginning the insertion process, and once when she was down in the trenches fighting the good fight.
"It's just going to be a pinch and a push, some discomfort, then another push, and then another pinch, OK?" she said. She showed me the Mirena, which suddenly wasn't just an inch long plastic T, but an inch long plastic T attached to a foot long plastic tube contraption with two strings, resembling fishing line, hanging out the end.
Anchors away, I thought. "OK" was all I could actually manage.
The insertion process was so labor intensive it required two people, the gynecologist and her lovely assistant. Staring at the ceiling, I heard a noise resembling that of an old-timey crank and wondered what they were winding up down there. I know now they were dilating and un-dilating my cervix, but at the time, they might as well have been reinventing the pulley system.
I breathed out and remembered when my mother told me that giving labor felt like getting hit by a truck. She neglected to mention that it wasn’t just any old truck, but a high speed train, loaded with heavy cargo and rushing full speed ahead.
If a tiny T-shaped piece of plastic can hurt that much, I thought, what kind of damage could a small watermelon-sized baby do? I realized, for the first time, that I might never want to know.
Luckily, after the initial insertion was over, I felt very little pain once I got home. That didn't stop me from milking the ordeal for all it was worth by laying on the couch for the next 24 hours.
Every once in a while, my lower abdominal area would throb, but — even in my discomfort — I could already tell this was the beginning of a beautiful contracept-ship.
Within a month or so, I'd fallen head over ... uterus. Maybe it was just the constant stream of low-dose hormones talking, but I'd never felt this way about a birth control method before. Now, my Mirena doesn't just support me on a daily basis, but has allowed me to lead the worry, stress, and period-free life to which I have become accustomed over the past three years.
Besides saving hundreds of dollars on menstrual care products, I've had constant control over my reproductive health.
This small thing I never see, feel, and often forget about completely has empowered me in a way nothing else can.
Many women feel like they don't have complete control over their sex life, and while I'm still working on other aspects of that, I can do so in a safe and healthy way I was fortunate enough to choose for myself.
That said, an intrauterine device isn't for everyone. I salute the women and their day planners who swear by the pill. I applaud the ladies who know their way around a Nuva Ring. And I also admire those who opt out of birth control entirely to create and raise as many children as they please.
But for me, getting an IUD was one of the most rewarding decisions of my 20s. Despite the pain, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
And that's good because if the next two years go as fast as the last three, I actually will be. They say, "Time flies when you're having fun," and my relationship with my IUD — the longest one I've ever been in— is proof.
During our time together, my IUD insertion memories have faded enough that the abstract concept of childbirth seems somewhat appealing again. I'm still nowhere near ready, but I'm no longer the 20-year-old swearing off babies forever. The luxury of being a woman in the 21st century, though not all women are lucky enough to experience it, is that I can live comfortably in the in-between until I decide what I want to do with my body, my life, and my future.
Of course, before any of that can happen, I'll have to get my current Mirena removed. And I imagine the extraction process will once again remind me why I got it in the first place.
Cover image via Unsplash.