IUD: A Love Story (April 14, 2011)

12 years ago, at the age of 20, I experienced some mild problems with the birth control pills I was taking. The doctor in charge of my care at that time suggested taking a break from hormones. I was presented with two options: condoms or the insertion of an Intrauterine Device, more common known as an IUD. Well I know far too many children walking the earth today because of a condom-related malfunction, and since I could barely count to ten at that time, I figured I should go for the super-protection that only the IUD could offer.

The copper IUD, the version I selected, works in two different ways, which explains the contraceptive’s 99.9% effective rate. First, the t-shaped device negatively affects the mobility of sperm, preventing it from fertilizing an egg. Additionally, the IUD, by nature of its placement, safely distorts the shape of the uterus, rendering it nearly impossible for a fertilized egg, should it reach that stage, to implant.

Typically, it is best to go with the IUD as a method of birth control if you have already procreated, as the body is in a better position to endure the patently awful insertion process. I have never been pregnant and I certainly had no idea how hellacious the procedure would be, but I had the self-awareness to know that I was not destined for motherhood for a long time, if ever. So I went for it.

For 12 calendar years and a few mongamous relationships, my IUD and I were sympatico. Except for some increased cramping during the PMS phase, this thing was a true blessing. I have been married for 10 of the last 12 years, and there’s so much to be said for never having to think about birth control: ready at any moment for loving, no pills to take, no frantic trips to the 7-11. Life was good.

But like all good things, my time with the IUD had to end. The copper device is typically recommended for a 10-year period, but as it was agreeing so damn well with me, my new doctor thought it would be fine to ride it out for another two. He received no argument. I cannot overstate the horrendousness of the insertion (when I spoke about this with Eddie, I likened it to a wire hanger up the prostate – men are often unable to sympathize without a relatable equivalent).

This week ushered in the 12-year deadline and ready or not, the IUD had to be removed. I am pleased to report that after a solid decade of working myself up, taking it out was in no way comparable to the experience of having it placed.

It is ironic walking around, able to be impregnated for the first time in 12 years, at precisely the moment when I have no one with whom to copulate. One of life’s many little pokes (pun intended – I’m here all week!). I received a prescription for a new kind of very-low hormone birth control pill, but I can’t start taking it until the completion of my latest menstrual cycle. Like so many other things in my life right now, it’s a new era.

I almost feel like a teenager again in terms of my inexperience. Clearly, as the pill does not protect against STDs (nor did the IUD for the record), I will also have to learn about the seemingly endless brands and incarnations of the “Jimmy Hat” (a term I first heard from the mouth of my trainer Rob). I haven’t had to think about this variable in ages, being immersed in comfortable, mongamous routine. What are the kids today using? What do they recommend?

As I thought about my beautiful time with the IUD, a long stretch of my adult life when I could focus on relationships, career and personal growth without the threat of an unplanned mouth to feed crashing in, I considered last week’s fight over funding for Planned Parenthood, which according to the Republican Party, was a big enough ideological deal to warrant a near-shutdown of the Federal government. If many on the right had their way, I would have never have had access to the device in the first place. Nor would I be on the pill in the near future. I am kind of tired of this conversation. I am tired of the conflation of abortion and contraception as if they are one and the same. Loving my IUD, and thus my reproductive freedom, does not make me a slut or a bad person. Stop telling me it does.

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