Attn Mimmini: this post is not for you. I highly recommend you mosey over & read THIS great post about lace, girdles, stay ups & vintage lingerie instead. Love you mum x
If you think you’re cringing, imagine how I feel. I’m about to have mine tampered with for only the second time in my life. The first time was when doctors induced my daughter 2 weeks early because they were concerned that her life-giving placenta might come away from the uterus wall & starve her of food & oxygen. Before an induction they put a string that is impregnated (ha!) with hormones “next to” your cervix to soften it & hopefully, coax it open. For some women, this may start labour contractions & the water sac cocooning the baby might break under the pressure of the contracting womb… And you’ll be well on your way to delivering a melon through your birth canal & all the attendant joy that entails.
My cervix was stubborn however, so i was connected to a drip of oxytocin (essentially our natural birth hormone except synthetic & stronger) while a lady with a hooked knitting needle approached & advised she would helpfully break my waters – which essentially meant putting that knitting needle inside my cervix, hooking it into the balloon-like water sac & twisting it while pulling down to rupture it. It didn’t feel nice.
The next 4 hours were a blur for me… they thought my daughter’s cord was around her neck & were about to whisk me in for an emergency caesarean but then said that was just a false alarm & basically instructed me to “get on with it”… “it” being the wonderful process that brought my daughter into the world less than 4hrs later.
Understandably, any mention of cervix now makes my insides twinge & my face involuntarily crumple in disgust.
But now here I am, about to undergo such an invasion of my own free will – in the name of a new form of contraception called an IUS.
I’ve already had 4 x appointments pre-operation & I feel pretty well versed on all things contraceptive – after the first appointment I knew that I’d try this particular one. IUS means “intrauterine delivery system” & is commonly known as Mirena in Australia. It is long lasting (5 years) & yet easily reversible (unlike an injection for example), it often stops menstruation altogether (a huge bonus) it doesn’t rely on an irritant method like the copper IUD (trust me, I’m irritated enough without any extra help), the hormones are locally targeted & thus smaller amounts are required (unlike the implanon), it can’t be forgotten unlike the pill & won’t cause nasty injuries unlike condoms (I’m allergic to the buggers), it is almost 1% more successful as a contraception than the pill & fertility rates were unaffected after 5 years of continuous use (in clinical trials).
Best of all, it ticked the “unlikely to make you put on weight” and “less likely to cause depression” boxes. The latter being the main reason I’m trying something new (& I can’t help but think those two are interconnected for many women).
“Wait a second!?! The contraceptive pill don’t cause depression!” I can just hear the pharmaceutical reps screaming at me in horror. I’m hugely skeptical of this assertion & when pressed many doctors have admitted to me that “there may be some connection between the pill & depression.”
To me the connection is blatantly obvious – the pill is dampening our most primeval instinct. A woman who isn’t on the pill will sometimes feel sexy “for no reason”… she’ll have the urge to dress differently, go out seeking company with virile males (or seek the attention her particularly attractive & compatible life companion) & she’s more confident to follow through on her instincts. To put it impolitely, women go on heat just like any mammal. The pill (& dare I say, monogamous life without the freedom to make babies) is definitely messing with nature in this regard. Uninhibited sex is great exercise & releases endorphins, strengthens emotional bonds & expels toxins through sweating & breathing, imparts confidence, tones the body… And the best sex I had in my life was that carefree abandon stage of new lust where you have marathon sessions & don’t care if you make a baby. In fact you might even hope to… Until you find out you’re 13 weeks pregnant & have to stage a shotgun wedding.
But I digress. Back to my cervix.
After deciding on an IUS it takes another 2 appointments (STD tests, pregnancy test, 100+ question interview, ultrasound, “checking” the cervix) before getting a green light, a date for the operation & a prescription for my Mirena.
The IUS itself costs $40 & the insertion appointment costs another $40. The previous appointments were a “donation of choice” & i emptied my wallet both times. The total is equivalent to about 6 months of the pill.
An hour beforehand I take 2 x Naprogesics as recommended & hop on a train to the Family Planning clinic in Ashfield (which I like to affectionately call the “Not Planning A Family Right Now” clinic.)
Looking at point 2 of the “what to do before insertion” list I come across my first unexpected problem = i need to find something to eat in downtown Ashfield that won’t turn my already anxious stomach. I thought it’d be easy to find food in cosmopolitan Ashfield but today everything smells fishy. I settle on a felafel kebab & somehow during the walk manage to drop a piece of tabouli & garlic sauce flecked tomato into my bag onto my Mirena.
Arriving at my appointment is non-eventful. I answer a few of the same questions again – they’re especially careful to make sure you’re not pregnant before insertion. I originally thought they might be worried about causing an ectopic pregnancy, but now I’d assume that the IUS insertion may cause an abortion.
For a minute I thought maybe I’d been worried about nothing… But then the doctor calls the nurse & shuts the curtains & gives one final warning of the minor risk of “perforation”… & as the nurse stands next to me & holds my hand (instead of performing some useful function like handing tools to the doctor) i realise i’ve probably been nervous for very good reason.
The nurse is extra nice & tells me I’m “doing well” throughout the whole thing & tries to ask mundane questions to keep my mind off it. Funnily enough I subconsciously revert to the breathing patterns & wriggling my toes and tapping my fingers & other methods of distraction that served me so well in the first part of labour.
The procedure starts off with a cold metal speculum, like during a pap smear. Then there’s a tool I imagine would look like opening pliers for the neck of the cervix. I have my eyes closed at this stage & I’m trying hard not to visualise tools of any sort. Then a straw is inserted & pointed in the “right” direction for your uterus, then the IUS is pushed up through the straw & into place.
It feels exactly as painful as I expected – the pinching of the pliers, the stinging feeling & contractions when the straw is inserted, the instant strong back ache & very strange sensation of wriggling stuff where it just shouldn’t be.
I tell my cervix to relax & open & behave itself so that it’ll be over as quick as possible – and it is. Maybe 2 minutes?
Afterwards I stay on the table for 10 minutes or so & the contractions subside a little – but then for the next hour or so I had that “deep” type of pain that feels like the start of labour with the stomach cramps, back ache & warm tingling sensation in my upper legs. I remind myself that this is nothing compared to real labour itself and tell myself that this is why I’m here, to prevent the need to give birth anytime soon.
This is about when I have the obligatory “Geez, I feel like absolute shite, a man would never put himself through this, women have to do everything” whinge.
It takes me a while to figure out that the cramps come & go in waves. Our bodies are so predictable.
I see another girl walk past the “recovery room” with what appears to be her mum & I think to myself “I hope she’s not going to watch her daughter get an IUS insertion”.
I think back to before I gave birth to my daughter. I had really hoped that my mum would be there… now I’m kinda glad she wasn’t as I think she’d have been equally as useful as MrO turned out to be. I probably now ascribe to the solitary birth practices women have followed for millennia… It is surely worse for the mother & husband to see a woman in pain than it is for the woman to just get the job done… like we always do.
When the cramps subside a little I realise I’m a bit fuzzy and woozy but i think i’m feeling well enough to leave. Then the nurse comes in with a cup of tea & tim tams… She looks right into my eyes with sympathy as she takes my pulse & reminds me that it’s best to stay for an hour or so to make sure there’s no excessive blood loss or fainting.
I settle in & read a couple of trashy mags, pausing at one stage to think with gratitude of my friend @Neekatron who was actually helpful during my labour, filling endless cups of ice & following expletive interspersed instructions without back chatting (unlike he who will not be named).
I munch on the tim tams & think maybe it’s best not to “go it alone” after all.
Epilogue: I sat on this post for over 24 hours to make sure I’m really fine to talk about my cervix. Very happy to report that I’m not in pain today – next step is a check up in 4 weeks time to make sure all is well. Apparently there’ll be some spotting for a few weeks, but it doesn’t seem like much so far.