Reproductive Freedom in a Post-RBG Era

9:30 am: My alarm goes off and I resist the urge to hit snooze. I roll out of bed and make my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I head to the kitchen to make myself some coffee and head back to the bathroom, coffee in hand, to wash my face and do my morning skincare routine. I text my cousin as I change. She just woke up too.

10:15 am: I finish my yogurt and grab my keys and mask before heading out the door. 

10:27 am: I am in the parking lot across from Planned Parenthood. Dread and anticipation pool in my stomach. I’m transported back to two summers ago, the first time I opted to have an IUD put in. It was four weeks before I went to college and I had just gotten off work. As I call the office to be checked in, I reflect yet again on how stupid this all is. With the aftermath of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and her Supreme Court seat vacant, I am determined to protect myself against the worst possible outcome. I am also briefly transported back to the aftermath of the 2016 election, when I first began thinking seriously about long-term birth control. I am simultaneously angry and amused at the memory. Angry that 16-year-old me had to research birth control options before she had to research colleges. 

11:35 am: My procedure is finished. I thank my nurse and nurse practitioner profusely and head back across the street. As I sit in my car, I compare both procedures. This one took longer than the last. The nurse practitioner was also more thorough with her pre-procedure questions. I am grateful for the attention to my past medical history but the butterflies in my stomach begin to flap their wings the longer this takes.

11:40 am: I stop by my cousin’s house. She asks me how it went. We eat ice cream and cook lunch before I head back home and spend the rest of the day mostly in bed, moving around slowly. The pain is worse than my previous procedure but not unbearable, much like a bad period cramp. I need to concentrate on studying and my evening lecture, so I pop an ibuprofen and wait. As I wait for the cramps to die down, I think about how unfair everything is. I have been thinking that a lot lately. How unfair it is for women to take on the burden of preventing unwanted pregnancies. How unfair it is for a small group of politicians to dictate what an entire population can or cannot do about their own bodies. How unfair it is that the expectation, responsibility, and consequences of birth control always falls to the women. I am spiraling and I hate it. I call my cousin. Turns out she’s mad too and we rant for twenty minutes about how terribly messed up the system is. 

Getting an IUD is not the horrifyingly invasive experience everyone makes it out to be. Of course, everyone’s experience is different. My actual insertion process was no worse than a period cramp, the pain everyone talks about is your cervix dilating. The week after is the real discomfort. I have heard stories of women nearly fainting or post-procedure pain so bad they have had to use CBD oil to help numb the pain. Granted, a T-shaped piece of plastic is being inserted into a part of your body that is meant for pushing something out. 

I think the worst part of the process was the anticipation. Lying on a table with your legs spread, waiting for the nurse practitioner to insert a speculum, waiting for your cervix to be dilated, waiting for the pressure of inserting the IUD itself. Your own mind is really your worst enemy, and with one IUD insertion experience under my belt already, well, it is hard to talk yourself out of something you already know. 

There is a stigma that is pervasive in our society, even today, about a woman taking ownership of her own sexuality. It is acceptable to talk about who we are dating or who we are sleeping with, celebrated even. But when it comes to our reproductive health, what steps we’re taking to prevent becoming a mother at twenty-years-old in the middle of a pandemic with no college degree and no steady source of income, it is seen as taboo. Affirmation and support turn to clandestine meetings and hushed whispers about what kind of birth control you are using, which ones worked for you and which ones did not. Nowadays, we celebrate our sexuality so freely, yet we continue to hold back on speaking about birth control. Funny that I like to think I am beyond all this secrecy, but then again, I snuck out of my house to go to my appointment. 

Two days post procedure, I am still taking ibuprofen. It is not so much painful as it is cramping. It just feels like pressure on my uterus, very much like a period cramp. I am still taking everything slow and staying in bed most of the day. Reflecting back to my first procedure, this one was definitely a more painful post procedure. Every time I feel my uterus contract, trying to get used to the foreign object that will be staying there rent-free for the next twelve years, I marvel at this feat of modern medicine, how these delicate copper coils wrapped around a tiny piece of plastic, guarantee me reproductive freedom through the next three elections.