It was on September 15th, the warmest day it had been in a long time as the fall weather started to seep into the city. I took it as a good omen that indicated my first session at Planned Parenthood was going to be a good one.
About three weeks before, I had chosen to schedule an appointment to get Nexplanon, a small thin rod, that once inserted into one’s arm, releases small amounts of the hormone progesterone. This serves as an effective way to keep from getting pregnant if one is sexually active.
It was a 14-minute walk to the Planned Parenthood that stood at the very end of the street. As I was approaching the large blue building, I could not help but think back to my grandma telling me my body was a sacred temple and laughing. I cannot even begin to imagine the things she would have said seeing me there.
I was a first timer and didn’t know the protocol, so after a warm introduction, I was asked to walk through a metal detector along with a very brief bag check. I had mistakenly believed that living in NYC served as a certified stamp that no one would attempt to attack the institution, but this provided a much-needed awakening.
After receiving the permission to continue, I entered the waiting area with colorful bursts of furniture that contrasted the grey and white walls they were up against. There was also a bright trail of sunlight that swept the room with life, despite the absence of people due to COVID restrictions. This allowed me to immediately go up to the receptionist desk. After a kind hello and assurance that I had not contracted the virus, we got into doing my paperwork while simultaneously talking about life. Before I went to wait for my name to be called, I received a very animated congratulations because I had just started college. This single moment stuck with me because even though this was our first time meeting, I felt as if she wanted what was best for me, which characterized my entire experience at Planned Parenthood.
Given that the waiting area was completely empty, my name was called immediately. The first room I was led to by a nurse had a blue patient chair identical to the one I had grown up seeing in my pediatrician’s office. This space was stuffed with boxes of medical supplies that all neatly tucked into grey cabinets. The nurse invited me to sit down and asked me what I knew about the thing I planned to get inserted into my arm. I had conducted a lot of research and rambled on with whatever facts spontaneously popped into my head.
She joked that I knew more about Nexplanon than she did which made me laugh and eased up my fear in the process. She asked me if I had a partner, if they were long term, if they had a penis or vagina, and when the last date of my STD test had been. I had never done one, so she said we would get one done in the other room, and that it involved sticking a swab in my vagina. I was most definitely not expecting that and broke the news that I hadn’t had sex before. She was so taken aback that she told me she’d brag to her nieces about me, making me laugh even harder than the first time.
The reason I had chosen to get Nexplanon inserted before having sex was because much of the attitude I had been raised with was school first, then romance. Once school and romance intersected, I knew that I simply could not afford to get pregnant during this time in my life, so I took preventative measures to ensure that I wouldn’t, and luckily my insurance covered it.
The last step before getting the small procedure done was signing the documents that confirmed I still wanted to go ahead with getting the insertion after running through a long list of potential side effects. After signing off, I was ready to get the operation started. The nurse that had lightened my mood tremendously sent me off to the official OB/GYN that would do my surgery. She was the last person I met that day, and she once again made sure I knew what I was getting myself into. She explicitly told me that it would disrupt my regular period in some way; for me that was lightly bleeding every day for two months.
While she inserted the thin rod into my arm, we had a discussion about High Fidelity and our disappointment over it being cancelled, as well as Never Have I Ever. She felt as if she was able to enjoy the show more because she was more detached from the age group of the characters. The whole thing couldn’t have lasted longer than ten minutes, and I was so into our conversation I almost forgot that I was getting a procedure done. What I had to show for it was a few layers of gauze pressed against the incision area with a Band-Aid to hold it in place, and I was only to remove it after three days. She also invited me to feel the rod in my arm; it was inserted directly under the skin so I should always be able to feel it. Before packing up to leave, she gave me a number to contact if I had any questions or if anything went wrong and reassured me that I could get it taken out at any time.
I thought this experience was worth sharing because the fear that I first felt upon entering the building had dissolved into absolute joy by the time I stepped out of the establishment. On one hand, I felt so empowered that I had taken a big step to assure that I had control over my body and choice. Moreover, the staff was incredible. I had great conversations with every person I encountered that day, making my experience a million times better. One of the biggest takeaways I remember was the overwhelming sense of sex positivity that exuded from the space. I grew up in a family that was as devoutly Catholic as they were Dominican, so I had never had the experience of being somewhere that was anything close to a sex positive space. This moment validated that I, as a woman, was entitled to both pleasure and control over my reproductive system, and that it wasn’t a privilege, but rather a right. For anyone who identifies in any way with being a female, it can easily feel that our bodies are out of our control. From a very young age, our bodies are put on display and subject to judgement from all, regardless of whether or not we are acquainted with them. This makes spaces like Planned Parenthood even more crucial because they grant us the right to choose and as such, we are able to reclaim the living space that is always and will always be ours.