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This is a love letter to my IUD
Nadya Okamoto (she/her)
|
6.17.2021

When I was 16-years-old, I told my mom that I was ready to have sex. For some reason, I felt more comfortable declaring my plans to have sex rather than asking my mom directly for birth control. My mom was open with me about all things regarding puberty and sex with me from an early age – when I was in first grade, I remember getting in trouble multiple times for excitedly teaching my peers how they were made, and all the details I knew about what their parents had to do to make them.

I started with birth control pills. For the first few weeks, I was strict with myself on taking my pill daily, at the same exact time every day. I had a pretty extreme, sometimes irrational fear, of getting pregnant in high school.

My mom has always reminded me to have protected and safe sex, and warned me about the consequences of getting pregnant unexpectedly. In high school, I was the “scholarship kid” – in fact for a time, I think my face was quite literally included in the financial aid packet. My mom would remind me that if my peers got pulled over for drunk driving, or arrested in any form, got bad grades, or got pregnant – their families would have enough money to take care of it and move on. WE did not have that safety net.

I quickly learned that remembering to take the pill at the same time every day was extremely difficult, and every time I took it, I would feel a twang of frustration that the sexually active men in my life did not bear the burden of the cost or the task of having to do the same. I felt like a busy 16-year-old! My family had just gotten back on our feet and moved back into our own place after experiencing housing instability, I had just started my first nonprofit organization, I was involved in about 16 different clubs at school, doing pre-professional ballet, playing on the boys’ varsity baseball team, and fully embracing being stereotyped as the type-A Asian girl around school – how was I supposed to remember to take a pill at the same time every single day?!

Years later, as a college freshman, I decided to get an IUD. This time, not because I wanted to have sex, but simply because I wanted to take care of my own body.

I was nervous because while there were good stories I had heard about the IUD – people always seemed to like to share their horror stories more. All of my friends who had IUDs told me about how much pain you would feel for the whole day, and even the weeks following – or that they fainted when they were walking out of the doctor’s office and couldn’t drive for the rest of the day. My experience with getting my IUD was the opposite of all of this – I know it’s different for everyone, but I got lucky. It barely hurt when they put my IUD in, and I immediately felt painless as soon as I walked out of the door. My first year with my IUD was bliss – I didn’t get my period and I didn’t have to remember to take a pill every day, and that relief made my sex life infinitely better.

As there is with every loving relationship though, boy have my IUD and I had our challenges… a few months ago, I started to notice that there was some hair wrapped around my IUD strings, and then that they were knotting around each other. And no matter how many times my doctor looked inside of me and told me not to worry, that it should naturally detangle, I noticed as that hair knot got bigger and bigger. Apparently, from showering and sex, my long-ass hair was finding its way to my IUD strings and getting all tangled up – and that knot was starting to catch onto my menstrual cup every month when I started getting my period again six months ago…

Things took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago when I was in Las Vegas – enjoying my first-ever week-long vacation… on our last night, I reached in to pull out my menstrual cup, in the carefree and natural way I have done it regularly for like the last decade of my life. Only this time, as I pulled it out, I felt a huge amount of pressure and pain immediately like my whole uterus had inverted and been pulled out of me.

I’m being a little dramatic, but that’s truly what it felt like for the first few moments. I almost had to check inside the toilet to make sure that no organs had been forcibly removed from my body. But, taking a deep breath, I reached inside, felt around, and realized that about half of my IUD was sticking out of my cervix… knowing that I didn’t have health insurance in the state, I knew what I had to do.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, held my stomach, and with one big push…literally pushed my IUD back into place. I can honestly say, that THAT is the most painful thing I have ever felt in recent years. Good news though, fast forward two weeks, and things are back to normal. I ended up going to the doctors and they were able to confirm that my IUD is in fact still working and seems to be in place, and they were able to remove that pesky hairball I had amassed on my apparently unusually long IUD strings.

My doctor told me that while she had seen multiple people accidentally remove their IUDs from removing a menstrual cup, I was the first that had successfully put it back in myself. She asked me how I had the will power to do it, and I realized that there was a big part of me that saw that as the only option. Even with these new traumatic experiences with my IUD in the last few weeks – I love my IUD. I knew I didn’t have health insurance in that state, and there was no way I was going to let go of this precious cargo.

I get to hold onto my IUD in my cervix, with more than 99% certainty that I will not get pregnant and have to get an abortion – and honestly, that is such a relief in and of itself because right now, access to birth control and abortion is actively being banned and fought against nationally – and that’s really fucking scary. Birth control is freedom – the freedom to discover and reach full potential, without the risk or concern of family planning when you’re not ready. As the fight to uphold our right to birth control and govern our own bodies -- I thank my IUD, and all the other IUDs out there that have positively helped their users, and I hope that whether it be birth control pills, the shot, or the IUD, we will soon get to a place where all will be guaranteed access.

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