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October 21, 2008

What I did for love

I wouldn’t call it my favorite way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. I’m lying on an examining table with my feet in stirrups and a sheet over my lap. 

As the doctor brandishes an enormous scissor-like instrument, I take a deep breath and focus my attention on the mother-and-child mobile hanging from the ceiling. The paper babies fluttering in the A/C remind me of why I’m here. 

After today, there’s a 99.9 percent chance that my future will contain no more stretch marks, no more swollen ankles, no more cravings for stale chocolate donuts. No more spit-up, no more breastfeeding, no more late-night wake-up calls from a howling 6-week-old infant. It is D-Day. IUD-Day. And I’m scared as hell.

It’s not like I’ve had anyone to confide in about my fears, either. Contraception is one of those land-mine topics that smart moms avoid. As usual, I learned this the hard way. 

“I started the pill this month,” I shyly confided to my playgroup shortly after having my first child four years ago. “It’s a low-dose pill, so I can take it while I’m breastfeeding.”

“I would never put those hormones in my body, especially while I’m nursing,” a blonde named Christy said primly. “My husband and I use natural family planning.” The other mothers murmured in agreement. 

Essentially, Christy and company charted their body temperatures every morning and plugged the readings into an online calendar, which then calculated for them the days it was “safe” to have sex. Since research puts the failure rate of this method somewhere between 2 and 30 percent, I figured a better name for it was, as one of my readers termed it, “pull-out-n-pray.” 

In fact, ever since the playgroup incident, I’ve managed to keep all my contraceptive decisions to myself — until recently. When my doctor told me that an IUD lasts five years and is more effective than a vasectomy, I couldn’t resist writing about it on my blog.

And that’s when the horror stories started pouring in.

“I had the Mirena IUD for a year and a half, and I became convinced it was making me crazy,” wrote one Suburban Turmoil reader. “I’ve never had depression before, but I would have day-long crying jags and wild, strange ideation that NEVER happened before.”

“Apparently my uterus decided to eat my IUD,” another woman told me, “and when my doctor went to take it out, she got to see my baby boy (at eight weeks pregnant) practically hugging the thing.”

“We used the Natural Family Planning method, but since I have two children now when we planned for neither, we decided to do the IUD,” reported one mom. “And I was so excited! Of course, I’m the one-in-1,000 who ended up with a perforated uterus.”

Wonderful.

Then there were the e-mails from women who had yelled or cursed or even passed out while having their IUDs inserted. The pain was agonizing, they told me. Mind-boggling. 

Did I say I was excited about an IUD? Scratch that. 

In the end, it was only the silent, pleading looks my husband had started giving me that convinced me to show up for the appointment. There was a time, I reminded myself, when I said I’d do anything for that man. Funny, I never thought “anything” would involve having a piece of plastic lodged in my uterus. 

I had always known love would involve sacrifice, though, and so I arrived at the doctor’s office on IUD-Day feeling every bit the martyr. Dressed in white to symbolize my sacrificial status, I prepared to offer up my body to unspeakable torture, all in the name of Love.

“It’s really not bad,” my doctor reassured me, noting my sickly pallor as she came into the room. “The pain is totally bearable.” She paused. “It’s always that way, though, when you want the end result badly enough.”

Smiling weakly, I lay down on the table, fixed my gaze on the mother-and-child mobile and, for the 100th time that day, went through my litany of positive thoughts.

“Are you ready?” the doctor asked. I nodded.

No more pregnancy migraines, I told myself, wincing as I felt a sharp cramp in my abdomen. No more morning sickness. No more cankles. Watching those paper babies, my thoughts strayed. No more footie pajamas. No more kitchen-sink baths. No more first smiles, first words, first birthday parties. Oh my God, what was I doing? Before I could follow through with that train of thought, the doctor’s voice jolted me out of my reverie. 

“We’re done,” she said, smiling. “How do you feel?”

“Fine,” I lied. “Great.”

“What did I tell you?” she asked, grinning.

“I guess I really wanted it,” I said. 

And that’s what I’ve been telling myself ever since.

Tagged: Suburban Turmoil |