“Someone better have sex with me right now,” I choked out between grunts of pain. I was laying in the front seat of my parents’ Subaru Outback, a chocolate chip cookie held limply in one hand, the other resting where I had guessed my uterus was.
My parents’ laughter echoed through the car, but I wasn’t sure that it had even been a joke. I felt bloated and feverish. A headache was coming on and anxiety was reaching from my chest, wrapping its long fingers around my lungs, clenching them as I fought to breathe.
Whoever says the cervix doesn’t have any nerve endings clearly doesn’t have one. The IUD the doctor had inserted an hour before radiated pain from a part of my body I didn’t even know I could feel.
“Oh Moira, you’re going to be fine. It’ll all be worth it.”
I rolled my eyes. I had literally needed anti-anxiety medication prescribed on the spot to calm down enough to leave the doctor’s office — the only thing that could possibly make this worth it was meeting my soulmate immediately and making passionate love forever, right?
My mom’s words were well-meaning, but how many times had I heard them before? How many times have people with uteruses heard that the pain — the mood swings, the acne, the depression, the anxiety, the weight gain, the cramps, the costs, the inconvenience, the uncomfortable pharmacy interactions — is worth the ability to most-likely-not-but-maybe-still get pregnant from sex with a man?
And that’s if the pain is acknowledged at all.
My journey using birth control started an optimistic while before I started having sex, with a visit to get Lolo prescribed “just in case.” My family doctor assured me it was the lowest dosage available and that it would have minimal side-effects, but tutted and hummed her way through my next visit a year later when I told her the mood swings, weight gain and acne had been too much for me. I had stopped taking the tiny blue pills each morning, I explained.
“You’re young, you’re growing up. Mood swings are normal.”
And here I thought the thing I was using to protect myself from the sex I wasn’t even having might have been the problem!
I took things into my own hands and stopped taking Lolo. I figured I could re-evaluate the issue when sex was more than a minuscule spec on the horizon.
“What kind of protection do you use?” he asked.
A beat, two beats and then — “Um, I’m on the pill ... if that’s what you mean?”
He seemed relieved to have that business out of the way and continued removing my shirt. But my mind drifted as his hands did, too. Did I take my pill today? Yes, I think so? I’m pretty sure — ah, yes! I remember shoving it in my mouth on the way out the door because he told me that he was in town this week. Shit, was that presumptuous? Did I take it every day last week? I wasn’t even sure that he was visiting specifically to see me and now he’s in my bed. Moira, why didn’t you think of this? If you’re going to get knocked up, you should at least go for a guy majoring in something employable.
If I couldn’t even enjoy the spontaneous sex that was supposed to make the mood swings, the weight and the mountain of a pimple on my face worth it, what was the point of taking that tiny blue monster each morning? Other than being able to casually signal that, ‘Yeah, I bang,’ to anyone who saw me pull the pouch out of my wallet in morning lecture, I couldn’t see how the pill was actually helping me own my sexuality.
I was shouldering a burden that my partners never had to think about.
My sex life then went on an unscripted hiatus, and so did my commitment to taking the pill. Only remembering when I had a regular partner was giving me whiplash, and my eventual lack thereof made me wonder if it were possible to revirginize.
“Moira, come on. That’s not how it works.” My sister, in a stable relationship, was unsympathetic.
I ignored her naysaying, took advantage of my regained virtue and got an IUD inserted. Rather, the IUD inserted itself and my body fought it valiantly for a few days until giving into the tiny robot forging a home in my cervix.
In the throes of intermittent, insufferable pain for days, I didn’t realize it would help me make a home in my body, too.
A few weeks later, an evening with a new person turned into five months and counting with a new partner. For the first time, I didn’t have to hesitate, to count, to worry before I said yes — hell yes. My heart thumped with excitement, not anxiety. My breath caught only because I didn’t have the words, not because there was anything I was afraid to say.
The pressure for sex to be the be-all-end-all of my sensory experiences has abated because I’m no longer sacrificing my physical and mental health to make it more comfortable for my partners. There’s nothing I have to weigh against it to be “worth it.” I’m never compromising what I’m comfortable with to take advantage of the moments we have together in between lectures and barre classes just because we don’t have a condom but we want to so badly.
Hopefully, four and a half years will be long enough to find a kindly doctor to put me under for my next IUD insertion or just have the memories of that pain hypnotized into oblivion — but that’s a burden I can live with. For now, I get to intertwine my fingers with his instead of counting the days since I last forgot to take a pill behind my back.