I’m an IUD evangelist now, and you should too!

Uterus-eats-IUD

Welp. I did it. I took the leap. I made the jump. I did all of the metaphorical cliches that allude to diving or otherwise throwing one’s own body off of a high place in order to represent the gravity of the choice they’ve made. I got an IUD.

For the longest time I was avidly against changing my body’s natural rhythm and messing with my already imbalanced hormones to control my reproductive system, so I avoided birth control like the plague. It wasn’t until three months ago, when I started my first serious relationship that I discovered that condoms really don’t feel that good. (who would’ve thought?) I went to my obgyn to talk about the possibility of getting an IUD, since I had heard there were non-hormonal options, like ParaGard. She walked me through all the hormonal/non-hormonal possibilities, but said that she highly recommended an IUD that’s new to the market: Skyla. Skyla is being marketed specifically at nulliparous, younger women (that’s me!) because it’s smaller, emits less hormones than Mirena, (its “older sister”), and has an easier insertion process. I walked out of her office with some pamphlets, my first pack of back-up hormonal birth control pills, and a promise to order an IUD.

As with most of my big decisions, I scoured the internet for research and statistics. How effective is the IUD? What are the pros/cons? Did I want a hormonal option or a non-hormonal? More importantly, which one did I want?

I decided on Skyla because the insertion sounded easier, I liked the idea of the lesser amount of hormones, and I like to think of my uterus as being endearingly smaller than normal. Itching to not have to use the pill anymore, I placed the order for my IUD via my insurance, since the entire cost of the device was covered under my health plan. (Thanks, Obama!). Skyla arrived about a month later, and my gynecologist’s office called me to schedule an insertion appointment. Well, that appointment was yesterday, friends, and I can tell you – it’s one hell of a ride!

The insertion was probably the least painful part of the whole process. The residual cramping is not my best friend, and my uterus has never been crankier at me. Sorry, lil guy. Like a good little IUD patient, I took my 800mg of ibuprofen half an hour before the appointment, made sure I had eaten a good lunch, and attempted to get a lot of sleep the night before. When I got to the office, they took my urine sample, set me up in a room and made me strip from the waist down. I signed a consent form, took off my pants, and placed my feet in the stirrups, ready for anything. My gynecologist came in, asked me how I was doing, and began to explain the procedure to me. Kindly asking whether I’d like to know what she was doing or if I’d rather remain delightfully ignorant, I consented to her giving me a play-by-play. I wanted to know how this little plastic thing was going to make it inside my uterus. I’m somewhat sadistically fascinated by these things, so she grabbed the forceps and got going.

The beginning of the process feels somewhat like a PAP smear, not at all painful, I felt little to no discomfort. She spread some antiseptic on my cervix, then said I was going to feel a little pinch, so she asked me to cough. At this point, she had grabbed the tenaculum and grabbed the lip of my cervix, began pulling it down in order to align the uterine placement for insertion. Again, I didn’t feel anything (I suppose I’m one of the lucky ones). She stuck a measuring rod in, then explained she was going to dilate the cervix. The cervical dilation was probably the most painful part of the experience (maybe a 5 on the pain scale) – and it was a nice little taste of what childbirth feels like, I imagine. It just felt like a really concentrated period cramp with a lot of pressure. Then she inserted the Skyla IUD, an “Ow” and 15 seconds later, my cute little “T” was in place and ready to start fighting off sperm! She trimmed my strings and set me up for an ultrasound, and just like that I was the proud host of an IUD!

I left the appointment cramping pretty heavily, with some spotting in the afternoon. I had been spotting all day, however, prior to the insertion because HBC made me get a 3-5 day period every two weeks. The spotting meant that my cervix was already in a lower, slightly more open position, which explains the general lack of insertion pain. I spent the afternoon eating ice cream with my boyfriend, and we eventually settled in for the night with a bottle of wine and an episode or two of Sherlock.

I didn’t sleep well, the cramping kept waking me up, and I had a horrible stomach ache all night. (Though that might be the wine’s fault, and not little Lupe’s. That’s what I named her – Guadalupe. My IUD. Seemed fitting.) This morning I’ve had intermittent cramps that range on a pain scale from 1-3 out of 10. Although, I’m starting to believe in light of my nearly painless Brazilian wax I got last week that I might have a high tolerance for pain. Yay future child-bearing me!

I’m super thrilled about my newest little buddy. My uterus is not so much. However, in a few weeks, I’m sure my body will be as excited as I am about hassle-free birth control for the next three years of my life!

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Unmet expectations.

I’m angry that I’m vulnerable.

I’m angry that I trusted.

I hate how much I think it means to me.

My heart has been so battered.

There’s wine and love around me, but I use them just to numb

everything. Because i don’t feel pain

I never feel a thing. That’s why I drink. i start to feel when

the warmth tickles my nervous system the way your attitude

tickled my thoughts. You made me feel.

And to a girl who fought her entire life to be numb?

Making me feel was irreplaceable.

Virginity Diaries: Rose

I can’t give all the credit to Chris for aiding me in my path to sexual discovery and openness, though he deserves a large portion of it. No, I have to thank the sex fanatic, and now dearest friend, that I lived with my sophomore year. Rose.

 

Rose lost her virginity to her high school boyfriend when she was a freshman. And boy, she spilled details. ALL the details. All the time. He lived upstate, and she would visit him every weekend. The best part was her consistent concern about how old he was.

 

“I’m going to jail,” she’d say. “Oh my god, I swear I’m going to jail.”

She was a freshman in college.

He was 15.

 

But she would come rushing back to the city, spilling everything about their juicy hookups, and disclosing all of the gossip she had tucked away in her mind.

 

What I found when I came to school was that there were two types of non-virgins: ones that were in serious, long lasting relationships who seemed to never talk about their sex life; and then there was Rose, whose discovery about sex opened up the world to her, and she suddenly stopped talking about everything else.

 

I really have to thank Rose someday, because if it weren’t for her, I would have never known some of the things about sex that became really useful upon mine very own losing of the virginity. What baffled me about Rose, though, was her distinctly sharp change in beliefs. She was raised as a reformed Jew, and didn’t think sex before marriage was wrong by any means, but she herself had decided to save herself for marriage. I distinctly remember walking home with her one night, and she was talking about the blow job she had just given to this composition major. She was appalled that he had pushed her head down to go deeper (a term I had never heard before this conversation. I mean I was really naïve), and she was convinced she would never agree to see him again.

I heard my mother’s voice in the back of my head saying, “You know what kids are doing nowadays, Michele? They’re having oral sex. ORAL. Do you know what that means??”

My face flushed because of my mother’s embarrassment at the ludicrousness of giving oral sex, and because my own confusion on the subject seemed to scream inexperience.

That conversation happened in November.

In January, Rose was no longer virginal.

 

Rose’s story is much more intricately tied, and will of course be interspersed through the diary for supportive  and illustrative purposes, but when she lost her virginity, she felt “empowered”, not puppy-dog sick like other people I had heard from. Her boyfriend made her feel amazing and incredible all the time, she liked having sex with him. It was a win-win situation.

 

The mini-epiphanies on my journey came in small doses. The first one happened with Rose. It started with the conversations we would have about having sex. And the first one dealt with the question of “losing” something. Why would we say that we’ve “lost” our virginity, if it wasn’t something that was missed when it was gone? Everyone was having sex, and it seemed like nobody cared about the mystical V-word disappearing forever.

 

“Lost” made the event sound one of two things. Either tragic and fatal, like you had “lost” your grandfather; or trivial and confused, like in the way you “lost” your hamster in 6th grade. I wanted to think that the event of becoming a non-virgin it would fall somewhere in the middle of those two things. Important, but not destructive. So I started questioning. I asked Rose what she thought about “losing” it to someone – and she kinda shrugged and then just started talking about how long it had been since she had had sex.

 

So I took the phrase elsewhere. Back to my best friend from Idaho, Julie.

The Virginity Diaries

The “V” word. Virginity. It frightened me for years.

On the path to losing it (because that’s what I was told I had to do- lose it – as if it were an object I could accidentally misplace or something), I encountered a myriad of opinions and feelings on the topic. I debated it with people from different religions, philosophies and upbringings for years. You could say I actually believed almost every single side of the virginity debate, and quite passionately too, from start to finish on the journey to becoming a non-virgin. I traveled from the abstinence side to losing my virginity in a non-committal, completely casual hookup. But the process took years – and there were many influential variables along the way that influenced my decision to go from virgin to non-virgin. See, the thing is, I don’t find that there is really an adequate term to describe someone who isn’t a virgin anymore. Like non-virgin functions to describe people who have had sex, but it’s not as succinct as virgin is to people who haven’t. So, I guess like the rest of the world, I’ll be stuck labeling people who haven’t had sex as “virgins” and those that have just as “people”, since it’s kind of a trivial thing that shouldn’t define the value, worth or identity of another human being. With that in mind, I’ll proceed with my very own virginity diary.

I was raised a good little Christian girl in the heart of rural America. I went to church in buckled Mary Jane’s and dresses every single Sunday. We went out to brunch after church, and I set up play dates with my Sunday school friends, and I lived merrily in a warm, supportive church community for 18 blissfully unaware, naïve years. I believed passionately and whole-heartedly in the inerrancy of Christianity, and not in some blinded idealistic American philosophy that God was going to bless me with a perfect, large house with a white picket fence and kids and a cherry on top if I just served him. My faith was real, studied, theologically sound and proven, even. Maybe a little misled, but I will never deny it was real. I believed that my belief in Jesus as God guided my opinions, my decisions, and my entire life until I moved out of the house (and even beyond). And Christianity played a foundational role in my understanding of virginity; what it was, what it meant to me, and how it fit into a neat little box on the shelf labeled “not until marriage”.

I left home to move to New York, with idealistic dreams of big city life. Broadway shows, late nights, rooftop bars, and coffee dates a la Sex and the City. And New York became just that to me – the land of possibility and potential – and with its glamour, came a wall of opposing opinions. One of the first people I met upon arriving in New York was Chris. Chris was openly homosexual, an avid agnostic, and a self-identified realist. We became fast friends. At the time, I was trying to prove to him that I wasn’t a stereotypical Christian. I may not have approved of homosexuality, but damn it, I was going to love him like a Christian was supposed to. And my friendship with Chris planted a giant wedge between my religion and my philosophies, one that would only continue to split the two in different directions. Our numerous conversations opened the “not until marriage” box and scattered it across the room. These conversations involved everything from biology to spirituality to gruesome details about upbringings and everything in between. And neat little conservative me began to change. Suddenly, my compartmentalized past was jumbled. An earth quake went off in my mind and I couldn’t sort what was absolute from what wasn’t. And it was the beautiful beginning into deepening my understanding of tolerance and acceptance.

As I grappled with new friendships and new social settings, I met a number of influential people who helped to drastically change my opinion and philosophy on virginity. They became necessary for the shaping of my decisions and my future; which (spoiler alert) results in me losing my virginity. The stories are innumerable.

So as the muse, I invite you to come along. Read my story; send me yours. Let’s start a conversation. As the blog develops, I think I’ll find a more streamlined vision of what I want it to be. I’m hoping it sparks conversation.

Now let’s talk about sex.

Best friends.

I knew there were two friends I could truly call my “best”, but they share two very different, yet equally amazing, relationships with me. I refer to both of them as my best friend, so much so, that as I talk about them in conversation, people who don’t know them can never tell which one I’m talking about. It can be confusing, seeing as one is married with a child and the other is as single as could be and loving it.

In fact, they’re almost like polar opposites. One of them has tattoos, gauged ears and at one point sported some amazing dread locks. The other looks like Taylor Swift. (I don’t lie) I met one of them in nursery and the other one in high school. But they both have had such an amazing impact on my life.

The problem I have is that I don’t think the word “best” does any justice to their level of commitment to our friendship – to me. Best is the absolute superlative of ‘good’, which somehow makes it sound like their friendship is somewhat performance based. But that’s the farthest thing from this relationship. Yet I hesitate to settle for “closest” friends, because a lot of people know me fairly well,

But when they were holding me, letting me cry with a bottle of wine because the man I thought I would marry introduced me to his fiancee, I realized two things.

Somehow, somewhere, I grew up.

And my best friends grew up with me.

 

It was beautiful, you know. It was one of those moments captured in a novel that rarely plays out in real life. It was the triumph of friendship, of ultimate companionship and camaraderie, and it was truly beautiful.

To fall in love with a complete stranger.

It was a sunny New York winter day. The kind that almost felt like it was still fall.

I was in a coffee shop, reading a novel. Romantic, right?

But then I saw him. His sparkling blue eyes met mine and I knew we were meant to be.

I shyly glanced away, but when I looked back up, his gaze met mine yet again.

We half-smiled.

I couldn’t bear it. I looked again, and I knew. It was love at first sight.

He met my eyes and his face lit up. This was a real smile.

It was almost as if he read my mind. I glanced away and so did he.

When he walked out of that coffee shop, I knew I would never see him again.

Such is the tragic state of love in New York City.

What’s the deal with “No Shave November”… and girls?

Earlier today I was talking with one of my co-workers about this phenomenon known as “No Shave November” or even “Movember”, which are kind of not really the same thing. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, no-shave November was founded as a way to raise awareness and funds for cancer. The philosophy is that by embracing our hair, which cancer patients usually lose due to chemotherapy and radiation treatments, we both raise awareness for the cause, and ideally donate whatever money we don’t spend on grooming products to help support cancer research and treatment. Movember, more specifically, raises awareness of men’s health issues including prostate cancer. Same concept, same month, but No Shave November includes women! Or does it?

See, my male co-worker was surprised to find that I intended to participate in No-Shave November, and more specifically, that I had in the past. He inquired as to whether women were even “allowed” to do that. Now, I’m a relatively quiet feminist. I’m one of those “lower case” feminists, you know? The one that thinks that feminism, like all rational, human-rights related issues, should be a conversation, not a single-sided argument. But when he asked me, I almost scoffed, and not intentionally! Why would it be so absurd for a woman to stop shaving for a month, if it’s so socially acceptable for men to be unshaven? To further the gap between what society considers a normal “gender conforming” behavioral pattern to look like, there are men who think that women should be (and generally are) sleek, slender, smoothly shaven human beings. And there are women who actually are sleek, slender, smoothly shaven. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with thatI get it. Hair bothers some people. And for the most part, people are generally “OK” with leg hair. But anything else? Absurd. 

My thoughts are this. Beards are in style. Armpit hair on women, for whatever reason, is not. But in New York City? Is it truly this absurd to see a woman with armpit hair?

I have three standard questions about No-Shave November that I’d like to address. They have all been asked of me, and are repeatedly asked of me every November for the past three years.

1. “Can girls even do that?

Well, yes, we can and do refrain from shaving. Don’t we get to raise awareness about cancer too?

2. What if your significant other doesn’t like you with hair?”

I have two thoughts on this. First, I’m not dating my significant other because they like my smoothly shaven legs. I like to think that they’re fond of my personality, or that they even like the way I look sometimes. Maybe I’m fun to be around, you know. ‘Cause I’m a person and all that.  And second, if the existence of body hair on my body is really that difficult for my significant other to handle, I shave. Because, a relationship is more important to me than a silly month of hairiness.

3. “But why?”

And this is why I’m writing this post. Why? Simply because you’re still asking me this question. If I were a man, who respectfully decided to refrain from shaving for the month of November, the conversation would be entirely different. Let’s take the idea of Movember for example. Men not shaving to raise awareness for men’s health issues. Great. Sometimes men grow mustaches because they look good, too. My opinion? Women not shaving their armpits to make a statement is going to raise a lot more awareness than a group of men growing facial hair. That’s relatively commonplace. Especially if you live in Bushwick.

Here’s to the remainder of the month. To all you hairy creatures, cheers.

-MC

Dear New York, it’s not you, it’s me.

I fall out of love with New York City daily. It’s a process. When I first moved to New York, I enjoyed what may have been a normal, glamorous honeymoon phase. We were lovers for a while. We flirted, we bantered. New York captured my thoughts, evoked my imagination, and stole my heart. But now, it takes each new day for New York to win me back. And without fail, it succeeds each day. Yet somehow I know that the day I wake up and can’t seem to love New York anymore is the inevitable day when I may just leave. 

But each day I’m a little more thankful that today is not that day.