Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My IUD diary aka Mirena and Me

Facing the impending termination of my insurance (Am I really turning 26 already? How did this happen?!) I decided to finally WOMAN UP and get an IUD, Mirena to be specific.  Yes, I had been terrified, of the cost and the procedure for years but I knew it was finally time to grow up and get some big-girl birth control.  I have been tooling around with different kinds of birth control for years, yanking my body this way and that, changing methods and hormone levels by taking whatever I could afford.  I received sample packs of Nuva Rings and used those until they ran out, I got pills from Planned Parenthood when I had the time and patience to sit there and wait, or file all of the paperwork necessary to sign up for Badgercare.....and then there were always condoms.  Boo condoms.

So I found myself in a doctors office, legs spread wide in the ice cold stirrups, ready for my closeup Mr. DeMille!  But I'm getting ahead of myself...let me take you through the process from beginning to end

The day before:
Tell all your friends that you're getting an IUD tomorrow.  Brace yourself to hear every single horror story that they heard from a buddy of their former roommate's boyfriend's roommate.  
                                       "Someone told me that their friend said that it hurts more than childbirth!"

"My mom's boss's daughter got one and it poked a hole 
in her uterus and she had to go to the emergency room!"

                                             "I heard they can force their way out of you, ripping your vagina to shreds!"

.................OH THE HUMANITY!!!!!!!!!!!

The day of:
Pick out your ugliest underwear, because it'll probably get ruined.  You can throw them away afterwards and treat yourself to some new ones!
Orange undies? Good riddance!
Next, borrow your dads car so you don't have to schlep your crampy ass all the way home or take public transportation.
Cadillac? Yes please!
Go to pharmacy, get drug, take drug.  It's called Cytotec and it only cost me $2.50 (not bad!).

Unfortunately it made me reeeeeal queasy for the several hours leading up to my appointment.  But it's totally worth it because it relaxes your lady bits making insertion way easier.  I imagine this sly little pill smoove talking my cervix, all "Baby, it's cool, just relaaaax. Lie back, let me play you some Marvin Gaye, and just go with the flow."  It's like the Ladies Man of pharmaceuticals.
"Mmmmm girl, Let me service your cervix"
So when you're all loosened up and you've popped your Cytotec and some ibuprofens and some Soma (you good little citizen, you), it's time to head to the doctor's office.  And here's where things get, um, uncomfortable.  If you've ever had a pelvic exam, you know what the "duck" feels like.  I can't remember the technical term, but ladies, you know what I'm talking about.  This cold torture device we are all familiar with:

When they've opened your wide with this ^ friendly tool, the doctor swabs some iodine inside your vagina to make sure everything's nice and sterile.  Then they apply some local anesthetic to your cervix with a quick injection, which just feels like a tiny pinch.  This is all well and good, but it's not going to help all that much because the real source of pain is going to be inside your uterus, which there is no anesthesia for.  That's right ladies, in case you didn't know, there is no medical way to numb or reduce pain inside your baby-oven, that is unless you get an epidural shot which short circuits your nerves by interfering with your spinal cord.  In case you are wondering, the answer is no: they will not offer you an epidural for this procedure.

Ok, now you're wide open and ready for insertion.  But first, the doctor will measure your uterus.  This process is EXACTLY like checking the oil in your car.  They take a long metal stick with little notches on it and stick it in you as far as it will go: when they take it out, they can see how far the notches are coated in blood and TADAAH that's the length of your uterus.  It's as if gynecologists the world over shouted, "Technology be damned!  We want to measure wombs by poking them with a long stick!"
Valvoline, or Vulvaline? Get it? Get it?!
I'm not going to lie, this measuring process was the hardest part of the whole procedure.  No matter how gentle your doctor is, this part involves sticking something inside you until they feel resistance by hitting the back of your womb.  It hurts.  And it's a weird pain: it comes in waves and is simultaneously sharp-stabby and all over dull, uncomfortable, and nausea inducing.  On the plus side, this really only lasts a minute or less.  If you're unlucky like me, and your uterus is freakishly small, the doctor will have to measure you from different angles.  Yay!  It turns out that my uterus is only 6 cm long, which is the absolute smallest it's allowed to be to be eligible for IUD insertion.  In fact, it's so itty bitty I'm calling it my "cute-erus" now.  Once the measuring is over, congratulations!  You're ready for your IUD!  
Meet my new best friend! This one was on a keychain in the MD's office,
so ignore the metal dangling stuff at the base, it's not part of the device :)

The insertion is nothing compared to the poking, stretching and measuring that leads up to it.  It literally takes about two seconds and is over before you even know it is happening.  The whole process from stirrups to standing up takes about ten minutes.  

You can expect a bit of spotting, and your doctor should provide you with a pad.  Some of the discharge is actually going to be the iodine that they used to sterilize your love canal, so if it looks like a lot don't freak out.  Cramping follows for a couple of days, but it's nothing that a little ibuprofin and a some margaritas can't fix.  Just make sure you don't have any strenuous activities planned for the next day because it will hurt.  

Oh yeah, and no fucking for a while.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bendito Carajo

Recently, the Latina Institute for Reproductive Health published this wonderful toolkit for facilitating a discussion about reproductive health issues with young Latina women which you can find here.  The guide is full of tips and sample questions all geared at getting a group of girls to talk about their sexual health.  It even has a story-collecting section and specific follow up questions to ask after watching the movie Quinceañera and the show No Easy Decision.  I would give this guide an A+ and am already forwarding it to people within the Latina non-profit community here in Milwaukee. 

There's just one problem.  One of the discussion questions states, "While none of the women in No Easy Decision were Latina, what factors do you think affect a young Latina's decision and/or ability to obtain an abortion?"

(Insert scratching record noise here).

I am Latina.  My mother was born and raised in Colombia, a country that I have had the privilege of visiting numerous times and had citizenship of for most of my life.  I also like Juanes a lot, and I would eat empanadas every day if I could, 'nuff said.  Naturally, I was enojada as all hell.  I even posted a vulgar rant about it on my facebook wall, which I promptly deleted after calming down and realizing how unfair and unprofessional I was being (I have been known to possess a hot temper, a handicap that I am still learning to handle).  The thing is, I really wasn't mad at the Latina Institute.  The toolkit that they produced is terrific, they just goofed and didn't do their research.  They do not deserve my wrath.  The fact is I have always been very insecure about my ethnic identity.  My mom's family are an of old Spanish lineage.  The Vallejo clan even has a crest from Spain, how cool is that!?  In short, we look more European than indigenous.  My dad is an American of purely German descent, so the result is that I look pretty damn white.  Being raised somewhere between the suburbs and the urbs in the midwest and going to predominantly white schools has rendered me accent-less, although I can do a hilarious impression of my mom when she's mad. So I can understand why people assume that I am not a woman of color, but it still bothers me.
I actually received a phone call from Maria Elena of the Latina Institute.  She was incredibly gracious and offered me a sincere apology for the mix up.  I am honestly glad that the mistake happened because if it hadn't I wouldn't have gotten a chance to speak to so sincerely nice a woman, nor would I have even heard of the NLIRH and all of the terrific work they do for women across the country. 
The night after the phone conversation, I had a very vivid dream. I was attempting to buy watermelon ice cream, the kind where there are little black watermelon seeds rendered of sugar speckled throughout the pink and green swirls. I was in a mexican restaurant and everyone was speaking Spanish, and the only language that I could think or speak in was Spanish as well. I remember quite vividly saying “Dos tacos de lengua por favor, y será posible probar el helado de sabor sandía?” and the waiter responding with an icy stare. I was too white to eat there, much less insult them by ordering in Spanish. I feel this way a lot in waking life actually. There are times when speaking in Spanish is the more natural language in a situation but I'm afraid to open my mouth because I'm afraid people will think 'why is this white girl condescending to speak our language'. I don't want to be perceived as one of those dumb gringos that tries to order in Spanish at a Mexican restaurant in an attempt to show off or something. I am also afraid that I'll put my foot in my mouth, forget a common word or make a grammatical error. Small errors plague my Spanish here but seem to disappear when I'm actually in Colombia; when I'm there the words flow like water from a spring.
Well I have to go to work, as usual I am in too much of a rush to edit my rant or even give it a proper conclusion.  I guess I'll leave you with one thought: please don't make assumptions about ethnicity based on race/perceived race.  Someday very soon these boxes that we mistakenly put people in will have no meaning anymore because all races will be mixed and blurred beyond distinction.  I can't wait for that day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy Anniversary

We are on the cusp of the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and I couldn´t be happier about it.  Exactly six years ago I was in attendance at a Roe Anniversary Gala with three of my righteous high school friends and all of our mothers.  No one in my party knew that I had had an abortion a few months before, not even my mom.  In a gorgeous ballroom, listening as our governer gave a moving speech, and surrounded by pro-choice women that I loved, I still couldn´t bring myself to break silence and admit that I had terminated a pregnancy.  The shame and stigma has GOT TO STOP.  This January 24th do yourself and other women a favor: speak up!  Tell a friend or family member, hell, tell your dog.  Write it down if you aren´t ready to talk about it.  But please, raise your voice just a little bit.  Gaining the courage to tell people about my abortion, and eventually televise my story, took a lot of time.  But you know what?  Every time I said the words out loud I felt a little lighter, a little more sure of myself, a little prouder.  I know that sounds cheesy as shit, but it´s the truth. 

And now for something completely different.

My cat died today : /  R.I.P. Pearl (1991-2011)

Friday, January 7, 2011

"No Easy Decision" discussed on the O'Reilly Factor!

What can I say? At least the man is consistent....consistently a sexist, classist, racist, right-wing extremist.  Okay, enough "ists".  I was very pleasantly surprised that the two female correspondents on this show were more level headed and fair than O'Reilly himself.  Gretchen Carlson referred to "No Easy Decision" as neutral, and Margaret Hoover had similar sentiments.  They reacted the way I had hoped that conservatives would.  Unfortunately I don't have time to give this clip the full review and analysis that it deserves because I have to clean myself up and go to work.  Now if someone would kindly buy me a car so that I didn't have to walk 45 minutes to get to my job I could blog all day, but since I don't see that happening in the near future the following link (and YOUR juicy comments) will have to be enough for today.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I know you've heard of Roe....but what about Doe?

Why is it that our collective unconscious has associated all abortion rights with the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade while no one remembers the case of Doe v. Bolton that occurred the very same year? I admit, I hadn't heard of this ground breaking Supreme Court ruling until I was about 19, and I did so because I was independently researching reproductive rights (naturally this is a topic of personal interest to me). Well I for one think it's high time we all gave credit to this case, so gather round faithful readers, and I'll tell you the story of how the brave “Mary Doe” defeated the evil Arthur Bolton!

Okay, okay, that's not really what happened. “Mary Doe” (aka Sandra Cano) was a poor mother who had already had run ins with social services and was attempting to raise her children on her own as the father was incarcerated at the time. When she became pregnant again and the state of Georgia prevented her from aborting because she was in the later stages of pregnancy, she filed a court case with a lawyer who she later claimed misled her. Georgia's laws at the time were very strict and mandated proof of residency (which would unfairly prevent homeless people or those without documentation from obtaining abortions), written approval from not one but three physicians, and approval by the hospital staff abortion committee. I wonder if every hospital even had the resources to have a dedicated committee to inquire about every request for abortions. Here is a link to the appeal itself:

The 7-2 Supreme Court decision that took place in 1973 over-ruled several Georgia laws that limited access to abortion in later stages of pregnancy. It defined health risks to the mother that would justify a third trimester abortion, namely those that could fatal if the fetus is not removed. The court also recognized “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age” as potential factors that a physician could take into account when deciding if the woman is healthy enough to give birth.

So Cano claims that she never understood the circumstances surrounding her court case and has always been “pro-life”. In fact, she never even had an abortion, she backed out days before her procedure was scheduled. Ironically both Sandra Cano and Norma McCorvey (of Roe v. Wade fame) are now staunch anti-choice activists. Confused? You're not alone. According to Cano, she didn't know why she was suing Attorney General Arthur Bolton. I honestly don't understand how someone can go through all the rigamarole of a district court case followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court and not know what they are doing or why they are doing it. It just doesn't make sense, even after reading interviews with her I have to conclude that she is either lying because she later regretted her decision and wants to absolve herself of the guilt she is masochistically putting herself through, or she is just so ignorant that she is actually capable of suing someone, signing documents, talking to lawyers etc. without knowing why. I doubt it.

When a fetus is farther along in development and even potentially viable outside of the womb the whole idea of terminating the pregnancy is a harder pill to swallow, even for me. But while abortions that take place in the third trimester are extremely controversial I think that if the life of a grown person with friends, family, emotions, responsibilities, thoughts and memories is quite frankly more important than the potential life of a new person with no strings attached to this existence. Doe v. Bolton made late term abortions available to women when it is necessary. Even if Sandra Cano doesn't appreciate what she has done for women I do. Thanks!

I think this issue is fascinating because it's such a sticky subject. I know I am pro-choice and believe late term abortions should remain legal and available when necessary. At the same time, I think we all reach a point where the lines between what we're comfortable with and what we're not get a little blurry. It's impossible to define an exact month, week or day when aborting a fetus is no longer something I would endorse. Thoughts?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Hipocrisy of Anti-Choice Women who have Abortions

What is with the phenomenon of fiercely anti-choice women making exceptions for themselves when they get unexpectedly pregnant?  It's infuriating that they allow themselves access to the same procedure that they would have made illegal for other women.  The following is a link to a series of very brief stories written by physicians about their experience with anti-choice patients.  Some of these women appeared at the very same clinic that their procedure was done to harass the very doctors and staff that had cared for them.  Unbelievable!  If you are holding any hot beverages such as coffee or tea I recommend that you set them down before reading this because if your reaction is anything like mine you will be shaking with anger.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lori Ignoranto....I mean Ziganto

Another right-winger has gotten it wrong! Mis-representing the show “No Easy Decision” (this time) is ultra conservative Lori Ziganto, a contributor for Red Of course I'm not surprised that some people don't appreciate what we were trying to accomplish, but I am surprised that I have yet to see one conservative blogger say a single positive thing about our special. Many conservatives and self described “pro-life” people have come to me in person and respectfully explained that while they don't agree with my decision to have had an abortion they think that it is positive to open up the discussion. Without dramatically over-emphasizing the difficulties of having an abortion, I think that “No Easy Decision” succeeded in showing that it can be a hard process. Surely that part of our message is one that the right can agree with. I am proud to know conservative men and women who don't see this as a black-and-white issue and agree that it is never wrong to speak up openly and honestly. It just goes to show that often the loudest voices are the most ignorant, because all the voices I hear online and in the conservative media are polarizing at best and violent at worst. So sad.

Here are some real gems from her odyssey of an article. Even J.R.R. Tolkien would have advised her to trim this epic down a bit.

One of the girls said that wouldn’t have been an option because it wasn’t the baby part that was scary; it was that pregnancy is icky. She had an abortion to avoid pregnancy symptoms. She also spoke of the sacrifices (her word) that she had to make to pay the $750.00 abortion fee. Her prom ticket, for one.”

If you paid attention to the show you would know that Katie made the comment about pregnancy being scary (what woman doesn't think that?) and it was I who had to pay $750 for my abortion. We are not the same person. Also, my sacrifices were many, not just a prom ticket. If that were all I had to sacrifice that would indeed be trivial. Please realize that this segment was about ten minutes long and none of us on the stage were able to discuss every detail of our stories.

They’ve turned college into a need; one can’t meet their twisted ideas of equality without it. They’ve placed a higher value on an increasingly meaningless piece of paper than on life itself and are trying to teach our daughters the same. Plus, why is college a make or break situation? Is a woman somehow lesser if she doesn’t get a college degree? They must think I’m a third class citizen!”

According to the U.S. Census bureau, people with bachelors degrees earn nearly double that of their non college educated counterparts. Anyone who is trying to raise a family knows that minimum wage is simply not enough to live on. Single mothers, of which there would be many more if abortion were not legal, are even more likely to live at or near the poverty line, as women still earn less money than men do on average.

During the panel discussion, Natalia complained about how hard it is to have to “beg a judge for permission to make your own decision”, due to parental consent laws. She did receive a judicial bypass. The reason? She didn’t want to tell her parents and disappoint them. How on earth does that constitute a reason for a judicial bypass of parental consent?

If people like yourself didn't create such a stigma about abortions I wouldn't have felt the need to keep my choice a secret.

This is the mentality the girls have been taught.
Personally I was taught nothing about abortion or the question of morality in regards to this issue before I found out I was pregnant. I had never seen it depicted on a tv show, in a movie or discussed in general unless it was on some sort of political debate show which, let's face it, most teenagers don't watch a lot of and are often just shouting matches anyway. I had not been taught what to think. I knew immediately that it was not the right time for me to become a mother and I have never regretted it for a second. Yes, having the abortion was challenging in some ways, but that does not mean that I feel remorse. The absence of information out there is why I chose to do this show. Perhaps girls will watch our honest discussion and feel less ashamed. Perhaps they will even see that abortion can be difficult and they will decide to do everything in their power to avoid facing that decision in the first place: a reaction I think “pro-life” people would appreciate.

While your journalistic integrity is questionable, your use of phrases like “cuckoo pants” is at least entertaining. Keep it up! Maybe someday you'll be a real writer.

Here's the original