Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stuff Mom Never Told You

If you're a lady or are interested in lady issues, you should check out the fabulous podcast from HowStuffWorks called Stuff Mom Never Told You.

The podcast is full of awesome information on everything from nuns to kegels, smoking to subliminal ovulation. One of their latest podcasts explores the phenomenon of unknowingly being pregnant.

The ladies address the horror they imagine at such a discovery (as most of us would, and some of us have), and they also get to the heart of the issue. They wrap up their podcast with these points:
Sometimes we’ll hear things like an irregular cycle is normal, or feeling awful around the time of your period is normal, or just feeling awful in general, it’s hormones. People are quick to write off women’s health problems. And women are less likely to take time out of their day to go to the doctor and find out what’s going on… I think the lesson here is to take some time for yourself… Going to the doctor regularly, checking in on your sexual health with yourself, what’s going on here?

As I've shared my own experience with other women, their reactions have revealed all sorts of misconceptions about their own reproductive health and ways in which we women don't always spend the time with our bodies we should.

I've heard so many anecdotes. One girl friend has been fighting monthly yeast infections for two years to no avail; Another friend is facing entometriosis and taking hormonal birth control for the first time to manage it but having terrible side effects from the birth control; Yet another friend had an abortion after going off birth control because she thought you didn't became fertile again until after your period, when in fact you will first ovulate and then have your period.

What we don't know, or assume, or accept from our doctors, is often short shift of what we deserve. There's no reason to accept a shitty health situation as normal, and I hope that podcasts like this one help women see that. It's exactly the kind of by women and for women media that helps inform and connect us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sharing the Experience

I didn't expect to tell as many people as I did about my abortion. In the end, I told 14 people--12 friends, my parents, my boss--that I found out I was pregnant at thirteen weeks and aborted at fourteen.

I didn't tell everyone beforehand. Seven people knew where I was when I suddenly dropped off the map for a week. The other people I told later for varying reasons. And while everyone I told supported my decision, the reactions varied.

My boss, the first person to know aside from my boyfriend, witnessed my breakdown after seeing my ultrasound. She placed her hands on my head as I doubled over sobbing, and tried to say something helpful. "Tell your boyfriend and be sure to consider all your options," she said. I know she meant well, but well, sometimes we don't say quite the right things. I assured her that my decision was made, despite the feelings of confusion and upset that waved about me.

My best friend K, whose apartment I immediately drove to after telling my boss and leaving work. She was my biggest support throughout the process, an amazing friend. When I told her she hugged me and listened and supported. After I left, she later told me she cried when she shared with her boyfriend, who is also my friend.

My parents learned two days before the procedure. I shared with them when I decided I really needed their support. Losing our house to foreclosure last summer and having them live with me since has strained our relationship. For the first time in a long while, they could be my parents, support and love me, and I could rely on them. I learned that my mom had an abortion, and while we both confront our experiences differently, it was a comfort to know she had been through this as well, that one of the 1 in 3 women I knew who had an abortion was my mother.

My ex-boyfriend, J who, as a raised Catholic, was petrified of abortion in our relationship. When I took the morning after pill in our relationship, he was conflicted and upset by it. But when he learned of my news the day before the procedure, he was nothing but supportive. He checked in after the procedure to see how I was doing, and we talked at length about his current relationship and their birth control choices.

My boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, C, who learned from my boyfriend before the procedure. They went through this experience together. She even had the same doctors and nurses as me. She's the only other woman I've been able to talk to who has been through this experience, and we've shared some really great conversations. I'm thankful that she has been there for both my boyfriend and me.

My friend at work, M, I told a few weeks after the procedure and only after learning that she was seeing my old, terrible gynecologists. When I learned that, I first blabbered about how terrible they are and not to see them anymore. She asked, "What happened?? Your face is turning red!" and I told her everything. She cried when I told her. She was the only person who did that, and I'm relieved it didn't happen when the experience was fresher.

My old college roomie, J, I told on the phone after the procedure. I'm in her wedding next month, and we've remained close through the tough times we've both experienced these last few years. She shared with my friend and her fiancee, M. I saw them last week, and we three talked about it together.

My old college friend B, who I told weeks after the procedure. I blew off plans with him when my complication happened, and we have been close confidants for years. It was natural to tell him, and his reaction was one of shock and support. He, like many people I told after the fact, wished I had told him before so he could have been there for me.

My boyfriend's family friends, B and C, who are brother and sister, found out from each of us after the procedure. Two weeks after my abortion, they learned their mother had had a daughter when she was 18 and when she could not receive an abortion as it was illegal. That news shook us both--it seemed to relate so strongly to the "what-if's" I was experiencing at the time, and we each shared our news with them.

B's girlfriend, K, shared with me her own reproductive issues a few weeks ago--she most likely has endometriosis and is in the midst of tests. In turn, I shared with her my own, also assuming incorrectly that B had told her. We grabbed drinks and talked for hours about the procedure, her reproductive issues and birth control.

The two women I know who had abortions have not told many people. My mother doesn't understand why I shared with people and even suggested I shouldn't tell people. She and my father told no one of her abortion until they told me. C, my boyfriend's ex, did share with a few people but does understand why I would be compelled to share my experience.

And why share the experience?

To destigmatize it.
If one in three women you know have had an abortion, could you say who they are? Probably not. I'm not happy that I had an abortion--nobody signs up smiling for that kind of thing, but I am happy to talk about it, to reassure women who have not had abortions that it's okay, to share experiences with women who have had abortions, to talk with as many people as possible about birth control and reproductive health.

To be close with the people I care about.
I am a sharer--extroverted and generally open. It was important to me not to block out friends from my past and present from this experience. We talk about everything else--why not talk about this?

To create a conversation that I hope goes forward.
I hope that these people tell others that they know someone who had an abortion. I hope they tell them that this person had an abortion when she was fourteen weeks pregnant. I hope it stirs conversations and further destigmatize the experience. I am not ashamed nor do I have any regrets about my choice. I want as many people as possible to know that, and I want women to know that they will be okay if they one day choose the same thing I did.

Finally, there was one woman who I did not tell but with whom I did have a long conversation about abortion. A. and I grew up together--ballet class at age seven was where it all started. We've never been particularly close friends, but she was visiting in the city, so we got together for drinks a few weeks ago.

"I like all your Facebook posts," she said with a smile, referring to my multitude of pro-choice and pro-Planned Parenthood postings.

"Oh," I laughed a little. "I may have gone a bit overboard, but it's something I feel really strongly about."

A. went on to explain that she worries that she and her husband, both musicians, cannot afford a child but that her husband staunchly opposes choice and abortion. It's a difference between them, she explained.

"I don't know," she said, sounding slightly defeated. "I always say, I'm pro-choice, but anti-abortion. I could never do it myself."

Bells rang inside of me. She sounded like me at age 17 in our high school AP Government class arguing for choice but conditioning my own response. She sounded like me when I learned two years ago that my current boyfriend and his ex had had an abortion. She sounded like me only a few months ago, before I learned that I was pregnant.

"I don't think you can know that, A., until you face it," I said quietly.

She nodded and then said, "I think you're right."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maybe Not the Mirena...

I canceled my appointment for the Mirena IUD. After weeks of talking with many ladies about birth control, chatting with a few other friends who have or have had IUDs, I began to question my decision to go with the hormonal IUD. Maybe it would have been fine for me, but the Depo shot and its insane hormones made me increasingly wary of using any hormonal birth control, regardless of how "locally" the Mirena's hormones work.

I talked with my very patient OB/GYNE about my concerns, and we discussed non-hormonal options. In the rubbers department, my doctor said she does not really recommend cervical caps or diaphragms. I wasn't really interested in those options anyway and am more interested in the copper, non-hormonal Paragard IUD.

I hesitated to go with the Paragard initially. Like many women, I heard the word "copper" and balked. The idea of heavier periods also isn't hot (though my periods have never been very heavy or crampy). My dad also shared a former coworker's horror story of infection on Paragard. That pretty much sealed the (initial) deal that Paragard was not for me.

However, after almost two months of weight gain, breakouts and mood swings, the Paragard appeals way more than any hormones at all. Riding yet another hormonal birth control rollercoaster sounds like an exhausting trip that I am not up for right now.

The post-operative Depo-Provera shot lasts until June 7th. I am no longer pressuring myself to come up with a quick birth control solution. If I am not certain, the boyfriend and I can use condoms until I feel sure of my choice.

Here I want to say a lot about how the pressure, (oftentimes) cost, and crazy side effects of birth control weigh on the woman in a relationship. How the woman becomes the sole vessel for these issues and stress. How insane it is that birth control options are not more thoroughly discussed--in school classrooms, in doctor's offices, among women. I, for one, have been talking VAGINA with my lady-friends NON-STOP recently. It feels great, too. With those women whom I've shared my experience, there is closeness and support, and simultaneously I can offer advice and knowledge. It's awesome.

I want to share and talk about this experience, about women's health, about sex, about birth control, as much as possible. Knowledge is power, and we must be our own advocates for our health, bodies and wellness. Here's to us ladies and getting the best we deserve.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Abortion in the United States

The Guttmacher Institute just released a fabulous video sharing the basic information of who gets abortions and why in the United States. Share this with anyone you can.

Birth Control Lottery

I just got very exciting news from my OB/GYN's office: My IUD and its insertion procedure are covered 100 percent by my health insurance! I kid you not that I feel like I just won the lottery.

I'm scheduled to have it inserted next Wednesday, which will (fingers crossed) be during my next menses.

I am happy to move on from the Depo-Provera shot. While it's been awesome not taking a pill every day, I think that I've had a few negative side effects from the birth control shot.

First, I have broken out like a seventeen year old boy. I don't have bad skin, generally speaking, but man oh man.

Second, I have felt really ungrounded and emotional. This unstableness could be because of the procedure, because of other things going on in my life, or because of the birth control shot, I don't know. I do know that my OB/GYN explained that many women experience "the blues" when they first get the shot. I think I might be one of them.

Finally, I think I'm also among the women who gain weight on the birth control shot. And that just sucks.

So, IUD here I come... I am so pysched.