Holding the embossed page between my thumb and forefinger as if it was inconsequential, I glanced over the illustrations. A uterus was detailed in pink and beige while an innocent metal shape was being directed by arrows into the opening. It was my first visit to an OBGYN, and I was intent on getting an IUD inserted into my vagina. Playing with the demo, I wanted to come off as nonchalant, aloof even as if I got something pushed up there every day. A few months into being 17 had me convinced that since I was practically an adult, I should act like one. So the obtaining of such a “mature” form of birth control like the IUD seemed to fit within the sophisticated perception of myself. I told my mother that she could run her errands while I was in the appointment, no need to sit in the waiting room, present in case I wailed. The ability to do this on my own (I had even offered to drive myself) acted as a symbol of my independence, a quality I was desperately trying to attain those first few months of my seventeenth year. I wanted to be seen as how I saw myself, grown-up. So I got an IUD.
Apart from the previously mentioned reasons, the presence of a boyfriend in my life required immediate action regarding a birth control method. He liked to have sex with no condom, and I wasn’t yet self-aware enough to digress. The threat of pregnancy seemed to hold an equal amount of influence as the desire to please him, so instead of utilizing the most basic form of birth control, I chose a procedure. When I told him about it, he was excited. I think he was looking forward to finishing in me, a bizarre way to declare quasi ownership over someone. He didn’t come to the appointment and didn’t see me in the days after as if the “installation” didn’t concern him. Needless to say, we broke up.
Gabrielle, the nurse, was tired, but kind. She saw through my pretenses in a minute. After I handed her my lukewarm cup of pee, she led me into a suffocatingly tiny room. I pushed my bag under a chair and began undressing from the waist down, my anxious modesty revealing how nervous I really felt. Gabi, as she told me to call her, twisted something below the seat and the stirrups clicked into place. As I leaned back onto the slightly slick chair and opened my legs, the doctor opened the door, creating a jarring breeze. I’ve forgotten her name, but she had a similar demeanor as the nurse; not seeing me, understandably more focused on the presented genitalia.
Hearing the doctor outline the minutiae of the insertion process felt like a trick. I hadn’t signed up for an opening of my cervix, or a clamp that was to be widened in my vaginal tract. Steeling myself, I blurted a few sweaty questions to perhaps postpone commencement, but the nurse was already handing the metal tools to the doctor. I watched them disappear under my waistline. “Breath in,” I heard, “Exhale, then soften yourself.” I tried to melt. The first apparatus touched the inside of myself. All I felt was a chill, so I truly relaxed back into the chair. If the only discomfort was the cool temperature of the appliances, this couldn’t be so bad. I gazed at the vents on the ceiling, analyzing the rust on the top of one of the screws. Again, I heard instructions to breathe in and out.
Then a pain so violent shot up from my crotch to every nerve within my body. The excruciating pinch forced my entire self to tense up of its own accord, as an inherent reaction to the agony emanating from my vagina. Instantly, a rush of heat drenched my face in sweat and I felt myself turn scarlet. From my ears to my ankles, I simultaneously felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me while my body was being drizzled with boiling water. I hope the visceral description of the physical response is enough to impress upon the reader just how arduous this process felt. If not, perhaps an explanation of what was occurring down there would aid in the appreciation of the pain. The reaction was caused by a small metal clamp that was pinching and pulling out my cervix in order to push the IUD into place, so its copper arms could release and its t-shape could be attained. Doesn’t sound so enjoyable, does it?
The clamp was pulled out, and the doctor patted me on the calf to let me know I was done. When the nurse saw my eyes glazed over in pain, she cooed pityingly and placed a heating pad on my lower stomach. I was told I could remain in place till nausea subsided and given some water. When the pair left, my legs shuddered and collapsed inwards, forming a barrier in front of my genitals. Although it was difficult to comprehend anything besides the excessive ache around my lower half, a furious thought began developing in my mind.
I was a young woman. Procuring this IUD was only the first of many experiences in which the sex I was born with would cause me incredible, revulsion-inducing pain. Removing the insertion, receiving abortions, perhaps even giving birth; all of these instances would be a horrific ordeal, the promised plight incomprehensible now that I knew what could be caused. Curled up on that chair, still clutching the sweaty heating pad, a feeling of fury swelled within me. The outrageous disparities between men and women were now adding to the sickness I felt. All the moments I had been talked over, ignored, catcalled, or subjugated based on my gender were now attaining a new quality of ire, due to the exposure of the extent of agony my genitals could put me through. Just as men rarely, if ever, had to put up with any oppressive situations concerning their sex, the fact that they never have or will endure the intensity of having one’s cervix pinched, or forcing an average of seven pounds out of oneself, or just the often debilitating cramps experienced at least once a month, incensed me. They never will, ever. Obviously, I was aware of this discrepancy before, but this appointment fortified it within my psyche. How incredibly inequitable the allocation of physical misery was between men and women! To add bitter insult to injury, examples of the emotional damage women are put through daily were appearing in my mind as if on a frenzied film reel. I thought about my great-grandmother, her four children, and three miscarriages. My aunt and her abusive marriage. The generational infidelity against wives that lay not so dormant within my family tree. Pure anger shook my limbs, almost inducing a paroxysm. But I vomited in a bucket next to me and stood up, swaying.
In the linoleum-camouflaged hall outside, I rang my mom, needing help walking down the stairs outside. She was already in the waiting room. Gripping my arm, she supported me down the concrete steps and buckled me into the passenger seat. When we pulled away from the curb, I started crying. Without asking why, my mom held my hand while we drove home.