Featured Image: “Cosmos” by Daniela Lan
Published in Hoax Zine (2017)
* * *
Until you choose to share (if you do),
Certain things are only for you,
Like the matter in your head,
And the space between your legs.
My knee, facing the ceiling, is propped up by my foot in a stirrup and lit by a small but powerful lamp. I wince to blur my peripheral vision so it looks like the moon. I can picture the Little Prince standing on it. For a moment my body seems as a celestial body, far away and untouchable, and the world is calm and innocent and bearable.
I study it for a few seconds before squeezing my eyes shut, breathing methodically, and slowly counting in fours. As open a book as I am, my pink flower is printed on a page not many have read; though at this point, the number of doctors who have is comparable to the number of sexual partners. I wonder if that’s the case for most women as a large familiar-yet-foreign object resembling a cartoon alligator slides into me and muddles my mindscape.
Many times, what I would consider a “gross violation of personal space” could be better described by a more level-headed person as a “necessary medical procedure.” That, however, doesn’t much change the hard-to-shake feeling of discomfort from a situation where I am completely out of control. Even though I know I’m supposed to be in a safe space, I feel like a frog strapped to a metal tray in an 8th grade biology classroom. Sometimes it’s difficult to translate that knowing into feeling, especially when your legs are spread wide open and someone you’ve just met is peering in between.
Right as she walked in I told the doctor I was nervous. She brushed that off just as the nurse did. They say it’s not a big deal but I have sweaty palms and a squirrel heartbeat and one of my best friends prepared me with a comforting text: “It’s gonna be the worst cramps you’ve ever had. I mean, it’s a foreign object being shoved into your uterus.”
Bailing isn’t an option—I traveled to the Upper East Side of Manhattan from Brooklyn and waited two months for the appointment. I lace my fingers, rest them on my stomach slowly and steadily, and breathe.
Doing my best to relax, I recall the recent presidential election and how glad I am that my intrauterine device (IUD) insertion appointment is already underway, especially since reading an article earlier about how women are rushing out to get them for fear of losing reproductive rights and access to affordable healthcare.
My focus is broken when it feels like my doctor slid a tiny pincushion into my body with a tampon applicator. I feel like I need to either shit or throw up. By learning the hard way that I’m sensitive to a lot of foods, I associate the sensation of intense cramping with having to shit ASAP. These cramps were confusing because (a) I was pretty sure I didn’t have to shit but (b) my body is unpredictable and (c) imagine I shit on this doctor?
The doctor tells me my body probably won’t reject the IUD and I probably won’t experience uncontrollable bleeding but call her if it does or I do. Though nice, she’s clearly preoccupied and busy and leaves in a hurry. I think about my inability to handle any kind of rejection and suddenly become very aware of my pulse.
After an hour of sitting on the subway praying to every god I can name that I don’t get up and see a blood stain on the baby blue bench of the F train and then running into the two kids I nanny for and their mother/my boss on the G, I make it home to my new apartment where my first-ever male roommate is working from home and my other roommate’s dog, Shadow, is barking at a plastic bag that just American Beauty’d onto our balcony.
The pain is really not so bad; I’m just pissed.
I’m pissed because as women we often have to hurt ourselves in order to enjoy our bodies and our lives.
I’m pissed because I’m afraid that the hormones in the IUD are going to change my personality and mind like birth control pills did and all the work I’ve done to get a better grasp on my depression and eradicate thoughts of suicide will be undone and I’ll fall into a dark hole too deep to climb out of without antidepressants and therapy.
I’m pissed because politics have instilled a fear in a lot of women—myself included—that has suddenly become a big motivator for us to get this procedure done and go to other lengths to protect our bodies regardless of whether or not we’re ready.
I’m pissed because my body is the only thing that is completely and undoubtedly mine, yet I still have to let people (strangers in the form of doctors) into my personal space even though I’m screaming on the inside. Half of my mind is shy and afraid and wants to call my mom and Uber home, and the other, more rational half is telling the first half to stop being dramatic, you’re just at the gyno, what the hell is wrong with you?
I’m pissed because I’m not sure if I did this for myself to protect my sexual health and feel secure that there won’t be an abortion in my future or so that my boyfriend and I don’t have to use condoms anymore. (Probably both.)
I’m pissed because as intelligent and kind and a good listener as he is, he (and all cis men) will never know what it feels like to have someone put procedural instruments inside of you with the intention of leaving something in your body for years so you can enjoy sex without worrying.
I’m pissed because maybe the government snuck homing devices or brain control mechanisms inside IUDs and chemicals into birth control pills that make women more submissive and we’re all just dummies dishing out co-pays for shit that’s going to kill us.
I’m pissed because today is my only day off this week and I can’t float around the Met listening to classical pieces I can’t name or eat falafel in a park because I’m cramped up and vaguely dizzy and am only capable of lying in bed with Shadow and reading Harry Potter to him in a British accent (which the downstairs neighbors overheard).
I’m pissed because tomorrow I’m going to pee and won’t recognize my own smell and when I wipe I’ll see a tiny, horrifying, tissuey mass that in my mind looks like a discarded embryo and I’m going to text my friend who this time will say, “Yeah, a few months post-IUD you’ll have some weird shit come out. But after, like, eight months there will be nothing.”
A calculable amount of my time is spent forcing myself to get used to stuff: not spiraling into a vortex of self-doubt when my boyfriend doesn’t text me all day, abstaining from Oreos when I’m at work and hungry and they’re right there, and going to the gynecologist because I know it’s what’s best for my body despite my fear of letting people get too close to me and the fact that this time politics indirectly brought me there. Translating future peace of mind into a safe feeling in the present is challenging, but what isn’t? Life is hard and confusing and complicated and painful and unfair and we need to do whatever we can to speak up and get ours and be kind to one another (EVERYONE) and hope that our society and our government and our own selves continue to progress and put love above all because when it comes down to it we’re all on the same rock hurtling through space controlled by weird smells and people with good eyebrows and no one wants it to blow up.