Hey, guess what I did today? I had a nice lunch with my mom, went to the grocery store, and removed my Mirena IUD in my dad’s bathroom with my own hands! A big Wednesday for me!
Why would anyone do this? Isn’t that insane and scary? Yes…! And no. It was very scary but then it was actually okay and pretty easy! Let me explain.
I have had an IUD for 2 years now. I got it put in the week my boyfriend and I broke up (lol) because in New Orleans there was a long waiting list and by the time my appointment finally came around, we had realized our relationship was bad. But I got it anyway because Trump had just been elected, and I had no idea what abortion care was going to look like in a red state under a sexist (racist/transphobic/homophobic/stupid, etc) President so I decided to get it anyway. I wanted the Paraguard (copper) because I had a horrific experience with hormonal birth control in college (something I’m learning most women have had at some point) and didn’t want the drugs in me. But the nurse there said since I am anemic and they make you bleed more it would be unethical to give me. She made me feel better about Mirena because “When you take birth control orally, there have to be super high dosages of the hormones because it needs to get where it’s going, but when it’s localized, they can be in much smaller amounts. Five years fits into about an inch” and she showed me. This assuaged much of the worry I felt.
So I got it inserted. It actually didn’t hurt that much which is rare. Most people feel some degree of pure agony, and then I went to a parade (New Orleans). I didn’t think much more about it. I never got cramps before and then I suddenly had them sometimes, but that only lasted for a little while and went away pretty quickly. My skin and weight didn’t seem to have any drastic reaction and those were the things I had heard people mention. The only side effect seemed to be that my body didn’t produce much of a natural lubricant anymore, so I was really dry during sex but lube exists and once I came once it seemed to be all right? I didn’t love it, but it felt an okay price for not having to worry about getting pregnant, something I never ever want. (Sorry, Mom!)
Now, fast forward two years. Something that I am SO self-conscious about, cannot stop complaining or thinking about (because I’m a vain bitch!) is my hair. It used to be so thick I washed it about once a week but could go longer. It was the part of me I felt sexiest about, but no more: It keeps falling out, it’s SO thin, it gets greasy almost in a single day, I can see my scalp when I pull it back in a ponytail and just on the top sometimes, I hate it. But I assume it’s because I used lice shampoo wrong in college because I was too scared to tell anyone I had lice (and then even for years after when I told that story!), or because I don’t eat enough vegetables, or maybe I’m just a bad person and God is telling me through my hair. I don’t know. But last night I was watching a friend’s show and she casually mentions that her IUD changed her hair. I freak out. I start to google, “Does Mirena” and Google finishes for me, “Does Mirena make your hair fall out?” It is the first suggestion! I start clicking and find so much statistical data reporting that in a small percentage of women (ME) this fucking thing makes your hair fall out!
It’s frustrating, but it’s a relief. I create a timeline in my mind of when I got the IUD and when I remember starting to feel self-conscious about my hair being thin. They of course line up.
Now, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there’s a global pandemic. It’s kind of a big thing. So I’m sheltering in place with my family for the foreseeable future and as you might imagine, not having sex with any of them. I do not need this thing.
If you’re not rich, health insurance in America is a fucking nightmare and mine is no exception. I have Medicaid in New York but since I am with my family in North Carolina, I have no coverage which makes sense because as we know, sickness varies by state. I called Planned Parenthood to figure out what the deal was and…it’s bleak! They have no sliding scale, they charge every time (when I got it, they said that after years they take it out for free, but apparently in this state that is not the case), they won’t waive the fee for any reason, their state funding was cut last year, it’s one hundred and thirty dollars. Great.
Not only is this a high amount but I feel like it’s unethical to charge people to get something removed from their body that’s causing adverse side effects! I tweeted about how I hated this and someone casually mentioned their friend took it out themselves. My first reaction was shock and horror (and “that person is insane”), but as I researched, saw YouTube videos of girls explaining how they took theirs out, read articles, and texted my friend who’s a nurse, I started to think about it more. I messaged the friend and asked how she ensured it was safe and how she knew what to do. She explained that at that time she was in a situation where she couldn’t get an appointment and did it out of necessity, but found it pretty straightforward and, “wine also helped.” She recommended watching videos on YouTube.
I googled and found a video where a girl younger than me explains how she sat (like a frog), what the strings should feel like (thin fishing wire), how long it took (a few minutes), and at the end she’s HOLDING IT IN HER HAND!! I scrolled down, and most of the comments are other people being like, “I just did it, so easy!” and “It just came out, thank you!!”
I decided that I would try and if I felt ANY resistance at all, stop immediately and wait for a doctor. I took my laptop into the bathroom and squatted. The hardest part was finding the strings–I didn’t feel anything that felt like strings and I kind of had to fish around behind my cervix. I gave up maybe two times and just stood for a little. But then I just figured l would look for what doesn’t feel like my body. I found a hard wrinkle and assumed that had to be it. The wires/strings had gotten a little smushed up so I had to move them around before I could feel something I could grab. Then I gripped it with the nails of my index finger and thumb and started pulling VERY slowly and gently. My biggest worry was that if I pulled too fast I might tear something. I didn’t let go of it but did pause to give my body some space (we’re dating) and then it just came out in my hand! I don’t really have words for the feeling, but the closest is some combination of relief, joy, and power. That was it. Maybe you were hoping for some more gory details or a little blood-that came later, I got my period for the first time in three years and it was so red! I always remembered the black blood of the uterine lining and the brown blood of the end of a period but there is a bright ruby that you can never quite remember as vivid as it is because it’s just so shocking how red it is. But in that moment, there was almost surprise about how un-messy, un-gory, un-painful and un-complicated this very visceral thing is. Just a little piece of plastic and wire that doesn’t even look like it’s for a person. It looks like fishing tackle for Outdoors Barbie or something.
Everyone should of course be safe, but I do think aspects of our healthcare are gate-kept so we don’t understand how easy certain procedures are and allow corporate entities to profit from them. I don’t mean to suggest that some people don’t need assistance or that there aren’t dangers or complications, but it should not cost one hundred and thirty dollars for someone to pull an inch of plastic down three more inches. Anyway, if you need me I’ll be over here eating a placenta or whatever. Socialism is good!
Julie Mitchell is a writer and comic in New York by way of New Orleans. Her writing has been featured in VICE and McSweeney’s, and you can see her on Viceland’s FLOPHOUSE, or Stand Up! Records greatest hits live album. She writes movie reviews on her blog I Heard The Book Was Better, and her goals in life include: eternal/internal peace, finding the perfect mascara, getting an honorary doctorate, and meeting Kanye West. Run-on sentences are an art-form to her.