Monday, July 18, 2011

The IUD is Not for Me

Even before our son was born, my husband and I knew he was the last  piece of our family puzzle. We had extensive discussions throughout the three years since we'd decided to have our first child. Should we just have one? Mike had always imagined two. I was just finding myself again, now that our daughter was older and more independent. Mike was enjoying fatherhood, and probably secretly hoped for a son. I'd never imagined having children at all. Then I couldn't imagine life without Ella. But two seemed too risky. A financial burden we could live without. An emotional stress I wasn't sure I could handle. A drain on time I didn't have. Yet, as Ella began to differentiate herself from me and explore her independence, I found myself missing the mother-child bond we'd had when she was just an infant. Parenting a toddler, and then a preschooler, is light-years away from mothering a baby. I missed nursing, cradling my baby in my arms for hours each day. Ella seemed lonely in the house with us. She wanted, maybe even needed, to connect with someone closer to her in age. Did she need a sibling? Maybe, maybe not. At the end of the day, we decided for her, and ten months later, she had a baby brother to bestow her undying affection on.

Now that there are two of them, "Elizaben" has become Elizabeth and Benjamin. And our family is complete. So our lengthy discussions turned to birth control after Benjamin was born. Would Mike get a vasectomy? Would I get my tubes tied? I didn't want to be on hormonal birth control ever again, after realizing in my 30s that my 20s had sucked in part because I had been on the pill for an entire decade. Hormonal birth control was an uphill battle to find the right pill, one that didn't make me feel like a raging lunatic or suicidal maniac, that didn't make me want to eat my way to 200 lbs, that didn't increase my changes of getting a migraine every day for two weeks out of every month. Yet when I started talking to my midwife about permanent options, it boiled down to two: vasectomy or tubal ligation. Because vasectomy is a 15-minute office procedure and tubal ligation is major surgery, it's the preferred permanent method. However, my feminist self told me that since my body was the one that could get pregnant, my body was the one that needed to be protected, not my husband's.

So I looked into other options. Essure was a non-surgical permanent option for women, but my midwife recommended we wait a year before choosing anything permanent. So before we made any irreversible changes, we all thought it best to try something that would work in the meantime. The choice became hormonal vs. non-hormonal IUD. None of the doctors I spoke to seemed to recommend the non-hormonal IUD, which could cause heavier-than-normal periods and cramping. Having suffered that on my own hormones until I was 20, I was definitely not going that route. So I decided to give the Mirena a try. After a few months of really annoying (according to my midwife) random spotting, supposedly, many women don't even get a period at all. That sounded good to me, so I buried my discomfort with the whole foreign-object-in-body thing and made an appointment.

The whole procedure took less than five minutes and didn't hurt a bit. I was pleasantly surprised that aside from a little bit of cramping for two days after, things seemed fine. After waiting the requisite amount of time to actually use the thing as birth control, we tried it out and...things felt...different. Without going into specifics, let's just say I knew it was there. In case you haven't checked out Mirena's images lately, and without getting too graphic, I'll just say that although the IUD is an "intra-uterine device," it has threads that are left outside the cervix. I had been aware of all this after asking numerous friends who'd taken the plunge before me, except for one thing: I was supposed to check the threads once a month. Myself. To make sure they were still there. Which means they are actually quite noticeable.

But, I digress. Because even though the whole foreign-object-in-the-body thing was bothering me, that's not why I started to freak out a week after I got the IUD. In fact, I had started to freak out before I even realized the cause. It started with headaches. Not just any headache, but migraine headache. Migraine headache that wouldn't go away, not with Excedrin PM, cold compress, or even Percocet. If taking Relpax or Frova didn't require an appointment with the neurologist, I would have tried that and failed as well. Because these were headaches I knew all too well. They were the same headaches I'd suffered through my 20s. The uphill battle. Headaches, unexplainable irritability, and, this time, anxiety attacks as well. Despite the lack of research, I'd seen enough anecdotal evidence to convince me: hormones are a shit-show waiting to happen to some people, and I was one of them.

Which is why, when I go back to see my midwife next week, instead of checking on the IUD, she'll be removing it. Hopefully, this will solve the headache problem. As for the irritability and anxiety--well, if those continue, then there's probably a good reason for both.

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