Tag: Women

Dad, Skip This One (or, I Got an IUD and We’re Going to Talk About It)

“Woman must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she will be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man’s attitude may be, that problem is hers — and before it can be his, it is hers alone. She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it.” 
― Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race

Late last year I decided to switch my birth control to an IUD, which was a less common option available to me when I was first considering it nearly a decade ago. It’s becoming more normal, but still isn’t fully normalized among some groups so I thought, hey! We haven’t had a massively controversial topic here on SDS in a minute (…unless you are one of my more conservative readers, in which case, hi, I’m really glad you’re here! Thank you for putting up with my almost weekly exasperated political grumpiness). Why don’t we talk about one woman’s experience in controlling her fertility, thanks to a socialist system of medicine. That will bring people together!

Honestly, though, it’s worth talking about because I think IUDs should be a more common option than they are in some areas of the world. When I first went on birth control in the US, I timidly asked my then-doctor if it was an option only to be scolded that it wasn’t something I should consider. I kind of wish I had pressed the issue, but as I didn’t have massive complaints about my experience with the pill at the time, I stayed on it for nearly nine years.

Image via Pexels

In order to get an IUD I had to first discuss the option at a normal appointment, book a secondary appointment with a specialist to talk through the pros, cons, and risks of the procedure, and then book a third appoint to actually have the device inserted. It sounds a bit obnoxious, but I appreciate the amount of effort the NHS puts into informing and preparing patients for this birth control option. There are hormonal versions and non-hormonal ones, each with unique common side effects, and there are risks to any kind of invasive procedure, so arming yourself with information and asking a boat load of questions is not just encouraged, it was practically compulsory. I went through my series of appointments and scheduled the final one over the Christmas break to allow my body to go through any of the symptoms I was warned I could experience.

Everyone’s experience is unique but typically the insertion procedure more difficult for for women who have never given birth, and sure enough, mine was not a walk in the park. It turns out that deliberately inserting something in the opposite direction nature intended things to move, through an orifice designed to stay closed until another human forces its way out–not easy! It took multiple attempts and I bless my doctor for for being willing to keep trying and talking me through the process and options. I handled the process with my usual style and grace: doing my best to crack jokes to mask my awkwardness and making conversation while stripped from the waist down as the doctor became intimately acquainted with my internal workings. The high point (or low depending on your point of view) was when the doctor, several instruments and intrusions into the procedure, suddenly exclaimed, “What on earth is that?” causing me to demand, “What’s wrong?” in a squeaky and alarmed voice. She burst out laughing and apologized, saying that she had overheard someone raising their voices in the hall and everything…of mine…was a-ok. I chuckled weakly and did my best to calm down.

The sensations were mostly discomfort with flashes of intense-discomfort-bordering-on-pain-but-not-quite. Pre-warned by friends, my GP, and plenty of research I came to the appointment armed with over the counter painkillers and was able to breathe through the worst of the poking and prodding. My procedure was longer than the average appointment, but the doctor built in time for a bit of recovery and monitoring in-office, which I appreciated.

After my innards had gotten over the initial shock (and I use that phrase seriously; my uterus had several questions about the situation and was making its discomfort known through some vigorous cramps) my GP took my blood pressure. It was nicely spiked, which is apparently a good thing because it turns out that for reasons not fully understood, the female human heart rate tends to plummet when you poke her in the cervix. Bodies are weird.

Fellow uterus-bearing types: be smarter than me. If you have transportation, and more importantly a designated driver, use this resource.

After my heart rate returned to normal and I felt pretty calm, I walked home the blessedly short distance between my GP and my flat. This was probably a mistake. At my normal pace this is a brisk, five minute jaunt and I had some vague motion that easy movement would help me “settle” my new internal friend in a gentle way. I was a fool, it was the slowest, saddest walk you can imagine. My steps were about four inches in length–anything more strident than that and I experienced intense muscular twinges from my knees to my shoulders–and very small movements triggered cramps that are on par with the most serious menstrual cramps I’ve ever experienced.

Again, I wouldn’t classify what I was experiencing as pain. The best way I can describe it is as a full court press of discomfort. My body had experienced something invasive and highly unusual and every part of me from my uterus to my lizard brain was clearly trying to adjust to a series of new sensations. It’s not unheard of for the body to expel the device for some women on their first try using it as their primary birth control method, and this was my most immediate paranoid concern.

By the time I shuffled slowly through the front door, I felt exhausted and achy all over. Jeff immediately tucked me into bed where, thanks to continuing full body cramps, I stayed there for the better part of two days. It might sound foolish, but I honestly believe I was going through some kind of wussy version of shock as I was a bit floaty for those two days and slept heavily. I was also advised to take it slow for a few days to allow my uterus to adjust to a foreign body, so things like exercise were cautioned against until I felt fighting fit.

But wait, there was more! The procedure triggered an early arrival of my period and kicked off an additional week of uneven spotting (both are very normal side effects and ones I had been prepped for by my GP). I was advised that spotting could occur intermittently for a few weeks but thus far I’ve not experienced anything past that first week of adjustment. In fact I’ve had no other negative side effects at all: my skin has remained even and healthy, which I was lucky enough to have before I went on the pill years ago, and after that first few days of wild physical and strangely emotional sensations, everything has leveled out.

So, why did I do it?

Image via Pexels

A few reasons. Though there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the pill contributes to weight gain or difficulty with weight loss, there is a lot of anecdotal content from people who believe that hormonal birth control contributed to their weight in some way. As for me, I’m not sure. My weight changed after I went on the pill all those years ago and whether this was due solely to the lifestyle change of getting married and living with a guy who consumes approximately seventeen times as many calories a day as me, or was influenced by other factors I cannot say for sure. But my weight started going up at about the same time I went on my prescription/got married and for the past nine years no matter how healthy I was eating or how regularly I was exercising (every day at my most dedicated), I never lost what I had gained. I’ve made some diet changes recently, about the same time I went off the pill…and I’ve lost nearly 10lbs in under a month with no other changes to my day to day life. It’s purely anecdotal and personal to me, but I’m very happy to see a dramatic positive shift even if it’s temporary or plateaus in some way.

I also suspected, and I discussed the possibility at length with my doctor, that the pill might have been contributing to the frequency of my migraines. These attacks have become more frequent in recent years and as time went on I found them getting closer and closer together.  Changes in your levels of female sex hormones are a possible trigger for migraines, so it seemed possible that the medication that regulates my hormones might have something to do with the pattern of these attacks. Then again, stress also triggers migraines for me so a number of factors could be at play here. Again, the science is still evolving on this, and again, I discussed this with my doctor across several appointments in considering switching up my birth control methods. Ultimately we decided to try a non-hormonal option to see if there were any changes. About a month later, I’ve yet to have another migraine attack.

Finally, removal of an IUD is a fairly easy procedure and if you’re on a non-hormonal option as I chose, your normal fertility is restored almost instantly. Meaning that if and when we decide my husband and I want to try and start a family, I won’t have to go through a process of weaning my body off hormones first. An option that was instantly effective upon insertion and is instantly negated on removal appeals to me.

So all in all, this first foray into addressing a couple of health concerns this year seems to be going okay and the decisions seems like it was a good one so far. It was worth it for me to take a few days discomfort in exchange for a non hormonal method of birth control that’s over 99% effective, lasts up to ten years, and doesn’t require a daily medication. I did a lot of research into it as an option and am lucky to enjoy a health system that offers it as an option and takes providing me with it as a serious matter worthy of informative sessions with specialists.

The comments are open: if you feel like sharing an experience in making a major health decision, please do so. I’m interested in hearing how people choose to take control of their health or wellbeing and as there are about 7 billion bodies on the planet, I suspect there are 7 billion stories out there about choices, consequences, and information to share. 

Weekend Links – Lady Rage Returns!

“Being a woman is a terribly difficult trade since it consists principally of dealings with men.” 
― Joseph Conrad, Chance

Hi kittens, it’s been a while since we had a links post dedicated almost entirely to lady-rage, so let’s do that. It’s a bit exhausting to be living in an age of real-time…everything. It feels as if we don’t get breaks between scandals or bombshells anymore and that can wear us down (or me at least), but the one bright spot is that a lot of things can also be confronted in real time now. Behaviors and trends that have been allowed to percolate in the shadows are now seeing sunlight. It’s ugly to witness what has been tolerated or protected for far too long, sometimes, but necessary to go through.

Let me know what you are doing this weekend in the comments! I’m working on a freelance assignment and lounging. I may do some laundry and talk Jeff into helping me clean the bathrooms if I’m feeling really frisky!

Fuck this noise! Whenever friends or family members ask me when I’m moving back to the states, my default answer has become, “You do know I have healthcare, birth control, and maternity cover options here, right?”

The reactions to this game’s release are…telling.

RIP.

Shock, surprise, etc.

So excited about this! I loved Planet Earth II and Sir David Attenborough’s voice is the most soothing to doze off to whilst watching documentaries.

I don’t think I covered this in last week’s links so let’s talk about Harvey Weinstein and long-running rumors bursting into the light.

The Cut talks about why it took so bloody long for years of rumors to become confirmed fact, including what women are up against in trying to go up against a rich and powerful man and why they are doing so in the current cultural moment.

The Cut also argues that calling the current epidemic of behavioral bs we’re confronted with these days “toxic masculinity” doesn’t go far enough. I can’t say I disagree.

Speaking of, yes. Let’s please talk about the radicalization of white men more. Like, now.

Because this shit is happening while white guys are buying arsenals and no one bats an eye until a mass shooting suddenly “just happens.”

To summarize: sorry, patriarchy, we’re coming for you.

Led by Emma Thompson.

There’s a new true crime podcast to fall for…and I’m preparing to lap it up with a spoon.

How nerd culture went toxic: a helpful twitter thread.

Goodness. I don’t need this. And yet…

David Frum sums up my worst ideological fears. A horrible president is bad. If military figures circumvent a president’s constitutional authority, a historically bad precedent is set for future generals to do the same–perhaps for less altruistic reasons. We have a civilian commander in chief for a reason…I have not yet grappled with what that means for someone like me who is certain that the current incumbent is doing harm to both the office and national prestige and safety. Where do I draw a line if I believe that, in wanting perhaps to do the right thing, military leadership permanently damages the powers of the presidency now in a way that may come back to bite us all?

Album of the week: Masseducation by St. Vincent

International Women’s Day: The Ironic Wisdom of Learning to Keep My Mouth Shut

“Deeds not words.”
– Suffragette slogan

Becoming aware of how much criticism is heaped on women for their life choices is depressing. Becoming further aware of how much of this criticism stems from other women is downright devastating. For me personally, realizing how guilty I used to be (and occasionally still can be if I don’t watch myself) of this behavior was humbling.

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I grew up in a culture that has highly defined gender roles and a lot of codified expectations for women and girls. I’ve written about the dress codes here, which also touches on the expectation that women “should stay home,” that they should be the primary caregivers to children, and uncomfortable echoes of rape culture. I’m no longer in this culture or ascribe to a lot of those values in the same way. But being out here in wider society as opposed to a small religious group isn’t necessarily easier when it comes to the pressures heaped on women.

Unmaking a lot of the lessons I’d been taught about gender and femaleness from a young age took and still takes a lot of work. In either constructing or reconstructing my own views on gender and the female experience, I’ve had to critically examine not just the views I was raised with, but also the knee-jerk reactionary views I sometimes developed in response to opinions that reminded me of my childhood culture. As fiercely committed as I am to supporting other women and claiming my feminism, I still have a lot of work to do.

Unmaking your own critical tendencies is a hard line to walk. I have just as many opinions about  how to live as anybody, but what I have made a dedicated effort to do in the past few years, is simply decline to judge most women’s life choices. From sex to education, childbearing to careers, I’ve come to the conclusion that how other women choose to order their lives is almost entirely none of my business. Where another person’s choices do not affect me, or does not impact my ability to make my own choices or my legal rights, what I have learned and try awfully hard to practice is the age old wisdom of keeping my mouth shut.*

I’m not talking about politics or policy in this post, what I’m speaking of here is the personal criticisms or judgement we casually fling at women who chose to work full time, stay home with children, hire help, use professional childcare, ask family to babysit regularly, have multiple sex partners, practice celibacy, eat paleo, eat vegan, eschew social media, take selfies, wear short skirts, wear hijab, read Talmud, read romance novels, do bodybuilding, not exercise at all, go into military service, go into nursing, have an abortion, decline to practice birth control, grow their hair long, wear their hair super short, be atheist, pray at the Wailing Wall, have tattoos, cover their skin from neck to ankle…

The list is quite literally endless. It often feels like we can’t win for losing!

Instead of picking apart, examining, or even stressing about other women’s choices, what I’ve committed to is supporting their choices better. They may bear no resemblance to the choices I’d make for myself, my marriage, my family, or my career; I may even disagree outright with her positions. But where her choices work for her, break no laws, and cause no harm, the onus is on me to stand up for her decisions the way I’d hope others will stand up for mine. The world is still plenty hard on women. I’m convinced it will get a bit better if we are easier on one another.

And the only control I have over that goal is starting with my own behavior. I like to think I’ve gotten better, and I like to think I’ll get better still.

Amy Poehler popularly summed this up in her book Yes Please with the phrase, “That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.” This idea is full of generosity and, dare I say, grace.

*I separate this from political activism/engagement, it’s worth noting. I put my money and my time where my values are.

Weekend Links: The OK Ladies Now Let’s Get in Formation Edition

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

In case you missed it, the Womens March on Washington (and sister marches around the world, including the one I participated in in London) might have made some records. The coverage is still coming in and it’s amazing to see — more amazing to have participated in. You can see some my images here, but this is a story worth following and watching. To say nothing of joining in. Welcome to the Grab Back.

Oh yeah, and the US has a new president who doesn’t seem to be “pivoting” from his campaign persona in any way. Shock, surprise. I watched his inauguration because I’m a citizen and think it’s important to support the process of free government. The new First Lady looked absolutely lovely, and I thought it was gracious and correct for Secretary Clinton to show up in spite of how awful I expect it felt. The speech was Orwellian, but bang on from the tone of his campaign. The next day I laced up my shoes and hit the streets to make it clear that he was not elected with a mandate and I will be supporting the issues that I care about with my time, my money, and my voice. Because again, I think it’s important to support the process of free government. This is how it works.

Here are your links, kittens. Tell me what you got up to this weekend.

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I found this piece at Politico a very timely read. It opines that President Trump’s hostility towards the press may be a blessing in disguise. If the traditional lines of communication between the administration and the media are clipped, the press can and should (this writer argues) fan out to the myriad unofficial lines instead and take up the opportunity to do more and more extensive investigative reporting.

Also, what did the administration do on Day 2? Malign the press in the face of documented facts and figures, and talk a lot about himself in his “reach out” to the CIA.

Don’t let anyone say the Women’s March doesn’t matter. 2.9 million participants is not a “tantrum.”

An interesting piece on the physical logistics of changing over an administration.

An important reminder about some of the realities of race and privilege, especially when it comes to assembly. I for one, know I can do better and I intend to.

This SNL from Asiz Ansari was great and nicely nuanced against hysteria. We’ll be fine and the people ultimately set the tone for change, and if yesterday is any indication…

Shut up and take my money.

A bit more fashion levity and some street style.

STOP. I swear every time I read an article like this, my heart breaks a little. I know there are more important immediate issues, such as the civilian lives in the crosshairs right now, but this hateful and deliberate dismantling of human history is also hideous

Album of the week: Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool

London Snapshot

“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
― Winston Churchill

Britain’s in the midst of honoring the first year of WWI this year, but this monument is one of my favorite wartime memorials in London. A little vague, still deeply appreciated.

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A handbook was issued to American GIs stationed in Britain during WWII that cautioned them how to behave to British women. It pointed out how most of the women they encountered, whether in uniform or out, had been at war a lot longer than they had and had already sacrificed time, skills, labor, and lives to the cause. They had mobilized to grow food, work in factories, provide medical and military service, run businesses, protect communities, and perform critical work to keep the nation together. As such, the handbook stressed they deserved to be treated respectfully as comrades in arms. So say we all.

Ban Bossy

“I’m not bossy, I’m a boss.”
– Beyonce

Boy am I a fan of Sheryl Sandberg! Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead was personally one of the most important and influential books I read in 2013, I had to physically restrain myself from buying it and placing in the hands of a few people who I felt desperately needed to reexamine some of their own opinions and privilege. It’s not a perfect work,* but it is a significant one and has kicked off and re-energized a lot of conversations.

Skip ahead to more recently, Sandberg and Anna Maria Chavez penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal and announced a collaboration between the Lean In organization and the Girl Scouts of America to launch a campaign to end the use of the word “bossy,” particularly for girls.

I’m whole heartedly behind this in theory (though I’m not sure we need to ban the word so much as seriously recognize and reevaluate our usage of it). The word should simply describe a universal behavior but what makes it so problematic is that it’s applied almost exclusively to girls and women. As the article mentions, the earliest usage of it in the OED and one of it’s main descriptive definitions both relate specifically to women. Negatively.

I’m  assertive and openly ambitious, starting in childhood I’ve taken it upon myself to assume leadership roles when given the opportunity, I’m occasionally competitive, and – yes – I’m naturally loud. I’ll step up to the plate if I think I’m the person for a job. I’ll disagree with a plan if I see harm in it. And if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been called bossy in my life in a negative way, I could have retired out of college. If I had another dollar for every time I been called it for exhibiting behaviors that another person (of the opposite sex) was exhibiting in the same room at the same time and in the same situation, I could have retired out of high school.

I’m not going to argue that domineering behavior is a virtue, it’s not. Nor do I think that being rude or pushy or arrogant are useful or good actions, they aren’t. I am going to argue that if being aggressive or ambitious is bad for one person, it should be considered bad for another. The fact that it’s not, and that that difference is drawn so starkly down gender lines, is the problem. This campaign is not about addressing bad behavior, it is about addressing behavior that is only seen as bad when exhibited by certain people. It is about using a word as a silencing mechanism. It is about encouraging, accepting, or even tolerating behaviors, attitudes, and actions from one group of people while discouraging, frowning upon, or openly punishing another group for the same things.

How we talk to and about boys and girls matters, especially if we talk to and about them so differently. I know from personal experience that those differences are felt and have long lasting effects.

What do you guys think about the campaign to #banbossy? I support it, especially in spirit, but in addition to how often I’ve been called it as an insult, occasionally it’s been used towards me as a compliment or encouragement as well. Not nearly as many times, but it has happened. I’m not convinced that it is in an of itself a wrong word to use to describe behavior, but I am convinced it’s used disproportionately to shush or dismiss girls and women. Is this the way to fix the problem? Is there a better one? Tell me your thoughts, I’m curious to hear them.

*My main issue with Lean In is that I felt it dealt with the work/family/life/ambitions/career concerns of primarily higher succeeding and educated women – leaving huge segments of the female population who are often already underprivileged and whose concerns are less well addressed. However there’s a reason it, justifiably made waves. We need better conversations and options surrounding women across the board and Lean In really has opened up the conversation in the second decade of the 21st century with a bang.