Friday 11 October 2013

The Cost of It

My friends got me an Implantation Day card.
They teach you that a womb is not an organ, but a malevolence. A threat lying in wait, ready to hurt you. At any moment (so the story goes), it will erupt and snatch away everything good from your life.

Birth control’s not as reliable as you might think. In my circles, I can only think of one person who had a kid on purpose.

I’ve tried six types of the Pill. Each gave me unlivable-with side effects. I wrote them down, to show the doctor.

  • Hair loss
  • No libido 
  • Mood swings 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Suicidal thoughts
It also made my skin look great.

A lot of my friends are childfree: they don’t have kids and it’s going to stay that way, damn it. I consider myself child agnostic. I don’t want to be a single mother. I would be rubbish at it. In the right circumstances, a child could greatly improve my life, I’m sure, but how do you get those circumstances right?

I’d like to say loudly and clearly that mothers are amazing, and I’ve never met one who isn’t doing a fantastic job.

But I only want a wanted child, and I don’t want a child.

There’s a lot of good things in my life right now. I have a fantastic job. I love where I live. I have a rad group of friends. All those things - a kid would change all that. I couldn’t live in this expensive inner city apartment with just one close friend. My job is flexible, but does it pay enough I could afford childcare? But an IUD is so effective. What if an accidental child was my only chance for a child at all?
I though, “What if you had had a kid with any of your exes?” I thought, “What if you got knocked up last week, after those cocktails?”

I was prepared to fight with my doctor, but she looked over my notes, and said, “Well, I certainly wouldn’t recommend hormonal treatment for you.” She had, three times, but I didn’t argue. It costs $54 to visit my doctor.

Condoms break. There’s the morning after pill for that, but it’s a pill too, so it’s not something I enjoy taking. It costs $45, and you have to go to a pharmacy, and pharmacies are only open in work hours, and a lot of them are closed on Sundays.

I tried to be open about getting an IUD. The Prime Minister talks openly about his vasectomy, but there’s a lot of silence, a stigma, around being a grown-up adult lady. Why is it hard to say, “Yeah, I’m actively trying to not be pregnant”?

People sent me messages. One person thanked me for saying anything openly, online. A few people said unhelpful things:

  • Do you know it hurts a lot? 
  • My mum said it hurt more than labour. 
  • Are you sure you’re having sex enough to make it worthwhile? 
  • Do you know, the string hangs out and until it softens up, it can stab your boyfriend in the dick? 
  • The string can also wrap around his dick. That’s a thing that can happen. 
  • Did you hear about the [hormonal] injection? Or the [hormonal] rod? 
  • Just try to relax your vag 
  • My vasectomy didn’t hurt at all 
  • You know it’s easier to have it inserted just after you’ve given birth.
The doctor sighed, “You’re getting an IUD? Well no one told me. Come on, let’s get this done.”

The doctor told me to put my feet up on the table, and handed a package back to the nurse - “Not that one - the other one. The copper one.” All morning, my hands had been shaking, and my heart racing. I tried to relax my vag.

There are two types of IUD. One contains a hormone (how? I don’t know). It stops your periods too, which some people like. The other one is made of copper, which I think I read years ago is naturally antibacterial.

The hormonal one is $370, unless you’re low in iron, in which case it’s $170. The copper one is funded, so you pay just the insertion fee. I think they undercharged me so mine was $134. I asked my boyfriend to pay half of it. He agreed, unhesitatingly. Fair’s fair. I checked my account, and he’d rounded up, given me more than I said was his share. I think he felt guilty: “Don’t do this for me,” he said.

I couldn’t find the words to explain it’s a selfish thing. Fuck you, biology. Fuck you, the continuation of the human race. Fuck all that, I want Thursday-night cocktails instead.

“First they manually dilate your cervix,” said a friend. I clapped my hands over my ears and lah-lah-lahed. I didn’t read up on the procedure. I don’t like medical things. I can’t even watch blood being drawn on TV.

They don’t sedate you before inserting the IUD. Someone said, I should ask for local anesthetic. Someone else said they thought an injection in the cervix would hurt more than the actual insertion.

It’s recommended you take two paracetamol and two ibuprofen one hour before coming in.

There was a red hot thread of pain.

I was walking along a beach. The waves were crashing and the machinery in the factory was whirring and I was running through white halls and a thousand years later, I was screaming in a room I had never seen before.

“You fainted,” said someone who hadn’t been there before. “You were only out for a second,” they lied. They were holding my hand.

There was beeping everywhere. I had sat bolt upright without knowing how and the person I’d never seen before encouraged me to lie back down.

“This room is soundproofed, so you can scream all you want,” said the doctor.

They said, it’s really common to faint in shock when things are inserted through your cervix. It’s called Cervical Shock. They had silenced the alarms. I was crying.

“You gave us all a fright,” said someone, “But you’re fine - you’re fine. You’ll be fine soon.”

“It’s all done now,” said the doctor, pretending to be soothing. “And it can stay in there for five years! Isn’t that nice?”
“It bloody well better,” I said and they all laughed.

“Let me just clean you up here,” said the doctor, scooting her chair between my legs again. “It’s a good thing you’re wearing black,” she said, but she didn’t say why.

The doctor left, and the new nurse left, and it was just me and the first nurse. “How many children do you have?” she said. I said none, and she asked how old I was. I said 27, and she said oh. She told me about her four children, their names, ages and professions. She said, one was getting married, but didn’t want children, so what was the point of getting married? She said, she herself had her first child at 21. Now, her daughter looks like her sister.

She said, “You should have lots of children, lots and lots, because you’re so beautiful.”

I asked for a drink of water.

No one talks about presumed fertility, and the cost of it. I have never been pregnant, but people look at me and don’t see a person. They see vector for continuing the species, a young woman “with those hips? You’re made for babies.”

When I was researching this, looking into IUDs, I didn’t google it. Stories like this are clinical and scary. I talked to people instead. “It was awful,” said my friends. “I was in pain for three months. I would recommend it in a heartbeat and do it again in a second.” They say, “It’s the best thing I ever did.”

They don’t tell you about the pain, because pain is fleeting. There is paracetamol and ibuprofen. I made a list of things which hurt more:

  • UTIs 
  • An unrequited crush 
  • An ill-fitting bra
Other people chimed in:

  • A broken collarbone 
  • An ingrown toenail 
  • Dental surgery
We talk about those things, even in polite company, even in public. I think we should talk about this too.


  1. Man I love the way you write. Your doctor sounds a bit stink. Like mine. I didn't actually know that talking about birth control is not acceptable.
    I'm glad your bf paid half, and that you asked him to, also. That is an A++ relationship.

    1. Mmm, the IUD doctor wasn't my usual doctor - I'd never met her before - and the fact that I was so nervous didn't help, I'm sure.

      If the bf had refused to pay, I might have reconsidered the relation tbh! But he's a good guy <3

  2. I love the way you write too! It is awesome that your bf paid half, I wouldn'tve thought to ask mine (I got the Jadelle implant almost a year ago). I hate how the majority of contraceptives involve stuff being shoved in you (IUD, needles,pills etc) At least the IUD(and Jadelle) last for up to 5 years so provided you don't react badly to it you don't have to worry about it for AGES!

    1. You should've asked!! Or at least made him take you out for a nice dinner.

      You're right about contraception being invasive - I hadn't considered that angle. Hmmm...

  3. I got my Mirena in Australia for $40, and after five problem-free years I had to have it taken out. I really didn't like being on hormonal pills, but as a Mirena concentrates hormones to a small area, it doesn't have the systemic effect The Pill does.

    I have a community services card, so was fortunate enough to get a copper IUD inserted for $5 at Family Planning, but haven't been so impressed by it, cramps, heavy periods for the first few months - but I'm assured that will calm down. Still, it's hormone-free, which is better than the pill for sure.

    Apparently Mirenas and copper IUDs cost the same to buy, there's no reason I can see that the government subsidises one but not the other!

    1. Aw, that's MUCH cheaper!! The Mirena is subsidised if you've got low iron, and the copper one is fully funded I think - I think I just paid the insertion fee (I made them WORK for it too, hah!). I could have got it cheaper at Family Planning, but I like my doctor's and feel safe there - it's also very close to my house - for me it wasn't worth ringing around to find somewhere cheaper. I did consider the Mirena first, but after writing out my reactions to hormonal birth control, I just didn't think I could commit to it - not at the price, not for the pain, not for five years. I didn't even get through two weeks of my last pill before going off it, the side effects were so bad.

  4. I got a copper IUD a few months ago and threw up when they inserted it. When I first got it, it was all I talked (complained) about for weeks I'm sure.

    I'm not really finding it suits me (and my boyf is convinced he can feel it sometimes) but Family Planning keep telling me that it will all settle down soon so am trying to give it a chance. I'm not sure though. I've gone from 2.5 day really light periods to 9 day floods!
    I think with family planning I only had to pay the appointment fee which was $24. They were awesome actually really understanding when I kept changing my mind between Jadelle and IUD. Gave me a really through follow up appointment and scan when I was in so much pain I was convinced something wasn't right. So my jury's still out on the IUD but Family Planning gets a thumbs up.

    1. Threw up!! I've heard of pooping, which is a hilarious and disgusting side effect, but not puking.

      Family planning sounds MUCH cheaper! I really like my doctor's though (and they're close to my house), so I didn't bother ringing around. I'm sorry you haven't found it so good! I hear they're much easier to get taken out, if it comes to that.

  5. When I was 33 and husband 38 we realised the futility of me carrying on with hormonal contraception, when neither of us had any biological urge to carry on the family line. We weighed up me having my tubes tied and a few weeks off work, against him having his tubes tied on a Friday, and back in work on the Monday. He was happy to go through with it. I still can't quite get my head around the fact that NZers have to pay for contraception, though.

    1. Yeah, it's much easier for men to get fixed!! Some contraception is fully funded - condoms, some types of the pill (you have to pay the pharmacy charge) - and the copper IUD, I think. I think I just paid the insertion fee. And for how long it lasts, it'll be quite cost-effective!

  6. having an IUD is the best decision i have ever made.

    i am currently on to my second.

    i had a horrible (male) doctor insert my second one who gave me all of the terrible comments you would expect from an old white male bordering on retirement....

    knowing i am safe from pregnancy for 5 years comforts me - especially when at least one friend a year ends up having an unplanned (& kept) pregnancies.

    in 4 years when my IUD reaches it's expiration date, i will be getting another one...

    like you say, I only want a wanted child, and I don’t want a child.

    quality > quantity

  7. This is almost the complete opposite of my insertion experience.
    I'm on my second IUD, and granted I have had a child, but it was relatively pain-free.
    Also, I'm fairly certain you can have the procedure done at a family planning clinic for about $15 - that's where I had my last one done.
    For anyone interested in having an IUD, that would be worth looking into.
    But, yea, it certainly makes for hassle-free contraception in the long run.

  8. Bloomin well hate getting an IUD put in/taken out - when they do a 'replacement', i.e. taking one out and putting a new one in it is. horrific! As a humourous sideline though, if anyone watches or knows of Adventure Time (animation), my hubby now calls me Lady Mirena-corn... :( lol