The color of blood leaking from between my legs now is much brighter than menstrual blood normally is. This is not the thick wine red that I’ve gotten used to since I started my period seven years ago. There are breaks in that time, the normal irregularity, settling into a pattern that had me convinced that one of my ovaries did not work, the months on Depo-Provera when my period stops all together. With cramping and blood stains on my favorite pant, there are days when I yearn to be an old woman and leave the bleeding behind. But to not bleed is much worse.
The first time my period stopped on Depo-Provera happened to coincide with the only time I have ever let a boy pressure me into sex without a condom. My doctor warned me, “Laura, in 50% of women, the shot stops their cycle all together.” When I missed my period, I remember her saying that, but a little seed of anxiety planted itself and grew. It turns out that when I get anxious, I get nauseous. So nauseous in fact that my mother asks me one day on our car ride home if I might be pregnant. We stop at a CVS and I wait in the car while she buys the pregnancy test. Together we wait the three minutes for the results, sitting on the cold edge of the master bathroom bathtub. And when the test comes back negative, we both start to cry. She turns to me and says “Laura, the next time we both cry over a negative test, it will because we were hoping it would be positive.”
I think of that the next time I take a pregnancy test, this time in a Meijer bathroom. I’m not taking it here because I’m too ashamed to take it at home but because I’m annoyed and embarrassed by my anxiety. This time I know it isn’t possible for me to be pregnant. I haven’t had penetrative sex for over three months before I started back on Depo-Provera for the first time since high school. I’ve missed my period and I can’t shake the fear. I’m angry at myself for spending $10 on a test I objectively don’t need, but if you think about it as $10 for peace of mind, it no longer feels so outrageous.
Clearly Depo-Provera doesn’t work for me, which is sad because aside from my anxiety, it was fantastic. No period, no pregnancy, only a shot every three months. While I’m anxious, I am also forgetful, which excludes the pill. On top of all of this, I have been gaining weight, despite healthy eating and a good amount of exercise, which my doctor says could be the hormones, something I am still distrustful of. But no birth control is out of the question, and so is abstinence.
A few years back, I saw a post on tumblr: a girl wrote that despite being a virgin, any time she missed her period, she thought, “Well, this is it, the next immaculate conception, I’m pregnant.” This was followed by a string of comments along the lines of “Me too,” “So true,” and “This.” Mixed in were comments by boys asking “Really?” and replies answering “You have no idea.”
Since birth control is an imperative, I’ve settled on the copper IUD, a non hormonal object inserted into the uterus which blocks conception. I had been warned that the procedure would not be pleasant and ain’t that the truth. All my tattoos and piercings in no way prepared me for the pain, though I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it would have been without knowing the right breathing techniques. I was however unprepared for just how uncomfortable and cold a speculum would be, since it was my first encounter with one. Then there’s a quick swab to clean the area, the measurement for the fit (which is by far the most painful part, but is over pretty quickly), and finally the insertion. I felt fine afterwards, but by the end of my walk home, I was doubled over in cramps and crawled under my blanket, begging my roommate to reheat my hot pack.
This sounds like a horror story, but I like the copper IUD so far. It is true that I bled for quite a few days after the insertion. It is also true that for the first few days, I had pretty bad cramps and every now and then I still have to close my eyes and catch my breath while one hits and passes, but it is nothing that a good hot pack and ice cream can’t combat. It has taken the worry out of sex for me. Perhaps that is because of it’s longevity. I got it inserted right after my 20th birthday. I won’t need to get it replaced until I turn 30. (I can of course take it out sooner, should I so chose.) Sure I still get cramps and I’m still bleeding, but that seems like a small price to pay for peace of mind. Smaller anyway than nausea and $10 every few months when my period is a few days late.