This is part 1 of a write-up of my experiences with a little-studied women’s health issue not commonly seen in the media, but I think is more common than we realize.
I originally wrote this post not too long after this experience over a year ago around February 2016. It is intensely personal, sometimes graphic, and absolutely necessary for me to share. I think many women experience something similar at some point in their lives, but are too ashamed to talk about it. Breaking the taboo starts with sharing…as scary as that is for me.
Content note for…description of painful medical procedures? Not sure exactly what to put here, but I do get detailed in describing my intense sensory reactions to the procedure.
–begin original post–
CAN YOU JUST. PLEASE. SLOW. THE FUCK. DOWN. AS YOU ARE SHOVING. YOUR FINGERS. AND THEN THE LARGEST SPECULUM YOU HAVE. INTO. MY. SNATCH!!!
Goddammit, I hate the gynecologist.
There is much more to this story. It will be added later once words fully come back.
So. Let’s start from the beginning shall we? This is gonna be a long post.
I had a Mirena IUD inserted in September of 2014. It hurt, but I was expecting that, and the cramping in the few months following was the worst I’d ever experienced (4 ibuprofen at a time 2-3 times a day), but again I expected it. The 3-month follow-up appointment went fine, my periods mostly stopped (I just had light irregular spotting), and the cramping eventually…mostly subsided. However, they persisted. This was weird. On the pill, my cramps were much better, so in theory the hormonal IUD should have had the same effect. But there was another weird thing going on: The cramping seemed unrelated to my period and more related to my bowel movements.
I know, gross and TMI. But, I’ve had BM issues my entire life, and so I’m very attuned to that part of my bodily functions. Every morning, I take a probiotic supplement along with a hi-fiber protein powder to keep me regular (I mix it with rice milk. The fiance refers to it as “sewer sludge” since it doesn’t really dissolve well and has this sickly greenish tint). However, I also developed a need to drink a cup of coffee in the morning to prevent myself from falling asleep on the drive in to work. I noticed that this, in combination with my sewer sludge routine, would cause some colon spasms and cramping. So I started taking my sewer sludge in the evening with dinner, thinking that would help. Not so much. Last December, I finally got fed up enough with popping ibuprofen nearly every day and just decided I wanted the damn IUD out.
I go in to the Planned Parenthood clinic where I had it put in, and we discovered that my strings were gone. The nurse told me that I should make an appointment at another clinic for an intravaginal ultrasound to make sure that it was placed correctly and not perforated (she emphasized that this was unlikely, but if it wasn’t positioned correctly it wouldn’t be effective as birth control and I would need to use backup). I wanted to get this taken care of NOW, so I immediately started calling all the places on the list of referrals she gave me. The only place that could get me in within a week was the huge university hospital all the way across the city. But, I was desperate, so I made the appointment and took the afternoon off work. The ultrasound itself was basically painless, in fact it was kind of cool because there was a TV set up so I could see the whole thing. The technician tells me that they’ll send the official results to my doctor I provided on my intake sheet in a couple of weeks, but that unofficially the radiologist thought that everything looked okay.
I leave a few days later to spend 9 days over Christmas with the future in-laws and try not to think about it too much. Fast forward another few weeks and I still haven’t heard anything. Huh. Probably should call in and get this taken care of. So, first I call Planned Parenthood again to make an appointment for removal. I very specifically tell the girl on the phone that there are no strings and ask how that will affect the removal process. She assures me that that’s no problem, and schedules me at my normal clinic. When I tell them this at my appointment, they tell me that she was incorrect and that I will need an ultrasound guided removal, which is only possible at the main clinic across town. So, another appointment scheduled, another day to be taken off work.
I decide to try and find another clinic that can do the removal. I start calling places near where I work since there appears to be nothing close to where I live. I get lucky and find a clinic about 10 minutes from my job. So, I go through the same process: Call for an IUD removal, ask if they can do ultrasound guided removal (they can!), tell them I have no strings and I’d like an appointment ASAP. At this point, I shouldn’t have been surprised that when I arrived, I was informed by the nurse that ultrasound removals are only performed on Wednesdays and Thursdays when a physician is present, and I will need to reschedule. However, she treats me for bacterial vaginosis (for which I was completely asymptomatic until she tried to insert the speculum, at which point I experienced a stronger-than-usual burning sensation-more on that in part 2-and she noticed angry, inflamed tissue), and helps me make an appointment for the following week after the infection has cleared up.
This is the part where I’m about to get very descriptive with my sensory experience. Proceed as you see fit.
I arrived for my appointment fully expecting it to be uncomfortable and painful. The intake technician was very nice and did her best to answer my questions. Then, the nurse practitioner breezed in. I could tell immediately that this was probably going to be worse than I expected. Her manner was not rude, but definitely brusque; the type of person that likes to get in, get it done, and get out. At one point I told her that a smaller speculum would probably be best, and she switched to that condescendingly smug tone I’m so used to hearing from doctors and informed me that she would have to use the largest one she had in order to try to make the removal as easy as possible (I was visibly agitated and nervous about this). Crap. I know from experience what that tone means (lots of pain for me). She tells me that she will try to remove it without the ultrasound first as that will be much easier, but fires up the machine just in case it’s needed. She tells me that she’s going to perform an initial exam of my uterus to get and idea of the placement. Now, I’ve had my fair share of latex-gloved fingers up my hoo-ha, but good god this woman. First off, she goes way too fast and gives me no warning for when they’re going in. I immediately gasp and clamp up (my typical reaction to this sort of thing), and she starts telling me in that same condescendingly smug tone to “slow [my] breathing” and “relax”. At this point I’m heading very quickly to sensory overload and my anxiety is through the roof. Forget calm, I’m about to scream.
She finishes her exam and decides to bring in my intake technician in case she needs an extra hand. I manage to mumblingly ask if she can go a bit slower, to which her response is a condescending “I’ll try.” The technician comes over to let me hold her hand (god bless this woman, I may have had a fit if she hadn’t been there). The nurse inserts the speculum in the same way as the glove exam: Fast, and with much obvious pain and discomfort on my end, followed by condescending words from her. Now I’m crushing the poor technicians hand and tears are streaming down my face through tightly-clenched eyes. I feel a hard, deep pinch, give a loud “OUCH!”, and the nurse exclaims “I got it! Look, it’s right here!” She keeps berating me to look at it, so I manage to crack open one of my eyes and I see this hazy T-shaped thing dangling from the end of her forceps. I manage a weak nod in solidarity. Meanwhile, the technician is clearly distressed at my level of anxiety, and is doing anything she can to comfort me. I think she felt a little out of her league, but damned if she didn’t try her hardest.
I should have thanked her more.
I should probably mention that at this point I’ve lost words. I’m just sitting there still holding the technician’s hand and focusing on controlling my breathing and alleviating the unpleasant tingling sensation that has spread through my arms and legs and up my neck into my face (WTF, I’ve never experienced that before??!!). The nurse is babbling about something, but she then looks at me for the first time since the removal and finally seems visibly upset at my agitated state (I’ll admit this made me happy), and tries to adopt a more caring tone. She keeps asking if I’m okay as she cleans up, and I manage to hand signal to the technician that I just need 5 minutes. The damn nurse keeps touching me, in an attempt at reassurance, but it’s only making things worse. Words come back after a few agonizing minutes, and I manage to squeak out that I’ll be fine, I just really don’t like being touched. The nurse TOUCHES me one last time and tells me to take my time and to come up front when I’m ready. I shakily put my clothes back on after a couple more minutes and manage to make it out to the checkout area. As I’m leaving the clinic, I’m just so relieved that the damn thing’s out that it helps me calm down enough to be able to drive home.
That was a hard few paragraphs to write for me. But I think it’s important to document what happened so I (and maybe others) can learn from this. For the record, I don’t hold it against the clinic. I’ve met my fair share of doctors and nurses with this manner. However, I think I’ll be more forthcoming in finding a doctor from now on that’s willing to accommodate my sensory needs. Because I’m just so tired of being in pain.
–end original post–
There is a bright side to this. Part 2 will be about my ongoing recovery, from a physical and sensory perspective.