Right after I had Abbott, 18 months to the day after Matty was born, I knew I had to do something before I became the crazy baby lady. Of course, at six weeks postpartum, it would have been nice if there was something my husband could do to temporarily prevent him from being able to impregnate me – something like, say, a pill or an implant since I had just had my abdomen cut open and ripped apart – but that just was not a reality. And at six-weeks postpartum with a one-and-a-half-year old and a newborn, reality is pretty much all you’re dealing with, so I did what seemed like the most rational (aka the most convenient and reliable) thing to do. I got the Mirena IUD.
My doctor was extremely supportive, if not a smidge pushy, about the Mirena. She happily and confidently reeled off all the benefits and bookended them with the “less than one percent chance” of the worst case scenario – a runaway IUD lodging itself elsewhere in my body, requiring surgery. Let’s see, a slew of benefits including localized hormones (meaning very low odds of experiencing the regular side effects you usually see with the birth control pill, AKA C-R-A-Z-Y) and a less than one percent chance of anything really bad happening? Yeah, ok. Sign me up.
I won’t lie; I was nervous about getting it inserted. I had been told nightmarish stories of pain so bad women were passing out during insertion and had read tales that could have been made into a horror films. It didn’t necessarily seem like a humane thing to do but I was desperate so I Googled for days and did as much mental preparation as humanly possible. When the day arrived, I sat in my car in the parking lot of my doctor’s office for ten minutes before going inside. I sent Snapchats to all of my closest girlfriends, none of whom had endured the procedure but all of whom had heard the tales, promising them I’d give an update as soon as it was over. An hour later, I re-emerged from the office, climbed into my car and forgot to update everyone because it was possibly the most anticlimactic moment of my life. I felt a pinch and nothing more. In fact, as I grasped the edge of the doctor’s table preparing for the worst, my doctor’s soft, sweet voice filled the tiny, cold room, “Ok, Megan. That’s it! You’re done!” Either the world was full of evil liars or my doctor was magic; whatever the case, I didn’t care.
I thought maybe it was a sign that this form of birth control and I were meant to be. I was happy and optimistic. My relief was enough to put me on cloud nine. Cut to four months later when my cloud nine had dissipated, my sex drive was non existent, my face looked like a teenager’s nightmare every third week of the month and every fourth week of the month I couldn’t wear jeans because my vagina was – for lack of more medically correct terms – on fucking fire. And there were headaches (maybe migraines?) that were so bad I spent at least two evenings a month in bed, wanting to slam my head into the wall. Oh my God, and the lethargy and apathy towards everything – but most concerning, towards myself and my life – was, at times, overwhelming and scary.
What I thought was my body adjusting very slowly just became a realization that this was just my body on the Mirena. Before the Mirena, I’d get the occasional pimple here and there but never routinely, I’d maybe get a headache when I’d go running without drinking enough water, I had only ever had one yeast infection and it was when I was pregnant with Abbott, I’d always had a healthy sex drive and I cared, I cared about everything and everyone sometimes to the point where it hurt. Me on the Mirena was not me at all but, still, I rode it out.
For the first six months, my doctor’s words played in my head: localized hormones, a small amount of progesterone, the best form of birth control, very few side effects – if any! I thought maybe it was just me. I thought maybe it would get better. I thought about how crazy she’d think I was – fire in my vagina? I thought maybe this is just my body adjusting to not being pregnant. I thought maybe, just maybe, this was my ‘new’ body and the timing was simply a coincidence. And some days when things weren’t so bad I thought maybe I can just suffer through.
Then I finally decided to Google and boy oh boy was I relieved. I read post after post on baby and mommy sites of women questioning the things their doctors had told them, convinced the Mirena was wreaking havoc on their bodies. There were women who were confused because they had gone into the doctor to talk about these changes only to have their doctors tell them they were wrong or crazy and insist they continue to give it a try. Some women kept it in thinking the same things I thought, some women had it removed only to face other side effects. It seemed like a lose / lose situation and besides what many have coined the “Mirena crash” after getting the IUD removed, I worried about getting pregnant again. Most days I decided I could suffer through this in order to prevent that, which for us – at the time – would have most certainly been worse.
I suffered for almost two years until one last headache and a concerning three months of an all-time high level of apathy set me over the edge in late November. On December 6th I returned to my doctor’s office nervous and relieved. My doctor was supportive, she did offer to try to remedy some of the side effects while leaving the Mirena in (the fire and the headaches) but when I mentioned the apathy and the disappearing act of my sex drive she agreed removal was the best course of action.
The removal was smooth; I hardly felt a thing and though I worried about the Mirena Crash suspicious of causing depression and early onset of menopause, I was hopeful. Thankfully, within three weeks it was like a cloud had been taken off of my head. I know that’s such a corny way of describing it but it really was like a fog or a weight had just lifted. I felt better and it showed, even Seth noticed – which is saying a lot.
My first period after the saying “Bye-U-D!” was horrific and like no period I had ever experienced. I was nauseous to the point where I was throwing up, I had an evening of vertigo, the cramps were so bad I could hardly walk standing straight up and quite honestly I worried about blood loss but that was kind of expected after having pretty much no period for two years. The bright side was my period came and there was no acne, no debilitating headaches, my vagina wasn’t on fire and I felt like a real person with a real functioning uterus again. It was terrible and magnificent at the same time.
In retrospect, I feel like a dumbass for torturing myself for so long, for trying to convince myself it wasn’t as bad as it was and for naively pretending it might just miraculously get better. I feel silly for worrying for so long about how my doctor would react but doctors, like authority, are scary and sometimes it’s hard for me to remember I’m a 33-year old woman who, like, runs the world? So I empathize with myself there. If anything, I think my fears point to bigger concern: how common it is for a doctor to completely dismiss their patients’ feelings and symptoms and how that trend has affected us and our tendencies to be honest and open with our healthcare providers. It’s important to listen to your bodies and to be self-aware and it’s so important to take care of it, to defend it and to speak up on its behalf because if you don’t, no one else will.
The Mirena IUD was a nightmare for me and if it is the same for you, you’re not crazy – localized hormones or pushy doctor opinions or lack of medical evidence or not, you are not crazy. Sometimes, when the world tells us we’re crazy it’s just really important to share our stories and reassure each other we’re not.