There are many things that are awful about trying for years to have a baby. I’ve written extensively about the stress a period of infertility can bring into your life. But today, I’d like to address the one awesome thing about trying to conceive besides all the sex; not having to worry about birth control. Not having to worry about birth control is fantastic.
Transitioning from the mindset of trying to get sperm all up in your vagina as swiftly and completely as humanly possible, to avoiding the stuff at all costs is strange. It takes some getting used to.
I’d heard about diaphragms – mostly in movies from the 70’s and 80’s. When my midwife suggested I get fitted for one I thought, “ooh. Retro. Why not?” There are several reasons why I should have avoided this fitting, but sometimes I lack introspection and just dive into things. This is one of those situations where it would have been good to “know thyself.”
Let me just preface this diaphragm story by confessing something pretty ridiculous. I’m always afraid that I’m going to be the person who gets something stuck up there, can’t find it – and has to go to the ER where I will be met with what I imagine to be a doctor in a coal miner’s hat. Although realistically I know that my vagina isn’t a bottomless void with no end – I was told some stories in my twenties that scarred me into believing that the vagina was a place where things could disappear – possibly never to be found again.
Story number one: I had a friend who was experiencing some cramping and discomfort. She went to her gynecologist and found out that she had left a tampon up there. A tampon. For months, this thing was lodged in her vagina. She was having sex, shopping, going to the gym and going about her normal life with an old tampon lodged in her vagina that she had no idea was there.
Stories number two – infinity: Almost every friend I had in college had a story of their boyfriend having to find a willy-nilly condom that had slipped off during sex. The combination of all of these anecdotes and my own tendency toward paranoia and hypochondria has left me less than comfortable with lodging things in my lady parts. Spoiler alert – diaphragms need to be lodged way up in your lady parts.
Back to my midwife. She pitched the diaphragm idea. I say “Why not?” I have this habit of coming off really nonchalant in situations where I am not totally comfortable. She asks if her assistant and a nursing student can observe the fitting. Again, I respond, “Why not?” There are so many reasons why the answer to this question should have been “No. Hell no.” But who am I to get in the way of education? Also – I assumed this fitting was going to include me laying on my back on a table looking in another direction and making small talk – much like all of my other gynecological appointments. I didn’t realize I would be a major player in this fitting.
A diaphragm kind of looks like a rolled up balloon with stiff edges – but larger. She showed it to me, pinched in in half, and it seamlessly disappeared into my vagina. I could barely feel it. I was immediately a little panicked by this – but no big deal because I was in the doctor’s office and the midwife would be getting it out, right?
She informed me that I needed to get it out. I needed to be comfortable with inserting and removing this thing, obviously, if I was going to be using it as my primary form of birth control. Although I realize that in reality this thing has not disappeared into my cavernous vagina, never to be found again – I immediately start to panic a little.
Her: Just stand up and prop your leg up on this stool. Reach in and hook your finger around the lower lip of the diaphragm.
I prop up my foot and start fidgeting around. Three women are standing there staring at me. One of them is taking notes. Taking notes! I’m imagining what they say while desperately trying to find the lip of this thing:
Patient is sweating.
Paper curtain is slipping.
All directions seem to be going over her head.
Patient looks confused.
I can’t get it and now I am legitimately starting to panic. I realize there is a midwife there to help me, but I’ve already gone down the rabbit hole. Midwife sees me sweating and tells me to get on the table. She finds it immediately and manages to pop it right back in. No! Why did you put it back up there? Get it out. Get me out of here. I don’t need to have sex again. Ever.
We go through this little song and dance three more times because she wants to be confident I can get it out on my own. We’ve now spent 45 minutes on this, so I don’t have the heart to tell her that there is no way in hell I am using this as birth control. I’ve already convinced myself having sex will shove this thing up into my stomach. Yes, I know that is not anatomically possible.
Every 10 days or so I get a call from the pharmacy reminding me it’s there when I am ready to pick it up.