I knew I had a problem when I went to feel for the string and came up empty handed. “Don’t worry,” the nurse on the phone told me. “I am sure it’s in there, but better come in and get it checked to be safe.” It was not reassuring.
Honestly, I was skeptical of this little fishing lure of a birth control method from the start. I think mostly because the logistics over it just didn't make sense to my non-medically trained brain. But after some research and a spiel from a very convincing midwife at my six-week-postpartum checkup, I booked my IUD appointment. With three kids under five at that point and a spotty track record of remembering other precautionary birth control methods, I thought sure, let’s do it. So I showed up seven weeks postpartum and threw my legs in the stirrups with my infant daughter on my chest, held my breath, and braced for impact as a miniature plastic anchor-shaped gadget was launched into my vagina. Well, that’s where it was supposed to go.
But here I was, back at the office a week after insertion to confirm that it had been placed correctly. And I knew right as the speculum exited that it wasn’t good news. The midwife, one I’d never met, just looked down at me with a sorry glance as she told me that I would need to head over to the hospital for an ultrasound. “Well, I don’t see it,” she said. “It might just be a little hidden. No need to worry yet.” Yeah, right.
Once I got over to the hospital, hungry seven week old in tow, I was sent to the lab because — yup — I had now had unknowingly unprotected sex, so they would need to draw blood to rule out pregnancy before exposing me to radiation. I think I sweat through my entire shirt awaiting the results, but when they called my name for the X-ray, I knew I was in the clear.
Now X-ray techs are not really allowed to give any information, so on my way out I made sure to take a look at the screen. As she instructed me to head back over for to the OBGYN office I saw it: the little plastic anchor floating around somewhere that was likely to be my abdomen. I mean, I am not a doctor, but it was definitely not near my vagina.
I lost it. Baby in hand, I marched over to the OBGYN office and unleashed on the receptionist. The poor woman tried to tell me that no one could see me until later that day, but thankfully once one of the doctors heard the commotion, poof, an available appointment appeared.
By the time the doctor entered the room my mother had arrived in response to the hysterical phone call I had made to her on the walk back to the office. The doctor explained that, rarely, an IUD can misfire on insertion and get lodged in the abdomen, requiring surgery for removal. She suggested I schedule the surgery at her next available opening, “a few weeks from now.” Again, I lost it. I sobbed about my anxiety and my new baby and I am not sure I made a ton of sense, which likely worked to my benefit, because after leaving the room and coming back this saint of a doctor had rearranged her schedule and agreed to stay late into the evening to fit me in that day. “Come back in three hours and we will get you prepped for surgery,” she said. What a rockstar.
At this point I wiped my tears and did what any self-respecting 33-year-old mother of three would do in the three hours before being put under for an unexpected surgery: I made my mother take me shopping for new clothes. I mean, we stopped at home first so I could calm down and feed the baby, but then we did a little retail therapy. It helped — a little.
We arrived back at the hospital and my husband met me there. He waited with me in the pre-surgery room as I nursed my baby wearing a medical gown and a hair net. And then they were gone. I panicked and cried a little before breathing in some heavy meds and floating off to sleep.
By the time I woke up, I was IUD free. A little crampy, very rattled, but relatively okay. Overall I give the surgical experience a five star review — I mean, given the circumstances. But the takeaway is this: Always advocate for yourself, even — and perhaps especially — when people think you're on the brink of losing it. Anchors away!
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.