My IUD and Being the 1%.

by Lily

September 20, 2022

I have always been a very anxious person. Especially when it comes to sex and sexual safety. I was the girl who encouraged condoms, birth control (the pill) and pullout all to try and keep myself from ever having any “mishaps”.  I was also not unaccustomed to taking pregnancy tests. If I was even a few hours late from my period, I was convinced I was pregnant. For context, I have been sexually active through penetrative sex with cis males since I was about 16, I am now 22.

I decided, my senior year of college I would go off the pill for a while, while I switched around a few other medications. I felt fantastic. I genuinely felt like I could run a marathon. The only problem was, sex suddenly felt very, very, intimidating. I imagined my different forms of birth control as different lines of defense. The condom was the first line, the pullout was the second and my hormonal birth control was my internal guard. Having just two lines of defense felt like too little, so I spoke with my doctor and we decided that I should try the Paraguard copper IUD, a nonhormonal, incredibly effective form of birth control with a 99% success rating.

This seemed like the perfect answer! I signed up for the first Planned Parenthood appointment I could and within a week I was “Paraguarded”. I felt free sexually, I felt like with a 99% success rating, and being with a partner who took safe sex incredibly seriously that we would be safe to let down other protective measures. We had both been STI tested with negative results and have been together for close to 3 years so we decided condoms were more a hindrance in our tight budget and we trusted the science, I mean less than 1 in 100 women get pregnant with an IUD.

Cut to six months later. My partner and I just moved in together, he was in graduate school and I was working my first full time job out of college. We were being adults, navigating the world of too high gas bills and eating on the cheap. But I had missed my period. Like I mentioned above, even on the Paraguard, my periods were extremely regular. I could calculate almost down to the hour based on patterns and general body cues when my period would come, and I was a week late.

But I decided to not freak out. I had the copper IUD, there was only a 1% chance I could be pregnant and even still, my partner and my new busy life meant there wasn’t a ton of time to get freaky. So I bought a few cheap tests on a whim and decided to take them if I still didn’t get my period. I was having all the signs, I was moody, my breasts hurt, I was having headaches and nausea, all the normal bodily cues that I could be prepared for aunt flo. But it still didn’t come.

I decided to take a test which came up as inconclusive. The test window didn’t even show the line. I shrugged it off, assuming I was just being anxious.

I go about my day, and my partner and I have a wonderful Sunday afternoon and evening. I go back into the bathroom and see the inconclusive test later that evening and yell out to my partner I was going to take another one just to be safe. I take it, and immediately a dark blue plus appears in the window. Shit.

All I say is “Oh no”. My partner scrambles in asking “Oh god is it positive?” I don’t respond but he just keeps asking if it’s positive. I show him and go, “yep”. We both take a deep breath, staring at that ominous little plus sign, mockingly, staring back at me.

“The other test is inconclusive” I said.

“Well that’s a good sign. Maybe it’s just that both tests are faulty”, he responded. I knew that the likelihood of a false positive is extremely low, especially with how dark and quickly the lines appeared, but I said nothing, praying to whomever was listening that this wasn’t happening.

I chugged water for the next hour before taking another test. Another positive. I chugged more water, and then another positive. All of them, dark, dark positive lines. How could this be happening? I had the most successful form of birth control and I had only had it for six months. It’s supposed to last me for twelve years. What was going on? Has it shifted? Had I lost it? Was I some superhuman who just was ultra-fertile???

I marched out of the bathroom, opened my computer and began searching for clinics near me. My partner watched me silently as I clicked link after link. I wanted to find a clinic that would take my insurance, and was close to home. I was hoping I could just be mailed the pills as they were advertising but every time I tried to order, when it asked if I had an IUD, it blocked me from completing the order and requested I go into a clinic to be checked. I didn’t want to go in. I wanted this all to go away. I wanted to order the pills and have it be done with. But that just wasn’t the case.

The next step was to find a clinic that I could go to, and quickly. I originally found one that stated they worked with most commercial insurances and made an appointment for the following Saturday. But ten minutes later I changed it to Tuesday. I needed this out of me and I couldn’t wait an entire week.

I emailed off from work, being vague about needing “an emergency procedure” but still needed to get through the day on Monday. Monday sucked. It felt like I was all alone. People asked me if I was doing alright and what was going on, and all I responded with was that I had to have a procedure done. Those who I was closer with knew my IUD had shifted and I needed to have it removed. I don’t know why I was so scared to say I was getting an abortion. I couldn’t tell people. I felt so guilty, like I had made a mistake, and that anyone who knew was going to judge me. I work with a lot of young people, many of whom are pregnant or have partners who are pregnant and seeing them made me feel like a failure. How could I tell anyone who was pregnant that I was going to have an abortion without them thinking I was making a poor choice, or that I hadn’t been responsible?

I reached out to my insurance company who told me that while family planning, including birth control was covered 100% the insurance did not cover abortion care at all. I was going to have to pay $600 out of pocket. Everything kept melting around me. The clinic I was going to encouraged me to reach out to various aid facilities that might help me cover the costs.

The day of, my partner took off work and classes and drove me to the clinic. We had joked about the whole thing, about how it would be over within 72 hours. We tried to lighten the mood by not calling it a pregnancy and instead referring to it as “Craig”. I really couldn’t handle the phrase, pregnant or pregnancy.

Once we got there, I was the only one allowed in. The clinic was located on a quiet side street in a house that was barely marked. I got through the security doors and checked in, answering all the questions on the papers including ones asking “do you have any doubts on today’s decision”. I had absolutely no doubts. I was going to have an abortion 100%. I was in no way ready to be a parent when I could barely handle the guilt of leaving my cat home while I was at work, much less handle an actual child. I had so much more life to figure out before I would even consider bringing someone else into the mix.

The people who worked at the clinic were lovely. The nurse, who also had a Paraguard, joked with me about being in the 1% and how this was a worse 1% to be in than an economic 1%. I was measuring about 5 weeks along, and when the nurse asked if I wanted to see the ultrasound, I declined. Craig and I did not need to know one another any more than we already did. The nurse told me that she couldn’t see my IUD on the ultrasound and that if they couldn’t easily find it they would have to do a surgical abortion. My heart sank again. A surgical abortion is $1300. I didn’t have that kind of money. I jokingly said I would go fishing around myself to find it if they could hand me a tongs. They pitifully laughed along with me as I tried to hold it together.

When the doctor came in, I laid back in the chair, feet to the sky, vulva fully exposed, when the doctor said from below the sheet “oop there it is, I can see it, it’s half sticking out of your cervix”. I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t missing, it hadn’t fallen out. But that stupid piece of wire certainly wasn’t where it was supposed to be. She took it out, or more so, she slightly tugged and it fell out and she handed it up for me to see. She said the whole situation was very chicken and egg. The pregnancy could have occurred because the IUD was descended down, or the pregnancy was causing the IUD to be pushed out. But whatever had happened, I was the 1% of lucky people who have IUD’s that fail.

Since the IUD was out, I was able to go ahead with the medicated abortion. I signed all my forms, choked as they rang $600 onto my credit card, swallowed a pill, got the instructions and then happily went on my way.

I’m fully happy with my choice. There was no other thought that even crossed my mind. An abortion was my right as a person with a uterus, I deserved to have one and they are completely normal. The nurse told me one in four women have abortions, so I guess I wasn’t part of the 1% in that regard.

But what I struggle with now is this bodily betrayal. I had done everything I was supposed to do. I got the IUD, which most women fear due to pain. I got it so that when Roe v. Wade overturned I wouldn’t have to fear needing an abortion. But my IUD failed, and it cost me emotionally and financially. I have to wait a few weeks for the abortion to fully pass before I can get another one. But I’m struggling to trust enough that this won’t happen again. Right now, I feel scared of sex, of intimacy with my partner, and I worry about going back onto a hormonal birth control and back to feeling out of control. But will I be able to trust having another IUD when it already failed once?

I plan on getting another IUD. I also plan on talking to a provider about their thoughts on what might work best for me and for now I will work on rebuilding back a trust in my body that it’s going to protect me. It’s no one’s fault this happened. I did what I could, sometimes things fail, sometimes people forget, but I am trying to retrain myself to believe my body didn’t purposely fail me. I am still in control. It is still my body, my choice. And I will love it and myself again soon, after we have healed. I will continue to be intimate, though it may take time to feel safe, and I may go back to 17 layers of protection, but life will return to normal. I made the right choice for me, luckily with no regrets and with a partner who supported me the entire way. I still haven’t told anyone I had an abortion, but no one has to know. Again, it’s my body and I can say as much or as little as I see fit. Life goes on, and I will go on with it.

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