Live from the Lilith Blog 1 of 2
February 13, 2017 by Shira Naomi
Birth control and I have a sticky history.
The first (read: only) time I brought up birth control pills with my dad—in high school, years before I’d actually have sex with a male-bodied person—he responds,
“Well, you know the side effects, don’t you?”
I listed the typical suspects: weight gain, hormonal fluctuations… He cut me off.
“No. You can’t get pregnant.”
To use one of my people’s favorite expressions, Oy.
But more than my father’s curious definition of “side effects,” the conversation struck me because of the squeamish, tricky feelings it left me with. Those feelings were not new, and they all return when I start a new relationship and begin considering an IUD.
I believe myself to be a devout sex-positive feminist when it comes to everyone else—but when it comes to me, there’s a voice in my head whose origin I don’t know and whose words are poison. (I can only assume it’s some nightmare-conglomeration of TV’s white male talking heads, the well-meant influence of my and my friends’ parents, the media’s portrayal of sex and birth control, politicians who think my cootch is their business—i.e. the typical bastions of patriarchy.)
This voice makes me cry after I masturbate for the first time (where did I, a liberal Jewish lady, get the idea that masturbating is a sin?); this voice tries to convince me for years that sex with women isn’t “real sex”; this voice tells me I shouldn’t tell anyone about using Planned Parenthood because they’ll make “assumptions.” This voice says I shouldn’t tell anyone my plans because there’s something inherently “slutty” about an IUD. This voice wonders if I even deserve birth control (whatever the hell that means).
The decision to get an IUD is fraught in an even more painful way because I am a survivor of sexual assault. The assault, which occurred slightly over three years ago, coincided with the only other time in my life when I was on birth control (the pill). Thinking about birth control brings me back immediately to those unspeakable weeks after the rape when I wondered if, despite the pill, I could still possibly be pregnant. And then there’s the idea of trusting a total stranger to reach inside me, which I can hardly begin to consider. Trust these days is a rare and valuable currency.
To combat the voice and my fear, I go over the facts: as a pro-choice Planned Parenthood advocate, I am vocally supportive of women’s right to choose any form of birth control. My family members and several of my friends already have IUDs, which they love. Furthermore, with the looming horror of our new president’s administration, I am increasingly unsure that I’ll have access to birth control options—let alone safe and legal abortions—in the coming years; I feel a frightening pressure to act quickly to protect my reproductive organs.
The day of the procedure, I reach out to friends with IUDs for extra reassurance. I lean on my boyfriend, who reminds me that this choice is entirely mine and he’ll provide me heaps of chocolate after. And I give my trust entirely to the lovely doctor at Planned Parenthood. She makes sure every one of my questions is answered and that I am totally comfortable before she starts; she talks me through every move she makes. In the end, the whole shebang is completed in under 15 minutes.
After, I’m relieved, exhausted, and furious. Because I’d listened for so long to a voice that only hurt me, a voice that I’d foolishly assumed–as a Strong Independent Woman™–I’d be immune to. Even more, though, I’m furious that other women might be silenced or stymied by the same concoction of shame, fear, and confusion.
And then I cry.
Not because everything hurts—but because, for the first time in my life, I am in full control of my reproductive system.
I cry because the right to decide if/when I want to have a child wouldn’t have been available a short time ago and soon may not be available.
I cry because the wonderful people at Planned Parenthood made me feel safe and sane and like my body was neither shameful nor a “mystery.” It was just a body.
I cry because I refuse embarrassment for talking proudly and openly about my reproductive and sexual health. I refuse shame. I refuse silence.
I cry tears of anger and joy because—for this one day at least—my body feels like revolution.
 Fun fact: Besides compassionate abortion services Planned Parenthood also provides STD/HIV and UTI tests, pap smears, gynecological exams, help for women with endometriosis, and a variety of other services including male medical tests.
 For fellow outdoorspeople not interested in the IUD, I’ve heard multiple success stories with the diva cup for camping!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.