21st Jun 2018
“What a lovely cervix you have!”
There are some things that you never thought you needed to hear until you do and praise for my cervix is just one of those things. Call me big-headed but having a lovely cervix is something I’m going to pride myself on because my body and I have never seen eye to eye. Where there’s a fleck of praise, I’ll take it, and my new gynaecologist was dishing it out as she checked out my womb to see if it could house a coil.
When I got my first period, I didn’t realise it was my period. It lasted for the entire duration of my first visit to the Gaeltacht, away from my mum and my sister, and surrounded by very innocent 12-year-olds or 14-year-olds from Ennis that made up grandiose stories about having sex with local boys called Seán Pól, I had no one there that I could talk to. When I saw that first drop of rouge, I didn’t celebrate my womanhood because I genuinely thought that this was just a build up to my slow and impending death. For the first year of being a young woman, my periods lasted for approximately three weeks every single month because my body loves the drama.
One example of the dramatics my body practices: I once fell over in my bathroom, snapping my femur in two. When I arrived in A&E, the doctor on duty just couldn’t believe that I had achieved such a break. “You don’t understand, this is a high impact sports injury! Rugby players come in with this,” he squealed to my mother, who was growing impatient with his wonderment when I should have been in surgery already. When something should be simple, my body takes the scenic route, gets a puncture in an area with no phone coverage, and then somehow bursts into flames so I’ve come to expect the worst, but balance it nicely into my social life. I once went straight from A&E after being treated for third-degree burns to a Queens of a Stone Age concert. I guess hospital wards are like nail salons to me. I use them at my convenience.
Which brings me back to the coil and my supermodel cervix. Since the age of 13, I took different contraceptive pills to schedule the never-ending periods I experienced, as well as clearing up that deep-rooted forehead acne I rocked until my 20s and to totally and utterly avoid pregnancy. I thought that I had found a nice balance with Cerazette because you don’t get a period with that pill. For a glorious 18 months, I didn’t get a period until I did for six weeks straight. Knowing the unusual U-turns I take when it comes to my personal health and safety, alarm bells rang out. I’m one of the fortunate women who has never experienced PMS or period pains but with this unwelcome visitor, I spent days clutching my stomach – breathing like I was birthing a calf – and I was so depressed. I was in such a thick fog of self-hate that my skewed logic couldn’t connect the dots between this heavy sadness and a period that just wouldn’t quit. “This is it. I’m actually dying this time… Good!”
It was not a good place to be. I found a fraction of sense and went to my local VHI Swiftcare late one Saturday evening and instead of dishing out the “I’m dying, doc” line, I pieced together the three ailments I needed to get some help. My period won’t stop. I’m in pain. And I hate myself. While the doctor on duty couldn’t prescribe me anything then, her kindness reassured me that I wasn’t dying. Not even slightly. Well, I was dying at a healthy pace, as we all are. She advised me to be kind to myself and visit my GP, who would then arrange an appointment for me with a gynaecologist. All of this was happening as the cervical screening controversy was unfolding across the country and my nerves were close to tatters, tears always sitting inside my eyes, occasionally making their way down my face.
Going through my long and complicated medical history, my new gynae decided that my body has been through enough. “Why make life harder for yourself,” she said, and suggested I go with the Mirena Coil. It comes with just one-fourteenth of the hormones my former pill contained, so in using that, my moods would balance out and I’d have some occasional respite during the five years it would hold residence in my womb. Picked up on prescription in my pharmacy, this coil comes in a cardboard box the size of my forearm so for the month I waited between consultation and insertion, this box eyed me up everyday. “You’re going to be in me,” I deadpanned, removing all sexual prowess from the line I normally reserve to drunkenly (and unsuccessfully) seduce boys, replacing it with a foreboding sense of doom instead. The procedure itself was simple and my gynae, lovelier than my cervix if you can believe, casually chatted to me, making me feel like this was nothing more than a pre-holiday wax. I drove in and out to the clinic and while there was some mild discomfort afterwards, I just used it as an excuse to lie on the couch under a duvet, all buzzed up on Nurofen with the three episodes of Love Island I had saved up for this very occasion.
This may not be the end of my womb issues but since reaching out to my GP and gynaecologist, I now have somewhere to go instead of turning to that damning inner voice of mine that screams “DEATH!” at every turn. I no longer have to jump to the worst conclusions because with this sturdy team behind me I can, as Alex on Love Island says whenever a new woman walks into the house, keep my options open.
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