I Got an IUD at 16
I am sitting in a gynecologist’s waiting room next to my mother. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to one, and I don’t feel very welcome. Pregnant women and other patients all sit quietly, reading their magazines. Or pretending to. Every few moments, they look up from their reading material to give me a disapproving glance. I shift uncomfortably. I can tell they are judging me, and my mother too, for bringing me there.
Maybe I should tell you how I got there.
I got my first kiss a few weeks before I turned 16. I got my first serious boyfriend as well. It wasn’t that I’d never been asked out, just that I never really cared enough to take anyone up on the offer. I preferred reading to dating, as lame as everyone else thought it was.
The decision to lose my virginity was entirely my own. My boyfriend hadn’t even brought it up before I told him I wanted to. I decided not tell my parents about it because my father wouldn’t approve, and I would rather set myself on fire than talk about sex with my mother, who I didn’t really get along with anyways.
But one day I had to. There had been a condom break and I was too young to get Plan B on my own. Girls under 17 need a prescription by law, an arbitrary guideline with no basis in medical fact. I had to ask my mother for help.
I thought she was going to be furious, but she took it well. She went to the pharmacy and got it herself. I think the pharmacist knew what was going on, but like the women in the waiting room, he didn’t do anything but glare disapprovingly. After a lot of consideration, my mom decided she wasn’t going to tell my dad, who would only make me break up with my boyfriend and ground me for the next 50 years. She told me that she didn’t want me to have the same problems with sex she did. She had grown up in a very conservative Catholic Portuguese family, and her mother didn’t understand how babies were made or know about birth control until after her 5th child.
The Plan B worked. I got my period the day after. But my mom and I agreed: I needed backup birth control. She took me to the doctor, who I asked about getting birth control after fighting off my embarrassment. She said that she couldn’t get me any, but she referred me to a gynecologist, and told me she was glad I wanted to protect myself.
The gynecologist herself was not as judgmental as the women in the waiting room, and she was the one who suggested the IUD to me. It is very effective, she said, and it didn’t have hormones, which I wanted to avoid. “Isn’t that just for women who already have children?” I asked. But it's not really, that was yet another arbitrary guideline.
I faced a lot of judgment because of my decision. My best girl friend, a fundamentalist Christian, was initially disappointed, though she came around. My father, who eventually found out, didn’t take it well at all (but that’s a whole different story). And of course the whole school found out I had sex, despite my best efforts to keep it a secret. Even my gynecologist was a little bothered, and I felt the need to defend myself to her-- I got good grades, I’d never done drugs, the last time I’d drank was the Communion wine when I was seven-- but I wondered if it really mattered. It was not her place to judge me, though I was reassured when she told me that as long as I was in a long term relationship, it didn’t matter to her. I felt bad for the girls who weren’t in one, but I didn’t say anything.
I don’t regret my decision. I’ve become much closer to my mother - these days I tell her everything. I feel that since I got the IUD I’ve come into my own. I don’t care what others think of me anymore and I’m much stronger. Now every time I’m stared at in the waiting room, or at school, I’m not bothered by it.
After all, it’s none of their business, is it?
For more information on birth control options check out Planned Parenthood's website.
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