Why I Took My IUD Out At Home

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The medical system in America is a wreck. We all know this, and it shouldn't be news to anyone, if it's news to you then you need to do some serious opening of your eyes.
While I've never loved any of my medical experiences, I've never had such appalling treatment as I did recently here in Tucson. If you watch my instagram stories with any regularity, you've most likely heard what happened, but I wanted to address it here too, for anyone who missed it, or for those who wanted more details from a me that isn't whacked out with pain.

I want to stress that I'm not writing this to tell everyone to pull out their own IUDs (although you can do it yourself with very low risk of complication, just sayin'), but that I was so exhausted and angry and desperate for a even a chance of pain relief that I felt I had no other option. I have so much more understanding now for those who make rash decisions or "illogical" choices when faced with chronic pain, and negligence from medical professionals. What are you supposed to do when the people who are supposedly there to help you don't? You do it yourself. It's simple really.
In a time where we* are faced with the overwhelming burden with being our own advocates, social workers, medical professionals, and everything else, what do you expect us to do?

So, here's my story. But I want you to keep in mind that this isn't unique. The second I opened up about this on social media my DMs were flooded with similar tales. This happens all the time. All. The. Time. 

*And by we I mean non cis white men

Around 1a.m. (maybe earlier it's all a blur that time of morning) I woke up to Coco crying and wanting to leave her bed for mine. As this happens every single night without fail, I woke up Darian and we trudged through the routine of getting out of bed, attending to Coco, going to the bathroom, and trying our best to go back to sleep, her now in our bed and him in hers. She had peed in her sleep for the first time since getting out of diapers, so we had to do a little more work than usual, but we had a waterproof mat on her bed, so no big deal. We cleaned her up, moved the mat, got her all snuggly, and I finally went to pee before completing the exhausting routine.

On my way back to bed I was overcome by an intense stabbing pain in my pelvis. I had experienced sharp pain here once or twice in the past few months, but it dissipated so quickly I assumed my IUD was just irritating me and chose to ignore it, a sound health decision of mine shared by millennials everywhere who usually can't afford insurance and/or have medical related traumas, but this time it was too intense to ignore.
I dropped to the floor and curled into a ball, shaking and trying to remember to breathe, but to also not wake up Coco. I told Darian something was really wrong, and if it didn't go away I'd need to go to the ER. (I never want to go to the ER and usually opt for the "tough it out" method, so this is a big deal.) After a few minutes of level 9 pain on that stupidly arbitrary pain scale, it faded and turned into a lingering soreness and occasional lower-level stab. I felt like I knew it was my IUD, even though I had no reason or proof, but I was sure.
I made it to my bed and passed out, completely drained from what had just happened.

 I woke up when Darian was leaving for work, around 4a.m., and reassured him I would be ok, and that I would call my mom to come help me, and call the doctor once they opened.
I didn't really know how I'd be, and definitely felt the opposite of ok, but he couldn't take any more days off without his work getting angry because he just got over being sick himself (thanks again American system), and it was a comforting lie for the both of us. So off he went and I went back to bed. 
Coco woke up at her usual 6:30a.m. time, and I noticed moving was painful because of how sore I still was. I waited until they opened and I called to make an appointment with my primary care doctor. 

My doctor didn't have an opening until over a month away (lol so helpful), so I made an appointment for two days later with the first available female provider. I tend to avoid male doctors in general, but was especially wary about seeing one for something they would most certainly write off as "female troubles." And I waited. My hopes were that I wouldn't have other severely painful episode before then, and thankfully I didn't, but I was still in a lot of pain.

When my appointment time rolled around I was hopeful and tried to look on the bright side, despite being extremely tired, nauseous from the pain, and having no appetite. I saw the doctor. I explained everything I was experiencing, said I thought it was my IUD, she listened, tested for pregnancy and a UTI (which I absolutely knew it wasn't as I used to get them all the time), and said there was nothing else she could do, agreed it was probably my IUD and sent me on my way with a referral to a OB.   
So I walked down the hall, yes down the damn hall, and went to schedule an appointment with an OB. The nurse at the desk told me that they probably wouldn't be able to see me until next week.
"But it's marked urgent."
"Yes but they're probably all booked."
"Ok should I just go to urgent care then?"
"I'll go talk to them, but if they can't see you tomorrow, then yes."
So away she went and about ten minutes later she came back with an appointment for me the next day with a male OB.
I thanked her profusely and went home. 

My mom was with with every single day since my pain started, even though she lives 45 minutes away. She helped me with Coco, drove me to all my appointments, and provided infinite amounts of comfort during my clear distress. She was with me while I waited for my 4p.m. OB appointment. We tried to distract ourselves. Tried going out to eat, but I could barely get anything down. I couldn't think, couldn't really function. I was too tired, too in pain. I finally decided enough was enough and I'd go to an urgent care. But when I got there the wait time put me exactly at my original appointment time, and they didn't have an ultrasound machine, so all they'd be able to do would be refer me somewhere else anyways. Beyond frustrated I left and continued my waiting.

When the appointment rolled around I once again recounted everything I'd been going through to a resident that listened and asked all the usual questions but with off-putting wording such as: "So when did you start mensies?" Then he left and came back with the doctor and a female chaperone, and I was given a pelvic, swabbed for an array of things, and told me I'd need an ultrasound, which I couldn't get there or that day. Lovely. I had to even ask him if he could see the strings to my IUD, which he then said he could. I asked if taking it out could help, he said maybe. Everyone left and a minute or two later a nurse came in, gave me a cup to pee in, and some more paperwork about my visit. I asked her when I'd be able to have my ultrasound and she responded, "Well seeing as it's Friday probably not until next week." I silently nodded, peed in my cup, and got in my moms car.

The second the door shut I felt myself fighting back tears. No one at all seemed to be listening when I used the phrase "level nine or ten pain" even though it was their dumb scale to begin with. No one seemed to think I was even in any real pain, and they definitely didn't care about the ridiculous hurdles and wait times of their system. I broke down, and finally decided to just go to the ER, where at least within hours I knew I'd revive an ultrasound.

So we turned around and I checked into the ER, which by the way is in the same building as all the other offices I'd been to except the urgent care, so all the equipment I needed was RIGHT THERE the whole time. The wait was surprisingly short to be checked into a room, and the nurse assigned to me was very caring and sweet. I loved her. The man that placed my IV even got it on the first try, which no one ever does with my baby veins, so I was weirdly feeling a small surge of hope. I knew I'd be sitting in my small room for a long time, I'm not new to the ER scene, and I didn't care because all I wanted were answers and my IUD removed. So I once again waited.

In an odd turn of events no one saw coming they decided not to give me another pelvic since I had gotten one earlier that day in the same building which gave them access to my records. Eventually it was time for my ultrasound, both over the stomach and vaginally. They wheeled me away in my bed, and it was honestly great not to walk. The ultrasounds were uncomfortable since I was already extremely sore, and took forever, but the man was very thorough and kind, and I was convinced my IUD would show up out of place, or maybe it would be an ectopic pregnancy, but either way that I'd have an answer. ANY answer. So I pushed past the pain. Once he was done I was wheeled back to my little room, and played the waiting game some more.

Thankfully once Darian was off work my mom dropped Coco off with him and came to keep me company. We talked, she met my nice nurse, we killed the time. Eventually I was vaguely hungry and my nice nurse went to check if I could eat, and said if I could she'd grab me a sandwich they had on hand, but while she was away my results came back and were apparently fine. One of the doctors assigned to me said they could give me an x-ray but that the risk of radiation was something they didn't want to take when they doubted it would yield results. He said if the pain persisted or worsened to come back, but that otherwise they couldn't do anything else aside from offering me Tylenol. He suggested that a heating pad may help, as if I was experiencing cramps. As if I hadn't been in severe pain for almost a week. I asked if there was any way my IUD could be causing the pain even though it was placed correctly. He said it could be, but that no one in the ER was an OB or trained in removing them, so I would have to make another appointment with an OB to get it out. I nodded, he left. My nurse came back with a sandwich and my discharge papers. I asked her was there truly no one that could remove my IUD in the entire ER, and she said they'd removed them before and she would ask the doctor in charge of the ER at the time. At this point I should have known better, but I figured if she had seen it done, maybe it could happen after all. Spoiler: it did not.

Shortly after she left, she returned accompanied by the doctor, who dramatically pulled up a stool and sat on it while maintaining eye contact with me. He told me he understood I wanted it out, but that it wasn't really what they did there, that he wasn't particularly comfortable with it, and that if he did do it, it would be excruciatingly painful (yes those were his exact words) and ruin my entire day the next day. I said ok, and he left. The nurse began removing my IV and everything else and I broke down crying. She felt terrible and apologized, and I apologized but kept crying because I felt so defeated. My mom took me home. Darian held me while I cried some more.
Then, I got an idea.

"Can you take out your own IUD?" Google and YouTube had a multitude of options for me, but the common answered seemed to be yes. I turned to Darian with a mischievous smile and stoked his arm gently.
"What?" He knew something was up. He looked at my phone. "You want me to take out your IUD?!" There was fear is his voice, and understandably so. A sane, pain-free me would have never thought of doing this.
"I've read multiple things saying you can do it! I'm in pain. Let's watch this video and see if that helps, but this is happening."
The video was a discussion between two OBs, one against home removal, and one for it, saying it's an option she provides for those who can't afford a $200-300 office visit just for removal, or have past trauma. We were set.
I took my pants and underwear off and cozied up on the edge of my bed with a pillow under my butt, for what I assumed would be a better removal angle. 
It took Darian a hot second to comfortably locate both of the strings in a way that made him feel confident in his ability to pull the equally at the same time. But I was on my own bed, and actually relaxed, and trusted him more than anyone else who had been up in my vagina in the last 48 hours, so it didn't bother me at all.
Finally he looked up at me, "Ready?"
I told him to do a very gentle test tug to see if it hurt, he continued to stare at me.
"Ok but like, do it."
"I did."
"Oh. Cool. I felt nothing, pull that sucker out!"
So he did. Due to the ridiculous amount of lube they use during pelvics and internal ultrasounds his grip slipped a few times, but eventually out it came. And it was most certainly not excruciatingly painful. Not even close.
I experienced a second of pain, in which I winced, at it was done.
And oh my god, the second it was out I felt my body relax. I felt all the tension fade. I knew I was going to be ok and the pain would go away. I had known from the beginning it was my IUD and Darian was the only person who actually listened and did something about it.
We laughed. We smiled. We made jokes about him being my new OB. I cried because I finally felt some relief. And most importantly, I slept without pain.

Over the next few days the pain faded and the soreness went away. My appetite came back, and my nausea vanished. I stared at my IUD sitting in my jewelry dish on my dresser, and thought about how it really was just pulling strings, and how no one offered to remove it as a possible solution to my pain. I thought about all the people who messaged me with the same story, and was filled with righteous anger. I took these photos.
And now, finally, I have written this post.
If you've made it this far, thank you for holding space for me. If you have the same story, I am so sorry. You are not alone. You're allowed to be angry. I'm still angry.
But there is so much power in our anger, and if even one person listens when we speak up, it's worth it.