FEMpowerment Fridays episode 5

As women continue to share their stories with me, it has become increasingly transparent that the experiences women face are so incredibly vast. And so incredibly hard. They are trying, heartbreaking, and emotional, but exude strength and resilience. If nothing else, I hope this series continues to inspire empathy, and to get you thinking about what would happen if you or a loved one were faced with a similar situation. I am so incredibly proud and honored that the women this week chose to share their stories with me. They are gladiators.

1.  “This Monday my husband and I learned that we were having an ectopic pregnancy (meaning baby isn’t growing in the uterus and therefore the pregnancy is unhealthy) I was given a chemotherapy drug – methodextrate to dissolve all tissue. This has been an extremely trying time on both my mental and physical state. I’ve done some self research on this type of pregnancy and out of all the risk factors, none of them apply to me… I am a healthy 28 year old gal, I workout, eat a balanced diet, and have never smoked. I haven’t received much of an answer from the doctor in regards. It is possible for us to get pregnant again but our chances of having another are much higher. I am completely crushed having lost our first baby and now I’m sitting with a pad on, heat therapy and experiencing the worst cramps of my life ?

I’ve found in the last 5 days just how little people feel they can talk about fertility and infertility and it makes me sad. Do I want people mourning my unborn baby, no but I do want them to recognize that I was a mom and have experienced a loss.

Perhaps your twist in my story could be that we need to share more, to make it known that it will be OKAY and that life goes on…. obviously I’m super emotional right now so thanks for hearing my ramble.”

2.  “For the past several years I have been running a uncharted marathon with some foreign symptoms with little success/answers. It all began my sophomore yr of college and just continued to worsen (and this was 6 yrs ago- with it beginning to get a better this last year)

 it began with me for the most part having to do it on my own as all western medicine doctors seemed to discard my various symptoms or want to just cover it all up with some bandaid quick fix that never illuminates any issue. I have had to take navigating, knowing and trying to heal my body into my own hands… I have no medical background but have not been able to rely on those that do- those that we grow up believing we can rely on to answer our health questions and solve our health issues. I learned over time that when it comes to our health we have to be our own advocate. I have all the respect for western medicine, doctors, nurses ect (my sister is a nurse) and know they work so hard and bring so much healing into this world- I totally rely on and trust in them when it comes to medical issues. however when it has come to my body as a woman I have not found the help I have desired. solutions I have been offered for my symptoms of acne that all the sudden popped  up and would not go away after never struggling with it as a teen, intense fatigue, random/stubborn weight gain while being a healthy/fit person, a total loss of my period and discomfort after eating was to go on the pill, use a topical solution/ take medicine for acne, medication for my thyroid and that the rest was unrelated. I would go in to a doctors office, a dermatologist, get lab work done ect…with a glimmer of hope that maybe Id finally get answers only to feel like whatever I was telling them was brushed over, discarded and that I was being rushed out the door with little answers/clarity and some quick fix.
Luckily something within me from the get-go didn’t sit well with these “solutions” – I would follow suite for a bit but just knew there had to be a better way. So I began to navigate this all on my own. And have been so thankful I did as there is now all this info out there on how detrimental being on the pill can be over time- especially as I am already at a heightened risk of fertility issues- it still frustrates me so much that this is the first/really only go-to fix provided in our medical world, and of course we are going to follow suite if a doctor is telling us all these wonderful things it will do and none of the potential consequences!
I have hit many walls, wanted to throw up my hands in frustrated surrender,  throw in the towel and give up. But Ive remembered it is my health on the line and it won’t fix itself on its own. It has been a long journey but I have been so fortunate to be navigating it in a time where others are being more vocal about there own stories/ journeys and so passionate about educating others on other options. I have found accounts like Andrea of EarhyAndy, Katie of Twistoflemons, Lee of Leefromamerica, Jeannette of Shutthekaleup, Blaire of balancewithb, Kate of rootandrevel that have been my saving grace and  have helped me TREMENDOUSLY to navigate the health world, being in tune with our own bodies and brought things like PCOS, hormonal imbalance, elimination diets, food intolerances, gut health, hypothyroidism, inflammation, ect to my radar. I am so immensely thankful for them, their platforms and what they do with them- they have brought so much to my life! From their stories, blogs accounts, openness, willingness, hard work and passion I discovered other options like working with a naturopathic physician, integrative holistic practitioner to walk with me in looking at the whole picture from diet, lifestyle, hormones, individual body makeup to address ALL my symptoms and work towards HEALING them from various areas not just covering them up .. and taking charge of my wellbeing from books like WomanCode, needing to be my own advocate by being educated in order to go into a doctors office and not feel at the mercy of them but know about different options/possibilities or what needs to be done like know about certain tests in order to say that is what you want done- as Alisa talks about in her book woman code and how she had to demand a transvaginal ultrasound after learning that was what would tell her is she has PCOS, which spoiler alert, she did end up having and if she hadn’t educated herself a doctor wouldn’t have advised her to get one.
I am still on this journey and still feel on just the tip of the ice berg while still in the educational/beginning phases not quiet in the healing phase. I hope to someday be in the healed, management phase. I know it will be a forever lifestyle change though and Ill never be able to be that girl whose healthy just comes naturally/easily- who can be that “easy” girl who just eats whatever. I don’t love having to be that picky eater, health nut- but I am thankful for all the knowledge I have gained along the way and for those like i mentioned that have enabled me to do so and have begun to forge the way before me. I am thankful for the perspective on living a healthy and balanced lifestyle I have gained that takes care of my body whether I was struggling with all of this or not.
so just know even if your symptoms don’t totally align with someone else’s (which they most likely won’t as our bodies are so intricately unique!), or if doctors are brushing over them while something within you knows something is up and isn’t sitting well with what you are being told, or you go into a dermatologist or doctor office only to leave feeling disheartened/frustrated- just know these aren’t bad things- celebrate that you are tuning into your body and listening to the messages it has been telling you. You can take your health into your own hands and start the journey towards health in a way that will do the body good. I can pretty much ensure that it won’t be easy or without a few frustrations- but you dont have to do it alone. reach out to others, research, educate yourself, breathe and just take it a step at a time to navigate what works for you. Know you’ll continue to learn as you go and don’t overwhelm yourself to know it all now- and remember your doing all this to better enjoy life, so don’t forget to enjoy your life now, right where your at. I also highly encourage checking out all the accounts I mentioned for well informed and well rounded info.
also remember none of this defines you or needs to define your life. you are just as much a woman whether you get your period or not, you are so damn beautiful whether you rock a bare face or put on that foundation to cover up some bumps on your face, you are so strong and powerful whether you carry some extra curvature or have no curves. none of this defines or effects your humor, empathy, kindness, smile, glimmer in your eyes, adventure, fire, passions, worth and what you have to share with this world.
and a little side note- to anyone reading this that hasn’t struggled with any woman issues…if you encounter a woman who shares how she has faced irregular periods/lack of a period cycle please do not respond by saying how lucky they are to not have to deal with that time of the month and what you’d give to get a pass card for your period. even with the best intentions these words are not comforting in the slightest. as someone who has been on the receiving end of these words just casually thrown out there- they hurt, sting and have even angered me. The loss of my period is confusing, scary and makes me feel like less of woman. Please do not tell me I am lucky… it is not lucky that something is off with my body and that no matter the time, effort and work I have put into figuring it out I haven’t been able to, that something my body was built to do it isn’t doing, therefore that I am not healthy- and someday this may carry some pretty heavy realities with it like struggling to have babies. I would gladly endure cramps, ruin every pair of underwear I own by bleeding through a tampon and go through mood swings if it meant my body was performing at optimal health.”
3. “I am writing my story somewhat in response to your post about your experience with the Paragard IUD, and also because it has become so popular lately. When I first heard about it, I was looking for a way to get off hormones and I came to hate the birth control pill I was on. The Paragard seemed like the *perfect* birth control. You can have it for 10 years, there’s no hormones, and you never have to worry about taking your pill (something I was awful at). My gynecologist didn’t quite support it because I had never given birth before and I wasn’t in a long-term relationship at the time. But I was set on it; I had done my research on both the IUD and read some scary articles about what being on the pill for too long can do to your body and fertility.
When I got it inserted, it was the most painful experience I had ever had. I fainted and then vomited everywhere. The doctor who had inserted it was less than sympathetic; she asked me if I could hurry up and find a ride home because the office was closing soon and it was Friday. My mom picked me up and I was bed ridden for the next 24 hours with a heating pad.
Within the next year and a half with the copper IUD, I had basically forgotten it was there, and it was great. I started dating someone new and it became serious, so I was grateful I had the supposed most protective form of birth control on the market. However, I had gained about 7 pounds (still undetermined if that was from going off the pill or just binge drinking all senior year of college), broke out with horrible acne that I still have scars from, and had HEAVY, long, painful periods. The best part about it was that I saw like a 500% increase in my sex drive. I won’t go in to more detail about it but I seriously miss it.
Then, right after college graduation in May 2016, after I came back from a week-long party binge in the Outer Banks, I discovered that I was….yes….pregnant. I had been having symptoms for a while. On the pill, sometimes I wouldn’t get my period for 4-5 months and think nothing of it. But with the IUD, my periods were heavy and regular, so their absence was of concern to me. My boobs were also constantly and painfully sore. When I started vomiting every morning for no reason, I decided to take a test. I went to the gynecologist where she confirmed that I was 6 weeks pregnant. She was just as shocked as I was–she said never in her career had she come across a patient who got pregnant with an IUD perfectly in place. I had thought for sure that the IUD must have been knocked out of place or sunk down too far in my cervix. But nope, it was in the exact right spot. I was just one of the unlucky .003% people to become pregnant on the copper IUD.

I decided on abortion. It was never even a decision really; I was committed to my master’s program in the fall and I didn’t even want to think about what I’d done to the baby’s development already with all the graduation party drinking I’d been engaging in the past several months. Getting an abortion was a whole different painful experience in itself, and I’m sure there are people who follow you/read your blog who have gone through this and would like to read about someone else’s experience. I was just a normal, fun, happy, smart college girl–I wasn’t careless or reckless or the “type” to get pregnant at a young age. I’m not ashamed of it and it has made me stronger, but it was an experience I’d never wish on my worst enemy.

I decided on a medical abortion (taking a pill to terminate the pregnancy) over a surgical one because I didn’t want something that invasive. Looking back, I wish I had opted for the surgery. After my gynecologist removed the IUD (which was way less painful than having it put in), I went to the abortion clinic without my boyfriend or anyone else with me because I thought I would be just picking up the pills and leaving. I assured my boyfriend he didn’t have to come. I was so wrong–the clinic was so scary and packed with mothers and daughters, all looking sad and scared in the waiting room, as I’m sure I did too. Protesters outside threw a Bible at my car and a security guard had to escort me inside.
The process took forever; I was in the waiting room for probably 2 hours when I finally got called back just to have her take my blood, weight, and vitals and then send me back for another hour in the waiting room. Finally, they called me back again, gave me a “counseling session” where they told me that this was completely normal and safe, then took an ultrasound, then finally gave me the little bottle of pills. I was to take one there at the clinic in front of them which would make my uterus unviable for a fetus to survive in. Then, within the next 72 hours, I would take the other 2 pills which would expel the pregnancy. “It should feel like a normal period,” the doctor said.
The next day, my boyfriend came over to be with me while I took the pills. The doctor suggested I had someone with me to keep me company and prescribed me Tylenol with codeine for the pain, which worried me from the beginning. If it was supposed to feel like a “normal period,” then why was I being prescribed heavy painkillers? I took the pills and within minutes felt a horrible pain wash over me. I immediately went to the bathroom and threw up. I began to bleed for the next hour and a half, but I couldn’t even sit on the toilet the whole time. I would take Advil and then immediately throw it up a minute later. I spent half the time curled up in the fetal position on the floor seriously contemplating killing myself just to end the pain. I mean it was excruciating…I felt like my abdomen and my ovaries and my Fallopian tubes were being ripped apart or set on fire or both. Weirdly, I was texting one of my best friends and one of the few people who knew what I was doing, and she is who got me through it. We talked about random things like politics and celebrities and she distracted me as much as she could. I had sent my boyfriend away to buy a heating pad because he kept knocking on the door and I didn’t even want to see him.
Toward the end, when the pain was at its peak, I knew I had expelled the tissue because I saw it come out of me. It resembled nothing like a fetus but I knew what it was. This was more horrifying than the pain, and I sobbed for I don’t even know how long, and then finally the pain subsided and I got up and went downstairs and ate dinner like everything was normal.
After a week, I went back to the clinic where they gave me a check up and prescribed me birth control pills again. I was so worried about getting pregnant again I didn’t even care about the reason I had gone off them in the first place. I have been on the pill again now for about a year. I barely ever get my period, which feels so unnatural, and my sex drive is low. It sucks. I would love to read some posts about women who have tried natural methods like temperature/rhythm/mucus methods. I am starting to do some research on them, but am getting discouraged because if I got pregnant on birth control that is 99.7% effective, then what are my odds on methods that are only proven to be ~75% effective? Getting the IUD again is out of the question for me, and not even because I’m worried about getting pregnant, but because I simply cannot put myself through the pain of getting it inserted again.
Sorry if that was at all graphic and disturbing to read, but the point of the story is that something I never thought would happen to me did. It was a very painful experience, both physically and emotionally. I also don’t want to scare anyone away from getting the Paragard– it’s a very safe and effective form of birth control that is hormone-free, which is important for a lot of people, including me. My experience was extremely far from the norm. It’s a weird part of my past that will never go away. I have moved on from it in the year since and forget about it on most days, but it is still a very real and intense thing that happened to me. I have yet to come across someone else who has had this experience, but then again this is the first time I’ve shared it, and abortion still has a stigma attached to it that says you can’t talk about it or admit you ever did it. While I claim that I am not embarrassed or ashamed by it, I am not eager to tell everyone in my life that I did it either. I prefer it stay in my past, because it doesn’t define who I am. But if I can help someone else by sharing this story, then I want it to be told, and your blog struck me as a good way to do that.”

4.  “In February of 2015 I got the Paraguard IUD inserted. I chose it because it is non-hormonal and was thinking it seemed the most “natural” and potentially the least likely to mess with my body’s normalcy. My periods instantly became ridiculously heavy and for almost an entire year, I bled through everything every time.

Fast forward to January 2016, I found out I was 8 weeks pregnant. After having trust my IUD and having felt I chose the right option for me, I was really devastated that my boyfriend and I were put into a situation we felt we had done our best to prevent. It was a really difficult time. I researched all kinds of stories from women who had also fell pregnant with the copper IUD and wished I had looked that deeply into those stories before I chose it.

I had the IUD removed and wasn’t ready to get another one put in until a year later. I now have the Mirena IUD and it’s been 4 months. I lost my period immediately after getting it inserted. I have no complaints thus far, however getting pregnant will always be in the back of my mind. I was that 0.1% (or whatever the statistic is) and I’m always nervous it might happen again. I feel that the more women who speak out about something not working for them (Paraguard), the more can consider choosing a different option. I would not recommend the copper IUD to any of my friends and that includes any of you reading this. It had a huge impact on me and I would tell my younger self to choose differently.”

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