Escape of the Inner Monologue

World, inside of my head. Inside of my head, world.

Titdor the Squishanator

Apologies to Homestar Runner for the title. But that was sincerely the very first thought that went through my mind as I walked up to the mammogram machine.

You see, one of the perks of becoming a 40 year old woman in possession of preventative healthcare is that you get sent to get your first mammogram. My doctor carefully discussed the potential discomfort of the exam with me while stressing the importance of it. I looked at her and said, you needn’t sell me on it, it’s not gonna be worse than giving birth to Sideways the Wonder Child so sign me up immediately. Evidently some people feel it’s better to bypass a handful of minutes of discomfort and forgo the benefits of a cancer screening, because ouchie boobies? Woman up, ladies.

Anyway, having been suitably warned that I might experience mild discomfort, I called to schedule the big event. The scheduler I spoke with asked me a couple questions – no, I do not have implants, and yes, I can wipe off my own deodorant if provided with a wet nap – and got me in that same day. She told me that they generally tell people to allow 5 minutes per cup size. So an A cup takes five minutes, a B cup takes 10, and so on. So my DD chest and I set aside three hours and headed off. My chest and I are not good at math.

While waiting to be called back for the exam, I sat next to a gentleman who was there to have some blood drawn. He spoke at length about this, and about how he was going to stop for a beer and burger after the test, and about traffic. He asked me what I was waiting for, and I told him I was waiting to have my breasts xeroxed. Luckily he was called back just then and thus we were both spared from him having to develop a response.

When my name was called, I was led back to a changing room, where I was given what looked like an adorable 60s-style mod dress. It was quilted and soft and warm and nearly the victim of theft by yours truly. It was so strangely flattering. I have finally discovered my body’s best dress shape – hospital gown. This makes sense as I am shaped like a potato, which means sacks are totally my jam.

After admiring myself in the mirror and wishing for go go boots, I stepped out and followed the nurse into the mammogram room. Mammoroom? She explained all the steps and what we were going to do and how. I removed my deodorant with the wipes so as to prove I had not lied to the scheduler lady. And then I grasped both sides of my gown and busted my puppies out. The Superman theme played in my head. It was quite cinematic.

The first step of the exam was what people generally think of when they think mammogram – a vertical squishing of the breast between two plates. It was not painful. Rather it felt a bit like my boob was an overstuffed sandwich that someone was pushing down on extremely firmly, so they could take a bite of it without squishing tomatoes and turkey out the backside. After doing the squash to both sides, she tilted the machine so they could get a kind of sideways/diagonal view. She had me sort of wrap myself around the machine and lean forward and to the right, while she sort of smoothed my boob out onto one of the plates of the titholder. Then she’d lower the other plate and run and take a picture. This part was not painful either. This pose felt a bit like a teen boy had finally gotten to hold his first boob, and did not know what to do with himself or the boob and therefore was just going to nervously squeeze it rather firmly to hide the fact that he was frozen in fear. When we switched to the other side I did experience a bit of discomfort because the plate was pressing down on my sternum, which made breathing a bit uncomfortable for 30 seconds.

And that was it. She cautioned me that I’d likely get called in for more pictures, given the size of my sweater kittens and the level of thoroughness they like to achieve when establishing a baseline scan. I promised not to freak out when I received the call asking me to come in for more testing. I reluctantly surrendered my adorable outfit, although honorable mention should be given to my friend K, who suggested via text that I poop on it and “take it home to launder for them” as a means of escaping with my gown. K is a criminal genius, do not cross her.

And that was it. My first mammogram was over. I filled out the comment card with all positives, as I felt like the tech deserved it for how often my breast tissue needed to be re-smoothed in order to be properly photographed. It was a bit like trying to nail jello to a tree, and she was a real trooper about it. She deserved 5 stars. I walked out of the clinic, promising my tits that I’d dribble something delicious on them at dinner as a reward, and headed home to give myself a sticker for having adulted for the day.

So get those mammograms, ladies. It’s not painful and it just may save your life one day.

A Remedial Course in Uterus Management

As I climbed into the trunk of my car, one foot dangling behind me like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs, I thought to myself, shouldn’t I have been better prepared?

To my knowledge, I have been in possession of my uterus for my entire life. Even during the nine months where I was renting it out to fetus L, I still held the deed.

I imagine most women have a story or at least a memory of their first period. Try as I might I can’t remember mine, which I’m sure is due to either the fact that I was well prepared and confident enough to deal with it when it arrived, or, I have suppressed the entirety of a seminal and horrific event. Definitely one of the two.

I do remember that from the very beginning, my period felt like a punishment. It was grueling – I’d wear a tampon and a pad and bleed through both in under 45 minutes. I had cramps that were crippling. I remember crying in the bathroom between classes in high school from the pain, dripping snotty tears onto the fresh pad and tampon I inevitably needed. But since everyone always joked about how awful periods were, I figured that was just life with an organ that hated me.

In college, the campus doctor offered to put me on birth control. No idea if this was just the standard procedure for this doc or if he was responding to my symptoms, but I walked out with a prescription that changed my life. Birth control made my periods dramatically better.

Until it didn’t. In my late 20s things started getting awful again. My doctor suggested I go on the quarterly plan – do nine straight weeks of the pill, with one week off. And that’s how it’s been for the past 15 years or so. And with each passing period, the flow got lighter and lighter.

With less blood surging from my body, I no longer needed to double up on my period products. And last year I was able to switch to Thinx, which are magical period underpants. You wash them and reuse them. It’s better for my skin, better for the environment, and better for the people Thinx donates their product to when you purchase. Only problem: it’s not easy to carry a spare pair of underpants around with you. They’re pricey, so I need all my pairs in rotation, not riding around in my purse just in case. Plus I didn’t need to be dumping my emergency preparedness drawers on the table each time I needed my credit card or some lip balm.

And this is how I found myself digging around in my spare tire well looking for a pad. I’d totally spaced out on the fact that today was the start of my infrequent period week, and had therefore put on one of my usual pairs of Wonder Woman undies. The customary icepick stab to my abdomen that heralds the arrival of my period was the exact moment I realized I was without my magic underpants. (That sentence may cause this post to show up in a lot of weird porn searches.) Luckily, because I have a long history of being paranoid about leaks and also of not cleaning out my car, I found an Always square tucked away next to my first aid kit.

As I took my treasure back inside, I shook my head at myself. I turned 40 about a month ago. Shouldn’t I be past the point of stranding myself in public without period resources?

And then I tripped on the sidewalk and nearly fell on my face.

So, the lesson is, don’t criticize yourself while you’re walking, and never clean out your car.

IUDon’t

So several weeks ago I posted a chipper little piece on how I was enjoying my new uterine accessory, the Mirena IUD.

Oh 20/20 hindsight, aren’t you a peach.

Several days after posting that piece I began to acknowledge that I hadn’t taken a deep breath in several days. I thought, well, I am super stressed out about the upcoming relocation, move away from all my friends and familiar places, etc. But as the days passed it got worse and worse. I actually had a couple full on anxiety attacks, which I haven’t had in years. But I kept shaking my head and saying, wow whee! I sure am stressed out by life!

In addition to the lack of breathing and anxiety attacks, I was also having memory problems, trouble sleeping, and a constant case of the sweats. Day by day, my existence was getting less and less enjoyable, mostly due to my mental state. It was all I could do to act normal around other people most of the time, although I was primarily concerned with not losing my crap in front of L. No 2 year old dealing with all the upheaval that was going on in our lives at that time needs her mom to suddenly start clutching at her throat and crying because she can’t breathe. I have always excelled at keeping myself together for the benefit of other people so that made the day to day a bit better. But even as I felt worse and worse and more and more anxious, I just kept thinking, well hopefully after the move is over I will feel better! I mean, even though I feel worse now than I felt about either of my parents dying, I’m sure I’ll perk up once we’re all settled in at the new place! (Insert crazed laughter here.)

And although I am certain that there was a lot of stress going on because of the move, it wasn’t until R was reading an article about potential side effects of IUDs that scared him a bit that it dawned on me that all of the insanity going on in my body might not be naturally occurring. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that the overwhelming emotional crisis I was having might be artificially induced, or heightened. Amazing what you can not see about your own situation, isn’t it? So I made an appointment to have the IUD removed.

And within 24 hours of the removal I was feeling almost like my old self again. It was amazing. There was still stress, sure, but I was handling it as well as I normally do, instead of having chest pains and shallow breathing and the absolute certainty that I was going to drop dead. I returned to my normal amount of sweaty, and no longer had to pretend like I was keeping it together – I (mostly) actually was.

So the moral of the story is don’t forget that you have a hormone laced plastic insert in your uterus when you start feeling terrible 24/7. This may not be the most universally applicable moral, but my name isn’t Aesop so you’ll just have to take it or leave it. I’m too busy enjoying the sensation of being able to take a deep breath to care.

Me and My IUD

Our daughter is the light of my life. My husband and I adore her more than words can say. But we are a one child type of family. And I’m either just so constantly enthralled by the very deepest mysteries of the universe or so tired and forgetful that I have gotten a little, shall we say, flexible with the taking of my birth control pill. Several friends of mine had given their IUDs rave reviews, so I decided that perhaps something that did not require daily attention was a good idea for me. I made the appointment and immediately began psyching myself out about how painful the procedure would be. Remember, the last time something traveled through my cervix it was about as enjoyable as gobbling up glass shards covered in sriracha, so I was a bit gun shy about the whole idea.

Having received no warnings from my midwife to pre-comfort myself with ibuprofen, bring a friend to drive me home, or make sure my living will was on file, I guessed that the procedure was not a big deal. Still, I was a bit amused by the regularness of the whole thing. No special room, no special gown, no lecture from the nurse about after care. I felt the occasion was a bit of a milestone – a reversible milestone, but still a marker of the end of my reproducing years. An acceptance and official recognition that I will never again sniff a fresh baby head that I made, mix up a bottle of formula of my choosing, or try to negotiate a breastfeeding attempt at 3am with an infant who feels very strongly that no matter what we try it is all wrong and terrible. As you can guess, some of these things made me a bit sad, and some of these things were a big relief.

The first step of an IUD insertion is having your uterus sounded. I happened to know what sounding means, as during a wine fueled evening of raucous laughter with R and some of our best friends, we got into one of those conversational tangents that led to an Incognito-Mode exploration of some of the more hilariously NSFW sites online, and discovered the wide world of medical fetishism. Evidently some people derive pleasure from having the depths of their urinary or reproductive organs measured by way of insertion of a metal stick with markings. My personal experience was almost completely unnoticed by yours truly, as I asked how long it would take and my midwife replied that she had finished already.

The point of this exercise in this case was to determine how long to cut the strings that hang off of the IUD, through the cervix, and into your vagina. After all, you don’t want danglers. But they have to be long enough for you to check that they are still there every month, so you know that your IUD hasn’t perforated your uterus and gone wandering around your body, wearing socks with sandals and stopping to take tourist photos on busy sidewalks. Or giving you sepsis. The most disturbing part of this is that evidently you can’t feel it when an IUD perforates. Notifying you that there has been a perimeter breach is not high on the list of things to do for the average uterus.

Once the IUD has had its haircut, it’s insertion time! This process takes about thirty seconds, and for me, was about as painful as a hard pinch. Then it was pants on and pay up time.

I went home and spent the rest of the day having pretty bad cramps, which they said was normal. I think this is why they want you to be on your period when they place the IUD – all the cramps just blend together and by the time the week is over it’s all a hazy menstrual memory.

It’s been a couple weeks at this point and I’ve had no issues so far. I still sometimes stop and wait to see if I’ve managed to sneeze hard enough to dislodge it. Have to keep yourself entertained somehow.