If you’ve ever read anything on this blog, you know that Angie and I are proud mamas.
I have two sons that I absolutely adore. I wanted those two boys more than anything. I planned them like clockwork. The first one was born about three years after I married my husband, and the second one was born about 5 years later.
They are my world.
The reason I needed to plan them was because of my career and sanity. I’m not one of those admirable mothers who can crank out babies back-to-back and take it all in stride. I’m a bit Type A and slightly neurotic. Staying at home was not an option. And when I asked the hubs his thoughts he said, “It’s your body, you choose.” That man is a prince.
During this process I was struck by a cultural incongruity among genders. A man can walk into any backwoods gas station and buy birth control in the form of condoms. Chances are, if he buys them he’s planning on using them (as opposed to women who can own a truck full of condoms and still be unable to use them with a man who refuses).
For a woman, however, we have a bajillion steps to obtaining birth control.
Step 1. Find a gynecologist you trust. Hopefully a middle aged woman or a man who does not seem creepy, which you cannot tell from the internet or a phone call. Asking for recommendations from friends is still somewhat gross. Avoid those who double as obstetricians because they’re constantly on baby call. And the male creepy factor is highly important. Just trust me on this one. One time I listened to my Cliff Huxtable-esque male gynecologist rave about Halle Berry the entire time I had a speculum shoved inside me. To the point where the accompanying nurse told him he was rude. Perhaps the only way he could suffer through my exam was fantasizing about the world’s most beautiful vagina. He’s retired now. It’s probably my fault.
Step 2. Schedule an appointment. You better have the right insurance or you won’t get past the first phone call. And God bless you if you’re on the state plan because there are only 3 doctors in town who take that plan and they all graduated with C averages. They probably use Barbicide to disinfect their instruments.
Step 3. Wait 6 weeks. Yeah. Gynecologists book early. Every woman on birth control has to have an annual visit, even when there are no symptoms of anything. That’s because gynecologists will only write prescriptions annually. This limit is wholly unnecessary, but whatevs... it keeps that gynecologist practice busy. Hope you don’t get pregnant while you wait!
Step 4. Appointment time! Actually no. Fill out 38 pages of paperwork that asks you about whether or not you contracted an STD 20 years ago. Get your wallet out, because you’re going to pay at least $30 for this visit. So you’re already 6 weeks and thirty bucks in just to prevent pregnancy, with no doctor in sight.
Step 5. Doctor’s visit. Strip naked and wait for total strangers to enter. These total strangers never saw your fashionable sundress and sandals. They only know you as naked chick number 75 of the day. Did anyone wipe down that grungy exam table before you sat your bare butt on it or did they just toss on a fresh piece of flimsy butcher paper? You’ll never know.
Step 6. Exchange pleasantries with the doctor while she yanks the stirrups out of the exam table. Try to negotiate skipping the pap smear and fail. Assume the position. A cold metal medical instrument is now shoved into your vagina. It feels way too big. And even though it feels extremely uncomfortable and you think perhaps you might be dying, you start hearing that awful cranking sound as your gynecologist cranks your vagina open. You think you hear something singing but it’s only your lady parts whistling from exposure. And just when you’re ready to scream, good ole doc shoves the World’s Largest Q-Tip all the way to your cervix. She yanks out the speculum and you sigh with relief because it’s finally over when out of nowhere you feel two fingers shoved right back up your hooha while pressing on your stomach. She’s probably looking for tumors or something. I still haven’t figured out what any of this does.
Step 7. Feel humiliated because you just let total strangers prod you in ways your husband has never dreamed. Feel gross and violated because you paid for that treatment and pretended it was for “health” reasons. Also your vagina has goo in it. It’s not pleasant. You make squishy sounds as you walk. You probably bleed a little. You shouldn’t have worn your good panties.
Step 8. Drive straight to the pharmacy. They’re closed. Or there’s a two-hour wait. Of course. There's no way you're waiting two hours with gooey panties.
Step 9. Back to the pharmacy. Pay whatever they want. Don’t ask any questions because for goodness sake you’ve been taking these darn pills for five years and it's really not a big deal.
Step 10. Wait till the first Sunday after your period begins. Because the universal rule for birth control pills is to start on Sunday. Then wait another two weeks for the pills to actually kick in.
Step 11. Repeat this annually until menopause or hysterectomy, whichever comes first.
If you choose an IUD or Norplant or other forms, the steps don’t change much, there are just some that are more or less painful than others.
I had my gall bladder removed about a year ago. It was the most painful thing that ever happened to me and yet, the entire process was far more pleasant than my annual pap smear.
So there you have it. Men can think, “I’d like to have sex without creating a baby tonight” and have a viable solution within about 10-15 minutes. Women, however, need to start planning months in advance and prepare for a literal violation of their genitals.
That’s not just unfair, it’s cruel and unusual. Why do women say any of this is OK? Why can’t birth control be delivered over the counter? And even if it requires a doctor’s visit, why is a pap smear required? No one needs to touch my cervix to prevent a pregnancy. Just like absolutely no one needs to touch my husband's penis to prevent a pregnancy.
And yet, Congress wants to make this even more difficult. I wrote this because the Senate voted to make it more difficult for women to gain access to affordable birth control. It hasn’t passed but it could.
It’s tough to wrap my mind around. These old stodgy old geezers of Congress don’t want unwanted pregnancies but force us to jump through hoops to prevent pregnancy. They spurn abortion but ridicule mothers who need financial assistance after keeping their babies. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can have a condom in hand in minutes but we have to get a physician’s PERMISSION(!!!) to prevent pregnancy. Even with all that, women are seen as primarily responsible for pregnancy – whether it’s preventing it, enjoying it or raising children from it. And yet, the roadblocks are downright insane.
Haven’t we suffered enough? What MORE can women do to satisfy Congress, who just can’t keep their hands off??
You tell me. I’d love to know. I want to be in charge of my vagina. Period.