IUD’s, anthony comstock and bleeding huts

i spent several hours the other day with the fully fabulous caroline, hanging out in the kids playhouse behind morning star, stretching out our achey, menstruating bodies.  caroline pointed out that we were in our very own bleeding hut.  and we rose to the occasion, talking about: sex, lovers, future dreaming, girlfriends and the absurdity of the crusade against reproductive rights and a woman’s control over her own body.  we marveled at how we had survived through our own socialization that women should fear and be ashamed of their sexuality, that we should abdicate control of our bodies to men who  cannot know them the way we do.

it reminded me of the marge piercy book i was reading, sex wars–a historical fiction piece narrated in turn by elizabeth cady stanton the famous suffragette, victoria woodhull the first female stockbroker and outspoken advocate of free love and healthy sexuality, a young immigrant woman who makes quality condoms out of her home to support her family, and anthony comstock the self appointed “right hand of God.”  it is a cast of inspiring female characters who overcome all of this same socialization, who give a big fuck you to society in their pursuit to reclaim their sexuality, their right to control their bodies and to write their own story.  all balanced by the male crusader for morality, anthony comstock, who ruins many lives in his pursuit of “evil.”

yesterday i drove myself to planned parenthood to have my new paraguard inserted, the copper IUD.  i’ve been trying to get it for months and going through the application process for a free one.  so when i got the call the other day, i was stoked.  as i turned into the driveway at planned parenthood i saw what i had never seen there before, a lone protester, a woman holding a depiction of some sort of religious figure.  maybe the mother mary.  as i drove past her i felt fury well up inside me.  just the day before caroline and i had been talking about the voice of choice campaign.  the idea is that people call those protesters who call and harass abortion doctors, etc., speak calmly and respectfully and ask them to stop harassing others.  and in that moment i knew i couldn’t do it; i couldn’t be calm.  i pulled into a parking space and like a peacock, confident and proud of entering this space that that woman and many others hated, i sashayed into the offices hoping she saw my small act of defiance.

as i waited in the lobby beforehand i read more of my book, feeling as if we’d made such little progress in this bitter battle around a woman’s choice and her right to control her body.  thinking that anthony comstock had never died, that he lived on in myriad form.  and i was happy to be taking control of my body.  shivering with power and the clarity that i was doing for myself exactly what i wanted to, i waited for the procedure to begin.  all to the sound of car horns, presumably encouraging on the lone protester outside.

then my nurse/midwife, the woman who would insert the paraguard, came into the room and i was delighted.  she was flipping through my paperwork and it was with a bit of relish that i corrected the intake nurse’s mistake, explaining that i had had sex just the night before and not three nights before as my chart indicated.  she asked me how i was feeling and i said excited.  she asked me again and i said a little nervous.  she knew better than i did what to expect.

it was awesome, and then it was a bit painful.  ok, it was crazy painful for a little bit.  but that’s because the pathway between my cervix and my uterus is a little unusual.  once the midwife figured it all out it took no time at all.  it’s true, my body went into a bit of shock and it took me awhile to get up off the examination table, and then off the floor.  when i got to my feet i slowly walked to where i would pay for the procedure.  i put my debit card on the counter and sat down in a nearby chair.  the woman who processed my payment encouraged me to rest if i needed to before leaving and i reassured her that i was planning to.

i sat in the lobby once again, reading a sex wars chapter about anthony comstock viciously pursuing a well known and highly skilled abortionist.  the chapter follows the arch of his pursuit and her eventual suicide before being sentenced in a court of law.  and i thought of all those people who protest outside of planned parenthood, of all the people that harass abortion doctors.  and i was furious again.

finally i went home and spent several hours laying in my empty house, not able to do much through the pain.  eventually one of my partners picked me up and took care of me through the night.  this morning i woke and felt mostly better; the more painful cramping had subsided and i was back to full excitement about the choice i’d made.  this morning as i was explaining the experience to a male friend, he told me to enjoy my new toy.  i told him with a mischievous smile that i absolutely would.

it feels incredible to be a sexually liberated woman making educated choices for my body.  i still have plenty of learning and growing to do in this area, for sure, but i’ve come a long way.  and i want that desperately for all of the women around me.  now i’m going to feed my body some tea in appreciation of its amazing capacity to heal and accomodate.  ps. i highly recommend sex wars!


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. paxus
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 01:43:50

    i bet you could do it. if you got out of your “we are struggling against each other” mindset and moved into “this is probably a wonderful human being” mindset, which you embrace most of the time. I would not suggest you do it cold, but after a couple of rehearsals, i think you could talk with the protester at Planned Parenthood and see them as a person, who you disagree with, but not someone you need to be screaming at.,


  2. marta
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 03:47:04

    sara, i love this post! i admit, i haven’t read many. and i’m so inspired! and i have the paragard and it took months to stop killing like crazy. but it got fine. thank you for writing such powerful, inspiring stuff. you’re an inspiration on so many levels to me… more to be said. with love,
    – marta 🙂


  3. nina
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 14:13:07

    LOVE THIS, Sara. Glad to hear you are feeling beter!


  4. paxus
    Aug 20, 2012 @ 15:46:32

    Reblogged this on your passport to complaining and commented:
    A rich piece by Sara on her experience with the lone abortion clinic protester and current insightful readings


  5. Kate Hop
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 16:55:26

    an interesting piece, sara. I always love reading your work. With all this talk about men controlling women’s bodies…I’ve really been ruminating on a different take. When I was like 16, I was put on hormonal birth control basically because I had some acne and cramps, my periods weren’t quite regular yet….totally normal at that age. ten years later, I’m finally reclaiming my body’s own natural rhythms and hormonal cycles…and I’m seriously pissed that they’ve been on this crazy drug for so long, since I was so young. it totally changes the hormonal and ecological landscape of a woman’s body. I read an article recently about the search for male birth control- it said hormonal possibilities were quickly dropped because of potential side effects like depression or weight gain- stuff that women just accept as normal, and becomes fodder for men to roll their eyes about women being “emotional” and “crazy.” (in commercials or something) I’m glad to see you’ve gone for a non-hormonal option…Seriously one of the most empowering things I’ve heard of. My mood swings have mostly subsided, 6 months after quitting such a powerful drug… I just keep taking my Vitex and women’s over 40 one daily, doing my yoga, striving for balance. It’s just not anything I’d ever heard voiced, so I thought I’d throw it into the mix. Keep up the good work Sara, hope to see you in Virginia sometime.


    • Sara Tansey
      Aug 21, 2012 @ 20:35:16

      dear kate, you absolutely touch on the shadow side of this story. on the ways in which society accepts that the burden of birth control rests on women and how women initiate each other into the rights of that burden. my body has been through a lot in the last few months and i have both celebrated its capacity for pleasure and life and cursed the solitary nature of that capacity. if i get pregnant, it is my body, if i choose to abort, it is my body, if i look for more effective birth control, it is my body. i carry the burden of that physical and emotional experience and it is no one else’s but mine. and we’re not talking about what that means. how it impacts our sexual relationships, our relationship with our own sexuality, our partnerships, let alone our female bodies. want to write more about all of this, but i cant just yet. thanks for reading and adding this critical piece to the conversation.


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