Your fou-fou. Your lady garden. Your love nest. Your abyss. You may call it these things. I call mine my vagina, because that’s what it is. And they’re great – infinitely puzzling, pleasure-giving, mysterious, varied. But they can also be extremely problematic. The ladies in porn seem to be able to take hours worth of constant ramming without getting cystitis, the women in chick lit seem to be able to instantly magic themselves into a loving missionary position culminating in mutual orgasm without needing to pop to the loo to quickly check it’s all nice and fresh ‘down there’ and the Victoria’s Secret girls seem to maintain their constantly hair-free, smooth, g-stringed lovely lady bits. They don’t look as though they ever have to have that “I’m really sorry baby. I’ve got a bit of thrush. We’ll have to wait a week or so,” conversation.
This seems to have passed me by. I get the sort of waxes that make me want to simultaneously cry and murder Ron Jeremy, which give me one day of looking like a vulnerable plucked chicken, 3 days of lovely, smooth skin, and 4 weeks of itchy re-growth and pesky ingrowns. One day, I’m going to push a baby (or knowing my luck, 3 at once) out of there. From what I gather, it’s going to really, really hurt.
So, to put off that particular pain for at least 5 years, I decided to get the coil. Well, the doctor decided for me, because the pill I was on carries the risk of giving me a stroke, and after (honestly, I did) weighing up the pros of staying on it (anti-water retention therefore makes me thinner, gives me lovely skin) and the cons (could kill me in a horrible way) I was convinced by her to go on the Mirena coil, which may mean I never have a period, or get bad skin, for five years. So far, so good, I felt confident in my choice.
Something that put me off was the fact that every female I told squealed and went’ “no waaaaaaaay!!!! Ewwww! Aaaaaaah! I could never do that! It goes UP insiiiide THERE!” Whilst hiding their face behind their hand and grimacing. Most people had a horror story: this lady had a stillbirth after getting pregnant, this woman’s slipped and endured unendurable pain, this lady’s coil grew legs, feet and eyes and tore out of her stomach like something from Alien. But I stayed firm with my decision. It was starting to feel like a bit of a challenge.
So, D-Day. I was a bit nervy – really, who likes a speculum? My wonderful boyfriend (the sort you can say “I’m really sorry baby. I’ve got a bit of thrush. We’ll have to wait a week or so. I know it’s 7am but will you go and buy me some Caneston? And some tampons while you’re there.” to, and he’ll shrug whilst looking into the distance, pat your leg and get on his bike,) came with me and waited outside, reading the delightful array of magazines that can be found in a posh North London doctor’s (National Geographic, Saga, Private Schools Revealed).
Walking in, there were two female nurses, which can only mean one thing: this is going to be unpleasant. They gave me an informative chat for about ten minutes, telling me it would be like a smear (which are fine, for any ladies that haven’t been – do book your cervical smear appointment) but a bit more uncomfortable. I felt nervous but this would be do-able. I did the obligatory ‘strip of the lower half, got on the chair with my legs open and covered myself with the paper towel, So far, so bikini wax. The speculum went in, which I am OK with (if you’re reading this and you’ve never had a smear, I promise they’re ok. After my coil experience, I will positively look forward to them).
Then, then, she measured my cervix. OW! Turns out it’s pretty small, and doesn’t like being stretched. OW! It was like searing period pain. So, the speculum’s in, I’ve just experienced that unsettling pain, and the doctor decides she needs to raise my chair a bit. So, while the other holds my speculum in place, I’m raised up and down for a few minutes in a little chair dance until the doctor can get a really nice view of my vagina. This felt a bit interminable, and extremely undignified. I started getting a bit upset and the lovely nurse held my hand.
Intermission: The application of local anaesthetic gel – nothing much to report.
The coil insertion. OK, I don’t want to put anyone off, it wasn’t that bad. Breaking your leg is probably worse. Stubbing your toe is way more searingly painful. But it wasn’t pleasant. It was a sort of spasming, hot, confusing pain, and lasts just that little bit too long. But once again, it was bearable. What was unbearable was the next part. My body went into shock, which is quite common – many women feel faint. I hate fainting! It lasted about 8 minutes, which is a long time to be on the verge of a big faint, and my blood pressure nearly halved – the pins and needles in my hand got to the point that I could no longer feel them, and when I looked down, my fingers had frozen into grotesque poses, a bit like Bill Nighy’s. It was scary, unsettling, painful, especially with the intense period-pain feelings. They put on an oxygen mask, whilst exchanging looks with each other. “I’m a bit hot,” I said, “Is there a went flannel I could have on my forehead?”
“Ermmm – might have to improvise a bit love!” the lovely nurse said, as she ran a sanitary pad under cold water and pressed it to my forehead. “There you go.” Mmmmm. Lovely.
“OK love, we’re going to wait two minutes, and if you’re still in this state then we might have to take the coil out.”
“NOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOO! NO NO NO!” I thought. “There is NO WAY that ANY MORE plastic is going up my vagina today. I did NOT just go through that only to have to take it out!” The thought of this, seemed to get me back a bit. I was still in extreme shock, and feeling faint, but my blood pressure began to return. I asked for my boyfriend – I just so desperately wanted him to come and stroke my forehead.
“We’ll get your boyfriend in here in a moment dear, let’s just get you back on track.” I looked down. I reckon seeing me in an oxygen mask, bare legs wide open, damp sanitary towel on my forehead, would probably put him off sex with me for life, making the whole procedure void.
Anyway, my blood pressure and heart beat recovered enough to get out of that room pronto, to be met by my wonderful boyfriend (ALL HIS FAULT ANYWAY, THE SPERMY BASTARD!) who then had to wait outside the toilet, holding the door shut as I wasn’t allowed to lock it in case I fainted again. Because when God’s laying on the indignity, he always likes to top it with a nice, juicy cherry of extra shame.
He walked me slowly home, bought me Green and Black’s 70% chocolate which made me feel a trillion times better, and I actually recovered extremely quickly. An hour later I had barely noticeable mild period pain-like symptoms, and the next day I couldn’t feel a thing, though I felt emotionally tender – I had found it all quite shocking.
A year later and I can honestly say it’s brilliant now – no periods, no worrying, no expensive morning after pill, for five whole years. I wrote this because I went in that surgery room pretty clueless – all the literature told me I would have ‘mild discomfort’ and not much else – and I wanted to give a detailed account for anyone considering it. Well, for anyone interested in getting this, though my shock was more severe than most, and I had a wet sanitary pad on my forehead, the overall discomfort seems to be in keeping with most other women (mainly those who haven’t yet had children, as the cervix is tighter). It was shocking and upsetting and took me a few weeks to fully get over the experience – it felt as though my body got quite disorientated, like I should be in pain but wasn’t actually able to pinpoint where. However, it really was overall worth it for the length of time the coil lasts, and how effective it is as a contraception.
Editor's note: so, guys, after the success of our post on home thrush treatments (and believe me, when I set out to be a writer I didn't think I'd ever be writing those words) we noticed that a few readers in the comments as well as elsewhere said they'd like to see more women's health myth-busting, so we decided to launch a new series called TMI all about our ladyproblems. I discovered for myself how lonely it can feel when I had an abnormal smear last year, and was thrown into full scale vagina panic. I was trying SO HARD to search out information written by other women about their experiences to make me feel better, but there were barely any, anywhere. Thankfully, I found this. But we need more! We're hopefully here to bridge that gap (snigger), so if you have any embarrassing lady problems you fancy discussing in front of the whole internet, holla at us here: firstname.lastname@example.org. OH YEAH, AND STOP PUTTING OFF YOUR ANNUAL SMEAR.