In Bosnia, you do not need a prescription for birth control. Like I said before, as an American, I am totally accustomed to strangers being bizarrely invested in My Uterus. So accustomed am I to this cult-like preoccupation with women’s reproductive organs that it did not even occur to me that in some places you can simply buy birth control over-the-counter, no questions asked save, “Veliki ili mali?” Erm, the big box, duh.
That’s right, ladies. There are some places, or at least A PLACE where it’s actually easier to get birth control than it is to access the recycled hard drives of conspiratorial IRS employees.
Some parties will have you believe that the supposed moral decline of America can be blamed on the hail sized hormonal contraceptive falling from the sky, giving five-year-old boys breasts and making fish lactate when it runs off into the water supply.
If there’s anybody left looking to come to the U.S. for the American Dream, I can guarantee that birth control falling from the heavens is not part of the deal. Oh, and good luck with the borders, because I hear that’s a clusterfuck.
In fact, I have found that it’s actually easier to obtain things like Vicodin and codeine than it is the pill. Even in Ohio, a state with one of the highest rates of amphetamine abuse in the country, it is easier to get a hold of Sudafed than it is to get a little progesterone.
As any archaeologist of reproductive age with a vagina will tell you, having your period in the field is enough to make her contemplate a full sex change operation. Don’t believe me? Try changing a tampon in the middle of the woods next to a river in the summer. It’s for mosquitos what walking into the ocean after cutting off your arms is for Great White Sharks.
To avoid mosquito-sharks and other period-related problems, many female archaeologists take the pill not for contraception (although it’s a convenient side effect, I’ll admit), but to keep from having a period altogether while in the field.
Finally deciding to get on board with this “no periods in the field” train, I started looking for gynecologists in March, two months before leaving for fieldwork in Ireland. Google had lots of suggestions, but once I called, it was difficult to find someone who was taking new patients and who would accept my lousy health insurance. When I finally did find someone who was willing to take a patient insured only by the grace of Obama, I had to call back, and then wait for their call back, then call back again, and the whole process was inconvenient and humiliating.
What was the purpose of my appointment? Was I sexually active? Was I pregnant?
Then I had to wait a month for the appointment.
Now, I’m not sure how familiar you are with birth control, but it’s not a wizard pill. It’s not something you just pop into your mouth with your breakfast cereal as you declare SPERM SHALL NOT PASS. It takes a few cycles to work.
No matter. At least I was going to get it, and it would probably be working by the time I got to Croatia in August.
There are loads of books on reproduction. What to Expect When You’re Expecting seems to have been revised at least once every year since 1980. What to Expect: The Toddler Years. Get Ready to Get Pregnant. Your Complete Pregnancy Guide to Making a Smart and Healthy Baby.
Why hasn’t anyone written What to Expect When You Visit the Gynecologist? And if they have, why isn’t it more widely distributed? They should be giving that away like free Bibles on a college campus.
I didn’t even know how to check in for the appointment. You would think that it’s like checking in for a regular doctor appointment, but it’s not. It’s infinitely more humiliating because everyone knows you’re there to talk to a complete stranger about your lady parts.
I’m here to see Dr. So and So.
And what’s the reason for your visit?
Oh, you know, I was bored and thought I’d get a giant Q-tip shoved up me.
I need the pill, I answered quietly, looking at the floor.
Have a seat.
When I was finally taken back into the room, I was introduced to the doctor. To her credit, she spent a good amount of time trying to talk to me, telling me about her children, asking where I went to school, what I studied, and so on. I would have happily ended the appointment there and been moderately pleased with the experience, but then she told me she was going to leave the room and would I please take off my clothes.
All of them?
Even on top?
Yes. I need to examine your breasts.
Yes. You need to take all your clothes off. You can keep your socks on though, if you’d like.
She left, closing the door behind her. I stood there incredulously for a few moments. Should I run? Maybe I didn’t need birth control so badly after all. And if I never become sexually active, then there’s no reason to ever have to go to a gynecologist ever again, right? But she had my phone number. She would probably find me, and then we’d just have to start this whole process all over again.
Hands trembling, I removed my sweater, getting it caught on one of my earrings. I removed my camisole, then my skirt. I thought again about running away. Slowly and reluctantly, I removed my underwear and bra, then bolted to the table and covered myself with the paper sheet.
The doctor knocked, then reentered.
Okay, now I need you to scoot up and put your feet in these holders.
I obeyed, clutching the paper sheet.
When you’re ready, please lie back and pull down the sheet.
I was not ready. I was never going to be ready. Nobody had ever seen me before. Men, women, doctors, nobody. Only I had seen me. For once I was lost for sarcastic commentary.
I lay back and lowered the sheet.
I wanted to cry.
I rested my arm on my face and hid my eyes as she poked and prodded at my chest. She moved down.
I apologized. I’m sure there are prettier sites in the world. I’m not even sure what that’s meant to look like down there. The only time I had ever seen another woman was at her autopsy. Surely it wasn’t normal for them to be this ugly.
You’re going to feel a little pressure now, but it won’t hurt, she said, referring to the shiny metal thing in her hand.
She lied. It hurt. I hid my face.
Afterward I went to campus to work, taking more bathroom breaks than were probably necessary because I was convinced that my insides were falling out. Surely my uterus was now on the outside, and if I wasn’t careful to shove everything back into place, it might turn into a scrotum.
After all that, the doctor informed me that I couldn’t even have the full birth control pill that you can take to keep from menstruating because my medical history revealed that I get migraines with auras, and when you get migraines with auras and take the pill, your chance of having a stroke increases by a gazillion.
You know why the pill really gives women strokes? Because they have to go to gynecologists to get it.