All over the news and social media, there’s talk about making sexual assault and sexual harassment more visible. The hope is that by more people being aware of what often happens to womyn, the rapey behaviors will decrease. Yeah, I said rapey. I don’t think I made it up. I think I actually took one of those silly FB quizzes that helped you figure out just how rapey you are. It’s an odd thing to think about, honestly. Especially as a woman. I hadn’t really thought about the things I was doing that contributed to or reinforced rape culture but once I did (think about it that is), I quickly adjusted behaviors and became more mindful.
I have been trying to figure out how to write about sexual trauma as it intersects with fertility treatments and ttc. I struggled a bit with figuring out what to title it, how to approach it, concerns about responses and frankly, triggering folx. This #MeToo movement, which I have participated in, helped to bring me out of that struggle. I have experience with sexual assault. I have experience with sexual harassment too. Unfortunately neither of those categories were a one time thing. I have never been raped thankfully. But I have been in a position where I almost was. I won’t recount the details here but it’s one of three occasions where I was terrified my body was going to be used for someone else’s pleasure without my consent. I remember thinking on two of the three occasions, should I not fight this…? To protect myself…? Should I just take it even though I don’t want to? The world felt so far away then… I felt like no one would hear me, no one would help me… like I would just have to find a quiet space in my head to endure whatever would occur just to make it through mentally in one piece. Though, the end goal of having children is something I want more than anything, I have to be honest about the invasive nature of a lot of the procedures.
From the hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to all the blood draws, to intramuscular shots, to transvaginal ultrasounds, to having your legs strapped to leg rests virtually spread-eagle as you drift off from anesthesia, to IV’s and pelvic exams and one or two or three people in a room with you at a time pressing and probing and pointing/angling and new doctors who are gentle and old doctors who are not… all you want sometimes is for someone to ask you, “are you ok?” or to maybe go slower with the probe. I’m grateful that overall our fertility clinic is pretty gentle and great but there have been moments where I’ve had that feeling of, “I just have to lay here and take this… it’ll be over soon.” I’ve had the doctor who pushed the ultrasound probe in too fast and because it has lube on it, it didn’t hurt but it felt incredibly uncomfortable. I’ve been stuck 6 times a day with needs and had them moved around to find the vein. I’ve had pelvic exams with what felt like more fingers than necessary (even though it probably wasn’t). I’ve had new people (nurses & doctors) enter the room while I’m half naked and told to “scoot all the way down”. It can be triggering af after a while. It’s an odd space to be when you really want to tell someone to “STOP!” and hop off the table but you also know you need whatever is happening to happen in order to get you where you want to be.
Giving birth is traumatic af too! I’ve mentioned this before but seriously, having 3 people in a room while you’re laid bare with what feels like a whole damn hand inside your vagina is NOT fun. It’s painful and hard and vulnerable and you’re exhausted so you really can’t do much but lie there saving your strength for actual birth. I remember asking both the doctor and midwife, “geeze how many fingers are you using?!” I swear the doc had her hand in the shape of a freaking sock-puppet ; perfect for fisting which isn’t my jam. The midwife talked about “teasing out” the placentas and sacs with this really creepy motion that I could feel is exactly what she did when she was elbow deep.
Experiences like this can change your relationship with penetrative sex. It can change your relationship with wanting anything in or near your vagina for a while. It can make you hyper sensitive to being touched once you finally feel like you have more control over what happens to your body. I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience but know that sexual assault & harassment are real, triggers to trauma are real despite the circumstances, and don’t be afraid to talk to your partner AND your helping professionals (docs, midwives, nurses, etc.) about your needs to advocate for yourself. It’s important we break the silence AND that we demand people respect our bodies. Idk about you but I’m not just a vagina, a uterus, some ovaries and some arms. I’m a whole person with experiences and you are too.