Letters from the South – a tale of birth control woe

So today marked my first official health visit in Clarksdale, Mississippi. I am marked, physically by needle and psychologically by the experience.  I haven’t had time to sit and have a cry yet, and wanted to write to you ladies about it while it is still fresh in my head.

This was not my first encounter with the Health Department, as I had to go there for my immunization shots for immigration.  Apart from the crumbling building (normal in Canadian free clinics – the cost of free health care) it was not an entirely unpleasant experience.  It was, to say the least, amusing; the intake desk was papered with God quotes (illegal in western developed countries, as it is an imposition of religion in a governmental space), the administrator didn’t know the difference between Caucasian and Canadian, and the nurse had to wipe Cheetos from her fingers before giving me my immunization shot.  I’d like to be immunized against Cheetos.

So! Fast forward a few months, and I have been gobbling everyone’s spare birth control pills (if you have any, bring ’em to me!) but they’ve run out.  I needed to get a prescription, therefore I needed a Pap test.  Sigh.  Trauma.  Normally, I don’t care who the fuck looks at my lady-junk, but I was just picturing some bumbling idiot losing a Cheeto up there.

To be noted: there is a women’s clinic here, and it is fancy and shiny and new and smells nice and is full of presumably educated people working.  It is, of course, a private clinic and so it would run me several hundreds of dollars to get a fucking script for some no-baby pills.  Fuck that, I said, I’m going to the health department, not simply because I am fricken’ frugal, but because of my socialist ideals.

Well, fuck me.

The staff at the Health Department are all very nice, but it is a mess.  A veritable, inscrutable mess.  I had to fill out more forms with the God-quote-admin-lady again, no biggie, then I was handed a paper top to…? and asked to go give a urine sample down the hall.  No instructions except but to “put it in the metal box after”.  I have seen these before, in the developed world.  A sealed, one-way bin that you place your sealed sampled in.  Sealed.

Nope.

This is a shitty bathroom with a pile of cups on the toilet cistern.  I gleaned that I was to take one and piss in it.  Where are the lids?  OH!  That’s what that piece of paper is for.  To rest it awkwardly on top, unsealed.  I tried to press it into the cup in a vague attempt at securing said liquid gold, but instead ended up soaking half of the paper top in my own piss.  Oh well.  So, where do I put this fucking thing? No.  Could it be that metal cabinet thingy on the wall?  Which I opened to reveal someone else’s piss cup just sitting there on a napkin. Cross-contamination, what?  So I put my clear, yellow, sunshine-at-dawn urine next to the, I shit you not, Cheeto-colored, orange pissy sludge.

Then back to the waiting room.

I finally get called into a room to get pre-screened with the nurse; she asks me questions, general.  She then tells me that she has to take blood for AIDS and syphilis tests.  Fine, no biggie.  Except, my now-attuned-to-Americanness brain immediately jumps to think “how much is that going to cost me?”  Lab work is expensive, so people forego monitoring their health to save a few bucks.  And now my brain thinks along those lines.  Gross.

Anyhow, I stick out my arm, the nurse sticks me with a needle, then leads me to yet another room – which turns out to be the other side of the piss cabinet! She opens the back side of it and asks me my initials, rifling through the now-several cups of pee in there.  Wow.  I could have just told her to look for the yellow wee in a sea of burnt orange, cloudy piss.  She took them all out and lined them up on the counter (should I be seeing other patients’ piss?) and found mine… yep, it stood out like a sore yellow thumb.  Next…

I get called into the changing cubicle where I’m instructed to strip completely naked and don a paper gown, ass-out.  Seriously, in every Pap I’ve ever had I’ve all but kept on my winter parka.  Waist-down and a boob-grab will suffice.  Nope.  Paper robe, ass-out.  BYO-paper sheet from the pile please.  Fine.

Then I meet Dr. Brown.  He is grossly overweight, and my mind immediately races with images of him sitting down shoving his face full of quarter pounders. I mean, I don’t need my health practitioner to look like Dr. Oz or anything, but I do want to feel like, well, he practices health.  He looks at my file and sees that I haven’t had a period since September, he turns to look at me with alarm, and starts to question as to… No, I’m not pregnant, I assure him.  I then had to tell him about The Pill and it’s fake periods that are chemically formulated for the sole purpose of reassuring women that they’re “normal”.  He stammered that he knew that, but said that it is not commonly known.  What?  Um, yes it is.  Oh wait, in the real world.  Where Cheetos are not a food group.

He gets all up in there, pretty standard, and then goes to get me some birth-control pills.  But instead of the choice of the world market of birth-control pills, I have the choice of whatever they have there at the clinic.  Huh?  Anyhow, he chooses me one that he says is low estrogen and I go back to the nurse to collect.  She then tells me it’s a progestin-only pill – no estrogen at all – and hell, I don’t care, but these are the little facts that somehow get lost…

…in the Clarksdale Public Health Department.

To be noted – and of vital importance – what I said I wanted was a “low-estrogen pill”, and they gave me a pill that, if you don’t take it at the exact – exact – same time every day, you will spontaneously ovulate and quickly become pregnant: the mini pill.  In my rush to leave, I thought “Oh, it doesn’t matter, I’m pretty regular in my pill-swallowing.”  After a preliminary a’Googling, I realised the trauma was not quite done, and it would require another trip to the health department… “do you exchange birth control pills?”

This concludes my saga for the present moment.  I’m gonna go not get pregnant.

I hope you’re all well…

xoxoxox,

m