Margaret Sanger was so sure that the diaphragm was THE DEVICE that would save women from the constant fear of constant pregnancy that she married an oil magnate to ensure she'd have access to all the rubber she could ever want. So, naturally, I figured if it was good enough for Margaret, it'd be good enough for me. I am always in the market for some non-hormonal barrier contraceptives, you know? (And I know that it is the device du jour, but I am really not sold on an IUD).
I had a physical today because I haven't seen anyone but an OB for 2 years thanks to my own constant pregnancies, and I am not ALL lady parts. I am also moles and lipids and disappearing rubella immunity. My doctor is awesome-- very earthy and no-nonsense and the perfect person to fit me for a diaphragm.
It's a device I have researched a lot, and it has a huge place in the history of birth control. To bring legitimacy to a radical movement, Sanger strategically championed a contraceptive device that required the attention of medical professionals. She located birth control in the clinic instead of the porn shop or the five and dime by choosing a device that needed to be fitted and explained. At the same time, the diaphragm helped enure the very same racist/classist/misogynistic undertone that is still present in birth control and abortion rhetoric if you look for it: the idea that some women are just too damn stupid/ignorant/lazy to use birth control correctly or to use it at all. And, the terrible argument goes, the very women who don't know how to avail themselves of devices properly are the very women who SHOULD be limiting their procreation. (That is not what I am arguing-- it is what has always been argued about birth control).
I have also, of course, done more practical research on the diaphragm because I thought it sounded perfect for me: cheap, easy, effective, safe. Sure, it's not the most spontaneous of methods, but I have 4 kids. I am not living the most spontaneous of lives right now. I mean, check out what the Planned Parenthood website says about it. Sounds great, right?
My doctor put it in and then left to see a couple other patients, telling me to take it out and put it in a couple of times and then she'd come back and check to make sure it was a good fit. And she reminded me that my cervix feels a lot like a nose. I was all, Awesome. I've had 4 kids; I've read Our Bodies Ourselves; I followed the advice of my women, health, and history professor and spent some quality time with a mirror and a speculum. NO PROBLEM. But you guys? There was a major problem: I don't LIKE taking something the size of a kiddie snack bowl, folding it like a rubber boat, and jamming it behind my pubic bone. And I like retrieving it (sans spermicide, which is a whole other slippery can of worms) even less. But I'm weird I guess.
When my doctor came back into the room she was surprised to find me fully clothed, coat over my arm, purse on my lap.
She assumed I had some sort of technical difficulty.
She laughed and laughed when I told her if I used a diaphragm as my main method of birth control I would be pregnant next month because I WOULD NEVER WEAR IT. It is such a hassle that I would ALWAYS probably just risk it, making it, for me, as effective as the old "pull and pray" (which my students tell me every time I teach my reproductive rights seminar is a method of contraception-- and don't worry, I always call bullshit on that. PUBLIC SERVICE-- that's why I am here).
I laughed too because I tried to be so crunchy and in tune with my body, but no. Just no. And now I understand why Sanger and so many other activists and healthcare professionals have been so critical of the very women they've tried to help. Some of us ARE too lazy for some devices.
I am sure that if that rubber yarmulke was the only thing standing between me and a new baby every year I'd embrace it (so to speak), but thank goodness I have so many other options.
That last line isn't meant to be flip, not really. There are millions of women right now in this very country without a lot of birth control choices. I really am thankful to be in control of my reproductive destiny.