The heavens and earth had to come together just so for a 3 hour time span for me and just me to occur. Prelude to fruition began about 6 months ago with acknowledgement of an opportunity; deliberation with self and others; checking to see what is financially feasible; and waiting for my body to alert me that the time had come. Bit by bit, all but the last threshold had been passed, and one day this week my long-awaited somatic message was delivered, as if on impulse. Ain’t that just like a woman?

Sincerely overjoyed, I text my husband so that he can celebrate with me the news:
“Getting an IUD @ my gyn’s office tomorrow! Yippee!” There is a slight lag in his response time. He could be in the middle of something. His phone could need charging. Perhaps he’s “out in the field,” and he’s left his cell back at the office. His reply does come, though: “One of the strangest texts I’ve ever received…but hurrah!” I laughed out loud (literally) and envisioned him sitting in his chair, staring confusedly and uncomfortably at his phone with the qwerty keyboard slid out and not knowing what to say to his wife. Hurrah?! That’s an understatement, to be sure. He has NO idea!  It’s on! I begin scheming with the intensity of a bride who has procrastinated almost to the point of no return.

Step 1 is childcare for my 7 and 5-year-old girls. I toss around scenarios in my head. Should I have 1 person care for them both, or would it be best to separate them with similar-age friends? I decide to go with the second option, which means more work for me.  But, considering that they attend 2 schools and are released about an hour apart, this is the least demanding choice for the people I’m about to contact.  It might be asking a lot of a friend not only to entertain my kids at her home for free, but to pick up one and then the other is above-and-beyond, I think.  It takes some doing, but I find people who each girl knows and with whom she feels safe. CHECK! I can go to bed and rest easy, knowing that my children will be cared for well.

The sun rises, signaling the beginning of the day which hosts the Afternoon for Me. I have a spring in my step, even though there’s quite a bit to do.  The first part of the day is sponged up by taking my oldest to the doctor and bringing her to school 3 hours late. Step 2 is the natural avalanche of little things that must be accomplished with childcare arrangements. Inform the schools, drop off the car seats, swing back by the schools when I forget to drop off the car seats, prepare post-school snacks to be handed to my friends, ensure everyone has my schedule and my phone number, etc. And oh yeah, for the perineal “just in case” purpose, I should probably let my husband know where and with whom our children are going to be, as well as give my friends his number “just in case.” CHECK!  A little before noon, I’m finally able to continue preparing for the Me time that is to come.

Step 3. At last, the time is mine, and I have about an hour and a half to eat lunch and groom. The fact that I groom is a mysteriously funny one. As a stay-at-home Mom who doesn’t like to get up in the mornings, there simply are days when I don’t get around to showering until after my girls are in bed each night. Even when I do shower during the day, I often rock the “just jumped out of the shower and quickly went on with my day” look. I have naturally curly hair which I prefer to wear straight. Coiffing to gain this effect takes about 30 minutes. So, I usually allow my hair to dry and do its own wayward thing. My stay-at-home Mom uniform, as I’ve come to call it, is extremely casual and predictable: T-shirt and shorts in the summer, long-sleeved T-shirts and capris in the spring and fall, sweatshirts and jeans in the winter, and flip-flops for as long as I can stand it. And make-up? Yeah, I’d say that I typically wear it 2 out of 7 days.

On this day, however, I’m giddy as a school girl. So, my outward appearance gets better treatment than usual.  Not only do I provide myself a day-time bathing experience, but I shave. I apply a full-face of make-up and straighten my hair. When getting dressed, I choose a nicer blouse to go with my capris and flip-flops and adorn myself with some fun jewelry. I look as brightly as I’m feeling. CHECK!

Why did I go through all of this? Why such joy?  Not just because this the Afternoon for Me, but because I’m getting an IUD — that’s right– FOR ME! This isn’t for birth control, as my husband and I have no need for that. We’re done having kids — awesome hubby spent a couple of days on our sofa with some frozen peas several years ago to ensure that. (Thank you, Babe!) This IUD is total self-care, relief for the hormonal hell and menstrual mayhem I’ve been experiencing every month of my life since I was 13 (pregnancy and breast-feeding being the exceptions). I experienced some of the worst symptoms, and I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that if it were possible to track purchases to people’s names and addresses, Midol, Always and Tampax would certainly have sent me a Christmas card annually, thanking me for my profuse and loyal business. Awful!

I didn’t know that I didn’t have to suffer.  I’d adopted a sort of martyr position regarding my cycle. I had convinced myself that it’s just part of being a woman, much like waiting in line for the restroom in public places. You learn to live with it. When I was advised otherwise and did some research, I began to have hope. There was something I could do. This T-shaped thing identified by 3 letters was clearly a gift from God!

It didn’t take long for my existential joy to provide a glimpse of the bigger picture. The process, the planning, my authentic happiness over caring well for myself, the realization that there is a better way of living — I saw the whole thing as a metaphor. I looked back through my life, distant past to immediate past present.  How many circumstances and relationships have I kept myself in and suffered through, convinced that this was the life that I had been given to live? True, there were times when I genuinely did not know better, but mostly (if I was honest with myself) I did. What was that victim mentality about? And why did I allow myself to accept it as God-ordained for me?  What a contrast are the words of God to her/his beloved in Scripture:

This is God’s Word on the subject … I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. “Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree (Jeremiah 29:10-14, The Message).

Perhaps strangely, it took an IUD to remind me (again) that life is not something to suffer.  Rather, it is a glorious gift meant to be savored and enjoyed with each day (or month) that passes.  I am grateful for my little T-shaped memento for more than bodily reasons. Thanks to it, I’ll be spending some good time examining my life with God, discerning in what ways and areas I have accepted less than what God has for me.  I desire to find out why and to learn what can be done for me to live my life more fully.

And I hope the same for you, minus the IUD.