My Experience with Planned Parenthood

I was in my early twenties when my period started, like it usually does.  Except ten, fifteen days later, it didn’t stop.  By the time I’d been bleeding for a month straight, I started seeing doctors.  Nobody knew what was wrong.  They put me on triple doses of hormones to try and stop the bleeding, which did nothing but make me cranky.  They ran a battery of tests that all came back normal.  I went to specialist after specialist, and none of them offered me any solutions.  

In the meantime, the bleeding got worse.  On the bad days, I couldn’t get out of bed.  I started doing research myself, and found out there was a procedure called an ablation that could use a laser to remove my uterine lining, stopping the bleeding for good.  I could get out of bed again.  I could live my life.  It had only one drawback: I wouldn’t be able to carry a child to term, but I could still get pregnant.  I’d either have to stay on hormonal birth control for the rest of my reproductive life—and get an abortion if it ever failed—or get sterilized before the procedure.

To me, this seemed like a simple choice.  I didn’t want children.  I had never wanted children.  I would get the sterilization, and then the ablation. 

My doctors had other ideas.  No specialist would do either procedure, and I went to everyone I could find.  They all admitted it would fix my problem, that the procedures were easy and minor.  But none of them would do it because they were worried I would regret it.  They’d rather let me bleed, and hope it would stop on its own.  Eventually.  Some day.  Maybe.  One of them even offered to do a hysterectomy—which would, let’s be clear, leave me unable to have children, and be a much more invasive procedure.  But she would not perform a sterilization because she was worried about regret.  

I had been bleeding for three months straight when I found out that Planned Parenthood would do the sterilization, and would recommend a doctor that would do the ablation if I was already sterilized because it was medically necessary. 

I never thought I would end up at Planned Parenthood.

I never thought I would end up at Planned Parenthood.  I had great insurance, both primary and secondary.  I had savings to cover the surgery.  I had a general physician.  I had a cadre of specialists.  And I was ending up at a clinic.  

This is not to say that everything about Planned Parenthood was rainbows and sunshine.  It was just my only option.  Because I had to go through government funding, they would not waive the one month waiting period, even for medical necessity.  So I sat in bed and bled for another month, waiting for the clock to run out (if you’re counting, this is month four now). I had to go through counseling, to make sure I didn’t regret my decision.  Since I was unmarried, under thirty, and did not have kids, I was told I would be denied the sterilization if I wasn’t in a monogamous relationship of sufficient length, so I lied about being polyamorous.  The day of the procedure, they gave me the wrong paperwork and almost cancelled because of it.  Afterwards, the billing department made my life a living hell for months.  

But in the end, I was grateful.  Because I was allowed to do what I wanted with my body.  And because by the end of it, I could go back to my life again.  For months afterward, I would just stop and remember that I wasn’t bleeding anymore, and I would hug my stomach and feel at home in my own body again.

*          *          *

What does this have to do with modeling?  Well, first there’s the obvious: I couldn’t model while I was bleeding.  Without an ablation, there’s a high probability I would still be bleeding today—or if it ever stopped, it could come back at any time.  

There’s also more to it than that.  Last Saturday was a “National Defund Planned Parenthood Day.”  The day also engendered counter protests to defend and stand with Planned Parenthood around the country.  There was even one such protest in my sleepy little town that I had hoped to attend.  Unfortunately, I was stuck at home with something suspiciously similar to the flu.  So I couldn’t attend, but I can write about it here.  

To get sterilized, I had to fight against other people trying to impose their morality onto my actions.  I had to go through doctor after doctor who felt my decision was wrong, not because it was medically incorrect, but because they thought I didn’t know what I wanted.  Once I finally found that Planned Parenthood would support what was best for me, I still had to jump through hoop after hoop, as if I had to prove I was worthy of it.

I get this all the time with my modeling.  People think that I’m a sex worker, or that there’s something morally wrong with posing nude.  They censor my art.  They write me long and involved emails with all sorts of assumptions as to what I do and why I shouldn’t do it.  They expect apologies for my actions and my images.  Because it’s something they wouldn’t do, they say it’s something I should stop doing myself.    

I write this blog because I want to show others that there’s a person like them behind the model.  That nudity isn’t inherently wrong or even sexual, and that even if what I do isn’t something they would ever do themselves, it isn’t immoral.  

I’ve watched people change their minds about nude modeling.  Sometimes it’s after reading about or talking to a model.  Sometimes they go to their first life drawing class or get to watch a photo shoot and realize it’s nothing like what they expected it to be.  But it’s always through the sharing of experiences that people seem to grow and learn and change their minds.  

Maybe it will work with things other than modeling, too.  Maybe a few people will come to realize that what I did isn’t actually wrong, even if it isn’t what they would have chosen for themselves.  Maybe they’ll see why I believe it’s important that we have places that are willing to listen to women and help them when the established medical community won't.  

So this was my experience with Planned Parenthood.  It was complicated and it wasn’t pleasant, but it undoubtedly changed my life for the better.  

Nude Modeling and Body Image

The image I shared.

The image I shared.

When I started modeling, I had body image issues. 

I chose to model clothed for my first couple of shoots, even though I knew that I wanted to eventually pose for art nudes.  The reasoning was prudent enough: I wanted to make sure that I knew how to pose for a camera before I threw nudity into the mix as well.  I figured that if there were going to be naked pictures of me on the internet forever, that they might as well be good ones. 

Since the results were decidedly safe for work, I showed them to a few of my Starcraft II buddies online, some of which had never seen me before in person.  One of these guys responded with, “You’re cute, but a little too skinny for my tastes.”  Oh good, I thought.  That means I only need to lose ten more pounds. 

You would think that growing up as a tomboy would have shielded me from the desire to be skinnier.  But to me, skinny meant boyish, and boyish was my ideal.  I was a natural hourglass figure, and I hated my big breasts and even bigger hips.  I felt like my body was something outside of my control.

*    *     *

One of the common questions I get from attendees at art gallery openings and motherly women who sit next to me on plane rides is, “How do you handle modeling changing your body image?”  Because I am a model it’s always just assumed that this change is for the worst.  That modeling has a negative impact on young women and self-esteem is part of our national dialogue right now.  Most people hear it often enough that they take it to be a fact.  

The truth is, modeling changed my relationship with my body for the better.  

Not just modeling; nude modeling in particular.  I wouldn’t have gotten the same benefit from posing clothed.  When you model nude, be it for a traditional artist or a photographer, you only have one thing to make art with.  That thing is your body.  You cannot rely on props or clothes; you have no other tool but yourself.  Nude modeling forced me to view my body as something useful, as something that could make art.

Modeling became something that I could *do* with my body.  It wasn’t about how my body looked, it was how I could make it appear.  I could emphasize my hourglass curves and make the pose look very classical, or I could stretch my body out and make it seem particularly slender.  I could create characters and tell stories.  Or I could twist and compress into abstract shapes that didn’t look like a person at all.

This fascination with what my body was capable of bled into every other part of my life.  It’s changed how I approach music and backpacking and sex.  I started studying ballet—something I had previously admired from a distance—because I realized that dancing on the very tips of my toes was just another thing that my body could do.  

I value my body for what it is capable of, not how it looks.

Now I value my body for what it is capable of, not how it looks.  I care more that I can dance en pointe or carry a thirty pound pack for 10 miles a day than whether I look pretty.  And I find that when I concentrate on my capabilities, I end up looking better than if I had worked solely on aesthetics in the first place.  I’m now ten pounds heavier than that girl who showed her picture to her gaming buddies online.  Some of it comes from age and a little extra curve, but most of it is muscle.  All of it looks amazing when I use it to make art.  

Does this mean I’m happy with everything about how my body looks all the time?  Not in the slightest.  I still worry about my appearance sometimes, though it usually relates to how I photograph instead of how I am.  I also get frustrated with myself when I’m sick or injured, and I can’t do the things that I derive self-worth from.  But it does mean that I’m comfortable with myself most days, and that’s an improvement.  

Modeling has taught me to appreciate my body for what it can do, so much so that worrying about how I look no longer makes sense.  And now I have an answer to the question about modeling changing my body image.  It’s a lot more positive than you might think.