The Power of the Yin Principle is Already Inside You, Literally.
As I walk out of Planned Parenthood, I think that I must be the only woman in the world who can see an IUD insertion as a spiritual experience. But then I question that, because the feeling of communion with women throughout time is no small part of the strange, connected feeling coursing through me.
I am literally stopped by the hydrangeas blooming in front of me as I walk out the door. I can’t take my eyes off them. Mesmerized, I reach out to touch them the way I would stroke the curve of my lover’s jaw and feel tears rising to meet my touch.
There could be a lot of reasons to cry walking out of Planned Parenthood including pain, loss, or unwelcome news, but for me it is gratitude. In part, I am grateful for the women I have just encountered who join scientific precision with social activism and basic, human nurturance. I feel safe here. And yet what is filling me is far deeper than this more ordinary gratitude.
As I lie on the examination table, draped knees bent with feet in stirrups, I flash on the countless times that I and other women have been in this same, somewhat compromised state. I think of the midwife who examined me during my first pregnancy, simply and straightforwardly on her living room couch. I think of my psychotherapy client relating to me her frozen terror at being examined like this after a long history of sexual abuse.
My musings are interrupted by the practitioner down by my feet. “How are you doing?” she asks kindly between every pause in the procedure, and I notice how she meets my eyes when she asks just as the receptionist did at the front desk.
Mostly, though, as I return my stare to the ceiling, I think of giving birth to my two daughters, at home on all fours, my cervix opening wide to become that sacred gateway between the divine, unmanifested world and this one.
In my meditation practice, I work with breathing into the lower Dan Tien, a term borrowed from Chinese healing to reference the area that must be just about where the womb sits. As I open and soften in my meditation, I discover a gateway inside me to another world that is size-less and utterly ungraspable. My awareness drops deep into the earth, beyond all boundaries until I find that the essence of earth is actually space—warm, nurturing space.
Experiencing this directly, viscerally, I find that it is no mystery where life comes from; it comes from here, from “Her.” In this meditation I bring my attention to a spot equidistant between my navel and my pubic bone and then travel back, toward the spine, until suddenly there is no “there” there, and I drop down and back and out into the fathomlessness. I surrender back into where I came from, and into what I am.
To me, it feels like satin—seamless and whole and beautiful. Finally, I experience it as a deep out-breath of relief to finally be home again, back in my Mother’s lap.
Now, lying in this office in Planned Parenthood and splayed into unnatural openness, I listen to the practitioner’s explanations. In order to insert the IUD, the cervix must yield. She tells me that this can take time, that it’s a dance between herself and the cervix as she gently prods, waiting for it to relax and open. As she explains, images dance before me—a flower yielding to sunlight, a pod of seeds bursting with the gentle touch of a child’s finger. She says that one can’t force it; she has to take her time; and that sometimes it just isn’t possible and she has to try again on another day.
I reflect on how her surgical know-how softens into a gentle dialogue with my body in order to accomplish this task. As I lie here, bared and feeling vulnerable, I am glad that I trust this woman whose hands are inside me. I don’t think that my cervix is likely to yield to someone whom I do not trust, and it strikes me that the power of the feminine is paradoxical. You cannot force a flower to open; it requires “not doing” rather than a “doing.” I notice how my attendant’s calm demeanor and years of experience convey a sense of safety. This is her real instrument for this procedure.
I feel vulnerable being held opened by the metal speculum, feeling the sting of the anesthesia injected into my cervix and cramping from the pressure of being prodded. But it is a vulnerability entirely unlike what I felt in giving birth. While in labor my openness was contained inside of me, away from the sight and cool air of the outside world.
In giving birth my attention was pulled inside forcibly by something naturally wild, hot, raw and primitive—something so powerful that my only choice was to surrender.
Here I feel almost flayed.
The sensations and fear are sharp around the edges. I am being touched and pierced by cold, metal instruments, seen and felt and pushed on. Relaxing into this kind of surrender is a conscious act of will. Then with a long, slow out-breath I imagine dropping through the lower Dan Tien and deep into the fathomless. Consciously, I yield.
Unlike menstruation and childbirth, this dilation of the cervix is not natural, yet still I find that the opening becomes a gateway to the world behind this world. Maybe it is because the cervix has deigned to open, or because I have given myself over to this woman’s capable, kind hands, maybe it is because the very nature of my woman’s body is itself a portal, but I notice that my mind widens as my cervix does. I feel floaty, wide and yet very present. I hear her say how copper IUD’s have been used since ancient times, the copper being a natural spermicide. The IUD does nothing but sit there in the mouth of the uterus, its natural ions interfering with the sperm’s motility. She informs me that studies show that typically with this simple “T” shaped piece of copper in place, no sperm can be found in the fallopian tubes where fertilization typically takes place.
My thoughts wander to images of women in ancient Egypt fashioning early, copper IUD’s, then passing themselves into each other’s soft, strong hands for insertion in order to procure a sexual freedom that they could not otherwise enjoy. I feel so touched by female sexuality and the fortitude that women have exercised to keep it.
Then I begin to touch this strength in myself, the strength to open, utterly vulnerable, into another person’s hands.
To yield honestly and wholeheartedly, present and fearless, for the sheer love of freedom, in this case the freedom to commune with my beloved in every possible way without holding back in fear of pregnancy. The dignity of yielding, the power of the Yin principle, pervades me.
The delicate act is finished so quickly. “It was very straightforward this time,” she says, adding, “Now, I don’t want anything in your vagina for 24 hours.” I notice an intimacy here that belies her professionalism and have a moment of wanting to cry with gratitude. Not gratitude for her performing this service, or even because I am now miraculously protected against pregnancy. That is secondary. No, I feel gratitude because in this moment I am open to her and to the divine feminine. I can see, can feel, how women are conduits for what is real and open and raw—how we offer ourselves as gateways to men through our love making, to children through giving birth, and perhaps most beautifully to each other through our trust and intimacy. I see how we unwittingly invite the breeze of stillness to pass through us every time we open.
As I get up to dress, I want to pour love all over her. I thank her, and as I walk out of the building I am stopped dead by the incomprehensible white and purple hydrangeas that greet me with far more depth and silence than they ought to. And in their presence I feel the winds of stillness from beyond blow across my own face, thanking me back.