Grace is the only one able to speak as the adults watch Florida sink from a pale hopeful pink into Shark Week red in it’s haste to elect the reality star of White Male Privilege.
Grace: But Donald Trump doesn’t like brown people.
While Canada (my husband, personal salvation and possible new address) tries to soothe Grace about her skin color being wrong for our new President, my left hand is being crushed by a screaming, sobbing teenager.
My fabulous feminist gynecologist struggles to extract an expired Norplant from Bea’s right bicep. While the Norplant keeps sliding out of her pincer’s reach, Bea screams as if crowning twins. I tried to remain calm while Bea tortured my left hand and Dr. C’s eyes betrayed a sweaty fear.
Dr. C: She can’t be in pain! I gave her Twilight sleep and completely numbed her arm! People usually giggle on Twilight sleep!! Why is she screaming?
Since Bea is blasting music directly into her brain via earbuds, I doubt she hears me. But unclear on the efficacy of anesthesia that allows one to scream in agony as if IN pain, I speak from a calm automatic place inside myself I’m not familiar with.
ME: Will she remember this happened?
Dr. C says NO but I can’t hear over Bea’s anguish. Searching Bea’s face for awareness of anything other than primal agony, which she might not be feeling in her arm, but from a much deeper place, I gamble she won’t hear me.
ME: It must be trauma.
Bea was thirteen when the Nexplanon implant was first inserted in her arm. A year after becoming a foster child, a Med-ical physician told her she could have as few as one period a year. Thrilled to avoid monthly crippling dysmenorrhea, Bea agreed. Without a mother or nurse to advise her about the side effects of Nexplanon, all Bea saw was pain and tampon avoidance and an easy way to avoid pregnancy.
Soon after moving in with us, she proudly showed me the implant scar, surrounded by tidy rows of old cutting scars. Striving to not be the preachy kombucha drinking aging hipster I am, I dragged her to my feminist gynecologist so that a professional could warn her about the serious side effects of these implants.
Bea didn’t appear to care. At first. Then, six weeks ago Bea suddenly wanted the implant out.
Bea: I was way too young to know what I was doing to my body. I want it out. Now.
While proud of Bea’s newfound feminism, it’s hard not to be disgusted that this was implanted in her, not so much for her best interests as for the best interests of the foster system. And I get it. Who needs a pregnant, traumatized 13 year old with no family, education or support system other than the state and federal government? But to wholesale SSRI medicate and implant birth control in young foster children is disturbing.
Her Nexplanon removal was scheduled on November 8th. I never imagined I’d be surreptitiously checking electoral results on my iPhone while Bea crushed my left hand and her screams made my eardrums vibrate like a Megadeth concert speaker.
In repose, Bea’s face is stunningly clear, sweet and pretty. Her skin is as innocent and unused as an infant’s foot. But every day before school, she wakes up at 5am to painstakingly apply layers of make up which comes as close to the definition of warpaint as I’ve ever seen. She girds herself for daily battle- to bury her past and move forward with as much bravery and concealer and eyebrow pencil as she can apply. But now, weeping from the deepest reservoir of pain I’ve ever witnessed, Bea’s makeup runs off her face in a hot stream of furious salty tears.
Dr. C, who looks like armfuls of freshly cut organic free range Kansas wheat- like Sissy Spacek in scrubs and Crocs, stares at me in blue eyed disbelief.
Dr. C: What’s traumatizing her?
As Bea screams, Drake auto-tune-leaks from her earbuds. How to abridge a foster child’s life?
Me: It already happened.
As my brand new teen writhes and kicks at the air, a weird, Joan-of-Arc-on-fire peaceful surrender happens. Releasing all imaginary control, I simply hope Bea’s catharsis of pain cauterizes her deeper wounds. While they re-medicate her, I sneak a look at the electoral results and know within seconds we Progressives have been way too smug for our own Priuses.
I silently cry, grateful my mom isn’t alive to be horrified by that a megalomaniac, lying predator is more acceptable to her beloved country than a strong, intelligent if polarizing woman with decades of dedicated public service.
Dr. C: Anyone in scrubs and a staple gun can insert these implants. It takes seconds. Getting your ear pierced hurts more. But if the girl is really young and still growing, the implant gets embedded in the surrounding tissue and it can be really hard to get them out.
As Bea keens, I use my non-crushed hand to investigate the side effects of Norplant– moodiness, irritability, heavier and longer menstruation, nausea, vomiting, rash, acne, weight gain or loss, irregular onset of bleeding, missed periods, nervousness, anxiety, and depression. Sounds like the clinical definition of a sixteen year old girl.
While Dr. C. and her nurse struggle to extract Bea’s implant, I read on and my fury at Nexplanon’s manufacturer, Merck grows. The very women Merck allege to protect with birth control- women from developing Third world countries where regular medical attention and contraception are difficult if not impossible to secure, are the most at-risk from more severe side effects– like life-threatening blood clots, excessive menstruation, infections at the insertion site, enlarged uterus, vaginal infections, intercranial hypertension and pseudotumor cerebri.
After 90 minutes of Linda Blair screams, three more Lidocaine and Twilight doses, the entire Drake catalog, one exhausted nurse, a full wastebasket of bloody gauze and a red North Carolina, the hormone-disrupting implant still wasn’t out. We give up, furious, sweaty and spent.
Dr. C. follows me out so B can collect herself and change back into her clothes- one of which is a sweater, which B has carefully folder on a little waiting stool. I’m amazed, especially since her bedroom is a revolting teen-cave most men would gag at. Dr. C assures me she has never seen anyone respond to pain medication and Twilight like this before.
Dr. C: What kind of trauma would cause her to scream like that?
As quickly and quietly as I can, I tell her what little I know. And it’s bad. My gynecologist of 20 years looks up at the ceiling and begins to cry.
Dr. C: What’s wrong with people?
There are no words. Bea emerges and she and Dr. C exchange a long sad hug.
We drive to pick up Canada, who is huddling at my sister’s house, where people sit slack-jawed, forgotten drinks in their laps. Everyone watches in mute helplessness as our nation claws back at eight years of Progressive Democracy.
“Facts just died.” I say in greeting.
Grace wants to go home. So does Bea, who is so drained she can’t even get out of the car. Driving, the streets are dark and empty. No spontaneous celebrations on street corners like four years ago and four years before that.
Both girls are anxious and scared and battle scarred for different yet similar reasons. The rest of the night is spent soothing both my at-risk teenager and my black daughter. They are young and vulnerable, and one has already been victimized beyond what I can fully express. We urge Bea to stop watching the news and give her the strongest pain reliever we have and pray she sleeps.
Despite exhaustion, wine and scotch, we can’t sleep. I’m worried. Canada is furious. After a sleepless night of dread, the sun actually does rise and the sky is blue.
One college student nephew in Chicago texts me about his fears for Grace’s future, then protests in the streets, another college student niece protests in the streets of New York City and Bea joins a spontaneous walkout with her fellow high school students, many of whom are children of hard working, law abiding immigrants. And hope is reborn.
After eight years of confidence (and complacency) that progress is here, we wake up ready to activate for freedom, critical thought, justice and equality. We will need to work harder to defend what we love about America, and hopefully that fight will make us less afraid.
A week and a half into Trump Nation, hate crimes have spiked, my teen daughter’s high school has hired extra counselors to help students deal with their fears and anxiety for their future. And, in fear of losing Planned Parenthood and insurance-covered birth control, Nexplanon implants are being actively sought out by women rushing to find long term birth control options.
Change is what people voted for, and change is what we are going to get.