Girl, you'll be a woman soon...
Anyway: I’ve been thinking about the birth control pill since yesterday, when I read Eidolon’s post about having cystic acne on her pill. I have very mixed feelings about the pill, and sometimes I feel trapped between the ‘your body, your choice’ ideal of feminism and my own (bad) experiences with hormonal methods of birth control.
My own experiences with the pill go something like this:
- Go on the pill in high school to help with acne
- Love the pill, despite gaining 15 pounds and 2 cup sizes
- Encourage all of my female friends to go on the same brand of pill
- Randomly bleed for a whole month after 2.5 years on the same pill; decide to stop taking it, against my doctor’s orders to keep using it with a ‘this too shall pass’ attitude. Right.
- Do not lose extra weight or cup sizes for 5 years!!!
- Find out that said brand of pill has been recalled due to higher than average risk of blood clots (4x the risk); tell my friends to switch brands
- Start learning about alternative methods of contraception (in my case, fertility awareness and/or condoms)
- Get a phone call one night that my youngest sister is in the hospital emergency with a serious blood clot in her leg… from the pill
- Begin plotting the destruction of the Ortho-Jansen headquarters
Despite my own experiences, many if not most of the women I know use the pill with no problems and they love the freedom it affords them. They generally don’t (need to) worry about condoms, and some of them even use the pill to delay a period if it happens to fall during an inconvenient time (though that kind of skeezes me out…)
Maybe I’m not only suspicious of the pill but also envious of the women who can use it without issues… ‘Easy, breezy, beautiful’ kind of thing. For me, I love the intimate knowledge of my body that comes along with fertility awareness and charting my cycles, but sometimes a teeny tiny part of me just wishes I could just turn my fertility on or off when it was convenient for me. No more of this ‘watch and wait’ natural approach… Then again, I never felt disgruntled about my natural method until I got pregnant a few months ago.
For over three years, I tried to challenge people’s assumptions about fertility awareness methods of birth control and proved by example how effective it could be at preventing pregnancy. Then I got lazy and decided to ‘wing it’ for a month in the Czech Republic… Be thee not so relaxed on your holidays!
Getting pregnant was a giant wake up call for me. Not only was I suddenly confronted head on by a rash of doctors chastising me for not using a more ‘reliable’ method of birth control, but I also felt a profound sense of sadness, like I had abandoned my body and was therefore no longer allowed to share in her secrets. I always imagined that I would be one of the women who knew she was pregnant right when it happened, but I didn’t find out until I was staring in disbelief at a positive pregnancy test four weeks later. Even then, I thought for sure there must have been some mistake.
Having lost touch with the daily signs of my body back when I decided I didn’t really ‘need’ to chart my fertility every day, my nine weeks of being pregnant were dazed and confused. I was indecisive, foggy, and I felt like an outsider in my own body. In between visits to the hospital for spotting, I looked longingly at old fertility charts of mine, and I wished I hadn’t lost my sense of awe and wonder at the workings of my body. I made a promise to myself that if I were given another opportunity, I wouldn’t take my fertility for granted, and I wouldn’t neglect my charting again unless I was planning to become pregnant.
Then I miscarried.
I am back on the charting bandwagon now, but even so, I still think about the birth control pill a lot. Do I have a responsibility to tell other women about the risks of hormonal methods of birth control, knowing like I do that real people end up with lifelong health conditions because of them? (My sister still injects herself daily with blood thinners to prevent another clot from forming, and it’s been over two years now). Can I still speak highly of fertility awareness methods, knowing firsthand like I do that any slip in diligence can mean an instant pregnancy? Ultimately, I still believe that every woman has a right to use whatever method works best for her, but that doesn’t negate the hunch I have that none of the available methods are ideal.