In the aftermath of my recent breakup, one decision I’ve been pondering is whether or not to continue taking birth control pills. I love making executive decisions, but this one has me helplessly on the fence.
Do I need birth control pills? No, but knowing what I know now, I probably didn’t need them at all during the relationship; they were merely a source of comfort that I felt gave me access to a greater variety of activities. The fact that those riskier activities were rarely explored is beside the point.
My partner knew full well that I was not willing to ever attempt intercourse without having been on oral contraceptives for a period exceeding three months, but once we hit that point and started trying to fuck (in a traditional sense), it was never pleasurable for me to continue for more than fifteen seconds. However, I would not have even been willing to consider putting his penis directly on the skin of my vulva without that chemical blessing that there was an upper-90th-percentile chance of us not getting me pregnant.
I have made great strides to lessen the number of harmful chemicals that I’m introducing to my body these days with hippie shampoos, soaps, and lotions, and I have given up products with artificial fragrances and carcinogenic preservatives. Although I haven’t ventured into lessening the chemicals in my food (I’m a junk food fiend and am scared of what I’d have to give up…), my gut says that eliminating unnecessary medicines — particularly hormonal ones — is a good choice for the longevity of my body.
However, I don’t want to go all willy nilly with re-introducing these hormones to my body for each new sexual relationship. I’d rather it be a steady process than feel like binging and purging.
With that said, I’m a total control freak.
Being on the pill means I know exactly when my period will arrive, within a 24-hour range. The clockwork regularity is both extremely practical and comforting.
On a superficial level, going on the pill increased my breast size by two full cups (on each side!) in the first week, and as much as I like to tell myself that I love my body no matter what, deep down, I would be disappointed to lose any of that new breastage. It took me nearly 23 years to grow the first pair, then BOOM! They practically doubled size in fewer than seven days. With that said, though, the women in my family have a history of keeping their pregnancy cleavage post-partum. I’m inclined to think that pill boobs and preggers boobs may be similar enough that going off the pill could have no effect on my breasts at all. Unfortunately for me, that’s not something I will know for sure prior to committing.
Women are warned that the pill may lead to weight gain, but in the almost-one-year I have been on it, my weight has stayed relatively close to — if not exactly in the same range as — before, only now, I see my weight being distributed slightly differently on my bloated days… or that could just be that I have been going to fewer yoga classes. In either case, my hips, which have always been the largest part of my slender, pear-shaped body, feel larger, softer, and more biologically feminine than ever before. I get a high from feeling my slightly softer belly against my thighs when I curl up in bed.
Perhaps it’s merely a placebo effect, but I like believing that I’m retaining more fat and water. It makes me feel like a goddess.
Then, there’s the blood factor. I’m unsure to what extent going off the pill would affect the heaviness of my period flow. I have been using cloth pads since just before graduating college more than two years ago, and I have experienced much lighter cramps in addition to bleeding less. I love the look of my period blood, but in my experience, mo’ blood means mo’ cramping. On the pill, my cramps are still light, as is my blood flow, but I don’t have a side-by-side comparison to determine if the pill has any effect at all on my bloodshed.
Another factor — I’m dreading the refill process and have been procrastinating calling my gynecologist’s office to find out if I need an annual exam in order to be issued a new prescription.
I can say without hyperbole that my last (and first) pap smear was not only traumatic, but my doctor was insensitive and, quite frankly, cruel to ignore my cries of pain. I’ll be writing a post about that in the near future.
At any rate, finding a doctor who will take me seriously when I say I need to be buttered like toast before my smaller-than-a-toddler vagina is approached with any medical instruments has now become a necessity rather than a luxury. Bonus points if I can find a doctor who works Saturdays, too.
Also, morning sickness. Oy.
Every few months when I begin a new pack (thus going from placebo pill to full-blown hormones again), about ten minutes before I need to leave for work, I get overwhelmed with dizziness and queasiness, begin to sweat profusely, and spend five minutes with my head in the toilet bowl dry heaving. Then, the symptoms disappear, and I feel perfectly fine for the remainder of the day. This past Monday, though, when I began my new pack, I was feeling “off” before leaving for work, but not to the usual extent. However, I ended up leaving work after about two hours because I was so queasy that I could barely focus on my computer screen. I slept for fifteen hours that afternoon.
So here I sit, wanting to control my body without killing it in the process and not sure how to proceed. Lucky for me, this is a decision I can delay as long as needed, but it would be nice to have a clearer path in mind.