Wednesday, November 05, 2014

On Babies and Birth Control

I found something out last night that shook me a little.

I was reading a new blog (see below) and somewhere in the middle, as I trolled through old posts, was a discussion on birth control. It wasn't in the article itself, but in the comment thread someone stated that "the pill" is an abortifacient. I, of course, began researching. I've always been both pro-life and pro-choice. I believe that sex is a great thing, that shouldn't be shameful or mysterious. I believe that women should get to make decisions about their health, and whether or not they will get pregnant. I believe that my personal right to choose to get pregnant, ends once a pregnancy has begun and another life is at stake. Therefore, I am way pro-birth control, but anti-abortion.

I went on birth control just before I got married. I got my birth control though a clinic that offered mail order delivery with phone in consultations. I had to get a health screening before they would issue my prescription. I went to the website to look up my options. I was comfortable with the description of "the pill" as introducing a hormone that prevented ovulation. I read up a lot on the side effects. I was sent my first package.

My body did not like birth control. I started by trying to do the continuous cycle method - and that was a bust. I was nauseated for almost a year and spotting continuously. I gained loads of weight, either from the hormones, or trying to stave off the morning sickness. I read up on common reactions to my pill, and switched brands to another. The nausea left, finally, but the breakthrough bleeding continued. I went in for an annual exam and spoke with a nurse. She switched me to a higher dosage. The symptoms didn't get better, but I didn't get pregnant - so I figured the pills were doing their job, and it was the best it was going to be. I felt gross and bloated.

This past summer, doing my third run of a show that took me out of town, I asked my husband if he would mind if I went off birth control for a month. He was working a day job, I was out of town evenings and weekends, and it was just TOO HOT to be carrying 17 extra pounds around. He was alright with it, and I went off the pill. It was delicious. No more spotting, a real period, no constant bloated "pregnant" feeling. The weight didn't magically disappear, but I felt better in my body. I decided that I wanted to find an alternate method of birth control that didn't include hormones. With the help of a friend, I latched onto F.A.M (Fertility Awareness Method) of Natural Family Planning. I read a huge book. I take my temperature every morning before I get out of bed. Now I know what my body is doing and when, and when I can and can't get pregnant. For me, this was the best choice. The charting plays well with my OCD tendencies, and I feel good in my skin again. It can be a little annoying in the early stages to get used to the fact that one can't have sex just any old time, but there are fun things to do in the meantime. (Or like last month, when my body didn't give very clear indicators of ovulation - so we missed our window entirely - argh!)

As I did research into FAM, I had to deal with the repercussions of what birth control has been doing to my body for these past three+ years. The simple , immediate ones - that my body has to relearn how to cycle and that the mucous membranes were damaged, and I'm temporarily left without any visual signs of where I am in the cycle by the type of bodily fluids being produced. The longer-reaching ones - that there is evidence that the birth control hormones made me more susceptible to certain cancers. I was shocked when I found this out. I did research before I signed on. I've spoken to the staff at the clinic. NONE of these were mentioned as side effects. I felt that my right to an informed decision was violated. I am an educated woman, capable of making decisions, and I researched my choices to the best of the information I found at the time. When they were walking me down the list of side effects, and making sure that I knew how to use the pill properly each annual visit, why was this never mentioned even as a remote possibility?

I've now been off birth control for 6 months. I feel good about my decision, and I'm happier with the natural methods. They do work, they are equally effective (depending on which type you practice, and how well you stick to the rules) as hormonal birth control. This was the right choice for me. Today, even more so. Because of a comment on the blog I mentioned, I did a little more research via google into the pill. I was told that the pill prevents ovulation. I'm certain that's also what the websites on the pill stated, as did the various places I went to research the side effects over and over. I discovered yesterday from various sources that, yes, it mostly prevents ovulation...but it also inhibits sperm, changes the discharges to create an inhospitable environment for fertilization, and thins the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg cannot implant. As a "life begins from conception because I don't see any other obvious place along the continuum to start the clock" person, that's a kinda big difference. And I'm kind of a little thrown. me it's a very different thing to say that no eggs will be produced, ergo - no pregnancy. It's another thing entirely to know that there was even a chance that I could have been pregnant at any time, and the birth control prevented a fertilized egg from attaching. I, of course, have no proof that it happened. I can't do anything now if it did. But I've been in tears all day.

I don't want children. I've never been a "baby" person. I don't go gooey when a newborn is brought into a room. But I knew as a tween that even if I was raped I would bring a baby into the world, but give it up. (I don't fault anyone else for a different view on that one - I only know how I felt and still feel). If Alan and I have an "oops" we know we'd be fine parents. But I'm not ok carrying the knowledge that I didn't know enough, I didn't learn enough, I didn't investigate enough - and I might have unwittingly killed a baby.

All I can do is ask forgiveness if it happened, and move on with life. It's not like I can ever know. It feels wrong to be this upset about a "might have been." I stopped birth control half a year ago, and won't go back. But, I feel violated by the system that was supposed to be empowering my rights as a woman to make an informed choice about my reproductive health, and I'm hurting. As the comment said last night, there's a big difference between "almost never" and "cannot happen." That decimal of a percent is breaking my heart.