controlling birth

18 Jul

There are so many easy ways to fuck over women. I rewrote that line about fifteen times before deciding that is precisely what I mean to say, so I should just say it. It starts during adolescence with — well, a million things, but not all pertinent to this discussion — hormonal birth control. At a time when our bodies are coursing with hormones already, new ones that make us do crazy, crazy shit, make us un-live-with-able and prone to falling in and out of love with just about anything at the drop of a hat. When I was fifteen, a different song changed my life every 45 minutes. You want to argue about how this right here is the best film ever made? TRY ME. The hem of my pants seems to be 1/4 inch shorter than it was last week which means I am the fattest, ugliest, most worthless person in all of humanity’s long history — and WHAT’S THAT? You aren’t contradicting me heartily enough SO YOU MUST AGREE. So, when someone suggested that I try hormonal birth control to ease my hellacious cramps, considering that someone was a physician, I assumed he wouldn’t lead me astray. I didn’t smoke and I wasn’t over 35, so the only two risks explained to me didn’t seem to apply. Oh, but funny thing: there were these other risks he forgot to mention. The risk of totally going off the deep end when the naturally-occuring hormones already in your body take offense to the introduction of these johnny come-latelies and the ensuing hormone war leaves you suicidal and obsessive-compulsive. I was told repeatedly to “ride it out” while my body tried to normalize, but eventually I weighed the positives and negatives and darned if debilitating uterine pain wasn’t the better option. Enter “natural family planning.” A terrible, stupid, why-did-they-do-it name that makes you sound like an Evangelical Christian. Are you an Evangelical Christian? Sorry; I am not. Neither am I anti-hormonal birth control. I just think it’s something that adversely affects lots of women who can’t figure out what’s wrong with them. I also advocate for women knowing as much as they can about their own bodies because this makes us healthier (most importantly) and smarter consumers (secondarily), meaning we can’t be railroaded into sub-optimal care by our doctors/midwives (god forbid!)/ARNPs.
Natural family planning began my interest in women’s health and my own reproductive system. I come from a staunchly feminist, pro-choice family so this was no real revelation. Women’s issues were always discussed and reproductive rights are something for which my mom and I have both fought, basically, forever. Being able to identify where I am in my cycle is something that has saved me money, headache and heartache. It also quite literally saved my sanity and I know I’m not alone in that. For a pretty comprehensive guide to NFP, maybe try this book out (the publisher of which is not paying me but is welcome to, wink wink, nudge nudge).

Now we’ve come to way #2 to give women the screw job.

First, though, let’s have an interlude to discuss our president. I voted for him. Grudgingly. I told myself that no viable candidate would ever align with my beliefs. And this guy would at least maintain the status quo. HA! Good one, Obama! You got me.


People are such wackadoos when it comes to reproduction, especially reproduction that does not include them. You’ve got the president willy-nilly mandating that impoverished, sick women have to carry a pregnancy to term despite a still very legal medical procedure meant to protect them from exactly this situation. You’ve got crazy nutsos who are free to adopt 500 children if they’re so worried about babies, but prefer to birth twenty of their own and take them all to picket outside of Planned Parenthood. And then, there’s #3:

Forcing women into birthing situations without their consent, by preying on their love for their unborn child. Just as it’s not okay to get someone drunk and sleep with them, it is not okay to ply someone with threats and horror stories and expect them to make an informed, well-thought-out decision. The spectrum of loving motherhood is broad, and includes not only the excited, doting, round and glowing mama-to-be but also the mother who is staring down the barrel of birthing a brainless mass of cells that will somehow make it to full term. Both of these women deserve to have their wishes respected, their health considered, and their lives valued above convenience, prior engagements, fear of lawsuit or personal politics. Wait. I need to say that again. The spectrum of loving motherhood is broad, and includes not only the excited, doting, round and glowing mama-to-be but also the mother who is staring down the barrel of birthing a brainless mass of cells that will somehow make it to full term. Both of these women deserve to have their wishes respected, their health considered, and their lives valued above convenience, prior engagements, fear of lawsuit or personal politics. Women’s choices need to be heard and respected. Women’s birth plans need to be adhered to. People need to stop doing unnecessary surgeries and giving drugs unnecessarily just to make it home in time for 30 Rock.

In case you couldn’t tell, the recent threats to women’s health and rights are really bothering me. If they are bothering you, too, please take action here. If they are not bothering you, please try putting yourself in the very realistic situation of having little money, a debilitating disease and an unexpected pregnancy that could result in a special needs child and a serious and potentially irreversible deterioration of your own health. If I’ve alienated you with this post…well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

4 Responses to “controlling birth”

  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama July 19, 2010 at 12:55 am #

    I never even thought about what birth control hormones do to adolescents. Never even thought. I started on the pill at 18 due to bad cramps. BCP for the younger set was frowned upon for religious reasons, because you weren’t supposed to be having sex if you weren’t married, so it had to be clearly for a medical reason. It didn’t affect me, at 18, as strongly as it affected you, but when I went off them, for financial reasons, in my 20s, I was so happy to have my normal cycles back. I don’t want to go back on them. Ever. You’ve given me new reason to distrust them.

    Just an off-topic point, for no good reason other than that it’s late and I love to explain things. Natural Family Planning is much more a Catholic thing than an Evangelical Christian thing. I grew up evangelical, and all the evangelical (married) women I knew were on birth control of one form or another (usually hormonal, rather than, say, condoms, which is what loose people used. Ha.). The Quiverfull people you reference are an extremist, fundamentalist form of evangelicals who don’t believe in ANY birth control, not even NFP. In other words, Catholics (most devout Catholics) believe you can use your natural cycles to prevent pregnancy as long as you use just your natural cycles, whereas Quiverfull folk think you can’t use anything, because that’s cheating God’s plan to give you a bunch o’ babies. Whereas most (even conservative) evangelicals believe you can stop at just one or two, thankyouverymuch, and not be all ostentatiously childbearing like those Catholics with their flawed rhythm method (NFP). I hope you sense that I’m poking fun here, not relating how I actually feel about it all. It’s been an eye-opening experience to get to know charting and my natural cycles through trying to conceive, and to realize that the Catholics have had a good thing going. ;)

    • veryveryfine July 19, 2010 at 11:52 am #

      lauren, thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. those crazy catholics are onto something, huh? i actually meant that the name itself — natural family planning — to me brings to mind evangelical christians but this is obviously (for the reasons you mentioned as well as a million others, ha) for no good reason. in my mind catholicism would latin the phrase up a bit (in the vini vidi vici sense, not the ricky martin sense – alas).

  2. Lauren @ Hobo Mama July 19, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    Snort! What would Ricky Martin do with the phrase!

    When I was growing up, there were all sorts of jokes about the “rhythm method,” as it was then commonly referred to, and how evangelicals had no rhythm so couldn’t use it,* see? ;) But, yeah, you’re right that what it was changed to does have those evangelical overtones. Thanks for allowing me to blather on off-topic!

    *Bonus joke for you: Why don’t Baptists have sex standing up? Could lead to dancing!

  3. Jenny August 23, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Hey, I missed this entry. I am high fiving my computer screen.

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