I was on birth control for over eight years before I took my first break.
I began with oral contraceptives. For seven years, I struggled to take my pill at the same time every day. I set alarms on my phone, tried to associate the task with other habits and put the pack where I couldn’t miss it. Even after all my attempts and a reason to be motivated (if you don’t take the pill consistently, it’s less effective), I still forgot to take it all the freaking time. My spotty adherence was enough for me to explore my options.
I talked to my doctor and decided to try a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD). I had health coverage through my job at the time, so the cost didn’t deter me, but the horror stories I’d heard sure did.
In the end, I wanted to decide for myself.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but the process of having my IUD inserted was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.
It took me thirty minutes to peel myself off the table after it was over. I ended up taking the rest of the day off work because of nausea and pain. My best friend came over to help me sit up in bed and make my food.
The fun didn’t end there. I endured unpleasant daily side-affects. My doctor told me to stick it out. I kept waiting for my body to get used to it, but after 10 months, I was Done with a capital D.
I had the IUD removed, then tried the birth control patch for four months.
First, finding a place to put the patch wasn’t easy. A flesh-coloured square isn’t exactly a cute accessory.
Second, the patch gave me a terrible skin rash.
Back to the drawing board.
I took my original pill prescription for one last month, mostly out of sheer frustration, then I decided to experiment.
I wasn’t worried about getting pregnant, so I stopped.
I don’t know what I was expecting would happen, but having my boobs shrink and my face, chest, and back explode with pimples wasn’t on my wish list.
From there on out, I only wore t-shirts and got bangs to cover my forehead acne (bad idea). After nine months, my confidence was at an all-time low, and I went to my doctor and got a script for a new birth control pill. Soon after I started taking the new pill, my skin cleared up, and my boobs made a comeback.
My prescription ran out a few months ago. Instead of renewing, I decided to go without again. I figured what the hell, maybe this time will be different.
Narrator: It was not different.
I’m in the same position I was in before: I don’t need to worry about preventing pregnancy, but the side effects of glowing skin and bigger boobs are looking pretty attractive from where I’m sitting.
I feel stuck between going back to birth control and letting my body do its thing.
In the meantime, I’m in limbo. This dumb decision seems so simple, but I tend to see everything as an onion.
Let’s peel back the layers and laugh/cry together over this birth control bullshit.
Layer 1: Side effects
The stories above don’t even come close to covering all the side effects I’ve experienced from birth control.
The pill I took for seven years? It made me moody and uninterested in sex, but I had no idea until I went off of it.
No matter what I tried, there seemed to be a drawback.
Maybe there’s a birth control option out there for me, I haven’t exhausted every option after all.
There’s also a part of me that’s sick of trying and scared to experience another new problem.
Obviously, nothing is perfect, and everyone has their own experience with this! I can only speak for myself, but my journey so far has been deflating.
Layer 2: Self-Image
I’ll admit this is the layer I want to talk about the least. It involves admitting that, to some degree, my inner confidence is connected to my outer appearance. It’s not very *self-lovey* or *intersectionally feminist* of me.
You’re supposed to accept every part of yourself. Your value as a human has nothing to do with how you look. Love yourself, dammit!!!!
I know, I know, I know.
I get mad at myself for feeling how I feel, which is…an unhelpful clusterfuck of feelings.
I’ve done everything short of writing this stuff on an axe and hitting myself on the hairline with it. I’m working on it.
In the meantime, is it wrong that I felt more confident with clear skin and enough boobs to fill out a bathing suit top? Does it mean I love myself less? Does it make me a bad feminist?
Layer 3: Western Beauty Standards
I consider myself a conscious consumer, but I can’t deny these standards have me in their chokehold. I see mostly poreless, filtered skin on social media, then I look in the mirror and reflexively sigh.
Like everyone else, I’ve been conditioned to take what I see on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, shows, movies, and media and use it as a measuring stick — even if I know better, and even if it hurts me.
Without these standards, I probably wouldn’t be considering taking hormone-regulating drugs to ‘improve’ my appearance. Without problems, physical or otherwise, capitalism can’t sell solutions…which leads to the next layer.
Layer 4: Capitalism
Who profits when you feel bad about yourself?
When it comes to skin, birth control can be offered up by doctors to treat acne. At least it was for me when I went back to my doctor, fed up with whiteheads.
Even if I choose skincare instead, I’m still being sucked into spending money. Even just MENTIONING that I’d like to improve my skin opens me up to people trying to sell me their pyramid scheme skincare products.
No, thank you.
As much as birth control is medical, it’s still a product, especially when it’s sold as one of many solutions.
I know being frustrated about capitalism is like yelling at a goldfish, but here I am! Medium is pretty close to a goldfish, I reckon?
Is a hormonal IUD the same as a Michael Kors purse?
No, but they both cost around $300…which is hard to comprehend.
Layer 5: Patriarchy
The whole birth control struggle is basically reserved for people who ovulate.
Sucks to suck, I guess? This layer makes me so angry I truly have no words, so I will let a tweet speak in lieu.
In writing this, I’ve realized how overwhelming the decision to take birth control is.
Throw a pandemic on top of it, slap my ass, and call me frustrated.
I’m not for or against birth control. There are so many layers, and it’s not hard to feel trapped! I can imagine I’m not the only one feeling this way about something that seems simple.
I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do, but I feel a little freer after writing this. I hope this has lifted some of these layers off you, too.