Controlling birth

By AMY MARTIN  |  May 4, 2006

So why did I have the baby? Honestly, I still don’t know. Maybe it was that fatalistic notion that all things happen for a reason. Whatever it was, almost suddenly and robotically, I transformed into mommy-mode and didn’t look back. I was having a baby, and it was solely my duty to provide for her.

Given the circumstances of my pregnancy, I became violently obsessed with the fear of getting pregnant again. Ultimately, it was my fault that I got pregnant in the first place — I’d pretty much handed over my reproductive rights. (You’d better be damn sure that’ll never happen again. Ever.) Because of the circumstances of my pregnancy, I was terrified of conceiving again. Even though I had my period, I was convinced I was pregnant. Several women, including my mother, have told me they had their periods during a pregnancy. I thought for sure it was happening to me too.

I’m not so paranoid anymore. I trust my birth control pill to work. What I didn’t expect were the side effects of the Pill. I didn’t have any problems until after I gave birth. For the last seven years I’ve been sampling a new pill almost every year. Ortho-Tri-Cyclen, which has moderate doses of estrogen and lower levels of norgestimate, made me an emotional train wreck. Levlen, Lo/Ovral, Loestrin, Nordette, and Alesse all have low-to-moderate levels of estrogen and different progestins, and caused either no period, blood clots, or a constant period. One brand caused painful nodules to grow on my legs and ankles, putting me on crutches two weeks before performing in a college production of The Tempest.

My doctors have said that every woman is different and sometimes it takes a while to find which brand will suit you. Because it takes a few months for your body to get used to each new pill, you just tolerate side effects like excessive bleeding and clotting because “that’s part of the process.”

I’m not even sure I want to take the Pill. I just want to prevent pregnancy, have a regular cycle, and not be crippled by dysmenorrhea, and as far as I know there is no other alternative. I can’t afford $3000 for the coil (which when placed in the fallopian tubes results in sterility) or tubular surgery, and although the government should theoretically provide this service to poor women, as they do for stray cats and dogs, there is no assistance. I could almost deal with an irregular period and severe cramps if I had the reassurance that I couldn’t get pregnant.

And I love it when a someone suggests celibacy. Choosing not to have sex is like saying I’ll never swim again after buying a house on Sebago Lake. It just isn’t an option. Anyone with functional genitals needs sexual contact with another. It’s a natural human tendency — one I will never deny myself.

I’ve considered herbal contraceptives but am unable to find a dependable alternative. For most herbal contraceptives to be effective, a woman must know her cycles and know when she is ovulating, which wouldn’t work for me because I never know exactly.

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Related: Repro on the Red Line, Thoughts on the 36th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, Letters to the Portland Editor, May 12, 2006:, More more >
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Shifting Sands By Jeff Inglis.

What Are They? What's in Them? What Do They Do? By Jeff Inglis.

Seeking Help?

Herbal Options By Amy Martin

Two other women share their stories:

The Pill + Me by Caitlin Shetterly.

Don't Mistake It for Easy by Sonya Tomlinson.