What’s my experience with birth control?
I guess it started when I was 17. I drove myself to a doctor’s appointment to have some warts frozen off. Not the most glamorous event but I remember it being the first time I was at a medical appointment without my mother. I didn’t have a primary care provider at the time so just went to a clinic between home and school. The male doctor looked over my file and made it a point to ask why I was not on birth control. I blinked silently at him for a while.
“I’m not married. Why would I be on birth control?” apparently my file said nothing about my ‘no kissing before marriage’ religious value system.
The doctor choked on his words a bit then gave a little speech about birth control being able to ease menstruation symptoms like cramps (which I suffered from) and migraines (which I suffered from) and offered to write me a prescription.
“Yes, but what about warts?” I had a one-track mind, having spent all day mustering the courage to expose my already plagued and tender foot to more pain; I had no head-space to have a discussion completely outside the realm of the present moment. Besides, pain relief pills did just fine relieving cramps and headaches, why would I want to be responsible for taking something daily to treat something that occurred only once a month? Plus, there was a huge stigma in my community around unmarried women taking birth control.
It wasn’t until I was 26 that I put any serious consideration into taking ‘the pill’.
It was 2010 and the IUD was all the rage but, having witnessed two close friends suffer horribly from IUD complications, one a severe uterine infection, the other an ectopic pregnancy, I was forever scared away from that option, hormonal or not.
Being a nude model, and generally uncomfortable with sub-dermal things Norplant was not an option.
The diaphragm and cervical cap were suggested but between still being uncomfortable making (or receiving) contact near or around my cervix after a traumatic colposcopy, as well as enjoying spontaneous and adventurous sex-sploits (like that one time in the snow against a tree after biking around Crater Lake), neither of those seemed to be a good match.
Ultimately a progesterone based daily pill was decided upon.
Being responsible for something and having opportunity to create a regimen in my life gave me a strange thrill-like feeling, like paying bills for the first time, some sign of adulting I may grow to hate later but in the moment, felt like a rite of passage. I set an alarm on my phone for 10am and, work or weekend, drank a full glass of water and took the tiny pill.
After the first month my partner and I began to enjoy carefree and condom free sex. It was also at this time that problems started to surface. It started with my orgasm moving then getting harder and harder to find. I felt a change in the geography of my vagina. The spots and areas that were my “oh yeah! Right there!” spots were getting smaller, some even disappearing. My partner noticed changes describing my vagina as feeling like a silk glove, somehow more “cozy” and softer.
While the changes were positive for him, and seemingly positive for our sex life (no need to have tissues containing used condoms in a baggie in the truck post sex-sploits in the woods), the fact was, I no longer wanted sex. What sex we did have no longer felt any better than a soft shoulder rub. I hadn’t been able to achieve orgasm for weeks when previously I would have 5 to 20 in an encounter. Sex slipped from something I enjoyed and looked forward to, to being something on my chore list.
I started putting my partner off, I felt I had to fix something in me before I could connect with him; this, in turn, was hurting him. At his demand we had a date. It was easy enough to avoid the topic of our waning sex life over dinner by choosing the standard, blah blah work, blah blah friend drama, blah blah weather, but once at his place, where we had enjoyed so many nights, and mornings, and afternoons, and whole days of incredible sexual connection, where there was no where to sit except his cozy queen size bed, that the topic had to come to surface. He caressed me, kissed my neck, nibbled my ear, and did all the little things my body had once responded to so quickly.
I. Felt. Nothing.
I claimed a headache (total cliché, right?!?) and went to the kitchen for an ibuprofen and glass of water. I sat on the kitchen counter taking deep breaths and wondering what the hell was wrong. The space was stagnant and silent for a while; there was emotional static in the air, like after a lightening storm. He came into the kitchen and saw me there, on the counter, glass of water still full at my side, hands on my knees and head down looking for answers in the floor tiles.
“Talk to me,” he said.
“I don’t know what to say,” I replied.
He came closer, positioning himself between my open knees, forehead pressed gently against mine, “I love you,” he said, in a hushed and choked voice. My chest heaved a deep sigh in a futile attempt the release all the internal frustration I was battling with.
“I love you too,” I said.
“Then why don’t you want to be with me?” He asked.
“It’s not you, I don’t want to be with anyone, I don’t…” and then, in that moment, I found the words, “I don’t feel anything, physically, or emotionally. I’m just wound up and frustrated and unable to feel!”
His head dropped lower into my lap and he began to cry. Even then, in that tender moment of this strong and caring man, brought to tears by my words, something was stalling my emotional response. I ran my fingers through his curly hair and gently brought his head up to mine. I kissed his tear-moistened lips and wanted nothing more than to want him, and I myself began to cry over the frustration and heartbreaking scene of it all.
I stopped taking the pill and we went back to condoms. Eventually I learned about cervical mucus testing and the fertility awareness method, both of which have become invaluable tools in my personal reproductive awareness program.
I don’t begin to assume this is everyone’s experience. The pill and other medical methods of fertility control have gone far to liberate women and if it has worked for you, that’s great. This is for all the women the pill hasn’t worked for, for all the women who experience life-altering symptoms that are brushed off or disregarded.
You are not alone.
If you have experienced libido loss which may be related to hormonal birth control, there are options.
Sexual Wellness Mentoring is available to support as you find what works for you.