When I was 14 years old, I started taking the pill. At the time, I was honest with my mom in that my friends were already sexually active, and I thought that the “love-of-my-life” first-boyfriend and I might have sex. At the time, I truly thought we would be together forever, but I had always been told that the only way to prevent pregnancy was through hormonal birth control. Looking back, it was too early, but regardless of why I went on it, nationwide, between 16-20% of sexually active girls are on hormonal birth control. (Child Trends, 2017)* This doesn’t even include the number of teenage girls who are put on hormonal birth control to help with menstrual pain, irregular cycles (which is a fallacy at that age), and/or acne.
Over the last 10 years, I have been on and off hormonal birth control. During my time on hormonal birth control I was suffering, as silently as possible, many terrible side effects. Every pill makes me vomit and violently nauseous without reprieve (and trust me, I tried almost all of them). The Depo, quite literally, made me a maniac, and I gained upwards of 50 pounds; and because of the depo, I grew an ovarian cyst that required urgent surgical removal to save my ovary. The IUD perforated the inner lining of my uterus, and my doctor told me she would never place one for me again. I was promised by every doctor that despite my family history of breast cancer, these methods did not increase my risk. The evidence shows otherwise. The Nexplanon, my most-recent and last available choice for birth control; seemed very benign until it wasn’t. The waves of crippling depression and return of migraines came slowly, but continued to build until I found myself crying to my fiancé: “why can’t there be a better choice for women? Something that doesn’t make us so sick?”. I was left feeling sick, and without choice; burdened by my fertility, by my womb, by being a woman.
I read the book “Cunt: A Declaration of Independence” by Inga Muscio. I bought a lunar calendar and hung it on my wall, stating that I wanted to track my cycles so that I could be more in tune with my body, but knew that it couldn’t be my birth control method. I looked at it longingly, wondering if women could ever get back to the roots of knowing our cycles and our bodies.
And, in it’s synchronous way, the universe spoke. A few months later I stumbled across a workout video on facebook, where the trainer was talking about how the hormonal changes women go through during their cycle affected their metabolism, muscle building capabilities, and motivation etc. He talked about how we could utilize those natural changes to better perform athletically. I found this to be such a refreshing approach to health for women: be in tune with your cycle rather than trying to deny it’s pull on your functioning. In the comments of this video, was a comment that has changed my life forever. One woman recommended that every woman listen to the Fertility Friday Podcast to better understand her hormones, her cycle, and her health.
The Fertility Friday Podcast (you can listen to it here: Fertility Friday Podcast Episode List) took all of the myths surrounding my fertility (and yours), and put them into perspective. Did you know, that women are not fertile everyday of their cycle? Did you know that all of the shitty things you have felt while on hormonal birth control are really as bad as they feel, that it’s not just something you have to accept if you ever want to avoid getting pregnant?
I didn’t know it either, and I’m a nurse for fucks-sake! We learn that there is a 12-24 hour window in which the egg is present; but we don’t learn what that means for us as women and our capability of conceiving or avoiding conception.
The picture of me above was a picture of me right after I had performed the most Sacred Act of Rebellion I have ever performed in my life. (I stole that term from Kelly-Ann Maddox, all credit to her). I got my Nexplanon removed, and moved into practicing the Fertility Awareness Method (which is not the rhythm method, by the way). A spiritual act of reclaiming my body from white-corporate-america, the pharmaceutical companies, the American Medical Association, the patriarchy. Reclaiming my right to: choose how I address my fertility, how I align myself with my natural hormonal cycle, how I do or do not feel about my own menstruation, and ability to conceive, when and how I will control my pregnancies or lack thereof. I consider it part of my act of sacred rebellion to disseminate what I have learned, and to encourage every woman I know to learn more about it themselves.
Seriously. I know that that sounds like some woo-woo hippy shit. And it kind of is. But, if you can do anything for yourself today, I really recommend listening to the podcast, and reading these books (there are many many more, these are just the two I can recommend because I have finished them myself):
I have a long journey ahead, as I withdraw from the constant feed of hormones I have had for so long. I am welcomed into freedom by nausea, moodiness, moments of sheer paranoia, headaches, and immeasurable fatigue; but ultimately, I am freed and I know that as my hormones normalize, I have much better quality of life ahead of me. I want you to have it too, or at least be able to decide for yourself what the best choice for YOU is. That’s why, despite the pressure I know comes from such a seemingly radical decision; I wanted to share my sacred act of rebellion with the women I have grown to love and respect.
I take back my right to choose. How about you?