Right now, just about all things reproduction are a very real source of terror for me.
I’m six months postpartum and have no intention of getting pregnant again, but I can’t find a birth control option I’m happy with. Currently, I’m using the often unreliable Lactational Amenorrhea Method, so ovulation and menstruation could return at any moment; I know I’m running out of time to make a decision.
I’ve been considering a different birth control since the birth of my first child – though I stopped when my husband and I decided to have another. None of the options out there feels like a good fit for me. But the idea of more kids doesn’t sound hot either.
I love my children, but with a military husband and a work from home schedule, I don’t think I have the bandwidth for a third child. And for the last few years, I’ve been intentionally limiting my professional success – like by not pursuing graduate school – because reaching for more ambitious opportunities might clash with my mothering responsibilities. Unfortunately, history is littered with tales of women – especially Black women like me – forgoing professional potential for parenthood. I know I have immeasurable promise, but I feel too preoccupied with child-rearing to access my potential.
Birth control is one of many innovations that are viewed as “a great equalizer” between the sexes. It has done amazing things for women in pursuit of reproductive agency since birth control is a wonderful way for many women to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And yet. We live in a technological age filled with constant innovation, but we haven’t yet developed birth control free of side effects?
Everyone’s body is different, and there’s no one size fits all method of birth control – it’s such a personal choice. I’m always looking for an option that works as well for me as the fertility awareness method did, which I used before having children. I loved being in tune with my body, using cervical cues and discharge to avoid sex during fertile windows, and sharing the responsibility of preventing pregnancy with my husband. But until I get a regular period again, that’s not an option.
And all other options simply seem to come up short for me.
I don’t want to use spermicidal creams and liquids because they irritate my skin.
I don’t want to take pills that have a history of impacting my emotional stability when I already suffer from intermittent depression. And breastfeeding makes me stay away from hormonal options since some – like those containing estrogen – have the potential to decrease milk production, and that’s a chance I’m not willing to take.
I don’t want to get an IUD because I know people who’ve experienced complications that are extremely rare but are also extremely scary. As a woman whose life has been filled with “rare” occurrences, I’m skeptical of the probability of nearly everything; it’s easy to say only one in 1,000 women have issues, until you’re that “one.”
I’m also afraid of another pregnancy because my last two came with health complications – a potentially life-threatening complication called retained placenta, that aforementioned “rare” occurrence – that if left untreated could have cost me my life.
Everyone’s body is different, and there’s no one size fits all method of birth control – it’s such a personal choice.
Clearly, the stakes are high for my physical and mental health.
And more than being frustrated, I’m infuriated that we still live in an era of such reproductive inequity. The unequal responsibility of pregnancy prevention falls almost exclusively on women, and society expects women to carry the emotional and often physical burdens of an anti-parent society.
Real reproductive freedom for me also wouldn’t involve being terrified that if we unexpectedly have another baby, I could end up losing my life; the maternal mortality crisis in America is real and is an especially severe threat for Black women, who are three to four times more likely to die because of pregnancy-related complications. This is potentially a life or death choice for me.
So a few times a week I talk with friends about their preferred birth control. I read those birth control info pamphlets everyone else throws in the trash. And I google the most effective birth control methods so frequently that my browser autopopulates my searches. But even after an in-depth conversation with my OB/GYN shortly after giving birth, the struggle to find birth control that’s a good fit for me is still driving me nuts.
I’ve weighed the pros and cons. The truth is, I already know what I want. I want none of them. But I’m a sexually active mother of two in a society where women’s emotional labor is high and student loan interest is higher. And, of course, there’s the small potential that pregnancy could still happen no matter what I try.
As I await egalitarian reproduction, I’ll continue researching and stressing. But I’m moving as slowly as possible to choose a new birth control. In the back of my mind, I know that if I stall long enough, my period will return. And when that happens, I can go back to the fertility awareness method to stay in control of my reproductive choices in the way I’d prefer. It’s risky. But it’s a chance I’m willing to take.
About the author:
Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez is a writer who specializes in sociology, health, and parenting. Her work has appeared in Healthline, Yes! Magazine, HuffPost, Allure, and many other publications. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her website.