Since my most recent post bitching about my IUD (because there have been several), I’ve received much unsolicited advice and done a lot of thinking on the subject. The advice is all coming from people who can relate to my dilemma – either they have PCOS, which I may or may not have, but most likely do, or they have IUDs – and they all seem to underscore what my heart has been telling me anyway.
One friend emailed me to say that she’s had her Mirena for four years, and has been experiencing all the same hormonal symptoms I have: acne, bloating, IBS, mood swings, no sex drive. I’m glad to know that isn’t all in my head. But she then went on to say that a friend of hers, who had two children already, used Mirena for a short period of time, and then when she was ready for her next child, had three miscarriages in a row because her body’s ability to make progesterone had been compromised.
Three miscarriages in a row? I would die.
“She is pregnant now,” my friend reported, “but it definitely wasn’t easy. She now has to take prescription progesterone with this baby.”
An anonymous commenter gave me the rundown of her own research on hormonal birth control as a “solution” to PCOS symptoms, and ultimately concluded that, “Barrier contraception plus lifestyle changes work best for PCOSers who aren’t trying to conceive. Yes, it is a pain in the ass, but so is brushing your teeth.” This gives some good perspective, especially for a couple currently up to their elbows in dental bills.
As much as I have this melody of rationalization playing through my head – “Mirena is so easy; it’s already in there; I’m more than halfway to the date I said I would take it out and start trying to conceive anyway; my hormone symptoms are nothing compared to how bad they were on the pill; can I really trust myself to use condoms?” – there’s something stronger, a bass line coming from my heart, and playing constantly: “Take it out take it out take it out,” my heart says.
“We’d have to use condoms,” Doug said when I told him this is what I’m thinking. “I mean, we can’t afford a baby right now.”
His logic shocked me. What shocked me even more was that I agreed with him. A few years ago – hell, a few months ago – I would have smiled and nodded, secretly banking on us forgetting to stock up, or being too involved in the moment to put one on, and then whoops! Unplanned pregnancy!
But this time, he’s right, and I know he’s right. As much as I’d like to gamble with my questionable fertility again, we just started the actual work part of the dental work yesterday. Both of our bonuses plus Doug’s birthday money are going to pay off one of our smaller debts – Doug took a couple classes at an overpriced university, and then, rightfully and legitimately, changed his mind about getting a degree right now. Then we’ll be back at square one, looking at the bills we already have, plus the dental stuff, and honestly? I’m feeling pretty good about everything, at least for today. But there’s no way we could add the expense of a baby.
“What’s the difference going to be in a few years, though?” I asked him, my one feeble attempt at changing his mind. “I don’t really think our financial situation will be much better then.”
“We’ll be married,” he said. Not that that changes anything financially, but it does seem to justify the having of a child, even in a less-than-stellar financial situation.
Then last night, I went out for some matzo ball soup and girl time with Emily, and, since we had not invited the boys and were free to talk about whatever personal things we liked, I asked her, “What’s your preferred method of birth control?”
Emily admitted to having been on the pill for like ten years. She also knows that’s not an option for me. “I’ve thought about switching to condoms,” she said. “I feel like the pill makes more sense at the beginning of the relationship when you’re having sex like 90 times a day. But a few years in, when you’re only having sex a few times a week, condoms don’t seem like as much of a hassle.”
“And it’s not like you’re really going to interrupt the moment,” I added, “by stopping to put one on. I mean, if you’re already so comfortable with each other…” I’m thinking of my and Doug’s pausing in the middle of sex to turn off the closet light, or having a totally banal, non-sexy conversation about our plans for the following day as we’re getting undressed.
“I think they’d rather have you do it the other way, though,” Em observed. “Use condoms in a new relationship, and then graduate to the pill.”
“Probably. Oh well.”
So with all this in mind, I’m going to make a phone call in the next few days, find an OBGYN, and go ask about non-hormonal birth control options, the possibility of removing my Mirena, checking my progesterone levels (just to see), and getting an ultrasound of my ovaries to confirm or deny PCOS. This was not something I had planned on doing for another year and a half or so. But I’ve learned nothing from this if not that my plans are usually stupid, and, all things considered, free condoms from Planned Parenthood are starting to look pretty good right now, in a way they never did back when they were advertised to my pill-taking college self.
Yes, it is a pain in the ass, but so is brushing your teeth.