Why I Got Off Birth Control
After having an IUD for 10 years, I had mine removed last week.
I initially got it at 25 after an abortion, hoping to never have to make that decision again. I was older than my mom when she had me, but nowhere near settled enough to think about having a baby. I had no idea what I wanted. No idea how I’d get it when I figured it out. And even more importantly, I wasn’t very skilled at having difficult conversations around intimacy.
Alcohol didn’t help that particular concern, and it was a big part of my life for much of the past decade. Three cocktails into an evening, I wasn’t thinking about long-term well-being. I was just in that moment, in the low lighting and clever conversation, idyllically disconnected from my anxieties. I didn’t have a good foothold on adulthood– my days were filled with worries like credit card debt, insecurity about my body, romantic missteps, a sputtering career. Alcohol was a welcome escape from these heavy undertakings that I didn’t quite know what to do with.
I had tried the pill in the past, but like my life at the time, I was inconsistent with it, rendering it ineffective. I lived with my boyfriend who, to his credit, was extremely reliable with condoms, but he traveled for work all the time and I wasn’t happy in the relationship. On a visit back home while we were on the rocks, I ended up in the arms of an old flame. I knew right away I was pregnant.
My abortion was done quickly and without fanfare, and they installed the contraception at the same time. I was relieved and verklempt. The situation that caused it was obviously not ideal, and I hoped to avoid putting myself in that mess ever again. But I was sad to be there in the first place. Nobody felt good about it, I felt responsible. I wanted to be successful in my life, in my relationships and career and have a sense of purpose, but all of that seemed light years from where I was.
It dawned on me with a happy little tear in my eye, I trust the woman I am today.
Thankfully, it wasn’t actually light years, but a mere decade. To be fair, it’s been a brutal, hard-won decade. I left that relationship and started slowly building my life. Slowly learning who I am and who I want to be around. Slowly developing my skills in relating with others and professional accountability. Slowly figuring out how to eat well and take care of my body (remembering, really). Learning how to adjust my habits to build wealth and prepare for my future well-being.
One of the last skills, however, has been those difficult conversations around intimacy.
Sobriety has been a big part of that, allowing me to keep my entire brain present while I navigate a relationship makes decisions much more manageable. And frankly, more fun. I didn’t realize how much more desirable I would feel once I learned to say no to things I don’t truly want (and yes to things I do). My hundreds of hours of practicing setting boundaries with IMPACT Bay Area has to be acknowledged here. I know skill and ease in this type of conversation is hard for most, but I’ve really had give myself ample opportunities to practice… and practice and practice some more.
The IUD made that terrain a little less risky. A pre-installed boundary. It was kind of like training wheels for me.
But I realized a few weeks ago that I no longer needed them, no longer wanted them. It dawned on me with a happy little tear in my eye, I trust the woman I am today.
I have a lot of empathy for the younger me who responded to her circumstances with this decision, but I am so so so grateful to report my life is very different now. I am different. I have tackled all those big things that held me back from living the life I dreamed of at 25. I am full of gratitude for the present, excited for the challenges and experiences of the future.
And honestly, I want to get to know my body again without intervention.
I initially got the copper IUD without hormones. My periods went from light, manageable interludes to bloody massacres. I have a drawer full of Thinx, which I’d need to wear with the largest tampons you can buy off the shelf for half of the days. Last year, I switched to the hormonal IUD and after about 4 months of spotting, I stopped getting my period altogether. While it was convenient to wear light-colored pants whenever I wanted, I found I missed my cycle.
I read in Alisa Vitti’s book Woman Code years ago that our cycles can be blueprints for our lives. Before the period, the luteal stage, is a time of getting the house in order. Of organizing, cleaning, sorting… detail oriented tasks. The menstrual stage is hunkering down, resting, reflecting. When our left and right brain converse. When we are most intuitive.
The follicular is creative and future-oriented. Masterminding our lives. And then ovulatory stage, when we are magnetic, compelling, irresistible. You get other people on board with your vision (raises and ambitions) during ovulation.
I really resonated with these internal seasons. Not having a period, for me, was the menstrual equivalent of living in LA, a never-ending blob of a rather shallow beauty. It was nice. But I want more than nice right now. I want all of life.
As I step into the next decade of my life, I have much more experience and a solid adult skill set to aid me. I’m not done yet, I have so much more to learn. Some exciting professional opportunities, honest, connected relationships, (more and more I hope) motherhood.
But the future, and my body, feels unrestrained and fertile now. The privilege, and the responsibility, is mine alone to navigate and live with the results of my efforts and decisions.
And I am ready to create.