Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the mornings after

I have used emergency contraception three times in my life:

1. College.
One night my boyfriend and I got carried away and had sex without a condom. The next day, I went to a local clinic and got the morning after pill, which back then was a series of four or eight birth control pills (nowadays, it's a high dosage of two pills). Apart from the fear of pregnancy, I was concerned about the possible side effects of the medication, having previously had a very negative experience with the birth control pill.

The side effects hit me hard. The nausea wasn't so bad, but the exhaustion and depression were far from pleasant. It was like being hit with some kind of severe emotional flu for a few days. I don't remember much about it apart from a dark haze. The worst part was, my boyfriend wasn't around to take care of me. I remember talking to him on the phone, telling him I didn't feel well, maybe even crying, but he never offered to come over to check in on me. Maybe he thought it was something I needed to go through on my own; I don't know. My brain was too clouded over at the time to think he may have been behaving in an insensitive way. I don't think he ever gave me a real reason. We stayed together after that, for another couple of months. I ended up trying out a different birth control pill while dating him, and this one didn't affect me as badly, but I still couldn't get over the psychological implications of messing with my body's hormonal balance and kept worrying I would slip into another depression. After that one mishap, we always stuck to condoms.

2. Six years ago.
I was living with a man, involved in what what was one of my healthiest relationships to date. One night, the condom broke. We worked near each other, so my boyfriend accompanied me to the clinic on my lunch break. There was a longer wait to be seen than I expected, so he had to return to the office after an hour. I stayed behind, sensing the minutes ticking by, anxiously remembering that the first dose needs to be taken as quickly as possible after the "incident." In my nervousness, I neglected to call work to inform them that I'd be delayed.

I returned to the office four hours four later. My manager was livid and took me into the kitchen to chew me out. I remember his face was tomato-red, but before he could say anything I burst into tears. I had no choice but to tell him the truth. As soon as I mentioned the words "emergency birth control" his anger gave way to awkward embarrassment. The delicate nature of what I shared paired with my tears made for a lenient and sympathetic manager. I wiped my tears, returned to my desk, and finished out the day.

This time, I can't remember feeling any of the medication's side effects. It turned out that having the condom break and getting the morning after pill wasn't as nerve-wracking as having to tell my manager about it so that he wouldn't yell at me.

3. Yesterday.
I wasn't even going to take it. Yes, certain risky sexual behavior transpired, but it wasn't something that could be classified as a mishap. More of a caught-up-in-the-moment kind of thing. My gut told me I'd be okay, but my gut isn't fail-safe. If another clinic visit was required, I would have scrapped the idea, but now they sell the stuff over the counter (at the pharmacy's discretion, so not all will carry it). Apparently, if you're over 18, and have ID and fifty bucks, you can get Plan B.

I was surprised to learn how pricey it was. Then again, an abortion is even more expensive, to say nothing of the costs (financial and beyond) of raising an actual kid. I decided it was worth it for extra peace of mind, so I took my passport and stopped by my local pharmacy on my way to the movies. The man and woman behind the counter were friendly and polite, though they did look at me with a slight air of concern and sympathy. The pharmacist, while checking my passport, said I look much younger than in the photo. I appreciated his kindness.

I took the first pill just before entering the subway, set an alarm on my cell phone to wake me up for the second dose, and went on my merry way.

Once again, I braced myself for side effects, but I feel okay so far. A little tired and a little anxious, but I don't know if that's from the pills or from a restless night of sleep paired with work stress.

I don't plan on making a habit of needing it, but am extremely grateful that I've always had access to emergency contraception. Though I want to have a family some day, getting pregnant right now is a frightening prospect (I mean, the week I spent taking care of my parent's dog seemed like a huge responsibility). Having taken Plan B, I'm immensely relieved that I've lowered my odds of conceiving (though the next few weeks will be a bit tense until I am completely sure I'm not pregnant).

As much as I've been craving adventure, and as much fun as that preceding night was, I know playing fast and loose with my fertility should not be the way I seek it out. I've been lucky that no previous incidents have resulted in STDs or pregnancy. For the record, I'll be more careful in the future.


clarissa said...

I'd be willing to bet a lot of the symptoms you experienced the first time were psychological, with the addition of some physical stuff too. I mean, you were younger, it was the first time something like that happened, boyfriend was not being supportive...that's a huge recipe for a whole lots of distress.

I'm also sure that they've changed the hormone levels and intensity and all of that too. plus all the possible nerves about std testing and stuff (that was always the stuff that wigged me out the most even though I've always been safety girl. it still wigs me out now, since some of the batteries of tests i have to have include std tests which are very oviously unnecessary but i still get all angsty)

When I was living overseas I was so psyched because ebcp was available over the counter. I thought that was the best, especially since I had to use it once...way cheaper than $50 though.

I hate the pill. I look forward to the day where they make some sort of temporary male birth control type thing. I think some vasectomies are reversible, but that's still a pretty big risk.

I've thought about an IUD, but I've heard those are riskier if you haven't had children yet, plus I have enough health problems I don't feel like sticking random metal things inside myself that I cannot see (as opposed to say, piercings or tattoos where at least there I can see if there is an infection)

Awa said...

For the record (though hopefully not future reference), taking both plan B pills at once, as soon as you procure them, is equally effective. It should also make the experience slightly less anxiety inducing.

TabooTruth said...

Why don't you get Norplant, or some sort of reverseable sterilization?

W said...

I remember when the pill was so new, it was on the cover of Time magazine, and out-of-marraige mothers were sent away to have a baby. Debi


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