Almost exactly a year ago, I got married. With getting married came a lot of firsts: my first time not living with my parents (except for dorm life), my first time living with a man who was not a blood relative, my first time moving far away from my parents permanently. Marriage is a whole new world, a whole new life. It comes with its own unique set of challenges that you will simply not encounter in the single life. One of those new challenges for me was birth control.
Now, I am not so naive to think that every person reading my blog, much less every person in the world is going to “wait” until marriage (or has waited). Because I am a Christian, I follow the Bible when it says that the marriage is reserved for, well, marriage. The wait was difficult, but worth it.
With marriage and the marriage bed comes the possibility of children. If a couple desires to wait a year or two (or more!) before having children, obviously they have to take measures to prevent pregnancy. For me, the obvious option was taking birth control, specifically the daily pill. I had never considered any other option, although I knew there were many different types of medicinal birth control. A pill, various types of implants, the Nuva Ring, shots, etc. are all options available to a woman who desires to prevent pregnancy.
I am a procrastinator in the worst way. My engagement was ten months long. Plenty of time for me to figure out what birth control worked for me, right? Wrong. Because if you’re me, you wait until six weeks before your wedding to start setting things in motion to figure all of that out. I am not always the best with time management (thus the experiment with the Pomodoro Technique). I began asking in a couple of groups what types of side effects I would (potentially – every body is different) be facing when I finally got my act together and saw a physician for a birth control physician. I got many responses from other women, warning me of various side effects of the pill and even touting other medicinal options like the Depo shot and Nuva Ring as easier and having less side effects. I even asked my poor father (a physician) who explained different hormone levels in different birth control options and advised me on a couple options to consider based on my sensitivity (high).
But a group of amazing Christian wives took everything on a sharp turn. I began receiving warnings concerning how birth control really works, the adverse side effects they experienced, and how most of them had turned to a completely different option: Natural Family Planning (NFP). I was sent links, resources, and book recommendations up the wazoo. I was overwhelmed. Ultimately, I thanked them for their concern and told them I would add NFP to my list of options. I also decided to remain cryptic about what I wound up choosing – with any online group because I learned very quickly that everyone has an opinion on this, and every wants to be heard. But one particular book recommendation I’d received over and over again stuck out in my mind: Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
I was getting down to the wire with my wedding date, and I needed something I could implement quickly and did not need to take the time to learn. It was the end of the semester, finals were looming, wedding details were in crunch time, and I was so incredibly stressed out. So I went with the pill and just over two weeks before my wedding day, started taking it each day.
Less than a week in, I was already having trouble. I was told that I needed to take the pill each day as close as possible to the same time every day. Not a big deal, right? I’ve been on daily medicine before, this would be old hat. But, I was also told (by my doctor, the pharmacist, the internet, etc.) that if I missed a pill, I should take it as soon as I remember and then take the next pill when I would normally take it. Even if this meant taking two pills at once.
I learned very quickly that I could not handle two pills at once, and even one was questionable. I began dealing with nausea and dizziness while at work. At one point I wasn’t sure if I was going to throw up or pass out or both. I knew it was probably the new hormones being introduced to my body, but I was also under a lot of stress, barely eating, and a whole other host of things that come with trying to finish grad school and get married in the same week. So I assumed it was just the “adding one more thing” to everything and brushed it off.
Soon, the semester was over, Reid and I got married, and we were making a tiny apartment in Ladson, South Carolina home. I was still not feeling like myself, but I had just (mostly) finished grad school! I had been going non-stop for six years through undergraduate and graduate school, and I was exhausted. I barely remember our first couple weeks of marriage with how much I slept and zoned out from sheer exhaustion. But as time went on and I recovered from six years of sleep debt and constant stress, I still felt… off. I knew I needed three months for my body to get used to birth control. But the fourth month came and I still wasn’t feeling totally normal. So I found a doctor in Ladson and talked to her about changing my birth control to a lower hormone option. I knew the Nuva Ring was a lower hormone dosage, so I asked her about that and she agreed it might be a good option for me.
As soon as my pack of pills ran out, I began trying the Nuva Ring. I loved how easy it was and that I didn’t need to remember to take a pill everyday (I had to set an alarm for myself so I wouldn’t forget). The first week or so, everything was great. Until it wasn’t. I began struggling hardcore emotionally and mentally. I felt like I was going crazy, my normally controlled anxiety went through the roof, and I began to question everything, including my own husband’s love for me. It was a slow, but clear spiral that landed me on a bathroom floor sobbing on the phone with my mom during my second month of the Nuva Ring. Something was wrong and I was a stranger in my own mind. It was worse than any depression or anxiety I had ever been through in my entire life. And let me tell you this: my husband was a saint and incredible through it all. Even when I was questioning if he even loved me (he totally did, and somehow still does).
Throughout my time on the Nuva Ring, I had begun doing more research into NFP and the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I learned that NFP, originally a Catholic thing, fell under the umbrella of Fertility Awareness (Based) Methods, or FAM (or to some, FABM). Thousands of women were turning to this method as an alternative to conventional birth control. And, incredibly, they were using FAM successfully to achieve their intentions (whether that be avoiding, conceiving, or somewhere in between).
Reid and I had discussed FAM off and on throughout my struggles with birth control. I was under the impression that it took up a lot of time, so we agreed to wait to use it until after we had our first child. But two weeks into my second cycle on the Nuva Ring, we knew we needed a better option. For my health and for our marriage.
In twenty-four hours, I got rid of the Nuva Ring, bought the Kindle version of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, ordered a basal body thermometer (an essential, I’d been told), and got added to a Facebook designed for support for those learning and practicing FAM. Those twenty-four hours were life-changing, and for good reason.
I know everyone’s birth control experience is different. But if you are struggling on your current birth control method, I hope this post was an encouragement to you. You are not alone – birth control tends to be hard on most women (even if they don’t realize it). There are other, better options out there. I firmly believe that FAM is the best option for most women, and I wish I had started with it in the first place (and had started seeking out options sooner).
In the coming weeks, I will be sharing both my learning process for the sympto-thermal method (one of the more popular FABM methods and generally what people are referring to when they talk about FAM) as well as what I love about FAM and combatting some myths about the method.