Love, Life Stories

I couldn’t figure out my body, until the moment birth control ruined my life

I needed to know what I was doing that made it so difficult for me to feel happy.

When I first started using birth control, I told my primary care doctor that I was sexually active and would like to be put on the Pill. She barely asked me any questions before she prescribed me a combination pill with both estrogen and progesterone and sent me on my way. I figured that that was that, and off I went.

[bctt tweet=”When my doctor prescribed me my birth control, I figured that was that, and off I went. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Cut to about two years later.

I was fresh out of a depressive episode after my freshman year at university, and still reeling. I was doing better but still not doing my best; feeling numb instead of flourishing, like I should be at college. It was like the happiness that I had felt before, real joy, wasn’t an option anymore.

I needed to know what I was doing to make it so difficult to feel happy.

[bctt tweet=”I needed to know what I was doing to myself that made it so difficult to feel happy.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I don’t know about you, but I like to moonlight as a doctor with the Mayo Clinic’s website as my guide. In my Internet research, I found that one of side effects for hormonal birth control was depression. A light went off in my head. This might be my answer. The more research I did, the more it started to dawn on me – I knew nothing about my body. I had no idea how the menstrual cycle worked. I had no idea what the birth control was really doing to my body. It was all a bit of a shock.

How could I never have learned? My mom definitely taught me some things. And I remember reading the book by the American Girl corporation, The Care and Keeping of YouThat book taught me about puberty and how to put in a tampon, but it definitely didn’t go into the hormonal changes that would be affecting me every month. And it certainly didn’t go into the details of the actual, physical changes that I could observe in my own body, month to month.

Something about the science fascinated me. Getting into the nitty-gritty was important.

It gave me a feeling of ownership over my body.

If I was going to do this, I was going to do this right. I read books about the menstrual cycle, and truly started understanding why it was called a cycle. It wasn’t just a week out of every month where I was inconvenienced. It was a beautiful time. I could celebrate my body and the fact that we had evolved to have these distinct phases in the menstrual cycle, each where something wholly different occurred. And I learned that each different phase meant that I would feel differently and needed to give my body different types of care. I was empowered in my research. I finally felt like I was in control of my understanding of my body.

[bctt tweet=”Learning about the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle fascinated me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

But I was still on the Pill. And I would be for another couple months after discovering this new knowledge. Finally, I had had it. One day, I just stopped. I was done putting synthetic hormones into my body. For me, it just wasn’t working.

I was off any form of birth control for a couple months. I wanted to let my body get the excess synthetic material out. And in that time I did more research. I didn’t want to go in to the doctor’s unprepared again. I wanted to have all of the information on my side when I asked for something new.

It came down to two options – a non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), or the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).

FAM was based upon the science of fertility signs, like cervical fluid and basal body temperature. If you’ve heard of these practices, it’s usually because they are used by women who are trying to become pregnant. With FAM, you follow the same signs, but then taking the opposite precautions. With the IUD, it was essentially set it, and forget it. Both were non-hormonal, but FAM required a good amount of effort. The non-hormonal IUD could last up to 10 years, and with the way that birth control was being discussed by politicians, I was ready to jump on a method that would last me a decade.

So I did. And for a while, I was happy.

I wasn’t putting any more hormones into my body, and I felt happier knowing I was protected. Everything was working great. And then I traveled to Italy for a semester abroad. I was excited to not have to pack birth control to take with me, happy about the convenience of my method. Then my IUD partially expelled.

I was frustrated. I was so excited that I had been feeling better and was gutted that the IUD had failed. Expulsion is a risk with IUDs, but not an especially common one. And the odds of an IUD working again after one expulsion go down by a lot. If it happens once, it’ll happen again. So I had the IUD removed, and then I was stuck with a question.

If I didn’t want to be using hormonal birth control, and the risk of IUD expulsion being even higher because of what had just happened, what was I going to do?

[bctt tweet=”If I didn’t want to be using hormonal birth control, what was I going to do?” username=”wearethetempest”]

And that is when I chose to start using FAM. I was in a good place with my cycle, and I wanted to try following my signs of fertility, learning about my body. My partner was on board with me trying. I had already done the research. The only thing left to do would be to put it into practice. So I did.

There’s a learning curve to FAM, that’s for certain. I started with a simple basal body temperature thermometer from the drugstore, and charted on paper, with a chart I found online. Now I use the Daysy, which is a sophisticated piece of menstrual technology. It’s designed to take your temperature and by following your temperature, it can tell you when you’re ovulating, what days are your fertile days, and which days you are infertile.

Did you know women are only fertile about a week out of the month? At all other times, the chances of pregnancy go down to almost zero. We really aren’t the walking baby machines I used to think we are! If you want to learn more about charting and FAM, here is my favorite FAM YouTuber. Her whole channel is dedicated to talking about FAM and how it really is a viable, non-hormonal birth control, and that it really does work.

I can’t explain how happy I am that I found FAM. Learning about my body has changed my own experience from month to month. I am more in tune with how I am feeling, and why. Something I would have dismissed before, like acne, is actually a sign of the different phases. And to me, that’s a beautiful thing.

Will I ever go on birth control again? Who knows. But the journey I have had has helped me discover just how amazing my body is.