I feel like I’m pretty lucky these days. I’ve got two kids that I love and a long marriage with a guy that I really like (who seems to like me back.) I’m also lucky that I don’t have a whole bunch of kids, because we don’t use any standard form of birth control. Not condoms, not The Pill, not a diaphragm or an IUD. Nothing, just good old-fashioned cavewoman-era “natural family planning,” as my mom used to call it.
I’ve tried many times over the past 20 years to find a birth control method that works for me, but they’ve always made me sick. I started on The Pill when I was around 16 to help treat irregular and extremely painful periods, and it worked pretty well. But when I was in college, I started having anxiety attacks and depression, so a therapist suggested going off The Pill to see if some of my symptoms could be reduced. It worked. My depression was a deeper issue than just The Pill, but taking the hormones out of the equation helped enormously.
I tried using a diaphragm, but the spermicide caused me to have a disgusting and miserable reaction, so we switched over to condoms. After my college boyfriend and I broke up, those condoms became an important part of my sexual health while I was single and dating.
But then I met my husband. As irrational as it sounds, we started trying to have a baby not long after we met. We ditched condoms altogether, and soon I was pregnant.
After our oldest son was born, I tried going on The Pill again, but no matter how many different ones I tried, they always made me feel like crap. I also tried a hormonal ring that fits around the cervix … but within hours became so nauseous that I vomited, so I took it out. A month later, when I tried again, the same thing happened. Back to condoms.
After the birth of our second son, I thought I’d found birth control paradise when I found out about the copper IUD. I knew I didn’t want more kids for a long time, if ever, and many of the doctors, nurses and techs in my doctor’s practice absolutely raved over their copper IUDs. Five to ten years without having to worry about birth control or pregnancy sounded like heaven. It was not. Never in my life have I been more miserable than when I had the IUD. Within a week, my irritability levels skyrocketed, I bled almost non-stop and was changing super-plus tampons every hour for weeks on end.
The next fun side-effect of the IUD was painful body aches so intense that I thought I had the flu, but it never ended. A few months later I started having episodes where I would randomly start to sweat. Not just a light shvitz; it was the kind of sweat that drips down your face and soaks your shirt and the crotch of your pants. Not cute. Finally, a bout of pain in my lower abdomen sent me to urgent care and my doctor took out my IUD. My symptoms disappeared within a week.
That was four years ago. Since then, my husband and I have been using no birth control whatsoever. We’ve talked about him getting a vasectomy, but he’s irrationally terrified of the entire concept. He’s been to two different preliminary visits with a urologist, both times they tell him he’s a great candidate, but something stops him. He’s talked to men who’ve had vasectomies and are really happy with the results. He even talked to my dad about it (though the main thing I learned from that conversation is that listening in on your husband and dad talking about sperm and gonads is just not something a woman wants to be a part of).
The truth is, we’re in a place in our lives where, if I did get pregnant, we would be okay. We might not actively try for a third child — we’re both way too busy with work and the kids and our teeny tiny house is already bursting with growing boys — but I think the fact that our boys are getting so big makes us a bit wistful for babyhood. We both ooh and ahh at babies, and talk about how much we miss those adorable preschool years. And our boys, now 10 and 8 years old, tell us all the time that they wish they had a baby brother or sister.
And so we rely upon one of the least reliable forms of birth control: the withdrawal method. I know it sounds juvenile, but this roll of the dice is exactly the type of chance we don’t mind taking. We’re happy with our family as it is … but we could be just as happy with an adorable little bonus baby, too.More On