Friday, April 07, 2006

My Delightful Adventure With Emergency Contraception

This week's "Friday Morning Goddess" was delayed because I spent most of today curled into a little ball on my bed feeling nauseous and pretty much paralyzed with a splitting headache. I was afraid that putting anything in my mouth would make me vomit, so I suffered aspirin-less with the headache for most of the day. I lay there trying not to move, looking around at the box covered mess that is my new home, praying that it would pass.

The reason, dear readers, that I was so ill today that I had to skip work and my follow up appointment with Dr. M, and will have to spend my weekend not enjoying life, not wandering around New York, not having a tasty brunch, not shopping at Bloomingdales, not seeing a movie, maybe not even being able to go to my Sunday book club, and instead will have to spend most of it AT WORK or DOING MY TAXES, is because last night I had to take emergency contraception (EC). It was horrible.

As you know, a week ago, I started officially living in sin with Boyfriend. A few nights ago, while taking advantage of our sinful living situation, we had an unfortunate incident. Damn stupid Trojans that don't even feel good and have a nasty habit of ripping into pieces. The night it happened was two days after I finished my period, so I knew that the chances of me getting pregnant were extremely slim. The prime time, from what I gather, is roughly 10 days after the end of your period. However, Boyfriend was nervous, and I too don't like the idea of playing with fire. At the moment, we can barely manage living together. A baby at this time would not be ideal.

Though I do not desire to have a baby at the moment, I was very hesitant to take the EC. In addition to the slim chances of pregnancy, I had had one other experience with EC and it made me very ill. This happened with Boyfriend about 2 years ago. (Apparently we are jinxed.) When it happened then, I remember cuddling together on the bed and talking about it, and feeling supported in taking the EC. We had both created the problem, so we were both going to solve it. Me, by taking an enormous dose of hormones that was going to totally fuck up my system and make me sick, and him, by taking care of me.

That's the deal when you have sex and the condom breaks and your girlfriend is not on the pill. She takes EC, and you take care of her. Or you have a baby. Or you don't have sex again. Ever.

During the last two days, I hesitated calling my Doctor, and our predicament kept slipping my mind. Boyfriend kept saying things like, "What are we going to do about it?," which would remind me that the 72 hour clock was ticking, and that the time for affirmative anti-baby action was running out. I ended up calling my Doctor who wrote out a prescription for me, sans the need to spread my legs and take a pregnancy test, which I really appreciated. It's always such a pleasant surprise when the medical field treats you like you have a brain, and are more than the sum of your reproductive parts.

I left my Doctor's office and headed for Duane Reade to fill the prescription. Walking towards the drug store, I actually became a little psyched and started playing out scenarios in my head in which the pharmacist would refuse to give me the EC, and I would have to stand up for all womenkind's right to EC. But by the time I reached the escalators, something completely unexpected happened. I started doubting whether I wanted to take the EC. Not because I was going to be sick from it, but because I started feeling like if I was pregnant already, I didn't want to send the soul of my potential baby back to baby purgatory. An odd thought for a feminist who believes whole heartedly in the absoluteness of women's rights to reproductive choice.

Part of my doubt was because I've reached a point in my life where I know that if I got pregnant, I would not have an abortion. I decided that for the first time, definitively, sometime last year. I'm 31, I can easily support myself, I want kids one day, and I know that I could take care of a baby at this point in my life. I know she and I would be fine (yes, I dream of little girls with long hair and braids that I can nurture into kick ass mini-feminists), and if the stars aligned and gave me a baby, I know that I would not send her back. Now that I've decided not to send any baby backs, it made me wonder whether taking the EC would be doing essentially the same thing?

It was crazy for me to be having these doubts about the EC, because that argument - that EC is just a form of abortion - is one that I have long been vehemently opposed to. If EC is the equivalent of abortion, then so is birth control. As a supporter of women's reproductive rights, that's not a position that I have ever felt comfortable conceding.

I've always thought about it this way: birth control is a preemptive measure that you do to prevent the baby from forming, whereas abortion is something you do to interrupt the development of the forming baby. (Baby, fetus, or embryo - whatever you call it the issue is the same. That's why I don't think the fight will be won through rhetoric. We need a fundamental change in social consciousness, not just language. Not likely under Bushy). Under this rationale, EC is an easy issue, as long as you buy into the existence of the 72 hour window in which prevention and not interruption can occur.

I've never looked at abortion as killing. Rather, I've looked at it as a temporary interruption of life. I imagine a whole cloud of baby souls playing around in the sky, with different souls being picked eached day to be sent down to earth to be nurtured in different women's bodies. I view pregnancy as a gift that is given to both women and men. But sometimes, for a number of different reasons, it is not the right time to receive such a gift. In those circumstances, where a miscarriage or an abortion or some other event happens, I imagine that the baby souls are sent back to play amongst their friends, until the destined day when their number is called once again.

Kooky perhaps, but the world wouldn't be a fair place any other way. And if I'm wrong about this, and upon my death some God sends me to some hell to live in eternal damnation for this view, so be it. Luckily, I believe in Goddesses, so I'm fairly certain I'm safe.

Although I've always been comfortable with the notion that I have 72 hours before I cross the line of no return into likely babydom, this time the thought of taking EC made me wonder if what I was doing was more like an interruption than a prevention. It made me a little sad at the thought that I might be sending some potential temporary inhabitant back. At least for the moment.

However, ultimately out of respect for my Boyfriend's wishes, and because of my own feeling that he and I are in no position to bring a baby into his tiny, tiny, box covered apartment at this time, I went through with it and I took the EC. At 4 pm, I took two tablets of Ogestrel 0.5/50 (Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol Tablets USP, 0.5 mg/ 0.05 mg). Approximately 12 hours later, at 4:30 am, I took 2 more tablets. Incidentally, the pharmacist conveniently gave me a whole pack of Ogestrel birth control pills (that's all EC is, this specific type of birth control pill taken at an exceptionally high dose). Therefore, I have 4 more EC doses left, in the event that Boyfriend and I ever need them again - which I, by the way, am fervently hoping we will not.

At 7:30 am, I woke up, and discovered that the massive hormonal dose had made me incredibly sick. I tried to get ready for work, but I couldn't. At 8:00 am, I was dry heaving over the toilet (which is always so gross, and guaranteed to make you feel even more like vomiting). Boyfriend left at 9:00 am after getting me an 8 oz bottle of ginger ale. I lay there on the bed feeling weak and like I was going to throw up at any minute. At 9:30 am, I had to run to the toilet again. This time instead of dry heaving, I threw up acrid tasting bright yellow frothy bile. It was awful. I stumbled back into bed and managed to sleep until 11:30 am. I still felt like I couldn't move three hours later, when Wood called (thankfully) to chat. It made it less awful to talk to a friend, at least for a little bit.

It was not until 4 pm that I started finally feeling better. I ate a bowl of cereal and was able to keep it down and took some tylenol which helped the headache. Of course, by the time I started feeling better, it was too late to go to work. I also started feeling the need to unpack boxes and tidy up. (I made quite a bit of progress if I do say so myself.)

This whole experience has left me thinking how utterly ridiculous it is that opponents of EC argue that if EC was made available over the counter, girls and women would use it as a form of birth control. Are they insane? No woman in her right mind would choose to go through this on a regular basis. This is another classic case of the Right forgetting that women are not brainless imbeciles.

It also left me thinking that women unquestionably get the short end of the sex stick. Do you know what Boyfriend did while I was lying on the bed unable to move feeling like I was going to vomit the whole day? He had a productive day at work, did his taxes, and came home at 9:30 pm. Unlike me, he does not have to go to work this weekend to make up for the consequences of us having to use EC. Two people have sex, and only one has to have her body racked by nausea. That's bullshit. The Goddesses should do something about that.


Wood said...

glad you're starting to feel better. and your underlying point about the burden that reproduction puts on women is right. it's completely unbalanced -- morning sickness, swollen ankles, weight gain, labor and delivery, recovery, breastfeeding. . .

I've been nurturing juniper's body with mine for about two years. Dutch, however, was done with the physical stuff after twenty minutes two years ago.

Amber said...

Thank you for posting this... it's important to hear from people who've used EC, especially to remind the anti-choicers that real, everyday people use it, not just some make-believe dirty sluts living in the corners of their imagination.

Hope you get to feeling better.

Sister-Friend said...

My understanding is that EC does one of two things:

It can prevent egg and sperm from coming together, or

It can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus.

I think it important for women to understand the facts of EC before using it. You are right that we women do have brains in our heads. Sometimes, though, I don't think we're provided with all the facts upfront to make an informed decision. Thank you for sharing honestly about what this experience was like for you.

Amber said...


Recent research has shown that Plan B does not prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. The news release is here.

Buttercup said...

Amber, Thanks for the link to that news release. It precisely responded to my questions regarding whether EC was "preventing" or "interrupting" "life" - at least in those circumstances where intercourse occurs before ovulation. I now understand how EC interferes with my ovulation (and thus does not allow fertilization).

I'm not clear on how EC would prevent pregnancy if intercourse occurred just after ovulation. I like Sister-Friend was under the impression that EC would also prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, but the article seems to say this is not accurate.

Hmmm... more to research. (I can't believe I don't know this already).

k said...

If you're really concerned about prevention, you should pay more heed to the 72 hr window. The effectiveness of EC is far greater at the beginning of the 72 hour window than at the end of it. Though given that you had just had your period there really was almost no chance of pregancy occuring.

As for your side effects, I had similar problems the first time I took EC many years ago when all the EC methods had both progesterone and estrogen. Not too long ago I had to take EC again, but this time I used Plan B which is progesterone only and has far fewer side effects than the combo pills. Plan B is also just as effective. Should you ever need EC again ask your doctor for Plan B specifically. It was MUCH better for me. Almost no side effects.