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There’s no pleasant way of saying this (Lord knows I’ve tried to find one…)
The other night, I accidentally pulled out my Mirena coil, thinking it was a tampon.
> Insert green vomiting-face emoji here <
*There’s an important reason I’m sharing this ghastly tale with you, though, so I hope you’ll stick around and hear me out.
For most of my sexual life, the only method of birth control I took seriously was screaming at whomever I was bonking at the time to pull out before the fatal moment.
Ah, good old-fashioned withdrawal.
I won’t lie, this method served me pretty well physically (i.e. I’ve never been with child), but it sure wasn’t great for my peace of mind.
Like most of my friends, I didn’t have the sense to back up my danger-bonks by keeping tabs on my period cycle.
In fact, because I had no idea when to expect it, every period was a surprise; welcome on the one hand, because it meant there was no proverbial bun in my oven, infuriating on the other, because - of course - it would always come on the one day of the month I’d opted to wear white, and wouldn’t be in reach of a tampon for at least three hours.
When I met my now-boyfriend Joey Wilderness in 2015, very quickly it became clear that we were each other’s ‘ones’ – which translated to me as:
Fuuuuuuuuck! If I get pregnant with him I’ll have to keep it!
(If it hasn’t already registered, I’m not the most maternal of lasses).
This realisation unnerved me enough to actually start taking my god-given ability to reproduce seriously.
Having bombarded every single female I’d ever met with overly personal questions about their preferred method of contraception, I weighed up the evidence.
Now, I’ve tried several different birth-control pills throughout my life, as I couldn’t find one that didn’t result in a horrible smattering of acne across my back.
Because of this, I thought I’d try something different this time around, and the Mirena coil seemed the lesser of lots of apparent evils:
Whilst it was a hormonal device and the insertion was reported to be notably unpleasant, the benefits tended to include shorter, lighter - or in some cases NO – periods (hooray! I could wear white again!)
Also, the Mirena coil is able to stay up there for a solid five years before it needs to be re-inserted.
(Which translated to me as: Wahoo! No more mid-bonk panics that in nine months, I might have to push a baby out of my vagina! Five more blissful YEARS of baby free-dom!)
So, with a heady combination of excitement (for the outcome) and trepidation (for the process involved in getting there), I jacked myself up with a heavy dose of painkillers and took me and my uterus on down to my local GP.
I’ll keep this bit brief: the procedure was no picnic, and the following weeks weren’t, either.
But, soon enough, I was delighted that sexy time was no longer fraught with baby-making anxiety.
We bonked on the beaches.
We bonked in the hills.
We bonked in the fields and in the streets (ok, like, one time).
And it was bloody marvellous.
Whenever family members begged to know when they could expect to see a baby bump, I jubilantly exclaimed:
“Not for at least another four years – absolute minimum,” I told them a year in; “I have the coil, don’t you know, and it’s extremely reliable.”
*Small print: So long as you don’t mistake the thready bit for a tampon string and yank it out your Nun, it is.
The weekend following the accidental coil-withdrawal debarcle, my poor boyfriend got it in the neck.
Perhaps it was the sudden lack of hormones circulating around my womb, but everything he (and other men) did that weekend got right on my tits.
“Babe, I know you’re sore, but please don’t shout at me – I’m only trying to help you,” Joey Wilderness said after I criticised the temperature of the hot water bottle he’d made me.
“It’s not you, it’s the patriarchy!!” I wailed as I lay curled up in the foetal position on our sofa, mouth full of Dairy Milk.
Despite all the atrocities and inequality women have ever had to endure as a result of the patriarchal social structure, this was the situation that most fervently stirred my feministic fury (again, blame the hormones).
It’s just that it suddenly dawned on me how very unfair it is that both a man and a woman get to enjoy the sexy bit of sex, but it’s only the woman that has to physically deal with the consequences of it.
I don’t know why, but that had never quite landed for me before.
The reality is, patriarchal social structure aside, natural (or divine…) law once decided that only female humans would be gifted (or burdened – depending on how you look at it) with pregnancy and birth.
And you can rant, rail or bury your head in the sand as much as you like my friend, but it ain’t gonna change a damn thing.
If you’re blessed with the gift of fertility (- and however much I joke about/ fear it, I do know in my soul that it’s a blessing -) then you have a responsibility to at least pay some loving attention to this reality.
So, ghastly as this whole experience was for me, it did present me with a new opportunity to practice self-love in the reproductive arena.
Firstly, I decided that it was high time I started getting to know and understand my menstrual cycle so that I’d at least have some idea what the hell was going on in my womb – and when, and why.
After all, this is a process that happens every single month for the majority of a female’s adult life; of all the things to bury our head in the sand over – this ain’t the one, surely?
Also, if - like me, you want a man to respect the sanctity of your uterus, as with everything else in life, you have to respect it yourself, first.
Which is why I took the advice of my friend and business mentor Lucy Sheridan, and downloaded the free app ‘Clue’, which is designed to make tracking your fertility accurate, fast and friendly, and enables you to keep tabs on your monthly cycle by entering data about your period, pain, mood and sexual activity.
Quite frankly, I think downloading and using Clue is up there with the most grown up, loving thing I’ve ever done for me and my body.
The second thing I did was to invest in a one-off consultation and check up with a private doctor, to make sure I hadn’t damaged myself in the yanking-out process.
I know not everyone’s in the financial position to do this (at least, not on a regular basis), but it occurred to me that if I’m willing to spend a fair bit of dollar to eat healthily and exercise in order to care for my body – or a good chunk of money on a festival ticket to bring joy to my soul, then every once in a while I should be OK with spending a quarter of that to care for my baby-carrying vessel in a far more pleasant, non-rushed manner than our poor NHS can afford to offer me.
The third thing I did was as much a step (in my mind) for womankind, as it was for me personally:
I asked my boyfriend to pay half the cost of this check-up (“as a gesture - for women everywhere!!”)
– Not because I was short of money, but because I wanted an acknowledgement of the fact this was actually a shared responsibility.
If our sex life does one day result in me having to push a baby out of my vagina, he’ll be the one having to stand at the other end ready to catch it (metaphorically).
And he’ll also expect to share the cost of nurturing that little sniggler.
So, why shouldn’t he share the cost of keeping me baby-free?
Heterosexual intercourse is a two-player game; without a man’s participation, there’d be no need for birth control.
Plus, considering I’d had a piece of hormone-secreting plastic lodged in my womb for a year and a half for the purposes of our mutual pleasure, I figured it was the least he could do.
Now, the important thing to note here is that I am not making any suggestions or claims about which mode of birth control you should use (or whether you should even use one).
I’m simply asking you to consider becoming conscious of your ability to create a human being – and make an informed decision about what to do with this information, rather than avoiding the reality of it like I did most of my life because it’s fucking scary.
While writing this article, I spoke to lots of friends and read all sorts on t’internet about this topic, and it’s safe to say, lots of people out there do have an opinion about the many positives and negatives of contraception.
“You MUST get back on the pill, immediately!”
“Whatever you do, do NOT get back on the pill – it’s an attack on your womanhood!”
“Just get that coil re-inserted – that obviously makes the most sense!”
I’ve pretty much heard it all, and after a good week of feeling massively conflicted about the next right course of action to take, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll do what’s right for ME, thank you very much.
From where I stand, womankind hasn’t come this far in gaining control over our bodies only to be judged or criticised by other women for their choice of contraception.
Our bodies are all different.
Our lives are all different.
What’s right for me probably isn’t right for you – and vice versa.
And, like most things in life, our relationship with our birth control choices is an evolving dynamic; what worked for us a year ago might not necessarily work for us today.
Towards the end of this year, my boyfriend and I will be setting off for an epic six month adventure travelling around the world.
We like to have sex (which you may have deduced from the amount of times I’ve said ‘bonk’ in this piece) and I know travelling to exotic destinations is only going to make us want to bonk even more.
So, what feels the closest to ‘right’ for me and us right now – is to go back on the pill, at least while we’re travelling.
Am I happy about this?
I’m livid about it, actually.
Because - fake hormones? BLEUUURGH. No one actively wants them, do they?
Also, having tried several different pills throughout my life, I’m under no illusion that this new pill I’ve been recommended is going to be side-effect free.
However, I’m willing to at least give it a fair trial period this summer, because it’s that - or risking getting pregnant while we’re exploring remote mountain villages in Nepal or India.
Where I am in my life right now, I’d much rather a few side effects - assuming they’re bearable, of course.
(And, before you ask, my boyfriend and I are no longer going to pretend that we’ll “just use condoms”. We won’t. We’re honestly more likely to opt for celibacy as a method of contraception. But, that’s just us).
All in all, as you already know, contraception’s only ever going to be a compromise at best.
There is no ideal course of action – at least, not one that I’m aware of.
There’s just whatever’s the best course for you (and your partner), at any given time.
If nothing else, I hope that reading this has at least encouraged you to investigate what that might be.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Have you had any awful experiences with birth control (or the lack of it)!? How did you deal with it?
If you have any thoughts, tips or suggestions around how to manage this non-negotiable area of female life, I’d genuinely LOVE for you to share with me below – knowledge is power! (Please be respectful – this is a judgement free zone).
P.S. If you want support in getting the love life you desire (and deserve), book a complimentary coaching call with me by emailing email@example.com - I’d love to get to know you :)