Shut up and take the pill

Hello all. I don’t know if you caught the article The Stigma of Abortion? but in that article I made you a promise, a promise that I would re-address the hot topic of women’s reproductive and contraceptive health care. Today is the day I make good on that promise, and I have to offer a special thank you to my amazing sister for sending me a wonderful article to underscore the necessity of writing about this misunderstood issue.

And instead of hitting you with statistics and insisting that you join me in my pro-chastity worldview (I’ll bet that just triggered some fun associations about really overdone camps with like overly peppy teens telling you condoms are bad, but hear me out. I never went to a camp like that and I have my own reasons for believing what I do) because it’s not as relevant to the major objective of today’s writing, which is this: I’m going to debunk the myth of the infallible doctor.

The myth of the infallible doctor is a tale we’ve all heard without hearing. From an early age we are subtly taught to give doctors our trust because of all the schooling it requires and all the fancy degrees they hang on their walls.

Now I have had some very good doctors in my day and I am greatly appreciative of them, but the thing that made them good was the fact that they do not subscribe to the myth of the infallible doctor.

The myth of the infallible doctor is a lie hinged on the idea that we know all there is to know in the field of medicine and treatment. Very few doctors would say they subscribe to this myth outright, but the real teller is in their treatment of you. If you have a doctor who subscribes to this myth, he will treat you as a one-size-fits-all patient.

What is a one-size-fits-all patient? Well, I am, for starters, and I am happy to share a bit of my story to illustrate my point better.

I was recently diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This condition is something of a hormone disorder that could potentially greatly affect my fertility/ability to have children. And gentleman, unlike most media outlets, I’m not going to insist that
because issues surrounding female health and birth control don’t affect you directly that you are incapable of having an opinion on them. I find that type of bias insulting and I would be insulted to be patronized by you in that way.

**But I will offer a disclaimer that I’m going to use words related to the female cycle in the coming paragraphs, so brace yourselves if you’re the shy type. **

Anyway,  around the age of 14 I went to the doctor about some hormone problems and they wanted to put me on birth control. Being naturally cautious of putting synthetic chemicals of any kind into my body (and thinking I was a bit young for that), doctors deferred to my wishes because the symptoms, while difficult to deal with sometimes, weren’t life threatening. When I was 18 the process repeated itself, but this time my cycle was proving so inconsistent that I was willing to try a low dose birth control. Because those were essentially the 2 options on the table, birth control or “just deal with it.”  Unfortunately, the low dose birth control made my symptoms even more erratic so I stopped using it with the doctor’s okay. bThey did a thyroid panel because of my family history, but they didn’t find anything and that was that. It was left unchecked until recently when a doctor wanted to put me on birth control yet again because based on what I told her it sounded like I might have something called PMDD (which is like PMS on steroids).  I told her (politely) that I would not start taking an extremely high dose birth control pill for an indefinite amount of time to treat something that it sounded like I might have based on my experiences in college. She and her colleagues, in essence, were comfortable leaving the root cause of these hormone issues for speculation and wanted to start treatment because it would most likely work and we could revisit the topic when I wanted to have kids. 

I don’t care if the “shut up and take your birth control” method is a convenient solution for women my age, a way to kill two birds with one stone in their eyes by treating my mysterious period symptoms and making me readily available for “consequence-free” sex. I have different priorities than most people my age to begin with, and I have no patience for people who offer band-aids while dismissing the root of the problem as something to be dealt with later. Because I’m not just some bubbly stereotypical 24-year-old who only cares about sex with hot guys, Pinterest desserts, and Cosmo magazine topics and who is willing to compromise her own health in the name of perpetuating the infallible doctor myth by taking the doctor’s advice unquestioningly and walking out the door with her prescription. I’m the type who strongly dislikes Cosmo, is neutral about Pinterest, and likes answers.

So, needless to say, I got a second opinion. I found a doctor recommended by a few friends who also prefer a more holistic approach to their health (but while still taking into account their safety- no Steve Job’s style deaths for us, thank you). This doctor was wonderful. She was the first doctor willing to go the distance with me. We used a Natural Family Planning method called charting (it is Catholic affiliated, so insult me if you want, and I admit it was a fun first visit because they were like “is your husband coming?” as it is usually a couples thing.) But once I explained my reasons they were happy to take me on and I was assigned a certified instructor to help me chart my cycle (many an awkward phone conversation, but she was always kind and professional) as well as an actual doctor who was a certified gynecologist. I learned so much about my actual health and body from those two women, so far beyond the “shut up and take the pill” attitude of mainstream medicine. It was like taking an actual class in addition to being treated, and I’ve retained what I learned there to this day.

Anyway, it was from this method we found out that I was not ovulating (as healthy women my age naturally do) and they believed that this could be the result of PCOS. We did bloodwork and an ultrasound (also an interesting experience sans husband) and the diagnosis was confirmed.

After all those years, that is what had been wrong the whole time, and nobody caught it. There might even be a corrective minor surgery I can have done to get my body doing what it should be doing naturally, so that I won’t have to take birth control indefinitely (and if I ever did need to take the pill as treatment to synthetically supply a chemical my body naturally doesn’t make enough of, I’ll be able to find one compatible to specifically treating PCOS.)

Sure that’s nice and all, but what does it have to do with the hot topic of women’s reproductive and contraceptive health care? I would argue it has everything to do with it. Because women’s health care is so easily reduced to shutting up and taking the pill and wearing pink while you go and get regular mammograms to check for breast cancer. And it is so much more than that. Women’s health care so easily falls prey to the infallible doctor myth because instead of finding the best solution they settle for the most convenient ones, like one-size-fits-all treatments and the pill. But the facts get lost in the heated political rhetoric, as they often do, and the debate gets shifted to who should pay and for what, forget about whether or not the treatment is even good or beneficial in the first place.

And what makes me sad is that so many women believe this myth and accept this lot for themselves as they rally around birth control as the end of the line, the most innovative and best thing for women because, while we can’t eat any synthetic chemicals in our food, we can easily ingest chemicals into our bodies through the birth control pill, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. It’s almost an expected right of passage until you want to have kids and it has become so first in line for treatment that equally beneficial, more holistic care such as the type I described is barely acknowledged, instead getting written off as inferior even though without it I would still have no diagnosis. And that strikes me as odd because I thought the whole goal of any women’s movement was for women to have options, so that women like me, who don’t even like taking Advil aren’t bullied into shutting up and taking the pill just because “that’s what other women do.” I confess it makes me wonder what the real goals of the women’s health care movement actually are; because if finally giving me a proper diagnosis, opening up a host of natural treatment options that will give me regular, healthier cycles (not laden with painful PMS for the first time in my young life),  and going a long way in saving my future fertility is not seen as a validation of the efforts of women’s reproductive healthcare rights then what exactly is the desired outcome of the services they provide?

I get tired of incomplete pictures, tired of the people limiting the function of the women’s healthcare system to simply enabling women to become sexualized objects who don’t get pregnant or mothers who do. I get tired of the silence, how doctors don’t want to be bothered with women whose bodies are giving them grief unless said women are trying to have kids and can’t. But what’s gets me the most is that women are expected to handle any issues related to the female body privately and quietly as if it’s something to be ashamed of, something we’re not supposed to talk about because the female body is a nuisance if it’s not providing pleasure or birthing a child. And we deserve better than that, we really do. 

And I’d like to thank my NFP doctors once again for not subscribing to the infallible doctor myth or treating me like a one-size-fits-all patient. Because not only have they made fantastic strides in restoring my health and given me a great network of doctors and friends to help me learn how to take care of myself (and giggle about charting with), they ended that silence and they listened to me.   

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Are soulmates still a thing?

So I was hanging out with my single friends, I guess I could say we were hanging out because technically I’m single too, but they were on the prowl and I’m not (trust me there’s a huge difference) and they we’re talking about guys non-stop. I was mostly listening because with me not being on the prowl there was really not much I could add unless you count the fact that my kind-hearted, completely platonic male co-worker bought me a Panera chocolate chip cookie.

In short, my night was full of stories about crappy dating misadventures where they regaled me with tales of awkward encounters with the opposite sex.  It was entertaining as anything, don’t get me wrong, but I felt all adult-y because it was the first time I’d seen these old friends in a while and they are far more stereotypical twenty-somethings than I am (in that they go out on Friday nights and I like to be in bed by 11 because that is literally when I start to fall asleep.)

Yet with my premature adultness, I noticed a weird paradox about my friends as they were telling these stories that has bugged me ever since. And the paradox was this: they both really wanted to meet a nice guy and be in a good relationship while all the while dating these zeros/jerks/losers/whatever you want to call them. (I’ll go with non-gentleman.) Yet they still proceeded to man bash their dates like the more traditional feminists they are (calm down, I’m feminist too but of a different kind that I’ve already described in detail with Bad Feminism and Equality for All.)

But this cycle of the wanting and the compromising and the disappointment and the bashing really upset me, being the tenderhearted person I am, because I have the perfect solution to this problem, one that I wish more women would utilize. In fact, it even works for men too, just reverse the genders. The perfect solution to going on a date with a non-gentleman is this: don’t call him back, agree to go out with him again, or talk to him again ever beyond what polite conversation requires.

Every time I speak (or write I suppose) like that everyone tells me I’m oversimplifying things. Not at all. I think the truth is a very simple thing, it’s humans who make everything complicated. Because here’s the thing, all of my friends in attendance that night were very sweet, kind, and intelligent and I enjoy being their friend. They each have a desire to be loved, not even in a stupid Nicholas Sparks kind of way, but for who they are. Yet they, along with most of my fellow millennials, all seem to feel that they should compromise on this desire. Blame the media, blame the parenting, blame the scars of the divorce generation and lousy marriage statistics, blame the decline in religious morality, blame the skepticism that true love even exists, blame it on the millennials themselves for being self-centered, afraid/unable to commit, and having no clue what to do with their lives. However, the fact remains that many a person in my generation who reads Buzzfeed’s “Top 10 reasons why you should be in a relationship” or “Top 12 reasons why being single is the best” has become so overloaded with statistics and advice that something awful is happening, we’ve collectively made dating/relationships/marriage meaningless, just empty terms that can mean whatever you want them to mean.

Dating and relationships should be more than just a series of whatevers. And I would argue that relationships now are almost casual to a fault. Because the truth is if you meet someone who doesn’t even care enough about you to ask your last name before wanting to hook up with you, it is a clear signal that you are completely dispensable to that person, simply a means to their pleasure, because he or she is looking to use you for sex. You know that, the other person knows that, and if you proceed to hook up, you’ve made a terrible compromise. You settled for love’s cheap imitation, instead of taking the time to cultivate real and authentic love (which can be done even while you’re not dating as you learn to love and respect yourself). 

Justify it however you want to- say you enjoy sex or wanted to feel in control or didn’t want to be alone or you’re a slave to your passions and just had to have it. Maybe you don’t believe love exists anymore so why not? Maybe you didn’t feel like waiting. Maybe you didn’t want to take the risk. Maybe you’ve just plain been hurt before and wanted something “simple.” Maybe you believe the lie that sex is just pleasure and that it doesn’t mean anything or that it doesn’t count as being used if there were two consenting adults who each knew they were being used but wanted to do it anyway for any of the reasons I described above.

I point this out not to judge, but because in spite of those many reasons the truth still remains that you deserve better. I hope you know that. And I think my friends knew that deep down, because the point where they finished telling me their dating misadventures is precisely the point where the disappointment kicked in. That’s the place where the bitterness and the man-bashing began, where conversations of “there are just no good guys out there” and “screw this we don’t need them we’re just as tough, financially independent (etc)” started to happen.

It was an upsetting conversation for me to hear as their friend, but it ultimately brings us back around to my perfect solution, because by not dating or having any type of sexual encounter with a non-gentleman you spare yourself that entire cycle. I know the hookup roller coaster may seem fun at first, like you’re living a popular TV sitcom: the drama of being single and young and free and endearingly unlucky in love until one day that perfect person comes around the corner and changes everything (and that, kids, is how I met your father). And I hope for your sake that you’re right, but I’m more inclined to believe that that is a lie as fake as the sitcom set. Because the truth is when you waste your formative years dating the wrong kinds of people it is much more likely you will simply get sucked into the cycle I described and remain alone or much worse: in a bad relationship, instead of preparing to become the type of person who will be ready when the right person does come around the corner. 

And even though I am currently single (which always gets thrown in my face whenever I offer any sort of dating advice) the gentleman method, as I’m coining it from now on, has been extremely effective for me because even when the relationship didn’t work out with the gentleman, we usually remained friends and I could walk away with complete faith in the opposite gender and an appreciation for their complementary abilities. No bashing was necessary because the relationship was always based on a mutual respect for the dignity of the other, and that does not end once the romantic portion of the relationship is over. And unlike these disappointing hook-ups, this type of dating prepares me for future relationships, because they lead me not to a lifetime of casual and increasingly unsatisfying hookups, but to marriage. Maybe not everyone wants that to be the end result of their dating, but even people who are against monogamy or marriage usually want some form or imitation of it, someone to love them when they are not sexually attractive anymore (it’ll happen to all of us). But as for me, I think soulmates are still a thing, mostly because I refuse to believe I’m the only one who embarrassed myself by crying the first time I saw Disney/Pixar’s Up.

And also a little during the short film with the volcanoes…

v

Three Kids was Enough

Today I’d like to thank Cecile Richards, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, for inspiring the title of this post. I recently read an article where she defends her and her husband’s choice to end the life of her fourth child in the hopes of reversing the stigma of abortion.

It truly bothers me, how she claims that it was an easy decision, as casual as deciding where to go for breakfast in the morning. Ultimately she and her husband reasoned that their family was big enough with three children and they didn’t want it to be any bigger, therefore they had the right to end the life of their unborn child. While abortion advocates always insist that an abortion is merely a medical procedure (as insignificant as getting your wisdom teeth pulled) I can’t believe that among rational, educated people it is accepted that intentionally stopping the heartbeat of another person is not murder, but good medical practice and a fundamental resource for female contraception.

Because it’s just like the situation from Girl Please where arguments are expected to stand in one instance, but not in another and no one blinks twice at the hypocrisy. If Cecile Richards “aborted” her 4-year-old child with surgical instruments on the same logical grounds that her family was already large enough, she would be rotting in jail for murder. But since presumably she had the “procedure” before her “fetus” reached the subjective legal deadline that qualifies you as a human baby these days, she faces no legal repercussions for actions. It’s brilliant actually.  Her child was legally deprived of his or her basic human rights by being disqualified as a human. That is the logic and reasoning echoed in infamously lethal ideologies such as Nazism and racism.  And of course, let’s not forget the eugenics that inspired Planned Parenthood in the first place manifested in the desire to grant the right to life on a selective basis only.

What makes it especially clever is the subtlety, how it shifts the focus from the desired elimination by clouding the death, or “outcome” (let’s not use the strong language of truth as we might offend someone) as deserved, convenient, or justifiable because the target was determined less than human by those in power.  And with the ensuing societal acceptance wrapped up in pretty legalize and medical terminology, Ms. Richards is free to spend her days perpetuating a woman’s “right” to deny rights to others deemed less worthy of those rights in the eyes of the law. Even though this is branded as the height of progressive modernity, it sounds a lot like oppression to me.

However, there is one thing Cecile Richards and I agree on, her words that:

“when politicians argue and shout about abortion, they’re talking about me — and millions of other women around the country.”

Yes, yes they are, and that conversation should include all women. Those politicians and pro-choice media personalities don’t simply get to silence my dissent by dismissing myself and the women in my family as “ignorant” and “Christian.” But I imagine they would certainly try because we would be Cecile Richard’s nightmare if this theoretical conversation was actually inclusive because the populace would risk hearing the tale of my mother who made the opposite choice of Cecile when she found out she was pregnant with her fourth child and my youngest brother.

Yes, in the year 2000 when I was just shy of turning ten years old I found out my parents were expecting another child. Although my parents welcomed the idea of having a baby, my mother, as I found out later, was justifiably terrified. Not only was she thirty-eight, but she had already had two bouts of thyroid cancer and was worried the chemicals from chemotherapy alone could result in serious deformities. Doctors suggested abortion as an option, but my mom really does believe in life, and believed that my brother was my brother at the moment of his conception and that there was a purpose to his life. So she decided to just trust beyond the fear and press forward.

When my brother was born we did discover that he had apraxia, which is a learning disability where (and I’m oversimplifying a bit but this is my understanding of it) the brain knows what it wants to say but has trouble communicating it. Doctors were worried that he would never be able to read. However, with the help of some amazing intervention specialists, he left kindergarten above grade level and has been at or above grade level ever since. No stranger to adversity, at age ten he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, Type 1. He takes insulin shots with every meal. It is discouraging sometimes because he’s a sweet young man and he was more mature about it then I would have been in his shoes. Yet day in and day out he’s my little brother. He’s in the marching band, he loves Star Wars, and he hates social media so I’m going to stop before I give away too many personal details and he gets mad at me. I lucked out with him because he’s absolutely fantastic and we are very close, to the point where I couldn’t imagine my life without him and I certainly wouldn’t want to. I am so grateful to my mother for saying yes to life and being open to the possibility that maybe three kids wasn’t enough, because she has given me and my youngest brother a chance to know and love one another in this life, a chance that Cecile Richards’ three children will never have with their youngest brother (or sister). And that is the reality that gets left out of the conversation, the part that nobody wants to talk about.

I tell you this not to oversimplify the situation or instantly convert you to the pro-life cause. I’m telling you this because the quality of a life cannot be measured by any human intellect. It so far surpasses our expectations, predictions, and understandings, and any attempt to determine a standard for what constitutes a quality life is a dangerous and deadly game that we have no right to play. Even though I have told you parts of my family’s tale, none of us have any right to comment on my mother’s decision or debate whether or not my brother’s life was “worth it” (a disgusting endeavor but one that our cold and calculating culture of death permits), not even my mother herself. Because while she carried my brother and has cared for him in every way, she did not create his life, it was only entrusted to her and my father. And that responsibility, while overwhelming and frightening at times by its sheer magnitude, is never something we should shrink from if we hope to retain our humanity.

Life is a gift and it is anything but standard, and I hate the frightening consensus that life only counts as quality if it’s sanctioned by the parents, privileged, pain-free and perpetually satisfying. We create such a phony ideal through the media that we too quickly forget that life is intrinsically valuable and infinitely worthwhile. We’ve been so trained to live only for earth and create a legacy in the shifting sands of time (a futile effort at best) that we forget our heavenly significance, the destiny our Father had planned for us the moment He first breathed life into veins. Because not only were we made to live, we were made to live forever.

Don’t ever give up on that promise.