VasecTimy: Why We Need a Permanent Option
Now that we’ve arrived at t-minus two days until Tim’s vasectomy (and he has PROMISED me a guest post, so let’s all hold him to it!), I thought I’d share a bit about why he and I have chosen a permanent birth control option.
The really short version of this story is that it’s just about our only birth control option left. But the longer version begins with one simple statement:
I am birth control challenged.
That’s right. Birth control challenged. As in, just about every birth control option available to us is not an option at all. (And YES, people, I’m going to get to the miraculous wonders of Natural Family Planning in just a second.)
“But, but..!” you say. “What about this amazing option?!”
Nope. Not that option. Not that one either. And nope! Not that one.
But why not the pill (or another hormone-based birth control)?
1. I was on the pill for most of my late teens and early twenties, and I don’t want to infuse my body with all those hormones anymore. Now, please note that this is radically different from suggesting that hormone-based birth control pills are inherently evil or dangerous. They’re not. I even think that they were the absolute best birth control option for me when I used them. On the other hand, they aren’t without risks either. And I’m simply not willing to take on those risks, or to compound them with continued use, any longer.
2. I’m still breastfeeding, and the last time I took the birth control pill that was compatible with breastfeeding, it led to some pretty severe emotional consequences. In fact, stopping the pill helped me to recover from postpartum depression after Miles was born. I’m definitely not willing to compromise my mental and emotional health like that again.
But why not a diaphragm?
You need to use spermicide with a diaphragm, and after Alec was born, I broke out into a rash all up and down my legs whenever Tim and I used spermicide.
Do you know what kills the mood really fast?
An itchy rash running up and down your legs, that’s what.
But why not a condom?
I have a latex sensitivity. And by “sensitivity,” I mean that when Tim and I were using condoms after Alec (our second child) was born, the pain would take my breath away. It wasn’t a friction sort of pain: in other words, needing more lube wasn’t the problem. (Hello, Internet. Welcome to Kristen’s Overshare Café.) It was the same sort of pain that I developed soon afterward when I put on a pair of latex gloves and felt an awful burning sensation on my skin.
EXCEPT WITH A CONDOM, I FELT IT IN MY VAGINA.
Latex allergies and sensitivities aren’t all that uncommon either, especially for someone like me who spent a couple years working in a profession where I wore latex gloves many times during the day. (During high school, I worked at an orthodontist’s office and cleaned all of the instruments each afternoon. Fun/gross/interesting, right?)
So…yeah. No latex condoms (or gloves) in our house.
Or in my vagina.
But why not an IUD?
Allow me to be clear: I know many, many people who love their IUDs. I don’t doubt this love, nor do I doubt that an IUD could have been a great option for me. But what happened with the IUD I chose to try after Miles was born was both highly unusual (think a 1 out of 1000 chance of occurring) and terribly traumatic for me.
Right before the IUD insertion, I told my physician that I had an extremely high pain tolerance but a rather low threshold for discomfort. In other words, I didn’t think that I’d need a local anesthetic for the insertion, but I wasn’t opposed to using it if the experience became too intense for me. And I meant this in all sincerity: it is, I think, a truthful self-evaluation.
Yet very shortly into the procedure, I was begging for the drugs. I wasn’t even using narcotic pain medication two days after my cesarean section, I never once asked for an epidural during my vaginal births, and here I was begging my doctor for drugs–something, anything to take away the pain.
Once he was finished, I asked if I could lie on the table for a few seconds to gather myself. When I later I stood up, I felt woozy and nearly fell into the chair in front of me. I asked if that was normal, and the most I got was a condescending smile and a nod. (Sometimes I wonder if they were thinking, “Oh, a high pain tolerance, hmm?!”)
And then once I arrived home, I literally crawled from my car to the front door.
Something wasn’t right.
I called my parents (a nurse and a doctor), and they suggested that I call my OB/GYN’s office to let them know how much pain I was in. And so I did. I even let the nurse on the line know that I thought I might be bleeding a bit more than I was supposed to.
She suggested that I take a Motrin and report back if there were any “real problems.”
The next morning, I was still in pain. I could feel that something wasn’t right. And by mid-morning, I was feeling spasms in my bladder.
The nurse the day before had told me that my urine levels looked like I might be close to getting a urinary tract infection, so all I needed to do was call the office if I experienced any physical symptoms over the weekend and they would call in a prescription for me.
And so I did. I described my pain and the rest of my symptoms too. And I began my antibiotics later that afternoon.
By Sunday, I was still in pain, except now the location of the pain was a bit different. My parents were both concerned, and my father was especially concerned, calling to check on me just about every two hours.
This, I knew, meant that something could be serious. My siblings and I have always joked that my dad (who’s seen his fair share of real emergencies in the ER) would tell us to “quit our whining and take a Tylenol” if we were on our death beds. But my condition was worrisome enought to warrant some major concern on his part.
So I called the office again. I explained my concerns again. I described the location and sensation of my pain again.
And I started to feel more like a pest than a patient when the nurse on the line brushed off my concerns yet again.
The next day–Monday–I left to teach one of my Intro to Ethics sections at the local university. My first course of business was to go over a recent quiz that they had taken. But as I looked at the quiz key, I realized that I couldn’t figure out how to decipher it–the pain, the wooziness, all that I was feeling made it nearly impossible for me to read a simple mutiple choice quiz key.
So I looked at my students, told them that class was canceled, and asked one of them to walk me to my car.
By the time I got home, I was feeling pain whenever I sat down.
At this point, when I made my fourth call to the office and described the location of this pain, they finally asked me to come in for an evaluation.
As the sonographer rolled the transducer over my abdomen, she tried to mask her look of shock as she walked out the door to get the OB/GYN who was in the office that day. When the doctor arrived in the room, she too looked at the ultrasound with barely-masked concern. She didn’t even explain to me what was wrong before she asked me to put my clothes on and follow her into my office.
As far as they could tell, the IUD had perforated my uterus during insertion. What’s more, it had migrated entirely outside of my uterus and, from what I was describing, was likely lodged in between my bowels and my uterus.
The next day, I underwent a laparoscopy to have the IUD removed. It would be an understatement to say that the two OB/GYNs present for the surgery were relieved to see that the IUD had caused no other damage to my internal organs besides the tiny perforation through my barely-healed cesarean scar. (I’m sure they were also relieved that I am not the litigious type.)
And I learned two valuable lessons from this experience:
1) Never underestimate the value of a care provider who truly listens to you.
2) Although this complication had an exceedingly small rate of occurrence, it was enough to loom so large for me that there is no way ever, ever, ever that I could choose an IUD again.
But why not Natural Family Planning?
What do you think we’ve used to prevent pregnancy for the past four years?! (And no, this is NOT the rhythm method. We’d have ten babies by now if we were relying on that notoriously unreliable method. We rely more on a quasi-fertility awareness method.)
Look, I love charting and being in tune with my body and “taking control of my fertility” just as much as the next NFP-lover. (And yep–using NFP helped me to be so in tune with my body that we got pregnant very easily these past two times!)
But I’m not gonna risk an “oops.” An “oops” would have been okay before Eric. We knew we wanted another baby before Eric was born. And even if, for some bizarre reason, I was to get pregnant between now and Friday (or now and that moment when Tim’s swimmers are really, truly, finally not swimmin’ anymore), it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
But to get pregnant two years from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now, when we’re almost “home free”?
HELLS TO THE NO. Capital “N”, capital “O,” with a cherry on top. NO.
But what about getting your tubes tied?
Ha! Get my tubes tied? Oh no no no no no. Tim can take one for the team this time. My ladyparts are done with the baby-making–and anti-baby-making–thankyouverymuch.
So vasectomy it is.
And that’s the whole story.