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Have You Found Your Ideal Birth Control Solution? I'm Still Looking...

I’ve had three separate encounters with pregnant women in the past week, all three of whom had a small child, or large baby, in their company already. In each encounter, as we admired each others’ kiddos and chatted about baby-days, I marveled aloud along the lines of “I can’t even imagine a second go-round yet,” and all three responded along the lines of “This was definitely not the plan.” One even added, with a smile, “You’d think we’d have figured out how this happens by now.”

Kaspar was a surprise (and a wonderful one, obviously). I’m glad, for a number of reasons, that he surprised us as he did. For one thing, we were planning to bring a baby into the mix…eventually… like when we made a little more money, had a little more time, had a bigger place and some outdoor space, etc. If we’d waited for all of that to come together, though, we probably would have been in our mid-forties by the time we got around to baby making (which is somewhat typical in New York, where money, time and space are ever-dangling carrots, but I’m glad we didn’t wait that long). I tell my friends who are waffling on when to have kids that there is never a “right time,” so if they want kids, they should just go for it (my friends are the kind of people I hope will procreate). You figure it out, right? The money, the time, the space… you figure it out. The second reason I’m relieved Kaspar came as an unexpected gift was that, had we become ‘ready’ and decided to try to have a baby, I’d no doubt have gotten totally type-A about it and wondered why it wasn’t happening immediately, and probably trotted us off to a specialist of one kind or another and really drained the experience of its spontaneity and fun-factor.

Some speck in the universe must have known this to be the case, because the way Kaspar came about was that, as spring blossomed around us, I commented to Aaron one day that I was seeing pregnant women “everywhere!”, which elicited a raised eyebrow from him. The next day, we went to a cookout in Central Park, and I ate enough for three professional basketball players. The following week, I took a pregnancy test, and… voila! Now I’m a mom.

That wasn’t the first pregnancy test I’d taken, though. Not by a long shot. I pretty much bought a value pack monthly, just to be sure, for many years leading up to that (even, superstitiously, during single phases when I could only have been pregnant by immaculate conception). I’d been given birth control pills as a teenager under the assurance that they’re completely safe, would airbrush my skin and make my periods a breeze. During my sophomore year in college they gave me a blood clot in my leg (turns out this is more common that people think… beware the cow estrogen). That was scary. So, no more magic pills for me. I then visited a gynecologist who gave me a diaphragm, and a little pep talk on how easy and convenient that would be. It was okay, I guess, except that it wasn’t very comfortable, and wasn’t very convenient. It was kind of hard to tell if it was where it needed to be, when I got it together to use it, which, when engaged to be married (getting busy, and not entirely not wanting to get pregnant together) was not all the time.

I think it’s generally agreed upon that pregnancy sex is pretty awesome. For many couples, getting to go at it without having to think about the potential for pregnancy—because that base is so obviously covered—is liberating. We certainly enjoyed it. But, as soon as Kaspar was born, my doctor reiterated more than once that another pregnancy could happen right away. And, a couple of my friends who have two kids-- two kids who arrived in close succession-- confirmed the possibility as real (one of these friends said she couldn’t believe that she’d become pregnant again because she and her husband were having so little sex in the midst of new-parenthood… and yet, there she was pregnant when her baby was just ten months old).

I took my doc up on his suggestion that I get a copper IUD as soon as possible after childbirth. This was a great idea; after childbirth, the cramping associated with IUD insertion is cake. But I was told, once again, that the IUD would have no side effects. In fact, I was told that if I did experience any pain or other telltale symptoms that something was amiss, I should go to the doctor right away. I did visit the doctor about some pain and weirdness about a month or two after I got the thing, and was told these symptoms are normal, and that my body would adjust. It has adjusted, to some extend, but not completely—though at this point I think it is convenient, comfortable and cost-effective enough that I would strongly recommend it to anyone similarly searching for an at least workable solution on this front (by the way, I got ripped off by my insurance company on the IUD, so get it in writing if you’re told you’ll be reimbursed after submitting a claim… These things cost $500; cheaper than a baby, but still pricey).

I worry about pregnancy a lot less now than I did before the IUD, that’s for sure. I’ve still taken a test or two, out of habit and paranoia, but I’ve had the IUD for some time now and am beginning to trust that it is, indeed, my friend. When it hurts though, as it does occasionally, or when my period seems to go on for-ev-er, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way. A friend in my massage class recently waved a book around that was as thick as a dictionary and all about taking one’s daily cervical temperature and evaluating discharge consistency (um, gross) in the name of “taking control” of one’s fertility status. I definitely don’t have time for taking my daily cervical temperature, and I am dubious of anything that resembles the rhythm method. Babies are too stealthy for all that.

Of course there are abstinence proponents aplenty out there, and those who advocate against birth control altogether… and have lots and lots of babies. If that’s your thing, have at it (and comment away), but neither abstinence nor ten kids are in the stars for me. No, I’m a middle-way kind of mama who would maybe like to have, or adopt, another child eventually, but, knowing what it takes to raise a person, and wanting to do my very best in that endeavor (I’d suck at raising ten kids), I know that I will perhaps be all set with one. If we do go in for another, we want to plan it to some extent, and that means having satisfactory birth control in place in the meantime.

Do you have a love/hate relationship with your birth control, too? Have you tried different methods? Have you gotten pregnant while using birth control, or have your feelings about birth control changed since you had kids? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences!