July 1, 2010
Happy Belated Birthday to The Pill. And Me!
I’ve been meaning to write about this for well over a month. Late work hours, grad school nitpicking and working out be damned. I SWEAR I will update this website at least three times a week from now on.
Any who! The birth control pill has officially been on the market since May 9th, 1960, although it was originally slated to be released on June 23rd, my birthday. This is cause for lots of celebration. While the pope has been quoted as saying the best invention for women in the last hundred years was the washing machine, I humbly disagree and believe the best thing to happen for women in the last century was the availability of oral contraceptives.
I have to think that women my age, me included, take this amazing reality of ours for granted. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to not have The Pill.
What did the Pill grant us? Sexual and reproductive freedom is imperative for us to be the independent people we are today. Having sex with a man you’d like to be intimate with but not bear children with is important. Being able to choose when and with whom you have children with is important. The ability to decide how many children (if any) you’d like to bear is essential for your well being and the well being of the other people in your family.
Reproductive rights aside, it is also very nice to not be bedridden for 2-4 days of the month because of mind-numbing, excruciating menstrual cramps. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Bush’s spiritual advisor said that women can overcome these issues by praying. Only someone without ovaries could say that. I know that in my case I needed a lot more than Jesus when that time of the month came around.
As great as it is that we’ve had access to the pill for 50 years, we are not done fighting. I do not understand how birth control isn’t covered by most insurance companies but Viagra is. It seems like basic common sense to cover birth control. Is it more expensive to cover the Pill or to cover the woman once she is pregnant? Nine months later they’d be covering another person.
I got new insurance last summer after my parents’ insurance booted me the day of my college graduation. Surely you’ve heard of a little thing called “preexisting conditions.” Let me tell you, they suck.
So, I’m on a specific birth control that my doctor recommended to me because it is the only one that is proven to reduce the effects of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a condition with emotional and physical premenstrual symptoms severe enough to impact your life. Over the course of a year I tracked different bouts of serious depression I had. It would only last a couple days, definitely wasn’t affected by exterior forces, and happened monthly right before my period came. Looking back, it’s sad I didn’t notice the connection earlier. I brought up these findings to my lady doctor and he recommended either going on antidepressants (which I didn’t want to do, especially since this was clearly connected to my period and no other time) or go on Yaz, the most expensive birth control, but the most effective to treat this. Yay for Yaz. It is the only thing that has eased the emotional muckiness of that time of the month; something I, and the people in close proximity to me, are very happy about.
So I go to get my prescription filled and my new insurance denies coverage. Without it, Yaz costs $70 a month. I remember crying as I pulled out my MasterCard to pay for it. I couldn’t afford to pay this much, but I couldn’t afford to not take it either.
I called the insurance company to find out why they denied coverage. “Well,” the woman said, “we don’t cover birth control when it is used for contraception.” Please dwell on that sentence for a moment. Birth control isn’t covered when it is used for contraception? Does that sentence even make sense? I explain to her that I am not on it so much for the birth control, but to ease the effects of PMDD. She tells me that I need my doctor to write a note explicitly saying that and to fax it to them. I oblige, they deny again. Why? Well because it was a preexisting condition of course!
This is so disgusting to me. PMS and PMDD are extremely prevalent; I have yet to speak with any woman who hasn’t suffered from painful cramps or headaches during her period. These symptoms aren’t something that randomly manifest themselves at some point during your life. They are naturally occurring, hand in hand with a menstrual cycle. If PMS and PMDD can be considered a preexisting condition, and they are intricately weaved with menstruation itself, is it a reach to say that being a woman is in fact a preexisting condition?
Being a grown woman with a menstrual cycle and all of the good and bad that comes with it is not a medical condition. In fact, the only grown women of childbearing age without a period are suffering from amenorrhea; which means they are either a serious female athlete, or, you know, anorexic.
Despite all of that bullshit, and the sad fact that in a month when my insurance is up I will be shelling out $70 a month, I am so thankful to have grown up in an age where birth control was available when I needed it.
A girl’s first period is terrifying, or at least it was for me. It was October 7th, I was thirteen, and I was babysitting. I remember calling my mom, crying, not knowing what to do. She laughed and drove over, dropping off an assortment of choices for me to address the situation. When I got home I remember walking up the steps to my room and running into my Dad in the hallway. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Jess, I’m so proud of you.” I said something about not asking for this and that I certainly didn’t do anything to earn thanks. Nonetheless, they took me out to dinner that night; a Jessi is Becoming a Woman dinner.
Three years later, my dad was sitting with me nervously in the Planned Parenthood office, visibly uncomfortable, and lecturing me about how this was the reason he and my mom couldn’t get married in the church. I reminded him that I was starting the pill because I couldn’t afford to miss four days of school a week because of painful cramps, not because I was sexually active.
*Sexually active. Why do they make it sound like we’re some dangerous volcano that is about to burst? Gah. Another topic for another time.
Flash forward to now. I am 22 (scratch that) 23 years old, and I’m a very happy woman. I think it is so neat that my body is capable of creating and supporting life. I hope that someday I will still be as in awe of my body’s wonders as I am now, even when my belly resembles a beach ball.
But for now, I am also happy that I am in control over when I will have kids. I like that I have experienced sexual intimacy with a select few special people without the worry of pregnancy. While my body might be ready to bear kids (I’m talking to you, childbearing hips!) I, Jessi, am not. Someday I will be though, and I love that when I do get pregnant, it will be because I wanted to and because I was ready, not because I didn’t have the means to make my own decision for my body.