I felt sick to my stomach. My mind, racing in dozens of different directions all at once. It had been about five days of continuous bloating and uncomfortable cramping combined with spurts of nausea. No period. No bleeding. In fact, I was in the middle of my monthly birth control pill pack — there was no logical reason to be feeling any of these things.
I was convinced I was pregnant. I thought about when. I recounted dates and recalled fuzzy memories. I picked up my cell and called my best friend in tears, so beside myself wondering what my next steps would be. She came over with a pregnancy test. I took it, then curled up on the couch in a ball. “I’m not ready for this,” I thought. “How?”
A little background on me: I’m a 30-year-old woman who lives an extremely active lifestyle. I’ve been on birth control since around age 17. I’m single and practice safe sex — with condoms — always. I also rarely, if ever, get my period. And when my period does present itself, it’s sporadic. Never when it’s supposed to, and usually, it’s just some spotting. Most months, I get to the placebo pills in my pack, when other women may typically experience that monthly gift, and I typically go about life business as usual. No bleeding. No cramping. No soreness. No nothing.
It’s been this way for about four or five years. When my period first disappeared, I spoke with my OB-GYN, who told me that it was “standard” for women who workout like I do to see this as a by-product. I spoke to a few others too. They all told me that it was nothing to be worried about. That I needed to relax.
Balled up on my couch, I was not relaxed. I thought about my current partner and how I’d break the news to him. I thought about how life could change. How life would have to change.
It was negative.
I cried even harder. Frustrated with my body. In that moment, I wondered if I should go off the pill altogether. It wasn’t the only time I’ve taken a pregnancy test in my life, but I was certainly the most convinced this time around.
I’ve thought before about giving my body a break. Ditching the pill for good. I feel like it’s choosing between the lesser of two evils: either feel anxious about having one less layer of protection (as I’m nowhere near ready to be a mom, at least not just yet) or bathe in this constant frustration and uncertainty.
When I was younger, I remembered feeling as though my period was my time to start fresh every month. The whole five to seven days of bleeding never felt stellar, but it made me feel like a woman. And once the red week stopped, I felt like my best self. De-bloated. Ready for another three weeks of crushing it before she returned.
So often, my friends tell me I’m “so lucky” not to get any of the symptoms that come with that time of the month. But am I lucky that I’m so obsessive with protection (even with long-term boyfriends) because I don’t get that monthly “you’re doing great” reminder from my body? Am I lucky that when I do spot, it’s never when I’m supposed to? Am I lucky that it gives me anxiety — often? Because it doesn’t feel lucky. It feels like I’m being punished for being overly cautious. It feels like I can’t trust my body.
And then I feel like a jerk. Because I am so, so grateful for my body. For what it’s capable of. For carrying me through early morning runs. Marathons. Up the stairs to my fourth-floor walk-up apartment every single day. Like all relationships, the one I have with my body is complex. I have to constantly remind myself to be easy on me. I constantly remind myself that I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
And so, I focus on doing all the other things that make me feel refreshed in lieu of a weeklong period. Drinking lots of water. Exercising. Getting good sleep. And maybe a heightened awareness of these good-for-me tendencies is something to be thankful in the midst of all of this after all.
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