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The Sex Question I'm Dreading at My Postpartum Checkup

Photograph by Twenty20

Sometime in the next few weeks, I’m going to give birth to my third child. I am so excited to to add a new baby to our family, but I am not so excited for the conversation I know I have to have when I visit my OB-GYN for my postpartum checkup. I know one of the first questions she’ll ask is what I am planning to use as birth control moving forward.

I hate that question. I know it is a totally reasonable question for an obstetrician-gynecologist to ask, but it feels pretty invasive and reminds me how stressed out I am feeling about my options.

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I keeping going back and forth about whether or not this is my last pregnancy. I think three back-to-back pregnancies have totally worn me out. I’m not really sure if this is it for our family or if I just need an extended break to let my body heal and adjust to parenting three kids. Even though I think there is a chance we might be done adding babies to our family, I also can’t help but remember that I am only 27 and I don’t feel ready to settle on a permanent option for preventing pregnancy.

I think I was hoping things had changed since then, but I’ve been pretty disappointed to find that there is no magical, perfect option for preventing pregnancy.

I have a lot of potential childbearing years still ahead of me and it feels reckless to let a hard third pregnancy serve as the deciding factor that I am done having kids. I still feel sad when I think about this new baby being my last baby to breastfeed, my last baby to pull into my bed at night, the last little body to watch stretch and grunt each time he wakes up.

So naturally, I am exploring birth control options, the short-term kind. I’m asking friends, consulting my doctor and spending too much time online, looking for the magical solution that will work best for my body and my family.

I haven’t really used birth control for over five years now. At least I haven’t taken a pill or had a patch or IUD. It seems there is no sure way to prevent pregnancy without side effects or making sacrifices of some kind. I’ve tried pills in the past. I gained weight with one, dealt with increased depression with another, had no libido on a third (which I suppose accomplishes my goal of preventing pregnancy, but is pretty frustrating) and dealt with pregnancy-like symptoms at the end of every cycle with the fourth.

I think I was hoping things had changed since then, but I’ve been pretty disappointed to find that there is no magical, perfect option for preventing pregnancy.

When I got tired of playing musical pills, trying to find one that didn’t make me miserable, I gave up on birth control and gave natural family planning, or NFP, a try. With NFP, you track your cycle and watch other signs your body gives you to prevent pregnancy. During ovulation, you abstain from being physically intimate or use a barrier contraceptive. After two planned pregnancies, I was feeling really great about my choice. When life got a little crazy, I got a little too relaxed with keeping track and just after the new year, I found out we were expecting a surprise addition to our family.

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Now, I am feeling gun shy about giving NFP another try. Not because I don’t believe it works; I know just how effective it can be, but because I am not sure it works for me. With two toddlers underfoot, a newborn and a work-from-home job, adding one more thing to my daily to-do list feels overwhelming. I think I might be asking for trouble if I rely too heavily on my ability to keep my shit together and follow all of the rules that come along with this method of birth control. I mean, with a newborn keeping me awake at night, am I really going to remember to take my temperature at the same time each day? Will I even remember what day of the week it is most of the time? I’m going to say probably not.

So here I am, with about three weeks left in my pregnancy and another six weeks before I will have to answer that question. I’m going to have to make the decision, but I’m honestly feeling so frustrated with the available options. I still have no idea what I will do after the baby is born, but I honestly don’t feel like sacrificing my own well-being or trying to ignore the symptoms that come along with a pill. It’s starting to feel like natural family planning might be the only option for me, and I hate that reality.

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