I am a planner and I always have been. When I travel, I plan my entire trip down to the hour, if not the minute. I know which mode of transportation is best and I build in “free time.” I know where I am going and how I’m going to get there. That applies not just to vacations, but to my entire life—especially to building my family.
My Plan—and the birth control that made it possible
I have always wanted to have kids, but it was not my first priority. I had a Plan. First, I wanted to get a master’s degree, become a director of an organization, travel the world, and have enough money to feel secure. (One can do all these things while being a parent, of course, but did I mention that I have a Plan?) The Plan is still in motion and I still have my chosen method of contraception in place—an intrauterine device, or IUD.
I got my first IUD while I was in graduate school. I wanted highly-effective, non-hormonal contraception that left little room for personal error. My doctor had advised me to go off of the pill because of my migraines and the estrogen in the pill. I decided I wanted a break from hormones altogether and after some time spent researching, questioning, thinking, and overthinking, I finally decided that the Paragard IUD was the best fit for me.
The insertion hurt, but I liked knowing that my new IUD was immediately over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. It helped me feel confident that I could carry out the rest of The Plan without worrying about an unexpected pregnancy. I kept the Paragard for a little over four years—until I decided that I didn’t want a period anymore.
Another round of researching, questioning, thinking, and overthinking led me to choose the Mirena IUD—a progestin-only method containing the hormone levonorgestrel. The Mirena would help reduce or stop my periods altogether while also providing a high level of protection against pregnancy. (It’s over 99% effective, just like Paragard.) Because hormonal IUDs don’t contain estrogen, they’re okay for me and my migraines. At last! I have little or no cramps, some minimal spotting, and my period-product budget has plummeted.
My friends start joining the Mommy Club, but not me
When I got married after grad school, people instantly asked when my husband and I would start a family. The answer was “not yet.” Getting pregnant and having a baby right after getting married wasn’t part of my Plan.
And a few years later, when I entered into my late 20s, I still wasn’t ready to become a parent even though many of my friends were making the choice to join the Mommy Club. My newsfeed was blowing up with ultrasound photos, baby announcements, and pictures of infants and toddlers in all their cute, bubbly-baby glory. The pressure was on! Between my mom asking me when she would get some grandchildren and my friends taking the leap into parenthood, I started to question my choices. Should I have been ready? Should I have wanted kids then? Others were doing it and they seemed fine, even happy. But, the thought of being responsible for another human being freaked me out and I still had other priorities.
Now I’ve finished my education, I’ve traveled the world, and I have enough money to feel secure. I haven’t been a director of an organization yet—and that’s okay. Every good planner knows that things don’t always go according to The Plan. I did my best, and my IUDs helped me along the way.
Am I ready?
So, here I am, kicking off my 30s. I feel confident and happy about where I am in life, ready to implement the next step in The Plan—joining the Mommy Club. I’ll admit that now that I’m here, it’s still a little scary. Scratch that: it’s a lot of scary. Is now the right time? Like… right now? Maybe a little later would be better?
Maybe there isn’t ever a good or perfect time, as some of my friends have advised.
Pregnancy doesn’t look like a walk in the park and parenting seems like a daunting task—one that lasts a lifetime. Witnessing my friends’ lives change as they have kids has been interesting. Their priorities are different from mine, but their lives also seem to be filled with more joy. I am still wrapping my head around the challenging but rewarding around-the-clock experience of pregnancy and parenting. In the meantime, I can be confident my IUD has my back. It’s not going anywhere until I’m ready.
Elizabeth Dawes Gay, MPH, is a health and social justice advocate who is especially concerned with improving maternal health in the Black community and protecting and expanding access to contraception. She is a member of the Echoing Ida writing collective, a project of Forward Together. Her musings can be found on Rewire, Huffington Post, and EBONY.com. She is the proud mama of one cat named Nina. Follow her on Twitter.