Toby Beth Jarman

Toby Beth Jarman
Seattle, Washington, USA
August 29
Before I went back to work to pursue a career in special education, this was my blog. I call myself a writer, but that's strictly in the most literal, semi-published, Peggy-Hill's-"Musings" sense. Only with more cowbell. I write a kids' pop culture blog called TykeGeist on parenting site, plus my famous original personal blog Floor Pie. Oh, and a preschool newsletter. Move over, Dorothy Parker.


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FEBRUARY 17, 2012 12:51AM

Moms Need Birth Control Too

Rate: 24 Flag

I didn’t want to write about this today. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love to delve into a good lady-parts story as much as the next gal. I just didn’t think I’d need to do it in response to this particular issue.

Really…birth control. How can birth control still be controversial in 2012? And yet, it seems like I can’t look at the news without reading about it. I thought it peaked during the controversy over whether Catholic employers should have to cover birth control in their employees’ health plans. I kept sputtering half-articulate outrage at the computer like a freshman who’s 3 weeks into her first women’s studies course while my husband rolled his eyes and reminded me that a return to the culture wars simply means the economy must be improving.

I was sure we’d heard the last of it when President Obama worked out a compromise. Catholic employers who object to providing birth control won’t have to. Health insurance companies will have to provide it instead (which I'd imagine would be fine with them, since birth control is significantly less expensive than pregnancies). It seemed like the dust had settled and it was time to move on to greener culture war pastures (like whether marriage equality will force us all to marry our bacon cheeseburgers. Really.) 

But no, it's not over yet. Congress is considering legislation that would allow any employer, religious or otherwise, to deny birth control coverage in their health plans. Republican Chairman Darrell Issa refused to allow a woman with relevant medical information testify (with an otherwise all-male panel) at a hearing on contraception. And even before his backer Foster Friess's charming aspirin joke, Rick Santorum had this to say:

Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that's OK, I mean y'know, contraception is OK.’ It's not OK. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They're supposed to be within marriage.

Sigh. Okay, here’s the thing, Republicans. And I’m speaking from “within marriage” now, not pregnant at the moment but plenty barefoot; just a baby-loving, home-owning, field-trip-chaperoning, cookie-baking, husband-adoring, Target-shopping stay-at-home mom. So listen up:

Women like me need birth control too. Without birth control, I wouldn’t even be a mom.

When I was 24, my ovaries were covered with endometrial cysts. The biggest one was the size of a baseball, practically swallowing the ovary whole. It could have made me infertile. Even after surgery and hormone therapy, those cysts can always grow back and wreak all kinds of havoc. But my doctor knew a simple way to manage the endometriosis – birth control pills. Tell us all about it, WebMD:

Birth control pills are the first-choice treatment for controlling endometriosis growth and pain. This is because birth control hormones are the hormone therapy that is least likely to cause bad side effects. For this reason, they can be used for years, while other hormone therapies can only be used for several months to 2 years… Birth control pills can also be used to stop or further slow endometriosis growths after endometriosis surgery.

And that’s how I was able to heal up the lady parts and go on to spawn our little cuties. Birth control and family values. Huzzah!

But it doesn’t end there. It doesn’t even begin there, really. There were miscarriages, too. Early ones, thankfully, but devastating losses nonetheless. Before my son, I lost three pregnancies in an 8-month period.

And then, when he was only 10 months old, I had my first and only unplanned pregnancy. Damn near immaculate conception, really. We were amazed, a little freaked out, and so happy. The most encouraging thing of all was that, without even knowing I’d been pregnant, this pregnancy had lasted longer than any of those earlier ill-fated ones. I’d made it safely past the “danger zone” where I would typically miscarry. Dreamily, I started shopping for all my old favorite pregnancy foods and thinking up baby names.

One week later, there was spotting. A blood test confirmed that the pregnancy had stopped growing. An ultrasound showed nothing but an empty embryonic sac. I was instructed to go home and wait for the inevitable miscarriage. They warned me that it wouldn’t be like the other ones, which were only slightly worse than an extremely heavy period. This one was going to hurt. Call us if there’s a lot of blood, they said. They even gave me a few maxi pads to take home. Um…thanks.

Because nothing happens around here without a little gallows humor, miscarriage #4 came mere minutes after the Philadelphia Eagles lost the Superbowl. I’d been lying on the living room floor letting the baby play with my hair and feeling crappy in general while my husband watched the game. Suddenly, it was go time.

And it was awful. It hurt like labor, complete with contractions and dilation and pushing. With every wave of pain came a grisly expulsion of gnarly clumps of blood and tissue. We’d left the TV on, and the premiere of American Dad cavorted in the background. My husband held my hand and rubbed my back, which was incredibly comforting but also reminded me that the last time we did this, we ended up with a baby. Overall, I’d have to say Worst Superbowl Ever.

Somehow, going through all that only strengthened my resolve to have another baby. But when we were finally lucky enough to welcome our daughter to the family, there was no doubt in our minds. The baby factory was now CLOSED. I have had all the miscarriages I am ever going to have. I don’t ever, ever want to go through something like that again. Hello, IUD.

Look, there are obviously lots of reasons to be in favor of birth control beyond my little middle-class-married-mama story. But do I really need to list them? Is it really anybody’s business in the first place? Honestly, I might as well write about why people should have access to penicillin or Vitamin C or something. Isn’t it obvious? Birth control can make us healthier and safer. It helps us build our families. It puts us in control of our bodies and our lives. And, let’s face it, birth control prevents abortions.

Why do I feel like the minute I start making arguments like this one, we’ve already lost? Why is it up for debate at all? I hope my husband is right, that this is simply the latest song-and-dance number in the culture wars now that the economy is on the mend. Because a 42-year-old mother needing to defend her IUD is just a little too ridiculous.

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It is ridiculous, and I'm sorry you're having to do it at all. But you did it really well.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Well done.

We all have our stories about our ladyparts, and about birth control. Thanks for telling yours.
Yes, you've said it well here. Some conservative types would have you think that birth control was all about young, unmarried women using it to sleep around freely. Even if that was the only reason, as you say, it's still no one else's business, but clearly it is not.
Truly mind-boggling that a serious GOP presidential candidate believes BIRTH CONTROL is "Not OK".

What's laughable about that is that while Catholic families 30 years ago all seemed to have 8 or 9 kids, today they don't! So unless, some strange biological change has worked it's way into their DNA - MOST AMERICAN CATHOLICS ARE USING BIRTH CONTROL!

Guys like Santorum are the "American Taliban" and it drives me BAT$H1t CRAZY that in 2012 America we're still just a couple bad presidents away from the kind of sexual oppression and invasion of privacy that social conservatives would love to impose on us.
"Birth control is a family planning right, not a religious issue. It’s a medical issue between a woman and her doctor, not a political issue between a woman and her congressman. " by Jerry Tetalman, a democrat who is running against Darrel Issa for the 49th district of the house.
I have no idea why these men insist they know what's best. The church has done major damage around the world with their pack of lies about what is and isn't "natural" and right. Hey, if we all still lived in caves and huts, with no medicine, it would make sense. But we don't.
Glad you are well! Glad you had your baby! Glad you are not suffering the indignities of having all your uterine and ovarian parts strip mined from your body.
I also wanted to say that I'm very sorry for what you went through
Great post, and yes, yes ,yes, and it IS ridiculous that you or any other woman has to defend the need for contraception. May Darrell Issa and Rick Santorum experience their "Susan G. Komen moment" in that every thinking woman in America starts yelling at them both.

I've had the same questions regarding this issue which, as you said, in 2012 should be a non-issue. It's one thing for the pendulum to swing to the right or left depending on who's in office, but with the asinine comments coming from some politiicans, it appears to have swung all the way back into the early 1960's. It's weird that over 98% of women have used contraceptives at some time in their life, yet the only people we keep hearing from are pot-bellied men who look pregnant and that definitely does not make them the experts. : )
Nothing to add or even say, other than thank you for clearly and wonderfully making a point that should not have to be made.
Thank you so much for making this very important point. Not only does the birth control pill prevent pregnancy, it also has medical applications. Thank goodness you had access to them, I know that it will spur you on to fight for your daughter's right to have them too.
I still cannot believe that Republican women are not speaking out more. Are they afraid? Are they not allowed? Or do they think that this little war on women does not apply to them? I almost broke down and watched Fox News to see what they were saying, but I realized that was a waste of my time and harmful to my blood pressure. Thank you for sharing your story.
There is a lot of services these days that are NOT covered in a "health" insurance policy. Prescription glasses are often not covered. I don't remember ever working any where (including the University of Pennsylvania) that paid for my contraception - the gynecological visit may have been partially paid for but not the particular method of contraception. I don't even consider contraception a medical procedure. Some small businesses can not afford the cost of paying for every service and honestly, who pays for my method of birth control is not my biggest concern by a long shot as a woman or human under this government and in this culture. I'm a lot more concerned about sustaining financial independence with the rising cost of living. I would rather pay for my own contraception and have lower heating oil costs. I live in the cold state of Maine. Condoms are a lot cheaper than heating oil. I would have to be screwing non-stop for the cost of condoms to even come close to what I pay for energy costs. I'm not going to even begin to discuss what I pay for gas to get to work. I am a lot more than a uterus or a port in the storm for men. Why have reduced all women's issues to our sexual parts? As women, we have lost ourselves and become shills for the big business of birth control and abortions. I'm not saying that birth control is not important to EVERYBODY, male or female but power for women does not come from free or insured birth control methods. Power comes from within us and not us depending on men or government to provide, lead the way and give allowance. I'm not going to live long enough to wait for that improbable event. Cease the day! We aren't helpless children. We are women and we still do not have an equal or greater share of power, voice and place in government, commerce and other high positions of power. Only we can make that place of power for ourselves in the way we CHOOSE to live our lives and the examples we provide for our daughters.
I meant SEIZE the day - oh well.
A very articulate and well written piece. I'm so sorry for your losses. People are still losing their homes and our "leaders" are arguing about birth control. Sheesh!
The point is, that almost all married couples use birth control. It's not a feminist issue, it's a family issue. Because we all know that without it, there's a choice of being the Duggars or having a celibate marriage.

But, the Republicans are on a losing argument. Because this is an issue where there is a disconnect between their rhetoric and people's experience. It's much easier to convince people of some stupid theory if they don't have direct personal experience of the topic.
Thumbs WAY UP! I get so pissed off about this issue that I can't even think straight. I don't have any problem with Catholic employers refusing to provide birth control, as long as the government understands that if they insist on the church-sponsored employer not following the same rules as other employers, well then the EMPLOYEES shouldn't have to, either...i.e., they should not be required to pay federal income tax on the money they make there. That would cover the birth control, in my opinion.

HOWEVER...people like Santorum and others who continually shove their ideas of faith into the legal system and public policy?? Sickness. I grow more Canadian by the minute.
Thumbs WAY UP! I get so pissed off about this issue that I can't even think straight. I don't have any problem with Catholic employers refusing to provide birth control, as long as the government understands that if they insist on the church-sponsored employer not following the same rules as other employers, well then the EMPLOYEES shouldn't have to, either...i.e., they should not be required to pay federal income tax on the money they make there. That would cover the birth control, in my opinion.

HOWEVER...people like Santorum and others who continually shove their ideas of faith into the legal system and public policy?? Sickness. I grow more Canadian by the minute.
Great job. Thanks most of all for this line which very aptly describes me a lot of the time these days " I kept sputtering half-articulate outrage at the computer like a freshman who’s 3 weeks into her first women’s studies course " !
My husband and I and all of our male and female friends agree -- ridiculous. Most of our male married friends have sat on ice pack after a vasectomy. Yeah, that's how you maintain a marriage; you *man up* after your partner has presented you with one or two or three (if you're pretentiously affluent) children. No one of our aquaintance, is birth control free.

I like that you're presenting an example of an undeserving target, with all that you've been through, and there are many like you...but why should we have to roll out examples of non-sluts who need birth control? Why isn't it enough for someone -- a woman (or even a man!) -- to say, unabashedly, "I like sex. And I don't want to make babies when I do it! Help me out here because it benefits society as a whole if you do."
Talk about apples and oranges. Your "pills" are not for birth control, they are for a medical condition. You are correct there are conditions where they give them to women for other reasons. Heck there are reasons that they give them to men. Nobody objects for them being used to correct a medical condition. Look at Viagra, it was designed, and still used, to treat heart conditions.

If you don't like the idea, be honest when you discuss it.
If you'd watched the Republican debate in which this issue was raised, you'd have seen that birth control is NOT controversial these days even to the candidates and it is not controversial to Republicans and conservatives. (Even Mr. Santorum only speaks against it in the context of his PRIVATE, religious views - and tangentially it comes up when he discusses the Roe v. Wade decision that "found" a "right to privacy" in the constitution - his complaint by the way is echoed by some on the left as to the constitutional issues involved.)

What is "controversial", to use your word, about birth control is the desire by some so-called liberals to force other people to pay for their (and your) birth control. If you want to take the pill, go for it. Just don't make people who have a problem with it - or maybe think their money is not YOUR money - pay for it.

And the same deal goes, for many of us, on abortion. Do it on your dime.

Thank you.
Thank you Catnlion! Yes, some intellectual honesty AND, please note, Santorum is talking about this as a religious, philosophical matter, he is NOT talking about taking away individuals' rights to buy and use the pill.

Intellectual honesty?? HELLO????
It makes me sad that their are women so weak - yes, I'll say it, weak - that would make excuses for this attack on basic women's health care. There are millions of women in this country who could not afford birth control if it wasn't covered by insurance or available via Planned Parenthood (which can't afford to take over for the millions who currently get it via insurance). If wealthier women - as one or two in this thread probably are - abandon women's rights because they have the luxury of not fighting for it, eventually we all lose. This is basic, and as the author says, it's crazy it's still "controversial." Health insurance should cover all necessary services for men and women. Birth control is an essential component of women's health in a modern society.
Nobody says that contraceptives should be denied to people who want to use them or it should be outlawed. The issue is: who's going to pay for it and if the employer could or should to provide for them. THEY SHOULDN'T. Don't you understand that the insurance cost will go up? And what about women working in the same company and who don't use contraceptives? Why should they pay for your convenience? Most of the dental procedures are either not covered or covered in a matter of pennies. And go to the dentists (if God forbid something is wrong) is much more painful to our wallets - so let's demand that insurance picks up the cost. And then, we will complain that insurance companies are killing us because we can't afford to pay for the insurance. This issue is not about contraceptives. It is about the power and our voices in upcoming election. Obama doesn't give a damn about us and our health. He's not going to have the Obama care for his friends in the Congress and/or his wife. They're going to have the insurance they have now. What a demagogue!!
Loved your story. Very well done, indeed.
Churchill's famous dictum: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
So we must accept tha there will always be people like Rick Santorum. On the good side hopefully there will always be people like you Beth who are prepared to speak out.
Thanks for such a powerful article.
Actually, this war is very much about contraception and the IUD is on the front line. In Ohio, just in the past couple weeks a bill that was intended to expand the services that a Physician Assistant can provide was amended at the last moment... to remove their currently-held ability to insert IUDs. The reason had nothing to do with complications or women's health. It was simply because the head of the committee "is a Christian" and believes pregnancy begins at fertilization.
Yowza. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, deemac.
Lovely writing but this gentle reasonable piece has touched the fuse of my anger.

Why has our Nation arrived at this place? This place where religion can dictate over common sense and duly elected government. This place where religion is used as a tool to control and embitter the simple minded? This place where religion aids and abets the rhetoric of bigotry and misogyny. Once we accused rational decent Muslims of not having the courage to speak out against the vitriol and venom and meddling of the fundamentalists. The same must now be said about rational decent Christians. Enough is enough. I hope women band together and vote in mass and send these extremists out of government and back to the Dark Ages where they belong.
Thanks for sharing your story. I agree with you, it's ridiculous that women should have to defend their right for birth control.
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