I’ve been on some form of birth control for most of my adult life. When I was in my teens and my mom found out I was (gasp!) sexually active, she took my butt to the gynecologist faster than you can say “teen mom”. I’m very lucky in that I tolerate hormonal birth control very well, with few to no side effects, and it helped with stuff like periods and the dreaded teen acne years. Birth control: big fan! I’d heard stories of women getting pregnant on birth control, but much like the stories of women who didn’t know they were pregnant or ate cement during pregnancy, I had a very “not me!” attitude about it all.
After the birth of our first daughter, once I got the all-clear from my doc, I once again got out my little bubble pack of no-baby pills and called it a day. I was nursing, so I started off with the mini-pill, but by the time my daughter had weaned (at 3 years old, which is another story altogether), I was on the regular dose. Because I’d been taking it for so long and with such regularity, it was like second nature to me. I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve EVER missed a pill, and most of those were in the early days after I’d first started it.
In other words, I was a model pill-taker. Followed all the rules!
My ex-husband and I were still on the fence about whether or not we wanted to add to our family, and when the right time for that would be, so there were no discussions about going off the pill happening when it all went down. I remember when I realized shit had gone really sideways: I was sitting on the couch, and my palms were itching LIKE CRAZY. The kind of itch where you’d like to just peel off your skin because that seems like the only thing that will make it stop. Since I was preeeeetty sure I wasn’t about to come into a large sum of money, I went to the Google, prepared to learn that I had contracted some sort of rare and probably painfully fatal itchy palm disease. What I did discover was much more shocking.
About three pages into the Google results, there was a word hit for one of those pregnancy and baby online communities. “Itchy palms” and “pregnant”. I must have stared at that line for seven minutes. I kept thinking, “Well, that…can’t be…right?” Here’s the thing: I was taking the pill non-stop, to suppress my period (because who needs one of those), so I honestly could not remember the last time I’d had one. You miss a period, you figure you’re pregnant, right? But if you don’t get a period, and you’re consistently and correctly taking your birth control pills, the thought doesn’t ever enter your mind.
I threw my laptop to the ground and ran to the bathroom, rummaging around all my baskets of useless shit to find a leftover pregnancy test.
I had to know RIGHT THEN AND THERE.
Somehow, I managed to find one, how it wasn’t expired I will never know, and I peed on the stick. And the two lines literally turned blue mid-stream. Like, while I was peeing on it. If that isn’t a positive, I don’t know what is.
I called my doc the next morning in a panic, and she was able to fit me in that day. I was one, understandably freaked out that I might be pregnant, and two, convinced I had horribly disfigured my surprise baby by taking the pill while I was pregnant. She did some blood work and an ultrasound, and lo and behold, BABY! But very, VERY early baby. My itchy palms had alerted me to the pregnancy at around 3-4 weeks along. My doctor, bless her heart, was very nonchalant about the whole thing. “Oh, this happens all the time! You’d be surprised how many women get pregnant on birth control.” YES, YES I WOULD BE SURPRISED. I’m convinced that my hands itched so I would find out that early, and be able to stop the pill right away. Interestingly, I don’t think I’ve ever had itchy palms again!
The shock, it was deep.
But, it eventually wore off, I had a fairly easy pregnancy and awesome labor and delivery, and now I have my littlest girl who is the absolute BEST. Couldn’t imagine my life without her, she completed it in a way I didn’t know I needed. But damn, nothing throws you like an unexpected BABY.
A lot has changed since she arrived: I’m a single mom now, and there’s not a whole lot happening in the relationship department. But, I do still take the pill (fuck off, periods), and just as an extra measure of safety, I’ve got a nice little copper IUD nestled up there. You know, as backup. JUST IN CASE.
(Image: iStock / OcusFocus)