Birth Control

On May 25th, 2016, our theme was Birth Control. Featured readers included Christina Brandon, Lynette Roqueta, and Ju Lee Anna.



Meet Our Readers

There’s a lot of mostly imperfect ways to prevent pregnancy. Condoms. Pills. Getting back to their place and seeing a book called God’s Game Plan: The Athlete’s Bible. I can personally vouch for all of the effectiveness of all of these. But sometimes it breaks, you miss a day, that title’s obscured by a John Grisham book and eh, whatever. Come join Adrienne Gunn, Ju Lee Anna, Christina Brandon, Lynette Roqueta, and Elizabeth Gomez for stories of Birth Control.

Also, we’re turning two! More on our toddler status this week, and see you Wednesday.

Gunn_A_161HRES_RAdrienne Gunn

Adrienne Gunn is a writer, editor, and humorist based in Chicago. She received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon and her work has appeared in various literary magazines including McSweeney’s and PANK. Adrienne previously served as managing editor and fiction editor of TriQuarterly, the literary magazine of Northwestern University, and she regularly performs stand-up and storytelling throughout Chicago. In 2016, Adrienne’s first one-woman show Mother of the Year! debuted to sold-out audiences.

juleeannaJu Lee Anna

Hailing from Chicago’s crooked pinky, Ju Lee Anna is a variety entertainer with a ferocious charm and a sickeningly sweet sixth sense to make with cha-chas and chuckles. Ensemble member at Vaudezilla, she’s got a reputation for serving up a heavy hit of screwball and sizzle as slapstick burlesque delight Shirley Blazen. Ju Lee is a producer on the monthly stand-up comedy showcase Broad Squad and can be seen regularly telling audiences about her queer feminist agenda and love of Mountain Dew.

rsz_headshot_brickChristina Brandon

Christina Brandon is a writer and user experience researcher in retail, meaning she spends a lot of her days thinking about how people shop. She just launched her own TinyLetter, Humdrum, which consists of tiny essays on weird everyday things. She’s also furiously scribbling to finish her memoir about teaching English to university students in China. Her food writing has been published in Gapers Block, and her essays have been published in Compose, Gravel, Work Literary Magazine, and others. Her spirit animal is the kangaroo.


Lynette Roqueta headshot

Lynette Roqueta

Lynette Roqueta is a proud Miami, FL native. She has been braving Chicago winters since December 2012. A graduate of The Second City Training Center with Improv and Acting, and The Annoyance. Also, she is part of the indie teams Combat The Beard, Barnacle with The Playground Theater, Matt Damon Improv, and Scream Theatre. Lynette has performed at The Second City, Under The Gun Theater, Bughouse, pH Comedy Theater, Playground Theater, and The Annoyance. Currently she is the producer for the web series Squat and performs at various storytelling events.

yellowElizabeth Gomez

Elizabeth Gomez is an entrepreneur, stand up comic, world explorer, and a founder of an all female roller derby league. She currently spends her days agonizing on whether to put on pants. She is a Beast Woman Rising and you can see her at the kates or Drinkers with Writing Problems. You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter @JuannaRumbel since she’s too lazy to put together a website.


If a doctor said you had an 87% chance of living, how would that make you feel?

I suppose those odds are decent. But something about being 90% or over always sounds so much better.

Since I’ve decided that getting pregnant is only a step above death, as in, it’s the second worst thing that could happen to me, 87% isn’t really doing it for me.

Birth control is the worst.

We spend a good portion of our sexual selves trying NOT to get pregnant and yet every method of birth control, outside of rendering it impossible to conceive, makes having sex a lot less fun. Whether it’s causing actual physical side effects or creating mental blocks, there’s no way to get it on freely without worrying about insemination.

Why are women the bearer of the responsibility when it comes to figuring out how to not get knocked up? RHETORICAL QUESTION, I KNOW.

Sure, men can get their tubes tied or wear condoms, but those are their only two options. Not to mention, more often than not, women are supplying the condoms.

Also, neither of those things directly mess with your body or mind in a constant, potentially deadly way.

At the age of 35, being overweight and potentially going on drugs for high blood pressure, I increase my chance of having blood clots, a stroke or a heart attack. And lets not forget the effect of hormones on someone with mental health issues.

As much as I dig all the pros about IUD’s, psychologically, it’s just not for me. I don’t want something inserted inside of me with strings hanging down that I have to keep track of (other than tampons.)

I’m actually considering getting sterilized, though there’s 5% of me that thinks I might want to have another kid at some point. Or at least, I’m not totally on board with saying a definitive Never.

Anyway, I started a progesterone only pill because you can’t take estrogen if you’re pumping or breastfeeding and I’ve already forgotten to take it on time twice. This from a person who is basically home everyday and doesn’t have an excuse. This pill is 87% effective if taken by a normal person who will probably not manage to take it at the exact same time every single day.

So I guess the means we’ll still be using condoms on top of the pill just to be EXTRA SURE. Which by the way, condoms should be free just like my birth control pills.

Thank god I’m old though, right?! I can start having all of the best sex when I’m going through menopause and my partner has an increased chance of erectile dysfunction.



Hello From Suburbia

There is no place like home.

Here I’ve given in to every selfish notion. If I were more able bodied and in less discomfort, I’d enjoy it even more.

But I can’t really complain.

There are home cooked meals, four choices in fresh fruit, cable t.v.s, someone offering to clean my bathroom and launder my towels.

My only job is to relax. And while that’s sometimes maddening, it’s certainly better than the alternative.

I have also completely given in to my physical state of being, which may have been better prepared, say if I were younger and had gone into pregnancy at a normal weight. Instead, the pelvic pressure has me moving at a turtle’s pace and if it weren’t for the goddamn carpal tunnel, I’d stay off my feet even more. I know that walking is good, so I have been trying to pace around the house when I’m up for it. But wandering around Target doesn’t sound fun anymore.

I know everyone’s experience is different, so there’s no sense in bemoaning the fact that “no one told me it was going to be like ‘this'”. Not to mention, I could have this baby any day now and soon I’ll be in a whole different dimension of unknown territory, so no point in dwelling on my current situation.

So yeah. I’ve been doing a lot of nothing. Watching t.v., listening to Serial, eating whatever I want, taking naps and trying to figure out if that was a contraction or just gas.

And I’ve been thinking about you all. I should text and email more and I’m sorry it’s been so quiet on my end. I think sometimes I’m unable to figure out how to deal with the physical distance while still being in someone’s life.

I hope I can still be there for you in some way.


I Can(‘t) Do This By Myself

Technically I’m a single mom.

This is not to rag on my partner. It’s just an observation I can’t help but make when all of the advice online and in books assumes you are co-habitating. They all suggest he give me nightly foot rubs and that we should plan a “babymoon”, as if there is an extra pile of cash lying around to take a vacation before a newborn arrives.

I’m not joking when I say, if something falls on the ground and does not absolutely have to be picked up, I’m not bending over.

I would love for someone to help me put on socks and shoes and pants.

I’d love to stop driving (though again, big ups to my guy for taking the wheel every time we’re together.) (Oh and a HUGE thank you to you parents for buying me a car at a time when it has basically become a necessity.)

I’m done with cleaning. I’d love to bathe less. I’m not into having to go outside and into the basement to do laundry.

I’m REALLY over stairs. And walking. And sometimes even sitting.

I’d love to have Peapod.

All this to say, I know it’ll be over soon. Very soon.

And on top of this, I’m two weeks away from moving back in with my parents, two able bodied, non-working people ready to lend a hand in any way they can.


I know people do, everyday. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole for even posing the question, but I am truly besides myself trying to figure out how you could do this by yourself.

I feel even luckier than women who are married, whose husbands have to go back to work. At least I won’t be totally alone. And moms who already have a kid with another on the way? I CAN’T WRAP MY BRAIN AROUND THAT.

This is probably the most helpless I’ve ever felt as an adult. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, partly out of being so independent for many years, but also not wanting to come across like I’m taking advantage of my “condition”. And yes, its probably painfully obvious that I don’t exactly have the means to live on my own with a new baby, financially speaking.

I am overwhelmed by everyone’s support and generosity. I’m flabbergasted by the amount of things filling my parents house and for my mom friends who’ve given me all sorts of gently used hand me downs.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am that I’m not doing this alone.


P.S. I promise to write you thank you notes once this carpal tunnel thing is figured out.

Don’t Worry About the Worrisome

“Try not to worry about it.”

That’s my OB/GYN telling me that despite my elevated high blood pressure and trace amounts of protein in my urine, I should not assume I have preeclampsia, though I very well may.

So for the next two days, I would research it and try not to freak out over all of the plain ol’ facts, like the one about how the only cure for preeclampsia is delivering the baby…regardless of how far along you are. The reason for this is that I could have organ failure, seizures or heart failure. The baby could be compromised because my placenta would no longer be giving him the nutrients he needs. Or put plainly: One or both of us could die.

And yes, I’m fortunate that my symptoms did not show up at week 21 versus week 31. And yes, it’s good that my blood pressure is only elevated, not over the preeclampsia threshold. And yes, it’s good that there is only a trace amount of protein.

Yet still.

We waited a little less than forty eight hours for my lab results. They checked out OK.

All that I can do now is be monitored. All I can do is hope that if I am in the pre-stages of this, that it won’t progress too quickly, that I’ll be further along in the pregnancy.

Because I’m not ready.

As much as I’ve joked that I’m “done with all of this”, what I mean is the aches and pains of carrying an extra 40 pounds. I mean I’m tired of not being able to bend over and pick things up, sleep more than two hours at a time, walk faster than .01 miles an hour, breathe normally, eat normally, HAVE A BEER OR NINE, not freak out about my ankles swelling, put on pants without sitting down first, actually fit in the bathtub.

I’m not ready to be laid up in the hospital, around strangers, getting poked and prodded and trying to mentally prepare myself to have a human being exit my body. Maybe I’ll never be able to wrap my head around that idea, but I’d still take the extra month or two to contemplate it.

And even though they don’t know why exactly some women (less than 10%) get preeclampsia, it’s nearly impossible not to take some sort of blame. I should be eating kale and using a Nutribullet. I should have done pre-natal yoga. I should drink more water. What if my liver was damaged from all of that day drinking? What if my bad diet and non existent exercise routine leading up to getting pregnant brought this on?


But it’s nearly impossible not to think about these things.

The only thing that keeps me from going into full blown panic mode is that I’m trying to keep my blood pressure down.


Going Home

To many of you, the idea of living with your parents again at the age of 35 probably doesn’t sound very appealing, especially if it meant leaving the city.

But I am starting to look forward to it more and more, mostly because of my current situation.

While I don’t have expectations of being waited on hand and foot, there will be other adults around me, 24/7, who can help.

There are tons of things I won’t have to think about, like paying the rent or going to the store or cleaning the house. Eventually I’ll do those things. But not having to deal with them for the first few months of being a new mom seems like a pretty priceless gift to me.

I can’t imagine being in an apartment all day, sometimes by myself, in the dead of winter not knowing what the hell I’m doing, no other human beings to have adult conversations with.

It’s not going to matter where I am because the furthest I’ll be going is the doctor’s office anyway. So being in the suburbs is as good a place as any.

I’ll miss being physically close to people, but I can assure you, I doubt I’ll be very social for a period of time. And when I re-emerge, it’ll be summer again, the perfect time to roll back into the city for patio drinks.

I think city life is starting to stress me out more than usual. A lot of this has to do with my own physical discomfort and irritability. But there is no solace here. My bathtub is too narrow and the hot water runs out way too fast. My landlord/upstairs neighbors clod around their hardwood floors with their shoes on above my head at all hours of the day and night. There has been construction on the street outside of my place for well over a month.

I’m so grateful for my car, but sometimes it feels like all I’m doing is driving and parking, driving and parking.

I know I might be bored out in the suburbs. But maybe that’s what I really need right now.


Tired of (Certain) Men

I had a really frustrating doctor’s appointment this past Monday.

A doctor in the “pain treatment” department of a hospital essentially refused to give me cortisone shots for my carpal tunnel (with a referral from my ob/gyn) because “the benefits did not outweigh the risks”.

Or in other words, I was told to suck it up.

This insinuation, the implication that I was somehow exaggerating my symptoms, that I would rather put my unborn baby’s health on the line over my own discomfort was insulting to say the least.

What it really made me do is feel like a bad person, a bad mother. Someone who didn’t want to be troubled with the nuisance of tingling, numb fingers as if that were the worst of it.

Yes, I know this is temporary. I know it’s not the end of the world. I know. I know. I know. But that isn’t making this very moment any easier.

In general, it got me thinking about pain. How we’re unable to articulate what pain feels like and how each of us have a different threshold for pain. How we can’t ever tell someone they don’t hurt when they actually do or show someone our hurt in the exact way we are experiencing it.

Specifically it got me thinking about how a man will never know what it’s like to be pregnant or give birth. Ever. They cannot. And whether they experience something more horrific or uncomfortable is not the point.

It’s why I’m hoping beyond hope I don’t have a male doctor on call when I go into labor.

And no, not every guy is an insensitive jerk. The father of this baby is filled with nothing but empathy and patience, a person who encourages me to vent, gives me room to be frustrated and sad and scared and who at No Point has asserted any sort of selfishness or dismissal of what I’m experiencing due to my pregnancy. His love and support has been invaluable.

I can’t know for sure if this guy who sat across from me the other day saying I should just put up with my pain for the sake of my baby was talking to me this way because he was a man. But when he said his daughter is pregnant and he would tell her the same thing, I realized he couldn’t understand her pain, nor did he want to. From his medical vantage point, there is no benefit to easing my suffering, which is beyond just physical, even if I was his own flesh and blood.

I don’t need a man telling me to suck it up. I don’t need a man to validate this process, this experience. I don’t need a man to tell me shit about pregnancy or labor and I don’t care how long he’s been a doctor.

This may be the first time I’ve gone through this, but I know a helluva lot more than Every Man On The Planet.


Are We There Yet?

I want to be really truthful about my experience. This means, in Carly fashion, it will sound like a lot of complaining. And I suppose it is. It’s also true that I haven’t had in depth conversations with people who’ve been pregnant to ask them what they went through, though some have been forthcoming about certain details.

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that You Don’t Want This. I mean, you want a baby. Maybe. And you sort of like the idea of having a baby bump. Perhaps even thinking about what it’s like to have a human being growing inside of you is exciting, or at least intriguing.

Yeah, so those things make up about 5% of the total experience.

And I know I could have it so much worse. I mean, no, farting all of the time isn’t worse than constant heartburn or hemorrhroids. Hip pain during the night is better than edema or leg cramps. Peeing every two hours during the night is better than being constipated.

I can say that having 24/7 carpal tunnel has been one of the most miserable things I’ve ever gone through. There is no relief. I haven’t been able to feel my fingers for months. Sometimes the pain is so excruciating it makes me cry. Being in constant discomfort makes me stressed and irritable. Pretending that it’s not happening can be frustrating. I can’t imagine living with chronic pain like this for years. Thankfully I’m hopefully only a week or two away from getting cortisone shots. If that doesn’t work, I’m considering lopping off my hands at the wrist.

I’m short of breath. It’s hard to bend over. I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in months.

My stretch marks are really freaking gross to look at. When this is all over, I will weigh close to 200 pounds. Two. Hundred. Pounds. And I’m lucky because I don’t have gestational diabetes (I was just 20 pounds overweight when I got pregnant).

I’m not having sex with my amazing, supportive, patient, caring boyfriend. I don’t view myself as someone attractive or sexual anymore. I am sober. All day, everyday.

I am not me. I have not been myself in almost seven months now.

I miss me. A lot. And the truth is, that me is gone. Forever.

This transformation will end and then I’ll be something I’ve never been before.

A mom.

There is no way to prepare yourself for these changes. No way to know what pregnancy is really going to be like (or the fact that 10 months is WAY TOO LONG). For me, this journey has been on the depressing side even though I’m very much looking forward to meeting my son.

Sometimes it’s weird because there are people who light up at the sight of my belly or are genuinely happy for me and express this. And while that is meaningful and amazing, I feel pressure to match or top their enthusiasm. I really want to tell them that I’m totally out of sorts and that trying to focus on the unknown awesomeness is too intangible at the moment. When they are wild eyed and saying “this is SO EXCITING” I want to answer “Sure! I mean, I think? Yes, probably…ya know, I don’t actually know if it is, but OK! I mean, what’s done is done, right? LOL.”

I don’t know if knowing all of this would have dissuaded me from going through with it. But I do know that not knowing anything has been a shock in a lot of ways. I sort of hate that all of my preconceived notions were based on pure fiction. Smiling, glowing soon to be moms who seemed so able bodied and joyful and serene. Even now, I’ll see a visibly pregnant woman in business casual attire walking from the train and wonder if she’s feeling as put off by this whole thing as I am. I want to shout from my car window while pointing at my belly “this is total bullshit, amirite???!!!”

I’m sharing this not to complain, per se, but to just let you know that I think pregnancy kinda sucks and not just the last month of it because I’m not even there yet.

You can do whatever you want with this information, but at least now you have it.


It’s Not Like I’m Smoking Crack

In an effort to figure out if I should still be this insane and depressed, I picked up my copy of “What To Expect…” the other night and came across something interesting. Interesting and terrifying.

A half page section described many of my symptoms and said that these can sometimes be signs of a thyroid problem, masked by pregnancy issues.

I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but my mom has a thyroid condition and this was one of the reasons I should probably have been tested for it.

I was not.

If you read more about hypothyroidism (as I obviously did), I found out about many disturbing statistics, ranging from miscarriage to birth defects to an out and out link between this condition and having a kid with a lower IQ.

Unless detected and treated early or before pregnancy, there’s no telling what effect this may or may have on my baby.

If I even have it.

I may or may not get tested at my next appointment, told by my doctor that I could wait until I see her next month to discuss it.

So all I can do is just that…wait. And worry.

This in combination with the extra ultrasound I have to have in a couple of weeks to make sure my placenta has moved up (if it hasn’t, I may have to have C-Section) and the gestational diabetes test I’m scared I’m going to “fail”, I’m suddenly more than concerned with whether or not my baby is OK.

Here I was worried that he’d be a picky eater, the asshole kid on the playground or one of those douches I saw on the DePaul campus walking around with his frat brothers. Instead, I could unintentionally be the cause of his brain damage.

This is the reason I opted out of the genetic testing. I didn’t want to know of any potential deficiencies because I would have spent my entire pregnancy contemplating the implications.

I know there is nothing I can do. Not only can I not go back into the past and ask to be screened for a condition I had no idea could affect my pregnancy, I can’t do anything for him now other than what I’ve been doing.

It’s the most helpless and pointless feeling ever and I’m just trying to remind myself that whatever happens, it will be fine. It will play itself out and we will roll with the punches and make the best of the situation.

I suppose I need to start working on being able to live with uncertainty more than I ever have before.