This post was originally published on 21st April 2016.
“I need the morning-after pill,” I said quietly. I was in a bustling Dublin pharmacy on a balmy Saturday morning in August of 2014.
The pharmacist set her mouth in a firm line. “I’m busy," she said. "Come back in an hour.”
I turned, walked outside, and wandered around the pedestrian mall of Grafton Street, picking up a cappuccino along the way. As I wandered, killing time, I imagined not going back — and seeing what would happen. After all, my cycle was always pretty predictable, and I knew from doing rough math in my head I shouldn’t ovulate until the next week. Besides that, I had a date — a lunchtime picnic in nearby St. Stephen’s Green — and I worried that the mandatory councilling session with the pharmacist would make me late for it. Besides that, more and more, I felt a slight, deep-down tug of wanting. I wanted a baby. But someday. Not now.
An hour later, I explained to the pharmacist why I needed Plan B: I’d had unprotected sex the night before. There was no excuse, except neither of us had condoms and both of us got swept up in the heat of the moment. She handed me the pill, I handed her a crisp 50-Euro bill — and didn’t think about it further.
Until a month later, when an unrelenting stomach bug, combined with a missed period, made me grab a pregnancy test in London. I’d barely thought of the man I’d had sex with a month before; we hadn’t exchanged contact information.
The test was positive.
I felt like my body had betrayed me. Or, more accurately, I felt like Plan B had betrayed me. Sure, I’d been excited about the idea of a baby in the abstract. But I wasn’t actually ready to have one.
In the media, taking a dose of Plan B is a plot point that invariably means no baby. Think about Dev and Rachel on Master of None. Once she’s taken the Pill, the entire lost condom is forgotten about; they assume they have nothing to worry about.
Except there’s an 11% failure rate. The earlier you take Plan B, the better, but even taken within 24 hours, it's still only 95% effective — which sounds like good odds, unless you end up in the 5%.
Even though I was well-versed in procuring Plan B (I’d taken it three times over the past decade) what I hadn’t really understood was how it works. Turns out, if a fertilised egg has already attached to the uterus, Plan B is ineffective. In that way, it is a race against time to get the pills, and while I know it likely was already too late, I do sometimes wonder if that extra hour of waiting for the pharmacist’s schedule to clear up made a difference.
Once I found out I was pregnant, after a lot of thinking, I decided to become a parent. And today, I am so happy that I have my giggly, wide-eyed 10-month old daughter, Lucy. I wouldn’t change the situation. But, at the same time, I also wish that Plan B had worked.
I felt like my body had betrayed me. Or, more accurately, I felt like Plan B had betrayed me.
It’s not because I didn’t want her — it’s because at the time, I didn’t want a pregnancy. And if I’d known that there was a good chance the pill might not work, I would have been a lot more forceful about keeping a supply of condoms with me at all times. I probably even would have had Plan B on hand — just in case. And I definitely would have insisted the pharmacist give me Plan B immediately, instead of patiently waiting for an hour.
I’m very open about the fact that I took Plan B, and I’m equally as open that my seeking out the pill has nothing to do with how much I love my daughter and how happy I am with our life together. When my daughter becomes older, I want her to know that birth control options aren’t foolproof — and that part of being a responsible adult of reproductive age is knowing that sometimes, Plan B isn’t enough.