My 13-year old recently started taking The Pill.
I know what you’re probably thinking: Thirteen is awfully young to be sexually active and what kind of shitty mother are you to condone this sort of behavior? Shame on you!
Don’t get your panties in a bunch. My teen’s chastity is still very much in tact, I can assure you.
The decision to put her on The Pill was not one I entered into lightly. Her periods have always been erratic since they began more than two years ago, which is a completely normal phenomenon in the beginning. It wasn’t uncommon for her to go three or four months without having a period, and that in itself was not much of an issue, either. I had very little concern over it, as did her doctor.
During this past summer, however, something changed drastically. My daughter left on July 18th to go to California to spend ten days with her grandmother. Unfortunately, she started her period later that same day, because periods always have a way of dropping in on us uninvited like the world’s most annoying party guest, during the most inopportune of times.
When she returned home on July 31st, she was still on her period. On August 2nd, when it showed no signs of stopping, I scheduled an appointment with her doctor and started her on a multivitamin with iron to prevent anemia. It was a good thing, too, because she remained in a state of heavy flow until August 12th.
Her period had lasted a total of 26 very bloody days.
After an appointment with her regular physician, she was eventually referred to an endocrinologist, who ordered tests to be performed on her various hormone levels. He suspected Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or possibly a thyroid issue. All of the results from her blood work came back within normal ranges. Because of her young age, he did not want to put her through a pelvic exam so an ultrasound of her abdomen was performed, revealing nothing amiss in her uterus or ovaries.
Still, her endocrinologist was greatly concerned. To regulate her cycle and make sure that she would not have to endure another nearly-month-long bleeding frenzy, he wrote a prescription for a low-dose birth control pill. They were, in fact, the same brand of birth control pills that I began taking when I was 17. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a certain empathy with my eldest daughter in that moment, Elton John’s “Circle Of Life” echoing from somewhere in the distance.
For a person who has difficulty remembering to comb her hair before school, the location of the trash can in the kitchen, and who generally needs to be reminded—daily—to brush her damned teeth and take her makeup off before bed, my young teen assumed the great responsibility of taking The Pill with a seriousness that I’ve never witnessed in her before.
I suppose if I had ever experienced a heavy period that lasted for three and half weeks, I’d be pretty hellbent on making sure it didn’t happen again, too.
I’ve watched her very closely over these last few months, searching for any signs of depression or irregular behavior and making inquiries about her mental state and disposition often. She’s happy, healthy, yelling at her younger sister with the same irate passion as usual, and still bitching about the abhorrent unfairness that is my decision to not purchase an iPhone 6 for her personal use, even though “all of her friends have one.”
In other words, she hasn’t changed one bit.
And it may seem selfish, but there’s something wonderful to be said about knowing when her Aunt Flo is due for a visit. I can predict with absolute certainty whether or not she’ll be bleeding like a stuck pig during her middle school trip to Philadelphia in May, or her next trip to California in July.
For her sake, I find great comfort knowing that those preordained meetings with Big Red will help her avoid any “accidents” at school. You know—the kind where the most adorable male teacher pulls you aside after class and instructs you to go directly to the girls’ bathroom, with your friend walking behind you the entire way. Having changed mid-morning from a white skirt into the blue jeans my mother brought to school, I spent the rest of that day answering questions about why my outfit had changed and listening to sing-song choruses of “Awww, Ali’s finally a woman!” from many of my sixth-grade friends.
Truth is, I had been a “woman” for nearly a year by that point, but I had not yet mastered the ability to predict the arrival of my own shark week. Looking back, what I wouldn’t have given to avoid that entire bloody fiasco. I’m sure no one remembers it now, but I do.
The teenage years are difficult enough but hopefully this tiny little pill will ease some of that strife for my daughter. As a mother, it’s the best I can wish for her.