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Why I Quit Birth Control And Never Looked Back

Women's Health

I was standing near the waiting room of my car dealership when I felt something drop out of my body and into my panties. I knew immediately that it was my Nuvaring and my first reaction was to roll my eyes. I went to the bathroom and threw it in the garbage, voluntarily opting for a few weeks of celibacy until I could figure out my next step. One thing was sure, I was finally done with birth control.

That was thirteen years ago and, looking back, I can't be anything but grateful for that slightly embarrassing memory so long ago that led to making a change. I had been on and off birth control since I was 16 years old. From the pill to the patch to the ring – each one with its own set of problems. Either my acne increased, my periods got worse, or I was screaming at whatever significant other I had at the time. It was a constant nightmare. I knew I wasn't anywhere near ready for kids, so I felt trapped in the endless cycle of trying whatever new product my gynecologist recommended to me.

After I threw out my Nuvaring, I went home and started doing some research. What else was out there? As I looked, I kept coming across something referred to as period tracking or the rhythm method. It's a completely natural approach to family planning – whether or not your goal is prevention. I asked my gynecologist about it and her response painted a grim picture. She said it was very risky and if done wrong could lead to pregnancy. The flip side to this of course, was that if this method was done right – it could lead to a very happy vagina.

I was ready to take a risk.

The Rhythm Method For Natural Family Planning

The "rhythm method" is basically a process of recording what your body does both before and after your period every day for a few months, sometimes more. This helps create a clear picture for when you are fertile and when you are not. For example, I know that when my breasts are swollen and tender, I'm ovulating. I know that during that time I'll need to avoid crowds, and practice patience. I know that my period will start in 4-6 days and I know that if I want to have sex, it should be protected. For me, figuring this rhythm out took about 6 months of laborious note-taking, but the reward has been more than worth the effort.

When I first started out I kept a journal on my laptop that recorded symptoms, including how I felt emotionally and physically. As time went by, I tried various apps like Spot On from Planned Parenthood. My cycle changed a bit after I had my first child (who was planned) so I found myself having to do the research all over again after I gave birth. I imagine I'll have to go through the process again if I have any more children and then (much) later when I'm premenopausal. All in all, through several partners in over a decade of sex – the rhythm method has been my saving grace.

The prescription drugs we're told are so reliable, really aren't when you consider the side effects. The Nuvaring that so rudely slipped out of me that day was later recalled because it was causing deadly blood clots. Then, a nationwide panic followed after the pill that 16% of the female population takes was mispackaged, causing an increase in pregnancy. We haven't even gotten to the emotional and psychological effects of messing with our hormones. New York Times just dropped a mini documentary about a woman's experience with birth control that sounds a lot like my own.

Jumping from one solution to the next, then trying it out until you find yourself falling apart.

I lost relationships, friendships, job opportunities all because I was hopelessly depressed and wrapped around the finger of my menstrual cycle. The only thing that ever gave me peace was releasing myself from its hold entirely.

Natural Family Planning Is Taking Reproductive Health Into Your Own Hands

The biggest benefit to shaking off the birth control shackles is that I took my health into my own hands. Recording my body's changes for 6 months taught me a lot about myself. During that time, I abstained from sex every other month so I could compare my body's reaction to sex. I learned that depending on what part of the month I had sex, my period would be different. If I drank an excessive amount of coffee or alcohol, my period would last longer and be heavier. I learned to tend to my ovulation as a period itself. Resting more, eating differently, and putting my emotional needs first during those few days. When I did this, it seemed to dictate the rest of my month.

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The only problem, and it's quite a doozy, when it comes to the rhythm method is the very real risk of slip-ups. First of all, no one says practicing the rhythm method is an invitation for unprotected sex. In fact, I reflect fondly on several conversations with past lovers in which I explained I don't take birth control and empowered them to take some responsibility and have condoms on hand. This method should always be accompanied with a condom when the sex is casual or the relationship isn't monogamous. That goes with every method of birth control. Slip-ups include the possibility of getting pregnant. As much as I would like to ensure every woman that she won't get pregnant trying this method, I can't.

The results are up to how willing you are to commit to the process and how much birth control is affecting you negatively.

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However, there is a way to fool-proof the rhythm method and that's by simply taking your temperature. Your Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is your body's temperature when you are at rest, basically the purest reading unaffected by activity. This temperature drops a few degree points before your ovulation and then rises when ovulation is over. There are several devices on the market that offer an easy-to-use product that require you to take your temperature every day upon waking so that it can, very accurately, tell you if you are ovulating or not. The devices can can range in price from $14 to $500 depending on the type.

Whether you choose to try the rhythm method on its own or with a basal reader as a safety net, I encourage every woman reading this to get to know her vagina much better. To understand the rhythms of her hormones and emotional needs, to learn how her environment affects her insides, and to take the power of her future fertility out of the hands of pharmaceutical companies and into her own.

Featured image by Megan Madden / Refinery29 for Getty Images

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Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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