On Friday I went to my local Planned Parenthood. Aside from the one time I stopped in to get pamphlets while staging a protest against some anti-choice people who had paraded onto my college campus, I had never been to Planned Parenthood before. I had certainly never been inside as a patient. But there I was, seeking birth control as part of the Newman-Goldfarb method for inducing lactation. I was nervous. What if they thought it was weird? What if they wouldn’t give the birth control to me? I tried to remind myself that I am a strong, capable, responsible woman in her mid-thirties exercising my right to reproductive medical care. I tried to remind myself that I had nothing to be nervous about! I tried, but I was not very successful.
The office was quiet, but friendly. A woman behind a desk handed me a clipboard and some papers.
“Fill these out,” she said.
I took a pen and sat down next to a big bowl of condoms and a book titled Dear Planned Parenthood: Love Letters from Catholics. I filled in all the highlighted sections of my form and handed it in.
“Thanks!” the woman said cheerfully. “Have a seat and we’ll call your name when we’re ready.”
I walked back over to my condom-side chair. I flipped through the book. Another woman walked in through the front door. Bounded, really. She had short, choppy hair with blue streaks in it.
“First time?” she asked. I thought I was playing it cool, but I guess my naivety showed.
“Don’t even sweat it!” she exclaimed, then bounced off to chit-chat with the ladies behind the counter.
Just then, a woman with dreadlocks appeared and called my name. I grabbed my things, stood up, and followed her. She told me she needed a urine sample and sent me to a room. When I reemerged, she took me down a hall to another office room.
She smiled and introduced herself. “I’m just going to ask you a few questions,” she explained. “First, what brings you in here today?”
“I’d like some birth control,” I told her, nervously.
“Okay – what kind do you want?”
“Sure, sure,” she said. This was routine for her. She clicked through a few boxes and asked me a bit about my medical history. I answered more shyly than I expected as I stared at a poster on the wall covered in giant letters stating WE ALL DO IT. Two sets of legs, male and female, tangled with each other through the O.
“Are you currently having sex?” she asked.
“Yes.” But not the kind on that poster, I thought.
“What kind of birth control are you on now?”
“Oh.” There was a long silence.
“My partner is a woman.”
“Oh, okay!” she said, clearly relieved. “But wait – do you have more than one partner? A male partner, perhaps?”
There was another long silence.
“I’m sorry, but can I ask you something?” she looked at me, puzzled. “Why do you want birth control?”
“My partner is pregnant,” I explained. “We want to co-nurse. I’m following a protocol to induce lactation, and this is the first step.”
“WHAT?!” A huge smile spread across the woman’s face. “That is AMAZING! I didn’t even know you could DO that! Oh, this is so exciting!”
Her excitement put me at ease. “Yes!” I said, fears and nervousness suspended. “It is exciting.”
“Oh, gosh. Okay. I’m going to go get the doctor!” the woman sprang out of her chair and rushed out the door, her smile still hanging in the air.
A few moments later, the doctor walked in. She had short hair and cute glasses. She wore big pink earrings that were in the shape of either flowers or vaginas. Very Georgia O’Keefe.
“How’s our most exciting patient?” she asked. I smiled back at her. She talked to me for a bit about the protocol and searched her database for the best choice. She showed me how the clicking circle birth control dispenser worked and explained when to take each pill. She told me that I might feel a little ill at first. She packed up my pills, tucked them into a white paper bag, and sent me on my way.
The women behind the desk waved and smiled. “Good luck!” one shouted. Another clasped her hands beneath her chin.