Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that I am the poster child for condom use. That’s probably because I tell them that I am the poster child for condom use. If I was the Easter Bunny, I wouldn’t hand out eggs, I would hand out condoms--or maybe eggs with condoms inside. I am all about condoms.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘This chick has clearly never had sex without a condom before, or else she wouldn’t be calling herself the Easter Bunny of condoms.’ Well, I’ve got some news for you: I used to never use condoms. Sorry, Mom--and sorry to all of the other sexual health educators out there who have tried to instill in us the importance of using condoms from 5th grade onward. I failed you.
Or did you fail me…?
Maybe we failed each other, because--as it turns out--the condom-on-the-banana lesson didn’t really stick. I, like so many other young adults, believed that I was invincible and that none of the stuff those educators actually warned us about would happen to me. Wrong. I was so, so wrong. So, as a cautionary tale, let me tell you what I wish I knew before I had sex without a condom.
1. You might get pregnant.
Now, I’ll be the first to say I was an idiot back then, but I wasn’t a total idiot. I did get on birth control. I got the birth control implant put into my arm when I was in my last year of college. Believe it or not, I actually recommend the implant: it lasts three years, it made my periods few and far between, and it cleared my skin. Unfortunately for me, sometimes medical anomalies just happen, and I was one of the less-than-1% who got pregnant on birth control. So let me just take this opportunity to tell all you teenagers and youths out there: YOU ARE NOT INVINCIBLE, AND IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. Wear a condom in addition to your birth control!
Need more convincing? You’re in luck, because my situation only got worse from there...
2. You might get an abortion because you got pregnant.
I was 20 years old, fresh out of college, and I was pregnant. Fuck. I knew I had to get a abortion. Even if I hadn’t been a young, broke 20-year-old, with my entire life ahead of me, I still would have gotten an abortion. I knew from a fairly young age that I never wanted children. But that didn’t make it any easier--especially because I didn’t realize I was pregnant until I was already about three months along. I didn’t think missing my period or having mood swings was out of the ordinary for someone who was on a new birth control method. Wrong again, Tiernan! I was ashamed and felt alone at the time, so I didn’t tell anyone. I used all of the savings I had to get an in-clinic abortion.
3. You might have complications from the procedure that will cause you horrible pain.
Thought that was the end of my issues? Nope. After my abortion, I had to get a D&C (i.e., a dilation and curettage) to remove the remainder of the tissue in my uterus. This procedure resulted in my getting a condition called Asherman’s Syndrome, which is characterized by intrauterine scars and adhesions. Sometimes the adhesions stick to one another, and when I menstruate, the blood cannot exit my body. And that means wicked painful cramps--to the point where I have passed out and had to be taken to the hospital. Do you want to know how angry you get when you’re in excruciating pain all the time just because you didn’t wear a condom? I can answer that: pretty fucking angry.
4. You might not be able to have children anymore because of the complications.
Besides causing uterus-imploding cramps, Asherman’s Syndrome also tends to cause recurrent miscarriage and infertility. Between the severity of the adhesions on my uterus and the overall damage to my endometrial lining, it’s highly unlikely that I will ever be able to have children. Now, like I mentioned earlier, I have never wanted children-- and I don’t believe I will ever change my mind. But losing my choice is still a hard pill to swallow. It’s one that I shouldn’t have had to swallow.
Those are the four things I wish I knew before I had sex without a condom. I realize that I went through some pretty out-of-the-ordinary circumstances that probably won’t happen to most people, but remember: I didn’t think they could happen to me, either--yet here we are.
Unfortunately, sometimes shitty, life-changing things happen, and sometimes you can’t do anything to prevent it. But sometimes you can. I could have prevented all this from happening to me if I had just worn a condom. The millions of people suffering from an STI right now are probably thinking the same thing. So I beg those of you who haven’t yet experienced an unwanted pregnancy or an STI: don’t join our club of regret. It’s not a fun club to be in. Just wear a condom. Trust me, the sex isn’t different enough to warrant the risk--so stick with that tried-and-true maxim: no glove, no love.