I am now on my last pack of birth control pills. With my surgery now less than a month away, I knew there would be a “last,” but I wasn’t prepared — at all — for how it would make me feel to open that final, little package.

My husband and I met right after I graduated high school. When I started college a few months later, I went to the cheapest clinic I could find to get on the pill. My memory of that appointment was that it was fun and exciting; I felt grown-up in my exclusive relationship and I could smugly ignore all those warnings about STDs. I was with Mark and we were thrilled. I’ve been on the pill – and with Mark — ever since.

The only time I’ve gone off the pill was to have children. Just a few months before each child was conceived, I stopped taking them so I could safely get pregnant without the added hormones in my body. After Jake and Lexi were born, I went right back on them.

I started taking the pill to avoid getting pregnant. Later, after my mother died of ovarian cancer, there was an added, unexpected benefit; my doctor told me that being on the pill also reduced my chances of getting ovarian cancer and I should stay on them as along as I could.

Let’s do the math. I started the pill when I was 18 and now I’m 37. I’ve been on the pill for 19 years – more than half my life. That is quite a habit to break. I’ve had to remember taking them before I go to bed. I’ve had to pack them into suitcases when I travel. I’ve had to frantically call my doctor to give me a new prescription when I misplace them. And, each and every time I pop a pill, I am reminded of my sexuality and that I am in love and married to my best friend.

So, when I opened that last pack of pills, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that I started to cry.

Taking the pill, after all, is a reminder that I am young, vital – and can, in fact, still get pregnant. It’s a reminder that I am a woman. There’s a part of me that’s in mourning.

There is no doubt that I will struggle with this change in my daily routine. But perhaps I will learn, over time, to relish the freedom of not being strapped to a pack of pills.

And, I will have to learn to celebrate my femininity, and my relationship with my husband, in new, unexpected ways.

I’m ready for the challenge.

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