In the past couple years, the Pill has received increased scrutiny—and Millennial women have been taking note. Last fall, British Vogue stated that “younger women are turning away from the Pill in droves,” with more than a 13 percent decline in users from 2005 to 2015.
And that’s not because there’s been a sudden uptick in motherhood.
Yet despite the steep drop in consumers, just ask your friends: Most women who want to avoid pregnancy do indeed take the Pill—for all kinds of reasons. Possibly because they still don’t realize that there are other options, possibly because they believe that fertility awareness-based methods are inaccurate, or possibly because they just prefer the ease of the Pill, despite various reported side effects, from depression to blood clots.
But for women who do make the jump to fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs), it’s not suddenly all sunshine. As one woman, Kim, explains, “I am happy with the health benefits of [FABMs] over hormonal birth control…but I didn’t realize going into it just how much work it would be.” After all, understanding your own menstrual cycle does require ample amount of diligence, especially on the up front. Plus, it might even involve some abstinence at first. But for most of the women we talked to, having a deeper understanding of their bodies was worth the initial inconvenience.
In fact, for many women, the worst part about FABMs is the peer pressure.
So we asked more than thirty women what it was like to chart their fertility, while everyone else was still taking the Pill. Their comments were telling, with reactions ranging from intrigue to straight-up rudeness.
Here’s what they said:
Were people critical of your decision to chart?
“A lot of people suggested methods other than birth control. ie: condoms, IUD. I was told I would have 20 kids or that it was sad I couldn’t have sex with my husband whenever I wanted.” —Meghan
“They made me feel like I was being irresponsible.” —Tori
“I definitely felt like they didn’t believe that charting would work as a way of family planning and expected me to have four or five children as a result by now.” —Claire
“I definitely got lots of negative feedback or more along the lines of, ‘Oh, that’s….quaint.’ Many friends confused charting with the rhythm method and most others simply think it’s along the lines of silly ‘at-home’ remedies that don’t actually work.” —Ashley
“Friends made bets on how soon I would end up pregnant. This made me feel like they didn’t think it was possible, that I couldn’t handle the challenge. That I would either mess up charting or I wouldn’t have the willpower.”
“Yes, a lot of my friends were worried that I would have unplanned pregnancies and that charting was not the smart move and would not be good enough for my family planning. This made me feel as though there are so many people uneducated about charting, and the benefits and positives that understanding your body can do for you.” —Alex
“They assured me I would get pregnant or that it would never work. . . . A few friends have [since] inquired, especially now that they see that it works . . .” —Dallas
Did anyone change their mind based on your experience not taking the Pill?
“I got a lot of surprise from my friends who took the Pill. Many of them were unaware that anything other than artificial contraception could successfully avoid pregnancy. I avoided pregnancy for a year after getting married, and my friends on birth control were shocked I wasn’t using other methods.” —Kim
“Some of those women began to ask me questions about charting my cycle and were interested to see that our cycle is fascinatingly intricate. A few of my friends approached me and asked me to teach them the basics of charting. Though some of those women continue to use the Pill, I was able to provide a different option for them.” —Alex
“I don’t think minds were changed, but curiosity struck in a few. Especially when they started to attempt having children and needed help knowing when they ovulated.” —Meghan
“A good friend of mine has expressed her dislike of the side effects of all the methods she has used (the Pill, IUDs, etc) and interest in more natural ways. [She] has asked many questions over the years. I think she is very interested and intrigued by it but is hesitant about the success rate. Seeing me successfully avoid when I wanted to and then achieve exactly when I wanted to has made her a bit more interested. I think she is waiting to see if I get pregnant again right away (I’m three weeks postpartum).” —D’Arby
“My friends (male AND female) all seem generally intrigued by our use of [FABMs] and ask questions, act like it sounds so much better than [hormonal birth control], but then never do anything different.” —Regina
“. . . over time, they’ve seen that this works for me, and also that it helps me to understand my body and my health, and so they’ve become a lot more accepting of it as a serious option.
Early on in elementary school, my dad went from having a job with a long commute into Atlanta every morning, with monthly international travel, to a job where he solely worked from home. My mom was a stay-at-home mom at the time, so suddenly my brother and I had both parents at home with us.
While he was not a stay-at-home dad, I loved that my dad’s office was right there with us, just steps down our long and skinny house’s hallway. On the very rare occasion, he would even let me play on his computer!
Having grown up this way, I love that more and more families are finding their own rhythm of what works for them. However, not everyone is as open to non-traditional setups. The idea that a woman could be the sole breadwinner, while the man takes on the brunt of the child-rearing, is still a tough concept for a lot of people to swallow. Although stay-at-home fathers now account for 16 percent of stay at home parents, their family decisions are often the source of outside scrutiny, or at the very least, questions.
It’s often the working women that are married to stay-at-home dads that are faced with the awkward reactions of this set-up. We asked them what people typically say to them, and here’s what they said:
What do strangers say when they find out your husband stays at home with the kids?
“I could never handle that.” —Kathleen
“That’s wonderful that you’re able to do that.” —Amy
“Typically people are surprised. Then they comment about how lucky I am to have a husband willing to take care of our kids. I don’t mind those sorts of comments, because I think they mean it as a compliment. But I often think it’s indicative of a mentality that childrearing is primarily the mother’s role, and the father being the primary caretaker is seen as ‘second best’.” —Kat
“Hasn’t he found a job yet?” —Laura
“I think we have had positive reactions overall, though usually after a surprised pause.” —Natalie
“When we moved into our new house, a neighbor came up to us when we were outside in the front yard. He introduced himself and asked my husband what he did for a living. At the time, he was taking a couple of classes, so he answered ‘student’. The neighbor responded, “Then how did you afford to buy this house?” Mind you, I am standing right there.” —Diana
What questions have friends or family asked about your husband being a SAHD?
“Is he happy? Is he fulfilled? Does he have enough free time? I don’t think anyone is critical and there haven’t been any questions that I thought were demeaning or repetitive. However, I don’t think they would ask the same questions if our roles were reversed. “
“It’s more of what I see in the media than personally. I hate that successful moms are asked about their home life, how they balance work and family. Men are never asked that.” —Anna
“Friends and family can be worse than people that I don’t know. Most of my family ask—again and again—why he isn’t working. I’ve had friends tell me that they know how hard it must be for me since I can’t be a SAHM (not my words!). Family tells me to make him get a job. I wish they would be more supportive of both of us.” —Diana
“What did he do before he was a SAHD?” —Heidi
“How do you afford it?” —Kathleen
“Family questions me more than my social groups or work colleagues regarding my husband’s presence in the home currently… When we travel and visit, I will hear the same questions about the lack of employment over and over again.” —Laura
How do you find yourself answering questions about your husband being a stay-at-home dad?
“I tend to describe it as something that ‘has worked for us.'” —Heidi
“I say it works for us and that my daughters are close to both of us.” —Anna
“I travel for work, and my husband and kids travel with me, so usually we get more questions on how that works. I think many don’t understand why we do this, but we would rather have our family together than have most of the family at home while mom is gone all week.”
We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Grocery Shopping ‘Primed’ to Change as Select Cities Now Get Whole Foods Delivered
Remember back in June when Amazon, No. 1 in internet retail, bought Whole Foods for $13.7B, and everyone remotely interested in business went crazy? Well, real changes are actually happening. Amazon “finally gets serious” by introducing free two-hour grocery delivery services to its Prime members in four mid-sized cities, starting with Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach, with plans to expand—potentially changing grocery shopping as we know it.
Now that grocery wars have officially commenced, it will certainly be interesting to see how its competitors, including Kroger, Walmart, Publix, Wegmans, just to name a few, will evolve to compete. As a Cincinnatian, I am piqued to see how Kroger (headquartered here, and perhaps not-so-coincidentally the reason we’re one of the four chosen cities) steps up its game, while at the same time, overwhelmed with dreams of never having to grocery shop again—asides from the occasional weekend trip to the farmer’s market.
Baby Lucas Is First Child with Down Syndrome to Be Named Gerber Baby
It’s pretty commonplace for the parents of cute babies to hear someone suggest that their baby is just so cute they could be the Gerber Baby. But every year one baby is actually selected and not only becomes the Gerber “Spokesbaby,” but also a symbol of beauty around the world. This year, baby Lucas became the 2018 Gerber Baby and the first child with Down Syndrome to be given this honor.
As Gerber’s official Spokesbaby, Lucas will be awarded a prize of $50,000, featured on Gerber social media, and will show the world just how much joy a child with Down Syndrome can bring to the world. “He has always been such a good baby,” Lucas’s mother tells the Today Show. “I have never known someone to come into contact with Lucas and not smile.” It’s so true! Lucas’s smile has blown up the internet and proven to be the brightest thing we have seen in the news this week. —Monica Gabriel Marshall
Should We Think Twice About Asparagus?
Yes, smelly asparagus pee is one unpleasant side effect of asparagus (at least, for some), but that’s not the only reason to give this vegetable the side eye. According to new studiesconducted on mice, asparagine—an amino acid first identified in asparagus and many other foods—contributes to the spread of cancer.
Professor Greg Hannon, lead scientist and director of the Cancer Research U.K. Cancer Institute in Cambridge, explained that asparagine helps cancer cells change into a form that easily spreads from the breast, through the bloodstream, to other organs where they grow into secondary tumors. When the researchers reduced asparagine in the mice with breast cancer, however, they found that the number of secondary tumors in other tissues fell dramatically.
This is bad news for asparagus-lovers, but if the research holds in human trials, it could be good news for preventing the spread of breast cancer throughout the body. The trouble is, asparagine is found in many foods, so many in fact researchers feel it might be more effective to create a drug to block the amino acid altogether. —MGM
String of Amtrak Crashes Continues
This past Sunday an Amtrak train from New York to Miami crashed into a freight train near a switchyard, killing two, injuring 116 others, and spilling thousands of gallons of oil at the crash site in South Carolina. This is the third Amtrak accident in less than two months.
According to Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a switch was left in a position that forced the train off the track. Investigators are still working to find out why and how this happened. In the meantime, Margaret Fisher, the coroner assigned to the case, reminds us that it could have been much worse. “Any time you have anything that happens like that, you expect more fatalities,” Fisher said, “but God blessed us, and we only had the two.” —MGM
Philadelphia Celebrates First-Ever Super Bowl Win, While Timberlake Comes Back for Second-Time Performance
In a historic move, the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl ever, overcoming the odds playing the powerhouse Patriots. The game was close, with fans at the edge of their seats until the last few seconds. Of course, the big game was just part of the reason why the Super Bowl drew 103.4 million viewers this past Sunday.
The commercials are always a hit (they’d better be, with the average ad spend of $5 million), and this year Tide did a serious takeover. It also seems like Pink deserves her own kind of trophy for beautifully belting the national anthem, despite battling the flu (joining the rest of us mortals). Justin Timberlake got another shot at the halftime show—it seems we’ve apparently long moved on from 2004’s infamous wardrobe malfunction—and some viewers either deemed the performance a total win, while others took a far more critical stance, wondering, really? Is it still about the #selfie? —MW
The Fervor Behind #MeToo Isn’t Stopping Anytime Soon
Two notable claims of sexual misconduct have taken over the news this past week: one in the C-suite of a gambling chain, the other, in the church. Steve Wynn, CEO and Chairman of Wynn Resorts, officially resigned two weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that numerous women were assaulted and sexually harassed by the casino mogul and billionaire—now facing investigations by gambling regulators in Nevada, Massachusetts, and Macau. Thus far, Wynn has only denied the allegations, his decision to resign was done so very “reluctantly,” according to the board.
On the other side of the pond, the integrity of the man leading the Vatican is under some serious scrutiny. According to reports, the Catholic Church’s 266th Pope, Pope Francis, received an eight-page letter from a victim in 2015 detailing (very graphically) how a priest sexually abused him. The victim claims that the clergy in Chile didn’t just ignore his abuse but also took measures to cover it up. Thus far, Pope Francis denies any knowledge of this, stating that any accusations against the bishop thought to be in charge of the coverup as slander. However, it wasn’t until this week that it was reported that Pope Francis might have actually known about this information via the 2015 letter. As a leader of a church with an estimated 1.2 billion people—this is a huge deal that will continue to raise some serious inquiries and possibly some serious action.
Historically, those suffering from depression or mental illness are often stigmatized in the media as villains or just plain “crazy.” Though popular shows like 13 Reasons Why do attempt to shine a light on mental illness and depression—they often miss the mark, simplifying the illness at the cost of building an entertaining narrative, and with potentially catastrophic results.
These kinds of portrayals can not only hurt those who have a mental illness—but also their family and friends by misrepresenting how they can properly support and understand someone dealing with this internal struggle. Luckily, the media isn’t always a bad place—and in fact, overall, seems to be improving.
In fact, how these four shows choose to depict depression might be a concrete sign that our understanding of mental illnesses is changing media for the better.
01. You’re the Worst
A romantic comedy with a twist, this show is about two seemingly dysfunctional people, Gretchen and Jimmy, who find themselves in a relationship—and have a tough time navigating it. However, this show doesn’t just highlight the hidden hardships in romantic relationships, but also the hidden issues many face, by destigmatizing the way media portrays depression. At one point in the show, Gretchen, who suffers from depression, refuses to take her medicine, and proceeds to hide it from Jimmy. This interaction, and everything that transpires afterward depicts how depression is not just rough on the depressed person, but on everyone involved—emphasizing the ongoing, crucial need on how to support those with it.
“Depression is easily misunderstood and hard to know how to respond to,” says Alex Haslam, media relations specialist from CutCableToday.com. “You’re the Worst does a great job at showing that sometimes just being there, without judgment or criticism, is the best thing you can do, which is exactly what Jimmy does for Gretchen.”
02. Mr. Robot
Our protagonist is Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer who has social anxiety, identity disorder, and clinical depression. Elliot struggles with the hallucination of Mr. Robot, who according to his mind, recruits Elliot to be a vigilante hacker. Whether through self-medication, self-harm, or isolation (specifically from his friends), Elliot often hides or has trouble expressing his feelings from those who care about him, which often results in hurting or pushing them away.
Mr. Robot does indeed get credit for accurately depicting depression—especially when it comes to depicting the real internal fight many people have with it. As Bridget Greenfield, a writer who has experienced depression describes, “Elliot comes to the following realization, ‘Mr. Robot has become my god, and, like all gods, their madness takes you prisoner.’ Just as Elliot feels trapped by Mr. Robot, I often feel imprisoned by my mental illness, unable to reach out for help.”
03. BoJack Horseman
An animated series by Netflix, BoJack Horseman is a self-loathing humanoid horse. As a washed-up Hollywood actor, he navigates through his day complaining about both his current and previous life. Though a comedy, the show does well at highlighting the world that someone with depression lives in, accurately describing the behavior towards those around them. “The titular character creates a self-sustaining spiral of negativity due to his low self-worth as a result of parental neglect and abuse,” explains Sean Baran, of FilmToolKit. “He consistently pushes those who try to help away and makes poor decisions that reflect his image of himself.”
The show’s realistic portrayal of the causes of depression shows us that depression is complex, and can actually be rooted in family affairs. This social depiction of depression highlights how there doesn’t always need to be a villain wearing the mental illness mask; rather, it often times is an everyday BoJack.
04. One Day at a Time
This Netflix dramedy reboot of the 1970s classic is about a Cuban-American family, where a newly single mom and her old school mother raise a teen and tween, definitely understands nuance. Penelope, the mom, is an army veteran who suffers from PTSD and depression. She struggles to admit this to her family, because, as Ariana Brockington explains in Variety, her Latin community “has a deeply rooted mix of cultural and socioeconomic factors that have conspired to stigmatize people with mental illness, in many cases causing them—and their families—to delay or avoid seeking professional help.”
As Penelope works on navigating a way to open up to her family about her issues, she shows us how hard it can be for those with mental illness to ask for help—the type of help that hopefully, many will feel more empowered in seeking, thanks to the evolving media narrative.
Brené Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most-viewed TED Talks in the world, with more than thirty million views. All four of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, are No. 1 New York Times bestsellers.
Her decades of research resonate with us all deeply, and it makes sense; she cuts into the very core of what it means to be human. She explains that people who succeed—the people we love to look up to—have three things in common: the courage to be imperfect, the compassion to treat themselves and others kindly, and the willingness to be authentic for true connection. After the research, she realized that the sum of these three things amounts to someone who truly embraces vulnerability.
Turns out, vulnerability is not the opposite of strength. In fact, the very idea that vulnerability is synonymous to weakness is dangerous in that it perpetuates isolation and holds us back from real authentic love—and real achievement. “Vulnerability is absolutely essential to wholehearted living,” Brown states. And for the thousands she interviewed, it was their vulnerability that actually made them beautiful.
Only problem? Being truly vulnerable is hard. Really hard because, again, in so many ways we’re naturally inclined to resist exposing weakness. So I spoke with ten women who struggle with being vulnerable—and how they’re working on it. Here’s what I learned:
01. The fear of rejection is innate.
“I don’t like to come across as stupid or weak, so if I make a mistake or fail, I tend to keep quiet . . . even though I know imperfection is what makes us all human and we grow through sharing experiences.” —Jenny
“I feel like I will be judged for truly speaking what is on my mind and in my heart. I am an emotional and introspective person, so I feel as though I am always holding back.” —Kate
“I tend to be afraid to put myself out there, so the only relationships I have been in were driven by others.” —Megan
“Eventually I sort of caught myself in the act [of closing off] and realized I was scared of saying yes . . . because that meant opening my heart up to the possibility of pain or loss.” —Nicole
02. It’s a process.
“I still struggle with this [fear of vulnerability] regularly. I’m working on just being comfortable and confident with myself because that is really the core of all relationships and trusting others—it starts within.” —Sierra
“As I’ve grown older, I’ve cared less about looking calm, cool, and collected; being open is way easier for me, even if it makes me feel less attractive compared to the ideal in my head. . . . I’ve brought that into my relationships, and I feel like they’re so much deeper and more meaningful because of it.” —Erica
“I am still working on this! I am impatient, and I expect relationships to be instantaneous. [But] increased self-awareness has enabled me to realize what I value, what I care about, and what I need.“ —Kathleen
03. Looking inward helps us grow outward.
“I think knowing who you are and your internal dialogue makes all the difference. Without taking that initial step and believing that your worth is so much more than the fear of what could happen or how you will be perceived, you never can really grow or create new experiences.” —Sierra
“I first learned how to meditate . . . I then opened up about all that I was feeling to the nicest person I knew. . . . Those were my tools: breathing and a single friend. From there I started letting people know my true thoughts and feelings. If things ever got tough I would go back to my basic set of tools and go from there.” —Taylor
04. Your friends need to know the authentic version of you—otherwise, it’s a recipe for resentment.
“No one ever really knew the ‘authentic’ me, and as a result, I had avoided the fundamental relationship in my life: getting to know myself.” —Kathleen
“I started to build resentment toward the people that were closest to me because I felt like I couldn’t be my true self, when in reality it was a lie. By not allowing myself to be completely open with people I loved and cared about, I was actually hurting myself.” —Taylor
“I have to recognize it and be willing to challenge myself. For example, in my current relationship, if I am annoyed about something small, I force myself to talk about it even when it makes me feel vulnerable. Then I am not resentful.” —Francesca
05. Your relationships will reveal their ability to last sooner.
“I was dealing with some mental and physical health issues, and I was afraid to tell the guy I was dating because I was afraid he wouldn’t want to see me anymore. When I finally told him, it brought us closer and gave him an opportunity to share personal things with me, too.” —Jenny
“If they turn out to leave and hurt me, then that relationship was meant to teach me . . . not [to last].” —Kait
“It’s been interesting to watch how conversations evolve (and deepen) over time, even in platonic relationships. As I’ve decided to become more mindful of my own ideas, desires, and emotional needs, I’ve been able to recognize who I’m attracted to.”