Going to the school nurse to get birth control is a rite of passage for most girls. You huddle together whispering about it and you ask the friend that’s gone before you, because there’s always the one that’s gone first. You book your appointment with that friend, because one- she gets to skip class and two- moral support!
For most girls the appointment goes somewhere along the lines of; you go in, the nurse talks to you about your options, you grab the pill in a “discreet” brown paper bag and walk back to class. My experience was a little different.
Being a girl is hard enough and expensive enough as is, being a girl with food allergies is even harder.
I was 16 nervously sitting in the nurse’s office with my best friend at the time, waiting for the nurse to come in. I had no knowledge of birth control, not really, only what I’d learned from watching Friends and Sex and The City. I had a lot of questions (cue Joey’s 97% freak out) but my allergy anxiety made sure one question was front and centre in my mind- did the pill contain dairy?
Back in 2010 there was no place to ask these types of questions, blogging wasn’t really a thing and allergy magazines and websites really only covered the parenting side of things (most still only do). Finding information on sex, kissing and dating with allergies was next to impossible and certainly not something I found anywhere.
The nurse walked into the room and asked a few questions, then started going over the options. The first thing I asked was if the pill had dairy in it. She paused, she had clearly never been asked this before. She told me no and I asked if she was sure, to which she paused and then replied no again. Needless to say I was not convinced. When I got home I immediately googled and found out the pill did in-fact contain dairy. In the same search I found out so do condoms and plan B. Basically if I got pregnant I was screwed.
Up until this point my allergies had never really bugged me much. Yes sometimes I missed out birthday cake at parties, and yes I never ate snacks at my friends’ houses, but for the most part I was cool with my allergies, we had an understanding. Not anymore! Not only couldn’t I take the pill like all my friends, but I also couldn’t have sex with the guy I liked until I figured out where the hell to buy vegan condoms. After railing at the world for a while I spent the rest of the night googling my options. I settled on the Nuva Ring and got it from the nurse the next day. In order to buy vegan condoms I had to go into the city an hour away from my town and get them from a specialty sex shop.
Now that I’m older I see that having my allergies and dealing with sex wasn’t all bad. Unlike my friends I didn’t have to set an alarm in my phone daily to take the pill, they often forgot. I was also one of the only girls to carry condoms with me, which I think is something every girl should do regardless. Having to go out of my way to get condoms I could use also made me think twice about losing my virginity. I also get a laugh out of telling people condoms have dairy in, they’re usually super shocked and weirded out.
Now that I live in a big city it’s much easier to get access to the birth control I need. Yet the education surrounding sex and food allergies is still sorely lacking. Allergy blogs today are still mainly parent based and focused on young children, aside from EDAF I can’t actually name a source that has a strong voice in regards to allergy education and struggles for teens and young adults. School nurses and sex ed teachers should be educated on what condoms, plan B, the pill and other varieties of birth control contain. Like-wise access to sex education, dating and relationship advice for teens and young adults with food allergies should be more readily available.
We deserve to sit awkwardly and nervously in a school nurses office damn it. We deserve to walk out with that brown paper bag. We deserve to go through this rite of passage when we’re ready, and we deserve to do it safely.