It’s quite something to write what just happened while the discourse on sexual harassment, rape and domestic violence seems to finally take wings in Beirut – and I expect it to be targeting legislative laxity, social backwardness and widespread hegemony over the female body and blah blah. And write it while wondering how many dozens of other women here have so far been going through this.
Cause this small, insignificant, pill-sized matter is exactly what you need in case of rape. Which was not my case. My case was normal administration, star wars conspiracy and a grave breach against the code conduct me and condoms agreed upon a good dozen of years ago, when I started using them without the slightest doubt one of them would one day fail me.
Destiny wanted this day – night – to be right on my full ovulation time, in a heavy state of drunkness and in Beirut. Shit happens. Hundreds of times a night all over Beirut.
Very often, it happens when it shouldn’t, and this is why you normally rush a few hours later to get the morning after pill, knock your body under a massive dose of hormones, have some extra PMS – like mood swings, and maassalam honey.
So, better an egg today than a chicken tomorrow, here I am tempestively walking into a pharmacy before an accident develops into a problem, loudly asking for a morning after pill right in the middle of Hamra. Ha-ha.
It’s then that mr. Pharmacist tucks his nose up and admits: “We’ve run out of it”. Wow, what a city this is, already out of morning after pills on a tuesday morning. I blink my eyes over the counter and ask, “Oh well. Then where is the nearest pharmacy?”. To which, the joke: “Miss,I’m afraid I did not understand me. It’s out of stock from the all country”.
Laughs, incredulity, questions, attempts over attempts, all of this predictable circus follows. But no, it is the actual truth: the morning after pill is nowhere to be found throughout the Republic of Lebanon.
And here is when sex turns into headache, headache turns into comedy, and comedy turns into swearing. Because I know my limits, and I know that one thing is a just-in-case contraceptive pill, another is an abortion in case of a proved pregnancy. What troubles me for the full afternoon I spend bouncing in between pharmacies, is why the fuck Lebanon is suddenly asking me to face the possibility of a pregnancy and the trauma of having to solve it by transversal means. Cause let me get it straight: I am not against abortion. Everybody is free to fully make up her/his mind. With a right to choose safely and assisted by a health care system covering up for the recurring absence of a partner, as they often evaporate in these cases. (Luckily it was not my case. Next to me I had someone making far more sense then my dramatis personae). But the fact I’m against it does not mean I’m sure I would be able to perform one. We all have our weaknesses. Problem is, in this country you pay them all one by one and no discounts. So abortion is illegal, but preventing it is too.
Time passes by. Five pharmacies, 20 pharmacies, same answer. Hours doubling. First 12, then 24, then almost 48 – which is, in unfortunate situations, quite enough time to fecundate a lonesome egg when least wanted. In my case, if a pregnancy was likely, then it was beginning to be too late. Something had to be done.
So being a traveled woman quite aware of the solar system revolving around her genitals, my first reaction when I was put in front of a Misoprostol (in Lebanon, Cytotec) package as the only speedy solution was of course:
“You’re fucking crazy. This is not going up my vagina”. But all I could think of that precise moment, as I clutched on the info leaflet between my hands, was: “What would an 18 years old Lebanese girl do in my place?”
Let me be a bit technical about what’s what.
One thing is preventing a pregnancy. Quite another one, interrupting it.
The first happens with the day after pill, which is an emergency contraceptive releasing Levonorgestrel. The second comes with whatever legal or illegal measure you want to apply after fecundation occurred and you womb is already feasting on preparations for the next nine months to come.
So let’s be more specific. What the morning after pill would do – if only Lebanese pharmacies where providing it – would be to prevent fecundation. Pretty much the way a normal, daily pill would do. A sperm does not instantly enter an egg; it takes time, hours. These diabolic, darwinian winners take ages to climb up a millimeter, usually between 24 to 72 hours, which is why an EC can be taken far beyond the morning after. As soon as the pill is taken, the all Gold Rush freezes: sperms are suddenly drudging amidst a gluey cervical mucus, overies are persuaded not to release any egg, and that magic encounter between Her and Him in the middle of your tubes simply does not take place. (unless it already took place at the speed of light. In that case, nothing can be done anymore). Contras of EC are that hormonal dose is heavy, therefore moods swing as if you were about to have your periods, and sometimes headache might occur too. If you’re me, you trip a lot. If you are not, you just put up with some blood spots in your underwear and no pain.
All this, if you are not in Lebanon, January 2012.
If that’s the case, then all you’re in for is Misoprostol – and a few days of heavy metal side effects.
Because after targeting alcohol shops, the next security threat for the Lebanese seems to be your womb. Oh yes.
So, Misoprostol is an anti-ulcer medicament marketed in Lebanon under the name of Cytotec and dosed in 200 mg per pill. Originally it is a sort of anti-spasmodic remedy for butchered stomachs, sold under prescription only in mot countries. Matter-of-factly, though, it is the third world all-seasons abortive remedy. If you can afford a clinic, you do it illegally. If not, here’s your pill.
Now. Cytotec does NOT prevent any pregnancy. Does not softly lure your womb into numbness, does not secure the integrity of your internal tissues.
Cytotec simply squeezes your interiors inside out until eggs, fecundated or not, and whatever else might be inside, are torn broken and expelled in a pool of blood. Well, several of them. At this point, I hope males are still reading this for their next Cytotec time. Cause this would onlypartially temper my anger at being punished by the lebanese medical system for having a functioning womb.
Misoprostol, technically, generates a miscarriage. You insert a number of pills up your vagina, and contractions start shortly afterwards. Pain goes on, blood too, days as well. If you’re lucky, one time is more than enough. Of course, if a pregnancy was on the way, there is also a rush of hormones that no EC will take care of and that will leave you miserable for a couple of days too. But who cares about your endless crying, when we’re dealing here with the security of Lebanon or the supremely indispensable laze of beiruti medical distributors? After all, it’s your fault.
Then again, it is a matter of luck. Cause Cytotec is no safe deal. There is no guarantee that the hembryo is explanted. It could just be damaged. Or worse, it could be displaced along the tubes, and an extra-uterine pregnancy could then take place before further notice, screwing your system forever – if not your life, in case you’re not diagnosticized it in time for an emergency intervention. More mildly speaking, residues and scraps could remain in your system, leading you to infections or Toxic Shock Syndrome and therefore hospitalization in order to avoid death. The average 18 years old Lebanese girl of the above – not to mention the victim of a rape or of domestic violence who might be too afraid to speak to anyone – might not know that a timely echo is highly recommended as soon as traces of the Misoprostol pills are gone, in order to vacuum aspire residues. Again: abortion is illegal in Bilad el Botox, and any overzealous doctor could denounce you for finding those in your womb. Of course on this I’m talking in worst-case scenario terms. But unavailability of EC is already a worst case scenario per se.
Average Lebanese Teenager might also not know that sex should be avoided until the following week, as microscopic scars are likely to still be there. She might also not know that this should be the first and last time she plays with a Misoprostol without a doctor’s guidance, as her reproductive system might not enjoy it a third fourth or fifth time round. But again, as we said, isn’t it her fault in this country if she has a functioning womb?
To conclude: I decided to take that damn device in the end, as most would have done in my place. Gambling with a pill as soon as possible, it is still emotionally easier than finding out later and dealing with it. Consider this. I was forced to undergo a risk of fecundation and then to stick something between my legs pretty much against my dignity and I’d like to know who is the lazy ass I should thank for all this and why. As my second day of contractions and bleeding goes on, I wish males read it all till now. I also wish the pill will come back soon to our beloved Lalaland for the sake of all unexperienced teenagers and rape victims, if not for drunkards like me. In the meantime, I also have a special wish for the person responsible for the disappearance of emergency contraceptives in Lebanon. May it be the GD of the Ministry of Health, the Distributor of Levonelle, the head of the Pharmacists’ Union or my downstairs priest. My special wish is a nail stuck up your urethra, with all the solidarity of my abdomen in pain.
You might consider it as an innovative contraceptive measure, in case Misoprostol too runs out of stock in Lebanon.
p.s. And no, I did not make it to the protest against rape Law. I did not make it as I was bent in two on my bed. Cause Lebanon almost raped me with a pill.