An Ode to Birth Control

I’m pleased to introduce my second guest blog contributor! My friend Anne and I experience a lot of similar tensions around the concepts of work, family, feminism, post-feminism, etc. We both have very supportive men in our lives who have helped us understand our roles in the drama of life. And while the specifics of our lives and struggles may differ, we understand each other. I know that many women will relate to her story below. I hope you enjoy her perspective and I welcome future guest contributors who may be inspired by it!

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Tension Point:

One woman’s appreciative yet conflicted relationship toward birth control.

Once a month, I feel a knot tightening in my stomach. Sometimes, my hands start to

Afraid by flickr.com/gemmabou

Afraid by flickr.com/gemmabou

sweat. I refuse alcohol, or have very small sips, and hope no one will ask why. Once a month, I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of getting pregnant.

It’s a silly thing to be afraid of. I love babies – I think they are wonderful, and cuddly, and absolutely adorable. I definitely want to have them someday.

That’s the thing – someday.

Someday. Not now.

Isn’t it a crazy world we live in, where I can make the choice to have babies “someday, not now,” but still enjoy all of the benefits of marriage? Not that long ago, this was not even a consideration. A woman who got married expected to get pregnant pretty quickly and lamented if she didn’t.

One of my favorite stories is Anne of Green Gables. I love the story of her romance with Gilbert. However, if you read all of the books, all 1-8, in book #4, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne basically spends the entire book writing to Gilbert. He is away in medical school and they can’t get married until he has finished his medical course, which takes 3 years. There are several assumptions in the story:

1)     They cannot get married until he has finished his medical course.

2)     Anne is free to work while he finishes his degree.

3)     When he finishes his degree, they will get married and she will stop work.

4)     A three-year engagement is just fine.

This was set just after the turn of the 20th century. Anne couldn’t marry Gilbert and help put him through school by working, the way women do now, both because it wasn’t socially appropriate and because, realistically, they might have a child (which may have been one of the underlying reasons why it wasn’t socially appropriate). With the advent of birth control, things changed a lot. Now, it’s completely possible to marry a man and help put him through school. That’s what I’m doing, along with a lot of my friends. While abstinence is of course the only 100% guarantee against pregnancy, birth control does a pretty good job if used correctly. So we can help out our husbands in a way Anne couldn’t and have a career at the same time.

Fear by flickr.com/mslivenletlive

Fear by flickr.com/mslivenletlive

But what happens if the birth control fails?

The reasonable answer, of course, is to wait until you are ready to have babies and then get married, just in case there’s an accident. But no one does that. We certainly didn’t. We got married as fast as we could because we were crazy about each other, were spending every waking moment we could together, and we couldn’t stand to be apart. We wanted to live under the same roof, share a bed, be together, we were old enough, we could support ourselves, and everyone said “Congratulations!” We have been ridiculously happy with our decision – I wouldn’t change that for the world.

You see, engagement is artificial. It is incredibly difficult to simply date someone you’d rather live with. You have to say goodbye all the time and be careful about how much you kiss and drive home from their place every evening (or vice versa) if you’re trying to stay pure. When you want to be together forever, you just want to be together forever – that’s it. Having to separate yourselves feels artificial. My husband and I effectively did everything BUT actually live together before we got married; we choose the apartment together, I moved in, he came over after school and we hung out, cooked dinner, did the dishes, watched movies, he did homework, etc. Then he went to his little rented room that consisted only of an air mattress to sleep. That’s fairly artificial.

Needless to say, we didn’t want to live like that long-term. We wanted to be together, so we got married.

Now we are in this interesting spot (and I know we are not alone) where we cannot afford a child. If we were to have one, I truly believe that God would provide. He has been incredibly faithful to us and so I trust that he will provide whatever comes, but the way he chooses to provide may not be the way I would like, assuming that we accidentally have a child before the numbers line up. So, naturally, that makes me nervous, since I have a very problematic tendency to think that I know more than God. Not so good.

So I sit here, enjoying all the comforts of marriage but praying (literally) that I don’t suffer this particular consequence yet, which, if we wait long enough, will become a reward. Maybe 4 years, maybe 6. That’s what we’re praying for.

But, in the meantime, I get scared every month because I married a man still in school, because I have debt myself from college, because I am just starting my career, because, because, because. All valid reasons, and there is no way in our lives, with our situation, that we should not have gotten married. However, our marriage at the time we wanted to get married was only possible because of the advent of birth control, so we have to keep praying it works, and every month I wait anxiously to discover that, yet again, I am lucky.

Women today have to face more than the problem of career versus family. We have to face the possibility that family may arise when we least expected it and were least prepared for it, as we rely on medicine to halt our natural reproduction rather than assume that getting married means babies.

I LOVE my birth control. It is enabling me to live a life I thoroughly enjoy and to do so on a shoestring budget. However, it definitely creates problems when something happens that no one is really prepared for (this has happened to several of my friends), and that is the reality we deal with when we think that we can have babies whenever WE want to. We have to accept the reality that God may have something different in mind.

I’m working on that one as I grapple with the possibilities every month.

- Anne

Question: How do you handle the uncertain “waiting to have children” period of your life? Do you think birth control is a positive or negative addition to society?

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