The beginning of my sex life at the ripe young age of none-of-your-business marked a series of get-out-of-pregnancy scenarios I would imagine every time my period was more than two hours late.
- Abortions were expensive, but I was pretty sure my boyfriend would help pay for it. I imagined telling him I was pregnant. And then I imagined him saying, “No way I’m helping you pay for an abortion. I want to keep it. Let’s get married!”
- I’d heard something once about vitamin C in high doses leading to miscarriage, but I wasn’t sure I could rely on it. I checked the medicine cabinet to see if I had some, just in case.
- If the vitamin C didn’t work, I could ram my abdomen into something. There was a chair I could use, and the loft railing. That could work.
- I vividly remember standing at the top of the staircase and looking down to the first landing. In movies, pregnant women threw themselves down the stairs. I imagined tumbling down and cracking my head open. I didn’t see how a fall down the stairs could result in a miscarriage unless it also resulted in my death.
Fortunately, I continued to receive negative results on my pregnancy tests, and after one too many scares, I finally got smart and made sure I didn’t miss one single pill. On particularly paranoid days, I’d double up: pill+condom.
When I stopped taking the pill for reasons that had to do with not wanting to develop cancer or a blood clot, I became obsessive about condoms. (Other methods were too messy.) And when my second husband decided he didn’t like to wear them, I suddenly decided I didn’t like to have sex. (Permanent sterilization with this husband was not an option.)
Some time after my second husband and I divorced (for several reasons, not the least of which was that he thought I would “come around” to wanting children – more about that in No Children, No Guilt), I entered into a relationship with the man I love more than life, and he wasn’t opposed to my birth control preference.
By that time, however, I was almost thirty, and I was more certain than ever that I didn’t want to be a mother. I didn’t even want to have to think about the possibility of being pregnant. Even though we were careful, every single month was tainted by at least a week of panicked impatience: “C’mon, period…Come on, period. Please please please please. Please.”
Condoms weren’t enough, anymore. What if one broke? What if a crazy man at the condom plant thought it would be fun to poke a hole in a package? What if I were one of those horribly unfortunate 15%-2% of people the condom didn’t work on just one time?
I begged my love to get a vasectomy.
“Worrying about pregnancy is taking the joy out of sex,” I said. “Don’t you want it to be anxiety-free?”
“They say it doesn’t hurt,” I said.
“I would get something done, myself,” I assured him, because it was true, “but it’s a lot more invasive for a woman.”
His reluctance to go through with it had nothing to do with a desire for children. He and I had known each other for a number of years, and he’d always known being with me meant not having children. (However, he wasn’t as anti-parenthood as I was. You might say he’s a perfectly content fence-sitter.)
What his reluctance did have to do with was the fact that it meant surgery in a sensitive area. Understandable. So, I let it go, knowing he was thinking about it (because he would have been a fool to think I would let it go – whether “it” was him having something done or me having something done, should he decide he just didn’t want to do it).
And then came the day when, out of the blue, he told me he was going to do it. The big V. (Even years later, I still get excited when I think about it. Freedom. Relief. All those years of worry…never again!)
You can imagine my surprise, then, when shortly after he had the operation and our child-free life together was guaranteed, I was so sad I almost couldn’t stand it.
It had to be the fact that I was no longer worried about the possibility of pregnancy that “what-if” scenarios, which were no longer a direct threat to me, had an entirely new face.
Suddenly, I was thinking of all the times I’d seen him interact with children (the ones he liked, anyway); he was so natural, so fun. He’s the kind of person who says off-the-wall things to kids that I would never think to say in a million years because I just don’t “get” kids, that way. I remembered how much the children of a friend of ours latched onto him, the little girl in particular. (I can’t say that I blame her.) Everywhere he went, she went.
And here he was, now, never to have children of his own. I couldn’t help but think I had done some unborn child the greatest disservice imaginable by depriving them of this beautiful, generous, kind, funny, understanding man as a father, and it was killing me.
That I told him all of this while he was still sensitive from being tugged and cauterized might not have been the best decision, timing-wise. He didn’t say much. I still don’t know what he was thinking that day. It probably sounded a little bit like, “Are you ______ing crazy? I just had this done and now you don’t want it?”
That’s what I would have been thinking, were I him, so I assured him (while crying all over him) that I didn’t regret the decision. I still didn’t want children, and I never would. “You’d just make such a good dad,” I bawled.
I suppose it hit me in a way it hadn’t before that it wasn’t only my future as a parent that had been decided. This was a man who had considered having children years before, when he was in a relationship with a woman who had wanted them.
“I didn’t do this just for you, you know,” he said. “I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t want to.”
But I already knew that. He isn’t, and has never been, a pushover. He does nothing unless he wants to do it.
Even so, the thought of someone like him not having a child just didn’t feel right, that day.
And sometimes, it still doesn’t. Every great now and then, it tears at my soul just a little bit to know that if I wanted a child, he would be all too happy to have one with me.