When my wife and I weren’t ready for kids yet, we made darn sure that one didn’t pop out of her uterus somehow. We made sure neither of the ingredients even got in there.
A couple months before we got married and became sexually active, my wife went on the pill. It was quite the fiasco. She had difficult reactions to it. Always having experienced particularly painful periods, she enthusiastically embraced the lighter periods that it brought. (Though for a couple of months, her periods lasted obscenely long — about two weeks in one case.) But there were difficulties as well. It made her sick at times. It played with her hormones in ways that made her much more emotionally volatile than she ever had been in the past. To make matters worse, at some point a pharmacy swapped out her low-dose prescription for one with a higher dose. She gained thirty pounds in a matter of two months as a side effect and completely lost control of her emotions to the hormones before we ever noticed the pharmacy’s error. If my wife weren’t a nurse-in-training at that point, it’s highly unlikely that we would have ever caught the error for which I still can’t believe we didn’t sue the pharmacy.
In many ways, she is still dealing with problems caused by the pill even two years after she stopped taking it. She’s had a hard time losing that weight — especially as the depression that we’ve been sharing has made healthy habits hard to cultivate. Having her hormones so out-of-balance for so long has made it much more difficult for her to keep them in control. As much pain as our attempts to conceive have caused us, I know that my wife doesn’t miss chemical contraceptives in the least.
We also used physical contraceptives — namely condoms. I wore a condom every time that we had intercourse. My wife and I feel strongly that effective birth control and family planning requires knowledge and planning. Most “accidents” aren’t accidents at all, but mistakes.
We know couples who have had two or three “accidents” while the woman was on the pill. Well, it seems much more likely that she did not take it properly than that the couple found itself in the one percent twice. And the couples almost certainly didn’t have a back-up form of birth control.
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we’d been more careless. Would we have a three-year-old today if I hadn’t keep it wrapped up? If my wife missed her pill for a couple days or went off it sooner, would I be waking up in the middle of the night to feed a baby instead of getting up in the middle of the night to imagine feeding a baby? Did our window close in our early twenties? When we were asking when we should have a child, were we unknowingly asking whether we would ever have a child?
When my wife went off the pill before I was ready for kids, I approved of her decision. But even though we were still using condoms, we both admitted that foregoing a backup contraceptive was a serious risk. And it was one that we were both ready to take. My wife wanted to have a baby and I at least admitted to myself that I could feel excited and ready in nine-months’ time, even if I was not ready to admit that I wanted a child yet.
Today, there’s not a single condom in our house. I do not believe there are any birth control pills. But rubber still hasn’t been replaced by flesh. My wife took her birth control pill every morning while applying her makeup. As if she needs any other reminders of the pains of infertility, there’s one more daily reminder.
For me, this particular kind of reminder is not as common, thank God. I kept the condoms in a seldom-used drawer in the bedside table. But whenever I open that drawer a couple times a week to dig around for my baseball glove, a return address label or shoe polish, I look at the place in the front of the drawer where the condoms used to be and wonder if I’ll ever be grabbing that baseball mitt to play with my son or daughter. Will I ever stick those return address labels on a holiday postcard featuring a picture of my adorable kids in hideous sweatshirts? Will I never get to call poison control after an infant eats my shoe polish? (Mental note — move the shoe polish to a higher drawer.)
We really did things right. We had a plan. We made sure that we didn’t mess it up. I thought that we had some kind of bargain with the universe and our reproductive organs. We’d do our part to make sure that we didn’t make a kid before time and we’d get one as soon as we decided that it was time.
We’re painfully learning the fallacy of calling contraception “birth control.” Our control really only extends to preventing a pregnancy. Beyond the obvious, we have virtually no control to cause a pregnancy.
But hopefully we can get back on the plan soon and this will be my last post on this blog.