Birth Control Made Me

Condoms and contraceptive pills within back pocketBirth control made me. Kinda oxymoronic, eh? But it did.

I could have gotten pregnant oh so many years ago, with my high school boyfriend. I would have been showing in my graduation robe, with that silly gold Honor Student cord meaning nothing, as I settled down in my nothing town, with bills, diapers, and parental disapproval, to go to community college with a stroller.

But I didn’t.

Like 50% of high school students in America, I had sex. According to some talk-radio personalities, I could have put an aspirin between my knees.

But I didn’t.

I could have given up sneaking out to the only pharmacy in town where my parents didn’t know the owner. I could have had a shotgun marriage with that high school boyfriend who was tall and good-looking and so wrong for me in every way.

But I didn’t.

Like 75% of college students nationwide, I had sex while in college. Same boyfriend. Different town. Living in the dorm. Experiencing life away from mom and dad. I didn’t have to sneak to the pharmacy any more, I got low-cost pills from the college health center. I could have gotten pregnant in college, and dropped out after my first year to raise a baby.

But I didn’t.

In college, my mind grew, expanded, opened like a flower. I made friends. I wrote reams and reams of essays. I traveled, I lived abroad, I worked. I changed my major. I started the lifelong project of figuring out who I am. I got my heart-broken. And mended again. I played music, wrote articles for the paper, and got an internship that turned into a real, paying job, making a real grownup salary, more money than I’d ever dreamed of. With health insurance. And you know what? I had sex. Just like the majority of college students and young adults in America. I could have had a baby.

But I didn’t.

After college, at a party at a friend’s house, I met the man who would one day be my husband. He was nice. He made me laugh. We dated for a while. We fell in love. We moved in together. We worked. We traveled. We bought a house. We changed jobs. We got married. And yes, we had sex. I could have gotten pregnant.

But I didn’t.

When we decided to have a baby, twelve years after that high school me didn’t have a baby, all those years of college and work meant that I made enough money to support us. My husband hated his job. I loved mine. I made more money. He stayed home with one kid, then two, for five years, while I was the sole income.

And we decided that two kids were enough for us. So we were done. We could have had more than two.

But we didn’t.

Those babies were wanted, adored, spaced, and planned. They still are.

That income of mine also supported my husband through more years of school when the kids were little. Putting my husband through school while working full-time and raising two small kids is one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. We spent far more on the best day care we could afford than we ever did on his tuition. We could have had an unplanned baby in the middle of his education, that would have up-ended everything in that precarious tap dance.

But we didn’t.

Because he went to school, I can work part-time now. I still do the work I love, just less of it, so I can be home in the afternoons after school. I help with homework, drive carpools, and participate, because I can. Because my kids were planned. Because we can afford them.

Because of birth control.

All that birth control, for all those years, means that we live in a house, not a shoebox college apartment. It means we can afford things like books, sports fees, music lessons, trips to the science museum, and the occasional vacation. We’re both gratefully, gainfully employed. It’s not all roses–we’ve survived layoffs, unemployment, not-so-great jobs, orthodontia, and student loans. Today, we have jobs we like. It means those babies, who are now teenagers, were a planned, loved, paid for, and welcome part of our lives.

Because of birth control, my husband and I are better taxpayers–net contributors to the system and not drains on it. Because our kids were planned, wanted, and controlled in number, we don’t need free school lunches, Medicaid, government cheese, clothes from the Salvation Army bin, WIC, food stamps, or used glasses from the Lions club. Because an unplanned baby didn’t upend our lives, we can pay our own way.

I want the same for everyone. Everyone.

We should all be able to control our fertility—cheaply, easily, and with a minimum of fuss. Everyone. Every woman. Every man. Every couple, whether it’s a one-night fling or a fifteen-year marriage. Whether her employer, her parents, or her husband approves or not. Whether she can afford it or not. Whether he’s employed or not.

A host of pundits and politicians would put religion ahead of public health. Just say no. Sex is optional, they’d say, recreational, not a normal part of healthy adult life. Just have a cold, loveless, frustrated marriage. Just have nine children you can’t afford on a planet that’s already overcrowded. Just have a mistake baby that turns your life upside down and derails every plan you ever had. Just say no to 10 million years of genetic programming that says sex is oh so very nice. I was brought up to say no.

But I didn’t.

Margaret Leigh is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest

Image via iStockphoto

  • Joan Haskins

    Well done!!

  • Drema

    Because of birth control, you were able to lead a life with more choices. This is something every woman deserves. Thanks for showing us why!

  • D

    You know what? You don’t have to justify your birth control choices at all. Why should you? They concern nobody but yourself.

    And aspirin? Really? Is America THAT far behind the rest of the world?

  • What I’m curious about though -if sex is considered to be “recreational” then that must only apply to women because men can get prescriptions for viagra without the whole nation going into an uproar. And if sex is “recreational” then women should be allowed the same courtesies, in my opinion. After all, viagra is really just for the “recreational” aspect is it not whereas birth control is necessary for just the very reasons stated in the above article!

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