I turned thirty this year and I am in love with my birth control. Yes, you heard me, my birth control. I have been on birth control for close to half my lifetime. I originally started taking it because I got my period every twenty-one days, not the usual twenty-eight. Not only was I blessed with the occasional two-a-months but I would get blinding headaches that would lay me out for hours at a time. I’ve tried the pill, NuVa ring, and Depo all with various side effects but with one equally significant benefit – control over my own body.
As I have gotten older, and hopefully wiser, birth control has morphed from a way to primarily tamper down my monthly period to self-expression over how I have conducted my life and the choices I have made. I have been able to engage in both short and long-term sexual relationships without the unintended pregnancy.
Having a child drastically changes a person life. If unprepared, it can disrupt a person’s career path and make matters of money and location a constant worry. Such issues can be exponentially more challenging for low-income women and teenagers. Access to and costs of birth control are highly politicized issues. However, there have been positive strides, with the cost of birth control decreasing thanks to the ACA and accessibility for teenagers and low-income women through recent state-run programs.
While these successes should be lauded and expanded upon, there is still the social stigma of birth control use as anti-family. I am thirty, single, and moving along in my career. Instead of asking me where I see myself in five years, I predictably am asked, “But isn’t this the time you should be looking forward to having children?”
Most of my friends and family pretty much know where I stand on children, so it doesn’t come from them. Instead, it is people at work, casual acquaintances or strangers I meet in line for coffee and a bagel at the local café who look at my left hand and simultaneously ask why I haven’t found a man yet. Men and women see it as their right, even duty, to provide unsolicited advice about my singledom. I have found this happening with more regularity in the past few years.
Usually I just shake my head “no”. Often an awkward pause follows as I am expected to justify my decision with a “why”. Most assume I don’t have children because I just haven’t found the right man. Others feel it is their right to tell me I will inevitably change my mind as I age. But will I? If I haven’t felt the desire yet to carry and bear a child I am probably pretty knowledgeable about what I do and do not want in life. That doesn’t mean I am closed off to the option of adoption or even ending up with someone who has children from a previous relationship or marriage. But for many, my resounding no to actually carrying a child means no to all child and I find myself judged for it.
This past Fourth of July I spent the day at one of my best friend’s house. He recently became a father for the first time and I have been gleefully adopted into the family as Auntie Kiki. I love my little nephew. Can’t get enough of him. When I hold him and look down I feel joy and can’t help but laugh when he screws up his face at me and smiles his toothless grin. But that’s it. When I hand him back I don’t feel a twinge of loss or guilt.
A friend of theirs asked when I wanted to have children. As usual, I answered never and that I have never been interested in ever being pregnant. He paused and looked down at me holding this darling baby. “You look pretty natural with a baby,” he said, raising his eyebrows and opening his hands in a gesture indicating that maybe I have made the wrong choice and should reconsider.
“Thanks,” I replied. “But I don’t think I’ll be giving up my BC anytime soon.”