Monday, February 19, 2007
I Heart Birth Control
There are so many things wrong with this post, I don't know where to begin. You know, of course, that I've got no problem with people holding whatever religious beliefs they want. Let's get that outta the way right now. That said. . .this is a prime example of how fundamentalist faiths ignore the real damage to real people (often women) in favor of focusing on some airy theory of 'sin'.
A couple of years after our second child was born, my wife, just about to turn 40, asked me to consider getting a vasectomy. Her arguments were almost identical to those of the hypothetical husband in Tim Bayly's post about faith and contraception. She was looking forward to our then-youngest being in school full time, so that she could re-enter the work force at least part time, for the sake of our finances and her own mental health. She had had two C-sections and didn't want to go through another one. And after our second child she went through what I believe was post-partum depression, exacerbated by problems with nursing, although she never sought help for it. To her thinking, having another child would be a "disaster."
I didn't share her fear of having another child. While I didn't have any qualms about contraception, which we used to time the births of our two children, I didn't have a controlling attitude about it. If the children didn't arrive according to plan, or we wound up with more than we planned, it was OK. A pregnancy within marriage is never a crisis pregnancy, never a "disaster," as I saw it. Therefore, achieving 0% probability of conception wasn't a concern of mine. I wasn't insistent on more kids, but if God should send more our way, that was OK. Our first two were both intelligent and beautiful and gifted with musical ability and a sense of humor. We made good babies, and it wouldn't be a bad thing if we made more, but I was content with the two we had.
How do I being to describe the sheer reek of selfish privilege in that last paragraph? He had no fear of having another child. Well, of course not. For him, it's just a few months of putting up with the wife's mood swings and strange cravings. He's not the one whose body is being taken over, whose emotions are out of control, who has to endure a major surgery, who has to suffer the crippling post-partum depression. Why would he think having another child would be a problem? It's not his body, he's not the one really dealing with it.
Alas, my wife did not deem me spongeworthy. She decided to restrict our lovemaking to one day a month, the day after her period ended, the day she felt most confident that she wouldn't be fertile. Because of that confidence, she didn't insist on using any other means of contraception on those days. Even when we were using barrier methods, that was the one "free" day when she'd let us make love without a condom. But by now, she didn't want to risk pregnancy at all. 1% was too great a chance to take.
If we happened to be too busy or tired on that one day a month, we'd just miss sex until the next cycle.
One night, just moments after concluding our monthly roll in the hay, she snuggled up to me and said in a cheery voice, "Just think, when you get your vasectomy, we can do this every night!" I rolled away from her, offended at the timing of her sales pitch.
She began to "accidentally" fall asleep on the couch most nights. She told me later she didn't want to risk getting turned on and having sex. Even cuddling and caressing were severely restricted, for the same reason.
Then one afternoon she came to me in my home office in tears. She told me that she had missed her period and her home pregnancy test was positive. Evidently that one day a month wasn't as infertile as she thought.
He didn't want to have a vasectomy, which I suppose I can understand. But when that results in him having sex once a month? And gets upset when his wife tells him that she'd be happy to fuck him every night, if only she didn't have to worry about getting pregnant? She ends up sleeping on the couch, no kissing, no touching, no nothing. That's the lengths her terror at being pregnant has driven her too. Do you think he gets it yet?
So, she has the baby. And life goes on, but sexless-like
But my wife doesn't want any more, and I can't blame her. This was necessarily another C-section delivery, and the recovery period was slower than the first two. Several years older than the previous two C-sections, she doesn't heal as fast. If she were to get pregnant again, she'd be having a fourth C-section in her mid-to-late 40s, with an increased danger of uterine rupture. Even in a successful delivery, recovery would be even longer and more painful than before.
So she has laid down the law: No sex until I get a vasectomy. Period.
I made an appointment for a vasectomy. When I went in for my initial consult, the urologist asked me why I wanted to get a vasectomy. I said, "Because my wife wants me to." He told me that was the wrong reason.
I rescheduled my appointment for the actual surgery a couple of times for various reasons. At this point, I have no appointment.
So it has now been 15 months since we have had sex or even done much in the way of snuggling. It's not that we don't want sex. She has said several times that she didn't sign up for a sexless marriage. But even more than she wants sex, she doesn't want another pregnancy, another delivery, and resetting the clock for being a stay-at-home mom.
So, his problem? Well, he wants to have sex, but thinks that birth control would be a sin. (Even though he's done it before, which makes little sense to me, but oh well.) So, what's he to do? Not have sex with his wife, or sin by having the snip?
Frankly, it seems to me that this whole thing is about him not wanting to get snipped. Period. Sure, it traumatizes your wife, this fear of being pregnant, but by Gods you are NOT going to eliminate your fertility! Wouldn't be manly!
Here's the thing -- I get her fear. I have the same fear and it is paralyzing. It makes sex completely and totally unenjoyable. It makes me freeze at the worst moment, it makes me cry and shake and I cannot verbalize why I'm upset. It's crippling and it's exhausting and it's just so much easier to swear off sex all together than deal with that fear.
After my pregnancy scare, all those many years ago, I could barely let my SO kiss me. I couldn't have sex. I just couldn't. Oh, every once and while I'll give in, because I wanted him so badly and I loved him so deeply, but the entire time I was tense and worried and couldn't relax and enjoy myself at all. And it doomed our relationship. There were other factors that led to our breakup, but the lack of physical affection was cheif among them.
If this isn't a fear of yours, it's hard to understand. Even my girlfriends who worry about pregnancy don't understand my absolute terror. And men? Please. They think I'm crazy. And I don't have the same worries about birth control!
So, yeah. I feel for this woman. And if he's not willing to step up and do what it takes, then he'll just have to live without sex. But that means their marriage is doomed. Because you cannot have a sustainable relationship when you're afraid to even touch your partner.
It's still something I struggle with. I'm starting the pill next month, not because I'm seeing someone at the moment, but because I need to have some preparation. I need to know I've got a barrier there, in addition to condoms. And still, I don't know if that'll work. I don't know if I'll be able to let myself go and relax. And that suck big time.