Contraceptive Chaos

Sometimes I really question the effectiveness of an abstinence-only sex education program…

I graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic High School in 2002.  When I was a sophomore, I had to take sex-ed along with my other classmates. Now, for those of you who went to public school, Catholic sex-ed went a little like this: You kids don’t need to know anything about contraceptives because you’ll all abstain from sex until you get married and once you are married, you’ll practice the art of natural family planning.

As a 15-year-old sophomore, I had no problem with the abstinence-only plan; I was a late bloomer.  I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 17 and he never even got to second base. Thankfully, the only thing I got out of that relationship was an occasional unsightly hickey on my neck. Unfortunately, one of these hickeys made its appearance the day I posed for my senior portraits. Trust me, kids, your mom knows exactly what a hickey looks like and, no, it does not resemble a curling iron burn!

I didn’t date much in college; I spent most of my time writing unrequited love poetry, madly obsessing over this one boy and, well, I don’t want to talk about that.

It wasn’t until after I turned 24 and found myself in a real adult relationship that the issue of premarital sex was really brought to the table. I was in love and we were getting engaged and one thing led to another. For propriety’s sake, we’ll just call it an “awakening.”

Yet, this awakening has had its own growing pains, one being my ignorance of contraceptives and how they work. I’ve been on birth control for years now to treat a condition I have called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Since I didn’t necessarily use the pill to prevent pregnancy, I never really paid much attention to how it worked. This became a big problem one time when my doctor changed my prescription.

The new pill I was taking really shortened my period, until one month when I didn’t exactly get it. Like any single 20-something-year-old woman, I panicked. In my mind, you only missed your period for one reason: pregnancy.

I rushed off to the nearby East Haven Walgreens. They close at 10 p.m. on Sundays and the girl locked the glass doors with a look of pity in her eyes as I stood crying on the outside. I ran across the street to Stop & Shop. They also close at 10 p.m. on Sundays and a disgruntled employee who seemed personally offended I'd attempted to walk into the store at closing time, chased me away.

My crying escalated to hysterics.

I didn’t want to panic alone, so I made a phone call. He began to panic too. We drove to downtown New Haven where there is a 24-Hour Walgreens. I walked down to the feminine hygiene aisle and found the pregnancy tests... locked-up. I pushed the button for customer service and waited for an attendant. Obviously, I wasn’t the first young woman in tears who had purchased a pregnancy test from her. She told me she “hoped it came out to be whatever I was hoping for.”

I smiled and said, “Thanks. The timing isn’t great, but I don’t think a little baby is a bad thing.”  I was trying to be optimistic.

Leaving the parking lot, he asked me what I planned to do if the test was positive. I said I’d keep the baby. Non-negotiable.  He said that might not be the best idea. He said it would be easy to get rid of it. He said this is something people should plan for and that it should happen at the right time.

I agreed – it is something two people should plan for. But that it doesn’t always happen that way. I told him not to worry about it, I’d move back home. My mom would help me. I’d get a job with good health benefits. He said he didn’t want to be a deadbeat dad, but he just wasn’t ready for this.

I jokingly asked if he wanted to talk about baby names, because I had a great one picked out.

He didn’t think that was funny.

I said we’d talk about it after I took the test.

It was negative. I took a second test the next day: negative.

I was still panicking. What if the test was wrong? What if I was a month pregnant and in that month I’d consumed alcohol and countless cups of coffee and some expired lunchmeat! I already felt like a failure as a mother.

I went to the doctor and asked for a third test. Negative.

That’s when I found out how my new birth control worked: it shortened/lightened my period to the point of non-existence.  I asked for a different kind of pill.

The way I see it, I’m an adult. Some of my adult actions will have real adult consequences. Eighty-five percent of the American population approves of premarital sex, and most people agree that sex is an important part of an adult relationship. However, since abstinence remains the only 100 percent foolproof way of not getting pregnant, I think if you are having sex you should be prepared for the possibility of conception.

Even though it would have hampered my plans to travel and go back to school, there are a lot of reasons I would have kept the baby, had there been a baby. Some argue, “a baby is too precious and wonderful not to plan for,” but my life experiences lead me to believe the events that derail our plans can actually do us a lot of good, so I go with them and make the best out of it. Besides, my plans usually suck anyway.

calli March 04, 2012 at 06:09 AM
Im just wondering where all these people who are wanting to adopt children are? We have a foster system full of children that need a stable home and two parents. we have to pay people to temporarily take children in, let alone have them lining up for adopting them. I really appreciate you writing this article and sharing your personal story
Beth March 04, 2012 at 06:16 AM
I love how people infer things into something where nothing of the kind is ever said, such as my supposed "dregs of society" implication. When I did my master's thesis in the 1980s on indications of criminal behavior, 85 percent of those incarcerated nationwide came from single-parent homes. I doubt that figure has decreased much today and may have even increased but I would have to do some research to find out. Being the product of a single-parent home does not mean one is destined for prison, but for those who do end up there, the odds are overwhelming that they are from a single-parent home. That's all I was saying.
college professor and single mom March 04, 2012 at 06:30 AM
Well, here's a piece by a Harvard Ph.D. - a Social Psychologist: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/200901/children-single-mothers-how-do-they-really-fare. The many studies she references are listed in her book, *Singled Out.* These are peer reviewed pieces, not simply opinion. Harvard doesn't hand out Ph.D.s for unfounded opinions. I was also told about these studies independently by my niece, a UCLA Ph.D. in child psychology, before I decided to get pregnant (I am a single mother by choice). I wanted to be sure that I wasn't putting a child at risk by choosing single motherhood - I looked to experts to provide me with data. I did not just assume one way or the other. And many wonderful single mothers (and fathers) don't have a choice - it is worth letting them know that they can offer stability to a child that is not so different from a happily married couple, and better than an unhappily married couple. Why add unfounded negativity to a situation that many never wanted or asked for, and are working hard to make the best of?
Bill Fasula March 04, 2012 at 11:54 AM
The Poverty Rate For Single Mothers Is 7 Times As Much As Married Couples, Twice As Much As Single Dads http://bossip.com/458370/reality-check-the-poverty-rate-for-single-mothers-is-7-times-as-much-as-married-couples-twice-as-much-as-single-dads12006/
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead March 04, 2012 at 01:44 PM
I never said that I object to a single Mom... reread my posts College Professor. In fact, I said the opposite. what I did say is that there are SOME single Moms (just like there are SOME married couples) who have children and then do not provide for them. You mentioned that "...we now know that children of single moms can grow up to be President of the United States! does that explain why our country is in the worst recession ever?
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead March 04, 2012 at 01:55 PM
"College Professor" accuses some of us as being stereotypes and then paints herself as being the "typical stereotype liberal." Sounds a little hypocritical to me. Would you prefer that I agree with you because only your opinion is the only one that is correct?
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead March 04, 2012 at 01:59 PM
The unfortunate fact is that many of these adoptable children have been "damaged" from the abuse they had to endure both inside and outside the womb!
Edward Fast Lazarus March 04, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I read this article first thinking it was related to the recent issues regarding the need to to have contraception covered in health care plans. Clearly I was mistaken- and not to take this in another direction-- and I am only asking the question as I do not know the answer as of this writing: The author was prescribed birth controls for a medical condition--not for the purposes of preventing conception, Would this be banned by an institution that does not allow contraception as part of the health benefit plan? I will investigate--- but wonder if anyone knows? Ed Lazarus ed@branfordct.com
CitizenVoice March 04, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I, too, was confused by the title of this article (see above post from me). But in answer to your question, YES. The way the current proposal (Blunt ammendment) reads, ANY employer from ANY corporation or institution can claim religious or moral objections to ANY particular segment of health insurance. The ammendment got voted down last Thursday but the republicans have vowed to continue the fight. This puts not only women's healthcare in jeopardy, but anyone who has employer-paid health benefits. We really need to stand up and take action against this newest attack on healthcare.
RONALD M GOLDWYN March 04, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Folks, this thread was not about Ms Fluke and Rush Limbaugh's comments for which he apologized, nor is it about politics as being discussed in Washington. It is about Ms Dixon and the problems she encountered while enjoying premarital sex. During the past 50 years our morality has changed and she as a Catholic had to decide if she was to follow her church's authorities or those outside of her church. Ms Dixon has been forthright in saying that sex is not reserved for marriage and that she will decide if she wishes to become pregnant and if she should become pregnant she will decide if she will bear the child to birth and decide if she wishes to raise the child or have it adopted. For me this is not a subject of the father's rights, but that of the potential mother. The very title of this article says "contraceptive" which means that sex will take place and for the woman, she will not be pregnant as a result. This topic has been very well discussed but not it is turning political which is not appriopiate at this time.
CitizenVoice March 04, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Ronald, you said this thread involved contraception and "if she should become pregnant she will decide if she will bear the child to birth and decide if she wishes to raise the child or have it adopted." Unfortunately, her mere choice in ther matter is what has turned political and, if the conservative right has their way, there will no longer be a choice and her dilemma be become moot. I suppose if I were on the wrong side of a losing battle, I wouldn't want to see it discussed either.
Maureen Dixon March 04, 2012 at 08:55 PM
*Corrected comment - addressed to Mr. Goldwyn, not Mr. Mulligan. You are correct, Mr. Goldwyn - I do enjoy having options for contraceptives now and will enjoy having these same options when I am married as well. Things were certainly different 60 years ago for my grandmothers - I believe I would have been considered an "old maid" when I was still single at the age of 24. I am happy that stigma is no longer around as I will be turning 28 this year and still would not like to think of myself as an unwanted old prune. As far as the gentleman involved, I am always upfront and honest about my thoughts, feelings, and health. We are adults, we should be able to talk about adult issues and show candor, respect and self-control in our decision making. There is never reason for my partner to doubt that he will be paying child support for 18 years should we happen to fall in the .1% margin of birth control failures. Since he knows I have the choice to keep or terminate an unplanned pregnancy and that I will choose to keep the baby, he also has the choice to pursue someone with a contingency plan more in line with his beliefs if he disagrees with mine. As I said in my article, some of my adult actions will have adult consequences. That goes for men too. Believe me, I've never FORCED a man into a situation in which his "future" is tied to what I do.
Lindsay Branscombe March 04, 2012 at 10:45 PM
This column is typically not in the news, so it may have been done by accident OR by the editor's choice - but if you read some other of her really entertaining posts you will realize that in general this is a dating column
Lindsay Branscombe March 04, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Ronald - this IS about contraception - a hot topic in our society today, which means that all topics could/should be discussed and no one really brought the two names you did into the conversation. (guilty much?) I'd also love to point out the same points i've made to you on NUMEROUS occasions. Our society has become a more ethical, more moral society. For instance we have removed slavery from our world, we stopped hanging black people (while racism still exists it has gotten better with each generation) The fact that people weren't not having premarital and extra-marital sex in the good 'ole days is completely lost on you. Going as far back as the the era when the New Testament was written there were orgies and sex for what it is - sex. When you work upwards into our history there were loads of infidelity and premarital sex. You should read the "diary of a midwife". It chronicles the day to day work of a midwife from the 1700's. This one particular midwife writes about 22 births that she assisted on that were out of wedlock. Historians compared her writings with marriage certificates and other public documents and found that ONE THIRD of the children were born out of wedlock! (source: Martha Ballard - Diary of a Midwife)
Lindsay Branscombe March 04, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Continuing studies on this, historians did searches on random towns and found that at least 10% of first born children were born around 6 months after the wedding date .. Umm.. yea, that's PREmarital. Here ya go - since you're about grandpa age and probably are a grandfather, check out this study. 9 out of 10 people have had premarital sex - and this goes back to the 1940s! http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16287113/ns/health-sexual_health/t/even-grandma-had-premarital-sex-survey-finds/#.T1P0lczXE18 So let's take a look at this.. Who is the corrupt society? Your generation was having just as much premarital sex as ours currently is. That's 9 out of 10 people across the board all the way back to 1940's. But not only did your generation have premarital sex, you had sexism, bigotry, and plenty more other moral issues. Here's some more history for you to catch up on: http://www.research.ufl.edu/publications/explore/v10n1/extract4.html
Lindsay Branscombe March 04, 2012 at 11:07 PM
+1 !!!
Nicole Ball March 05, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Lindsay is right! Editor's oversight for forgetting to add opinion to this column! Sorry to the writer, Maureen, and the readers. ~nicole ball
Beth March 05, 2012 at 01:54 AM
'in the absence of hard data..." Are you kidding me? Walk through a prison and do a survey of prisoners who were raised by single mothers and then tell me I have stereotyped criminals as the children of single mothers. NO NOT ALL CHILDREN OF SINGLE MOTHERS TURN OUT TO BE CRIMINALS BY ANY MEANS, but the majority of criminals are the children of single mothers and that is just a hard fact, "college professor," whether you would like to accept it or not. Just because you feel the need to defend your single mother status doesn't mean you can twist the facts to fit your purpose. The FACT is the child of a single mother is FAR FAR more likely to end up in prison than in the White House.
Kathleen Ramunni (Editor) March 05, 2012 at 04:23 AM
For the most part the children in the foster system are older and/or have physical and emotional problems, and unfortunately most people aren't willing to consider them. To adopt a newborn infant is both expensive (tens of thousands of dollars) and difficult because of the dearth of available babies. For a newborn infant, you will have a line of people waiting to adopt him or her.
RONALD M GOLDWYN March 05, 2012 at 06:12 AM
Kathleen, there is still another way to adopt, and that is called grey baby adoption, which is an adoption arranged between lawyers of both parties. One of my nephews was adopted via this route.
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead March 05, 2012 at 11:29 AM
The issue isn't "choice".. it's whose is responsible to pay for that "choice."
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead March 05, 2012 at 11:35 AM
@Lindsey... "about 22 births that she assisted on that were out of wedlock." Look at today's statistics... 70% of the children born into the African-American community are out of wedlock. Do you think it's by coincidence that the prison population reflects the same statistics.
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead March 05, 2012 at 11:41 AM
@Lindsay... How can you accurately compare and contrast the "research" of two totally different eras when you fail to consider all of the factors that make up that raw data in each instance? Apples vs. Oranges?
RONALD M GOLDWYN March 05, 2012 at 03:22 PM
The national discussion is not about contraception, as it is available for all. What is being discussed is who pays for it -- employer's or insurance company's. This article is about one lady's feelings about having sex and it's pitfalls. Rush Limbaugh called Ms. Fluke a slut because she wanted her law school's insurance company to pay for contraceptive devices so that she could safely enjoy sex. Most politicians denounced his statement except Romney, so he (Limbaugh) recanted.
Molly March 05, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Kudos to Maureen for starting the conversation on what many view as a taboo topic. It is so important that we teach our kids about sex, and safe sex. Whether or not we want to think about it, adolescents are going to have sex and they are starting at a younger age. Abstinence only programs are outdated; and while abstinence should be encouraged until "real adult relationships" its important adolescents know about the alternatives as well to practice adequate family planning and can TALK openly about such alternatives. If we start these practices much earlier on in life, we can hope that future generations will grow up and make responsible and educated decisions about their bodies and futures like Maureen exemplified in this article. Great read Maureen. Thank you for bringing another serious, often hushed, component of dating out in the open. What wonderful discussion has occurred!
Marty March 05, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I don't care if women take birth control or not -- it's their choice. What I don't get is how they are demanding that the birth control be covered for free with no deductible. Why isn't my blood pressure medication covered for free so I don't have to pay my $20 a month deductible? Or am I understanding this debate wrong?
RONALD M GOLDWYN March 05, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Marty, You are understanding this article wrong. Ms Dixon was discussing the options she has to prevent pregnancy and if she does get pregnant. The cost of contraceptives is for another debate and so is the cost of your medical needs.
Peggy March 06, 2012 at 07:34 PM
There is nothing wrong with an abstinence only sex education. I honestly don't even understand why this young lady is having sex out of wedlock and why no one else seems to have an issue with it. Sex, even in a sanctified union should be for the purpose of conceiving a child. If you are not married, you are in no position to be brining a baby into this world. Single parents who are single by choice are completely negating the importance of the opposite sex in their child's life. There is a reason it takes a man and a woman to make a baby. This article seems like a cry from a promiscuous young woman looking for validation from her promiscuous peers for her lifestyle choices.
RONALD M GOLDWYN March 06, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Peggy, I really didn't didn't think that there were women alive that held your beliefs. Your thinking is from my parents generation and they were born 100 years ago. Back then women could not even vote and bars had women's entrances. As a father and grandfather I have no objection to today's morality. I only think sperm donors should be more responsible. Remember we are talking about consenting adults.
Starla May 15, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I think the doctor should share some of the blame for the panic he caused. By changing this woman's prescription, he also failed to inform her of the changes in her period, or the lack thereof. It is a good idea to let any doctor know your views and feelings up front. That you want him to be as forthcoming with information as possible. Even something as routine as my blood pressure. The nurse never told me what it was, she would only say, its fine. I had to instruct my doctor to tell her I wanted to know the number.


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