Mar. 23, 2017


My daughter recently made a post on Facebook: “Some people really shouldn't reproduce. I mean seriously, America should consider implementing China's one-baby policy.” She then follows it up with talking about birth control being free and who doesn’t know about that (she‘s always been an advocate for contraceptives, hence, I‘m not a grandmother yet). I replied to her that she’d be surprised.

Sometimes though, it is not they don’t know it’s free: it’s they don’t know how to use it correctly. When I was 18, I worked with a girl, Carolyn, who was pregnant with her 3rd child. She was in the break-room saying, “I can’t believe I’m pregnant! Again!”

“You should use birth control pills,” a co-worker said.

“Yeah, you can get them from the Health Department for free,” I offered.

Carolyn shook her head, “I’m not going back there again. That’s how I ended up this way in the first place!”

“Oh! I thought it might have been because you were having sex,” said the co-worker (she always was funny).

Upon further inquiry, we learned Carolyn was not taking the pills correctly. Carolyn was under the impression if she had sex on Monday; she took a pill labeled “Monday.” Friday sex had “Friday” labeled and so on.

“What happens if you run out of Friday pills?” The co-worker asked thoughtfully.

Carolyn explained, “Well, then I don’t have sex on Friday but, there’s only 4 Fridays in a month and if I run into an occasional fifth week, I use one from another pack I have.”

I have never forgotten that day; it was truly amazing. We had to explain to her how it worked - the everyday thing about taking birth control. I saw Carolyn years later, about 20 years or so after the fact, and asked if she ever had a fourth child. She laughed, apparently remembering that day in the break-room too, and answered, “Hell no. I took your advice and I’ve been taking them every day until I had my tubes tied.”

When I was studying to become a nurse, I had to work in a doctor’s office during one of my clinical rotations. One of his regular patients couldn’t take birth control pills. She had serious adverse reactions to them. The doctor explained to me, before seeing her, he had advised the foam method instead.

The foam method is the use of spermicidal foam (or gel) in a diaphragm and then inserting it into the vagina prior to sexual activity. The sperm usually cannot squirm their way through the spermicidal and if they do, there’s the diaphragm to catch them.

The doctor and I enter the exam room and he says to her, “So how is the foam method working out for you?”

“Pretty good, I guess,” she laughs. “I’m not pregnant but, it sure does taste nasty.”

The doctor had to excuse himself momentarily.

Another day, we had a patient come in whose chief complaints were symptoms of pregnancy. Naturally the doctor had me run the pregnancy test which came back positive.

“Oh, I can’t be pregnant,” the young lady insisted. “That is impossible.”

This prompted a series of questions from the doctor, “Are you taking birth control? Are you sterile? Are you sexually active?”

“No, no, and yes,” she answered.

“Then why is it you do not think can be pregnant,” he asked a little exasperated.

“Because, I’ve never had an orgasm before.”

Another pick-the-doctor-up-off-the-floor moment. The look on his face as this information was processed was quite comical. And, I had to do all of this with a straight face. I had to be “professional.”

It isn’t just ignorance of where to get these contraceptive at, or that they’re free. Sometimes it is a case of being ignorant on how to use them, or just ignorance.

Lack of parental teaching is a big problem. I’ve heard parents say they didn’t need to have the “sex-talk” with their child because a) they have sex education classes at school; b) they can learn more from their friends; c) they probably know more than I do.

My response to that is this: a) it’s not the school’s responsibility to teach your child, it’s yours; b) you really want to leave it up to another child and their misconceptions (pun intended) to teach your child about sex, safe sex, and birth control?; c) you should never assume they know things you know. You have the experience, they’re just learning. Besides, when you assume things, you’re making an ass out of U, and well, just you.