Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It Only Takes Once

I have noticed a phenomenon. Young people married or not, are actually trying to get pregnant. If you are over 35 re-read that sentence… TRYING to get pregnant. How weird is that?

I spent a good part of my youth trying NOT to get pregnant. I wasn’t promiscuous. My mom had drilled the words “IT ONLY TAKES ONCE” into my head since I first started to “blossom” as we called it then. I have seven siblings so I pretty much figured she knew what she was talking about in the ease of conception department. I was entertaining the idea of college in a vague sort of way. At seventeen I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life but figured a campus quadrangle might be as good a place as any to find out. My boyfriend was Belgian, still had his mandatory military service to do and had no clue what he wanted to be when he grew up either.

I am not going to say sex just happened. Nothing just happens. I will say it was inevitable though. I was pubescent, he was good looking, spoke a foreign language, drove a fast motorcycle and wore leather. Ooh La La! Be still my heart. I can still see him roaring up, still smell the aroma of two stroke exhaust mixed with Eau Sauvage by Dior, and still feel the rush of heat as I climbed on that bike. The aroma of a mechanic gets my blood flowing to this day. As much as is possible at that age I was in LOVE with that boy.

Our first attempt at birth control was the tried and true condom. As my first born, a daughter will attest, it is only 98% effective just like they say on the box. Go figure! I never knew I was one of the special two percent until I woke up hurling a mere 48 hours later. God made me fertile and he gave me the gift of knowing almost immediately that I was carrying a new life which would immediately and forever supersede mine. Well hell.

Once married and ensconced in our pre-WW I military housing, we tried an alternative method, the sponge. This was new and miraculous.  The sponge was easy and cheap, so popular and effective, so easy to use that even Jerry Seinfeld has done an episode about it. It worked slightly better than the condom. Slightly. Meet Steve. For about five months I used the ultimate birth control method, abstinence. Not because I was trying to avoid pregnancy but because I was absolutely exhausted. Two children in 23 and ½ months will take it out of a body, even a young one.

After the sponge came the pill. Still a risky business in 1979, I signed on in a desperate attempt to stop the inevitable.  I took them religiously. I never missed one, I had my perfect child bearing experience already, and I was satisfied with the role I had played in the continuation of the human race.  Being pregnant was great, having the babies even better. I had no horror stories to tell and liked it like that. All it took was one minor ice storm and a pint of moonshine to destroy five years of careful (okay, obsessive) attention to birth control usage. Three hours after falling asleep I realized I had not taken my pill on time when I woke up to the oh so familiar nausea and heat flash. My second son made his appearance just under 9 months later.

In case you are keeping track, that is birth control 0, Mother Nature, 3. Never one to hedge my bets I started doubling, sometimes tripling up. Condoms, spermicides, sponges (while they were still on the market) all took up residency in my medicine chest. I didn’t want to use an IUD because I knew people born with them clutched in their hand. I was in a panic knowing that all I had to do was wink at my husband while unclothed and we would be welcoming a new addition. I even threw in some good old fashioned rhythm. 22 months after my second son, my second daughter was born.

I had had enough. I was 24 with four kids. I loved them to death but my husband was a mechanic, not a millionaire and I was a stay at home mother by default. I worked every crappy nighttime or weekend part time job to bring in a few extra bucks and to get me out of my self created isolation. I was going for the gold, the anti-everything I had learned in Catechism, procedure of sterilization.

We fought about it tooth and nail for 6 weeks. My husband wanted a soccer team, I wanted a vacation. The day arrived and he drove me in silence to the hospital. I was happy, really really happy and feeling in control of my body and my destiny. I kissed my babies and was wheeled off humming a little melody into the operating theater, my last look back revealed my forlorn husband and the cherubic faces clustered around him that I lived and would die for standing in the open doorway waving farewell.

After several weeks of recovery from the surgery I was feeling GOOD. For the first time I was going to have a relaxed intimate encounter with the man I loved without worrying about it being an invitation to reproduce. I bought the candles, the wine, the negligee… Yay for freedom!

The next morning I didn’t feel well, too much ‘activity’ too soon after the surgery I assumed. Six weeks later I was in my doctor’s office looking at test results repeating no no no no no no as my bare legs dangled off the table. It can’t be. It has to be a tumor. Please tell me you can cut it out and keep it here. No freaking way in hell did this happen. My husband was all but dancing a little jig repeating yes yes yes yes yes yes, giving himself mental high fives and hugging the babies so hard they squealed. Mother Nature was having a perfect season.