My mom had all daughters. Three of us became teenagers in the 90s. While this might seem like a far away ice age to the youth of today, the 90s were a fairly open age. We had access to information. I remember regularly spending time in the library from the time I was 7. Then, most of the information we had was gotten through books. My mom was a primary school teacher and I was an avid reader.
When my oldest sister started high school, my mom bought us all a book to share. It explained the hormonal physical changes of being a teen. It also touched on sexuality, pregnancy and drugs. The book was an easy read aimed at teens; it was informative without being preachy. Even before reading this book my mom got for us, I knew that sex, unprotected sex, resulted in pregnancy. My mom warned us about sleeping with boys without protection. She used so many girls in my neighbourhood who became teenage mothers as cautionary tales. We all saw first-hand how these young girls would get pregnant and often be forced to drop out of school in order to look after the babies when they were children themselves. This story played itself out over and over again, dozens of times, amongst people I knew.
When she was 15, my older sister fell pregnant. My mom was devastated. Contraception had been discussed. I watched my sister struggle with taking care of a baby when all she wanted to do was to be at school with her friends. As a result of this pregnancy, she never finished school and every job she has gotten reflects this. She is now married with three more children and is fairly okay but her life is a flicker compared to the flame that she had dreamed of.
You would think me seeing my sister make this mistake in the same household that I lived in would act as a deterrent and stop me from making a similar mistake. However, that was not the case. At age 20, as a law student, I also had unprotected sex that lead to an unplanned pregnancy. As well intentioned as my mom was by giving us the information on how to protect ourselves from pregnancy, this was clearly not enough. Teenagers cannot calculate the long term consequences of their actions, impulsivity is a teenage trait. This has a biochemical reason. When a person is a teen, their brain is still developing, the part of the brain (hippocampus) that regulates impulse control is still growing therefore most teens are unable to fight impulses and to see the logical consequences of their actions.
I am raising two girls. They live in the information age, they can Google anything in the world but them having all this information is different from them being able to apply the information. So, as soon my daughters start dating, I will take them by the hand to the clinic for contraceptives. I am the cautionary tale in their lives. I was not an unintelligent child, I knew that unprotected sex led to pregnancy but my knowledge didn’t translate into action. Because of this I will do things differently from my mom. Not only will I inform them about the dangers of unprotected sex, I will also make sure that they are shielded from the dangers. It would be very unrealistic of me to expect my daughters to just abstain because again the biochemistry of adolescence makes sex a thing that teenagers engage in, statistics from all over the world verify this. Teenagers engage sexually because of hormones, it would be naïve to blame teenage sexual activity on bad upbringing alone, there are lots of teenagers from very good homes who are sexual.
A friend and I were discussing this and she was horrified, and her objections were manifold, I genuinely think she looked at me differently after that. She told me that by taking my daughters for contraceptives when they start dating, I am basically giving my child permission to have sex. This argument was silly because I had sex without my mother’s permission, in fact I’ve yet to hear of a teenager who goes past their parents before first engaging in sex. Me taking my daughter for contraceptives would be me allowing her to make decisions about her own body that will not result in motherhood at an age where she can’t afford to look after anyone. The friend then said that contraceptives have side effects and I agree they do but any medicine with an effect has a side effect. If you drink aspirin, this over the counter painkiller has an effect on thinning blood but we still take it because it is better than a headache. She then said that me taking my daughters for contraceptives goes against their bodily autonomy, but she assumes that my daughters actively want to be parents at 16 and that is not the case. We have discussed it with both girls, even though they are still a bit too young they are both adamant that they want to defer motherhood to a time when they are independent. Contraceptives make deferring possible.
I love my daughters and I want them to have the best possible life. I have made decisions for them as a parent, from the immunizations they take, to the food they ingest, to the schools that they go to and I am going to make a decision that will mean that for the first 18 years of their lives, they don’t have a child. In a world that is very prochoice about important things like termination of pregnancy, I am choosing to be proactive about equally important things like the deferring of motherhood through contraceptives.
Read about the difficult decision to move out of home here
Do you agree with the author that contraception for young women is necessary in this day and age? Why or why not?