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I tripped and fell and whoops was a mother

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, June 10, 2008 23:33 EDT

The beauty of blogging is when you get a chance to make those connections that you’d otherwise forget right after they occur to you. Just such a connection happened for me this week. On this week’s podcast (listen today! subscribe!), I interviewed Sharon Camp, the CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, about recent research showing that a huge percentage (half) of women who are trying to avoid pregnancy in any given year because of inconsistent contraception use. A lot of the findings were pretty predictable stuff, like how women forget to take pills when they have life changes, or how problems with the method discourages use, such as when you hate condoms and find ways to justify skipping them. But what I found intriguing was that women’s ambivalence was cited as a major reason that women might have inconsistent contraception use.

Ambivalence: Nearly one in four women who are not trying to become pregnant say that they would be very pleased if they found out they were pregnant. Women who are the least motivated to avoid pregnancy are also the least likely to be using oral contraceptives or to be using the method consistently.

Listen to the interview; I press Sharon on this because I’m honestly confused. It’s not that some women are ambivalent and act out their ambivalence by screwing around with contraception, but that 25% of women are in this area. That’s a huge number, in my opinion, considering that ambivalence is such a strange thing to feel. I just thought people were more self-aware, and that the people who can’t make up their minds and screw around hoping that nature decides for them would be a small percentage. But nope, it’s a ton of people, women at least.

Luckily, there is an interview at Broadsheet now with a woman who, in my opinion, fits directly into this category of ambivalent contraception avoiders, and the interview is pretty enlightening as to her thought processes. As you can guess, my conclusion was that feminism has a lot of work to do in this area. It’s a matter of just common sense, but also a health issue, because planning to get pregnant and adjusting your habits with that plan in mind is healthier for the baby than just half-assing it and hoping that nature decides for you.

Basically, the writer’s name is Mary Pols, and she has a book out called Accidentally on Purpose, and this interview is an exercise in passive, well not aggression, but passive assertiveness at least. I kept thinking, reading about it, how anti-choicers really relish not motherhood exactly, but the old-fashioned idea that motherhood just happens to a woman, that the passivity of it is part of it. They’ve got to know that most women who use birth control or have abortions do become mothers at other points in time, and that’s part of the offense—the unfeminine decisiveness, the unwomanly exerting of control. Pols seems to have well-absorbed the idea that it’s more seemly that she became a single mother on accident, so she retains the idea that it was an accident even though it seems pretty well plotted.

Well, it truly was an accident. I was clueless about the fact that I was ovulating. But my body knew that, clearly, and something — maybe biology — drove me there that night. Or maybe it was a touch of destiny. Either way, it feels now as though it was all on purpose.

And that’s the expression my father used early in my pregnancy, when he was quizzing me about how I’d gotten into this mess. He thought maybe I’d done it on purpose, presumably subconsciously.

Okay, I’m sorry, but at 40 years old you have to know there’s better methods of birth control than, “I don’t think I’m ovulating.” Maybe she didn’t know she was ovulating, but she knew that she was going out and having unprotected sex with a stranger when she wanted to be pregnant. Calling that an accident is like me getting in the car with the idea that I’m going to drive to a certain location across town, but only deciding my route after I started the car, and assuming that I got there at all was an accident.

Pols makes it very clear that she wants her baby cake while eating her feminine passivity too later in the interview.

Do you feel like there would be more (or less) stigma about your being a single mother if you had just gone to a sperm bank?

It’s hard to say.

I think when you go to a sperm bank you’re making a strong, proud statement, and in a sense, you then have a built-in defense that comes with making a bold choice: This is who I am, take it or leave it. That is bound to scare some people — weenies, mostly — off.

In contrast I feel as though I slipped sideways into single motherhood, limping a little, as if it were something I’d always have to be apologizing for. So in a sense, maybe I get sort of a “sympathy vote” because of that. But now that I’m here, I feel no need to apologize.

So, she gets the same results—sort of—as someone who went to a sperm bank, but she doesn’t have to scare anyone with her boldness. I’m not really blaming her or angry at her. It’s understandable. If it’s irritating, it’s for the same reason that it’s irritating to hear women? Who make declarative? Sentences? With a bunch of question marks? It’s just irritating because you know that they’re making declarative statements and there’s a deceit going on there, but it’s also understandable, because they’ve been bullied into their position. They’re trying to escape what is essentially a no-win situation. You have to communicate your desires, but in order to do so honestly, you run the risk of being called a bitch. So you retreat into this passive aggression of framing statements like sentences so you can escape that judgment, but then you only end up irritating people. At some point in time, you have to pick your poison—refrain from making declarations or just accept that some people will think you’re a bitch.

Pols appears to have gotten the sperm? While totally meaning to do that? But without taking responsibility? Because there’s something just scary about that? I found myself short with her, and then feeling bad because I know why she did it. But it definitely goes a long way to explaining why women can officially be trying not to get pregnant while still kind of trying to get pregnant, hoping that it’s an oops. But bad idea, seriously. That way lies the demons of recriminations and possibly lawsuits.

I still have to wonder why there’s so many men out there who never stop to think that they should be taking responsibility not to knock someone up on accident, particularly the ones that will be bitter about paying child support. Of course, some of the men who just run around with their dicks flapping around sans condom probably are thinking like Pols here, sort of hoping that nature takes its course and makes their decisions for them. I’m sure that works out for some people, but I still can’t help but think you have better odds actually taking more control over your life.

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