Happy Birthday to The Pill!

The Pill turns 50 this week, appropriately on Mother's Day, Sunday May 9th. I've spent this morning reading the numerous media tributes to this medical phenomenon that changed the way we procreate (or better yet, DON'T) and the way we, as women, take control of our bodies, our sexuality, and our selves. Some of the articles focus some on the problems the pill has caused us, like it's negative physical side-effects and the fact that we have turned to an easy medication as a substitute for really getting to know and interact with our bodies in a more natural way. Several of the pieces are focused, of course, on a more religious perspective on birth control in general. Most of the written work on The Pill, however, provides a great social and medical history lesson, combining all of the above and often touting it's benefits for all of us.

My mom put me on the birth control pill when I turned 18-years-old, which also marked my first gynecological visit. I had a serious boyfriend at the time and it was a good thing she did. I was just starting college and the last thing I needed was a baby, as I was still a bit of one myself. Learning how to pay my apartment bills, manage a work and class schedule, and shop and cook my own food for the first time, I already had enough on my plate. Putting the seriousness of a possible unwanted pregnancy in my hands at that time would have been irresponsible and my mother knew it. I've been on the pill ever since, going on 17 years now. Lucky for me, I've never had some of the more negative side effects some of my friends have. It may contribute a tiny bit to some of my weight gain and a decreased libido, although I attribute the majority of that problem to my anxiety medication. I took the pill religiously until we decided to try to get pregnant in the summer of 2003 with Lucy. Both Eric and I had read all the research on conceiving a baby, and just KNEW it would take a few months for the pill's effects to leave my body, but were we ever wrong. Less than two weeks later, during my ovulation week, we made a baby. We were both shocked at how fast and fertile I was. During the four years between my two pregnancies I took the pill again, albeit a different brand my doctor wanted me to try out. The exact same thing happened with Alice's conception - I stopped taking the pill and two weeks later bam! Baby!

I know that we all have different conception stories and complications and that there are certainly other factors in the abilities of Eric and I to conceive these two little girls so quickly and without concern, but we were shocked at how quickly the pill stopped working for us. Pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood has really opened my eyes to the abilities of my body and its tenuous and severe connection to the earth and its living creatures. It's too bad that this didn't happen earlier in my life, however, like when I started menstruating at the age of eleven. I attribute this, however, to our culture's lack of celebrating, or at least educating, girls about their bodies and the wonders of being women. And I have to agree that the pill may have a bit to do with that, in both positive and negative ways. It makes me a bit sad, actually, now that I'm a bit older and wiser, on how little we are taught, or even TALK, about womanly things in this culture with other women until we've already gone through them. And while this is certainly no fault of the pill, it is both a physical and medical manifestation of our changing culture. In some ways the pill inspired a strong feminist movement and made possible a sexual revolution. The pill, too, can be seen as part of a movement AWAY from ourselves, our bodies, and our choices. I spent most of my early teen years embarrassed about menstruating and my later teens and twenties taking all the responsibility for not getting pregnant (not to mention the concern with STDs). And when I decided to get pregnant, it was books and the internet that were my advisers and confidants on those decisions, like my choice to use a midwife for my pregnancy and birth with Lucy.

Motherhood continues to be the most difficult and lonely thing I've ever done. Don't get me wrong, I have an amazing group of supportive women in my world, both the real one and the virtual one, that have provided me with more than they know. I just lament our lack of celebration and support of each other as women from a very young age and want to do it differently with and for my girls. I have notions of continuing a loving, open home with continuing conversations about girlhood and womanhood with my girls. I'd like to surround them with other women and girls who feel the same and will expand their support network. I'm already starting to plan a sort of special girls getaway, signifying the beginning of their menstrual cycles. What are your thoughts on this? Advice or suggestions? And, mothers of boys, what are your concerns or challenges regarding boyhood and manhood?